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Automating the Lifecycle of a Machine Identity

Key Factor

Machine identities are the new frontier. We’re now in an era where everything is becoming connected to the internet, and each machine has its own digital identity. This means that you need to create a lifecycle for these identities – otherwise, they will never come into existence! If this sounds interesting to you, read on for some great tips on automating your machine identity management process!

Define the Type of Machine Identity to be Created

When creating a machine identity, you need to be clear about its type of identity. Will the machines have IAM credentials? Or are they just going to receive an SSH key pair? This is important information because your workflow will vary slightly depending on whether you’re using EC-IDF or AWS IoT Device Defender.

Depending on which kind of machine identity solution you use (EC-IDF vs. AWS IoT), there are different kinds of credentials required by each service. For example, with EC-IDF, these are IAM roles, while in other cases where AWS IoT device defender is used, this means establishing how many Key pairs and under what policies these keys can be used.

Create a New Machine Identity and Configure it

Before you can create a machine identity, you must configure the policy for that identity. You need to be clear about what kind of access this new device will have on your account, whether there are specific policies assigned or roles needed to give it these permissions.

Add an Instance-id Tag

After configuring the machine’s role and giving it permission in AWS IoT/EC-IDF service(s), add some tags so they can easily identify each other across different services – especially when new devices are created with similar names! These get automatically applied once the workflow starts running again, which means no extra work is required from your end! This also makes debugging easier because if something goes wrong during the execution of the automation process, any new machine created can be easily identified because of these tags.

Configure the Application or Service to use the Newly-created Machine Identity

Now that you’ve created the machine identity, it’s time to configure your service or application to use this new ID. This process depends on the type of service involved (software running within a container vs. software hosted outside of one). The documentation for each relevant service should help with these steps, but in general, terms, if using EC-IDF, create an IAM role and attach policies required by that app/service. While when working with AWS IoT Device Defender, give permissions directly through Amazon Cognito Identity Provider SDKs – which are currently supported out-of-the-box for NodeJS apps!

After configuring the client side part of things, test them thoroughly before going into production because there could still be some issues with the machine identities that you need to sort out. For example, in some cases, device identity and its policy must be created manually in AWS IoT Device Defender, so this has to happen before you can start using them with an application!

Monitor and Update any Changes in Policy, Configuration, or Management

Any changes may affect the lifecycle of this machine identity. The policies you’ve given may change; there could be software updates that require new permissions, etc. Be sure to monitor your machine identities and update them as needed after any changes are made!

Decommission an Old Machine Identity when Necessary

If at some point you find out that the machine identity has been compromised, then it’s time to remove all relevant credentials and tags so they can’t be used anymore. If these kinds of failures happen more than once with your system (which is very likely), then make sure to put in place proper monitoring before something serious happens.

When the time comes for this machine identity to go away, first is removing all relevant credentials so that no one can use those old keys anymore! Once everything has been deleted off of their side (IoT devices / EC-IDF), then remove these machines from the tags list because if they’re still present here, then nothing will happen until you manually do something about tagging them again at some point later down the line. 

Destroy a Retired Machine Identity if Required by Law or Regulation

If your law requirements state so, then you may need to destroy the machine identity. You can either do this through IoT Device Defender by calling delete on any device or EC-IDF service and unassigning all policies/credentials – just make sure that none of them are still in use!

You should always be ready for the worst-case scenario when it comes to protecting yourself from security breaches and data leaks. This means making sure that you have backups of everything and putting protections into place if needed (such as deleting retired identities) before they become an issue down the line! In some rare cases, it’s possible for those keys to leak out over time, too but not checking in on things often enough can be just as bad.

Never underestimate the effort involved when it comes to protecting yourself from identity leaks and cyber-attacks! Even if you only have a few machines or devices that rely on these identities, take your time with everything. You don’t put them at risk of being compromised. Are you interested in a central platform to automate the lifecycle of every machine identity? Click here.


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