Properly assigned user credentials are crucial for ensuring the protection of secure information, and there’s no better way to ensure credentials are appropriately distributed than through the use of a credential management system (CMS).
refers to a system that allows admins to create digital and cryptographic credentials and remove them as necessary when users (such as employees and customers) leave an organization or change roles.
Before we delve deeper into credential management and why it’s so necessary, it’s important to answer an even simpler question: what are credentials, and what role do they play in digital security?
In short, credentials are an integral part of a company’s digital security standards; they’re what grant access control to on-prem, online or cloud-based systems and applications. In other words, they’re what gives users permission to access certain accounts, documents, and so on. These credentials might take the form of a password and username, which you may use as part of a single-sign-on authentication or two-factor identification process, or they might involve biometric aspects (such as fingerprints or facial recognition).
Without credentials, it would be impossible to control who has access to what information—a necessity for any organization, but especially those dealing with highly sensitive data, such as healthcare centers, legal offices, insurance offices and government agencies.
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The failure to effectively distribute and protect credentials puts an organization at risk of a severe data breach, with hacked credentials being available in the billions on the dark web.
By using the appropriate software, authorities can distribute credentials without being privy to users’ passwords, thus protecting the users’ personal privacy. Such software can also automatically update credentials as necessary when users change positions and leave or join the organization, or when the nature of the information itself changes. Which brings us to our next question:
What Is Credential Management?
As mentioned above, a company’s credential management system is the software that it uses to safely and securely distribute credentials.
Various types of cloud-based credential management software exist, which offer different benefits depending on an organization’s needs. This software both generates and stores passwords and other login credentials, which eliminates the need to administer credentials manually and ensures optimal protection.
For most companies, it’s advisable to work with a trusted managed services provider who can make well-informed recommendations about credential management software.
Credential management software operates alongside other features to ensure the safe and efficient management of credentials, including having a credential management API (application program interface) in place, which enables the storage of credentials, public key and passwords and provides an interface between sites and the user agent’s password database.
Identity, Credential and Access Management (ICAM)
A strong credential management system will work hand in hand with other security measures to fulfill an organization’s identity, credential and access management (ICAM) needs. ICAM relates to all of an organization’s identification systems, protocols and tools—basically, how they guard access to their resources, whether physical or digital.
ICAM should include the development of a public key infrastructure (PKI), which includes all of the hardware and software required to manage public key certificates and encryption. Other ICAM tools might include physical ID markers, like employee ID cards and the card printers used to make them.
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While the software a company uses is important, it isn’t the only way to manage credentials, and a robust credential management solution isn’t complete using software alone.
Hardware Security Modules (HSMs)
HSMs are FIPS 140-2-certified pieces of hardware that carry out key management and encryption and decryption lifecycle management. In addition to protecting cryptographic keys, such devices can also protect confidential information, like passwords and SSH keys.
An experienced IT services provider will be able to help you successfully integrate your credential management software with HSMs in order to manage all aspects of your team’s digital credentials, including:
- Data encryption
- Key management
- PKI authentication
- Smart card creation and more
Having the right software and hardware in place makes it possible for organizations to ensure that they avoid joining the legions of companies whose precious data has been stolen or held for ransom due to compromised credentials. Without a strong credential management system, even the most comprehensive security measures aren’t enough, given that around 61% of data breaches are the result of “leveraged credentials”.
By partnering with an IT services firm that specializes in credential management, your team can enjoy the benefits of cloud-based, FIPS-certified credential management solutions that protect your passwords across all devices.
Ready to discover the best credential management solutions for your organization?
Attentus Technologies has been helping medium and small businesses in the Pacific Northwest effectively manage, protect and optimize their IT services for almost two decades. Contact Attentus today and let one of our credential management experts answer your questions and start you on a path toward effectively managing your credentials.