Machine Identities Surge in Nation-state Cyber Attacks

Machine Identities Surge in Nation-state Cyber Attacks

By Greg Tavarez

Nation-state cyberattacks are creating service disruptions, exposing data and creating substantial financial costs. The SolarWinds attack, for instance, compromised thousands of companies by exploiting machine identities to create backdoors and gain trusted access to key assets. Russia’s HermeticWiper attack breached numerous Ukrainian entities days before Russia’s invasion of the country.

Venafi, a provider of machine identity management provider, announced the findings of new research that evaluated the security impact of the increasing number of nation-state attacks and recent shifts in geopolitics.

The study found that 66% of organizations changed their cybersecurity strategy as a direct response to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and nearly two-thirds suspect their organization was directly targeted or impacted by a nation-state cyberattack.

“Everyone is a target, and unlike a kinetic warfare attack, only you can defend your business against nation-state cyberattacks,” said Kevin Bocek, vice president, security strategy and threat intelligence at Venafi.

It’s well known that hackers are constantly evolving their attack strategies, which is why security solutions must also be constantly updated to keep pace. One change in attack methods is an increasing use of machine identities in state-sponsored cyberattacks. The digital certificates and cryptographic keys that serve as machine identities are the foundations of security for all secure digital transactions. Machine identities are used by everything from physical devices and software to containers to authenticate and communicate securely.

The SolarWinds attack is an example of the scale and scope of nation-state attacks that leverage compromised machine identities. And, the HermeticWiper attack used code signing to authenticate malware in a recent example of machine identity abuse by nation-state actors.

The only way to reduce risks of machine identity abuse is through a control plane. The control plane for machine identity management provides observability, consistency, reliability and freedom of choice while reducing complexity. Working across clouds, hybrid environments, datacenters and to the edge, the control plane is connected to a technology ecosystem that is the connective fabric to all machines.

Machine identities are used as part of the kill chain in nation-state attacks. Because of that, organizations need to step up their defenses against nation-state attacks.

Edited by Erik Linask
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MSPToday Editor

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