Credential Management: Today's Challenge

A cornerstone of all security strategies is the organization’s ability to control access to business systems and networks. Virtually all access controls rely on the use of credentials to validate the identities of users, applications, and devices. Organizations employ a variety of systems and technologies to convey identity and to attest to the claims and trust models that are associated with those identities. Some credentials are used to access the most valuable data in the organization, others for more mundane tasks. Some are used thousands of times a second others once a year. But as the number of credentials within an organization increases and the diversity of the security models and policies that they represent expands, the issue of credential management has emerged as a serious business challenge that goes way beyond traditional password management.

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The widespread use of digital and cryptographic credentials such as digital certificates raises the security bar for credential management systems. Authorities must be able to create and revoke credentials as customers and employees come and go or simply change roles, and as business processes and policies evolve. Furthermore, the rise of privacy regulations and other security mandates increases the need for organizations to demonstrate the ability to validate the identity of online consumers and internal privileged users. Deploying a sound credential management system—or several—is a critical step in the process of securing your systems and information. Such a system becomes your route of trust, and the system itself, not just the credentials it manages, must also be eminently trustworthy. If your credential management process is a weak link in the security chain, it becomes a natural target for an attack that, if successful, can affect the entire organization. Given these risks, organizations face a number of specific challenges:

  • Every new credential that is issued, and every new application that depends on credentials, raises the stakes. More is riding on credential management today than many realize.
  • The steady shift from passwords to digital credentials sets new benchmarks for the integrity of the credential management process.
  • Internal and external threats are becoming more sophisticated, persistent, and pervasive—and credentials are among the most desirable targets.
  • Inefficient processes for credential issuance and problem solving can have direct impact on business responsiveness.
  • Credential management practices and in particular the issue of validation and revocation are becoming inescapable aspects of compliance and governance reporting.

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Risks

  • Attackers that can gain control of your credential management system can issue credentials that make them an insider, potentially with privileges to compromise systems undetected.
  • Compromised credential management processes result in the need to re-issue credentials, which can be an expensive and time-consuming process.
  • Credential validation rates can vary enormously and can easily outpace the performance characteristics of a credential management system, jeopardizing business continuity.
  • Business application owners’ expectations around security and trust models are rising, and can expose credential management as a weak link that may jeopardize compliance claims.

Credential Management: Thales e-Security Solutions

Thales e-Security works closely with leading software providers in the area of credential management, one of the primary applications of hardware security modules (HSMs). With nShield and payShield HSMs from Thales, you can deploy a proven, independently security-certified, tamper-resistant hardware platform that brings a high level of assurance and policy based controls to your credential management system. Our HSMs are pre-tested to work with commercial credential management solutions and can integrate easily with your homegrown systems. As a result, you’ll be able to deploy systems more quickly and comply more easily with data protection standards while reducing the cost of compliance. By reducing the risk of compromised credentials, you will be able to protect data more effectively, reduce operational costs, and improve efficiency.

Benefits:

  • Add higher levels of assurance to maximize the value of your investment in credential management.
  • Meet the highest security standards while ensuring state-of-the-art performance and resilience.
  • Accelerate deployments—Thales products are pre-tested to integrate with credential management products from leading vendors.
  • Simplify administration, compliance, and auditing, with a common baseline for trust across your different credential management systems.
  • Deploy only what you need—nShield and payShield HSMs are available in a range of speeds and form factors.
  • Future-proof your environment to support more stringent trust models and policies as they emerge.