What are Credential Management Systems?
Credentials are user-generated or computer-generated evidence attesting to one’s identity. Four common types of credentials are passwords, certificates, tokens, and keys, and they provide access to networks, applications, web-based platforms, accounts, and other sensitive information that validated users have been granted permission to access. Cyberattackers have several means for gaining unauthorized access including:
Credential stuffing. If a password has been revealed in a previous data breach, cyberattackers may try to use those credentials on other websites, knowing that many people reuse passwords.
Credential harvesting. Credential harvesting, also known as password harvesting, is the process of gathering valid usernames, passwords, private emails, and business email addresses through infrastructure breaches. They then use these credentials to gain access to every system they can, as quickly as possible.
Considering the serious consequences of credential compromise, organizations may consider credential solutions to help with their management. Credential Management Systems (CMS) are software systems that provide admins with comprehensive credential governance through centralized interfaces. CMS features may include:
Threat mitigation. This feature flags policy violations and security risks.
Machine maintenance. Machine maintenance keeps machine-to-machine interactions running smoothly and safely by conducting regular encryption and protocol checks to prevent latency.
Automation. Automated features simplify organization-wide management, maintain compliance, and provide continuous auditing and session recording.
Zero Trust compatibility. Zero Trust model embraces a “never trust, always verify” framework by implementing just-in-time access, ephemeral certificates, and additional authentication solutions.
Granular handling. Management tools can generate, distribute, organize, and revoke credentials all the way down to the individual user/device level with real-time accuracy.
CMS can be beneficial solutions for credential management, but it will still be necessary for users to practice thorough IT hygiene and for admins to employ credential best practices. Examples of these behaviors include:
- Avoiding the sharing of credentials
- Not reusing passwords
- Using browser-generated passwords
- Ensuring only required access permissions are granted
- Securely storing credentials
- Only working on approved devices
- Applying Zero Trust model
- Auditing, tracking, logging all user activities
- Deploying strong password policies
- Using MFA such as two-step authentication, biometrics, or device tokens
- Penetration testing
- Reliably using credential revocation protocols