4 Dimensions to Securing Machine Identities

Hybrid multicloud environments combined with developments in DevOps processes have caused a rapid expansion of machine identities (both workloads and devices). These machines typically connect to other (micro) services to support their functions. To secure such machine-to-machine communications, the machine identities use secrets such as credentials, certificates, and keys to authenticate and secure the data flows. So it’s no surprise that the number of secrets has increased exponentially along with the machine identity expansion. 

The main difference between human and machine identities is that machines are ephemeral in nature. Additional workloads can power on or off when demand changes, on any platform or geographic location. So, machine identities need access to a vast amount of secrets, which need to be securely orchestrated when needed. Let’s look at four ways in which a secrets management solution can help to secure machine identities.

Centralized Control

Machine identities are scattered across hybrid multicloud environments, and need to be able to connect to other workloads or services to fulfill their task. But the access policies that control access privilege levels should be consistent, no matter which cloud a workload runs on. Inconsistent access policies will eventually lead to security blind spots. For example, an AWS-based policy could be left with a default permission profile by mistake. Centralized policy configuration and enforcement avoid this risk by simplifying operations.

Many organizations have multiple business units and developer teams that work on different products, using different tools and different platforms. When developer teams individually manage the secure storage and lifecycle of secrets, it creates siloed realms, which leads to secret sprawl—secrets that are stored in numerous, frequently vulnerable environments such as source code or configuration files. A centralized secrets orchestration solution provides secure storage for secrets, and orchestrates them wherever they are for an agile and secure hybrid multicloud environment.

Automation 

Machine identities are highly dynamic and automatically orchestrated as part of the DevOps process. DevOps teams create solutions using hyperconnected machines that need secrets to authenticate their identity and secure data flows between machines. Embedding these secrets in code or configuration files not only creates the risk of a breach but also creates problems from an operational perspective. If the secret is rotated, the hardcoded value is invalid and machines will fail to connect, causing an outage. A centralized Secrets Orchestration solution can automatically inject the required secret into the workload when needed, ensuring smooth operations. 

Secrets are one of the most sensitive assets for an organization. To keep control over the ever-fluctuating amount of machine secrets, organizations must automate their lifecycle management — from creation to storage, to rotation, and eventually, to revocation. When secrets are stored and managed by different solutions simultaneously, there is a risk of disrupted processes. 

In addition, if you rely on manual processes, old but still valid secrets will not be revoked out of fear of breaking a process. The “Just in Time” or dynamic secret approach avoids this risk by automatically going through the whole secret lifecycle in the time span of a single session. A centralized secrets lifecycle management solution ensures automatic rotation or the creation of dynamic secrets, as well as smooth, automated operations across the entire hybrid multicloud infrastructure. 

Governance

Security teams are responsible for the security of the entire organization and need ongoing tracking of where secrets are stored and how they are used. When secrets are managed by different siloed solutions, security teams lose oversight and have a more complicated auditing process. 

In addition, using static secrets can cause tracking issues, as they are not always linked to a unique identity. Think, for example, of an administrator account on a Linux server, or a network device, that is used by different workloads. This makes it harder to track which entity used this shared secret. Dynamic, or Just-in-Time (JIT) secrets fix this problem by using temporary credentials that are customized for the connecting identity. JIT also reduces the risk of long-standing privileges by eliminating the time window of how long a compromised secret can be used. 

Keeping secrets secure is critical, but as mentioned, security teams need to be able to see the complete picture of all processes in the organization. Your secrets management solution should be able to export logs to centralized log analyzers including security technologies such as SIEM or SOAR. With these important integrations, both security teams and engineers can correlate events and take automated actions when needed.

DevOps Ready

DevOps teams are the ones who work with machine identities on a daily basis and need to embrace secure secrets usage throughout their workflow. If a secrets management solution is too complex to use, DevOps will inevitably choose the path of least resistance and embed secrets in code or configuration files, which eventually end up in vulnerable code repositories. The solution’s interface also needs to be intuitive so that critical security steps are not forgotten, preventing security blind spots. A centralized Secrets Orchestration tool gives developers a simple and standardized workflow to inject secrets into the workload when needed. 

Since DevOps teams focus on creating agile solutions for the business, they need to be able to choose the best tool that accelerates their workflows. There are many different tools for CI/CD, Configuration Management, and Container Orchestration platforms to choose from. But all these tools need to be able to interact with the secrets manager. Fortunately, the open source developer community is very active and creates Secrets Management plugins for almost any popular DevOps tool, so developers are not limited in their choice. 

Akeyless Centralized Secrets Orchestration

The Akeyless Platform provides a SaaS-based Secrets Orchestration solution that empowers security teams with unified access control for both human and machine identities. Akeyless users can centrally configure and enforce access policies for machine identities across hybrid multicloud environments. With a secure, centralized secrets storage, organizations can break down siloed secrets and fight secret sprawl.

As a centrally available SaaS solution, Akeyless can dynamically inject secrets into workloads, whatever platform they may run on. Akeyless manages all stages of a secret’s lifecycle, with the ability to set automated, non-disruptive rotation cycles. In addition, Akeyless enables organizations to easily transition to an environment with zero standing privileges, by using Just-in-Time secrets that are generated on-demand and revoked after a short period of time.

With Akeyless, security teams gain complete oversight and control of where the organization’s secrets and access policies are and how they’re used. This single-pane-of-glass approach significantly simplifies the security auditing process. The log forwarding function enables integration with leading log services such as Datadog, Elasticsearch, Logz.io, Splunk, and others.   

Akeyless easily deploys in any environment and seamlessly integrates with many different tools for initiatives such as CI/CD, Configuration Management, and Container Orchestration. Organizations that have already implemented Open Source Software plugins for HashiCorp Vault, can effortlessly switch to Akeyless: importing secrets takes a few clicks and Akeyless provides full API compatibility with HashiCorp Vault. Akeyless’ multi-tenancy feature allows different teams and business units to manage their own secret realms autonomously.


Find out more ways that Akeyless secures your machine identities and book a demo at akeyless.io .

See the Akeyless Secrets Orchestration in Action