There’s a common theme and lesson to be learned from 2015’s data breaches — when it comes to privileged access management, even for servers and appliances (read: Cisco), enterprises can’t just set it and forget it. All devices and data must be brought under the enterprise security policy – even SSH keys. Secure Shell (SSH) keys are common tools used by Unix systems administrators to access Unix servers. The keys, when used with pass phrases, provide a secure way for admins to access systems and data.
Enterprise IT, which often consist of dozens of Unix servers and only a handful of Unix admins to manage them, rely on SSH keys to do help them do their jobs efficiently.
So, what’s the problem with SSH keys?
For what they offer in terms of convenient access, SSH keys can also pose a security risk in three ways:
1) Lack of accountability over accounts. SSH keys are tied to accounts on a Unix server, not to an individual. What happens when you need to prove that a specific user accessed a server using SSH keys for an audit.
2) Manual effort in rotating SSH keys. Replacing and managing SSH keys require manual effort. Because they’re used on Unix servers, and there are typically a handful of Unix administrators, it can be easy to ‘set it and forget it’. The big operational risk here is obvious – the older a password, the greater the chance of unauthorized access and a breach.
3) Repeat use of the same passphrase for different SSH keys. As a result of risk #2, managing and rotating SSH keys manually typically results in IT teams using a productivity ‘hack’, and reusing the same passphrase for different SSH keys. As a result, IT teams are unwittingly putting their enterprise security at risk – if the pass phrase falls into the wrong hands, a threat actor has a way to move laterally through your Unix environment.
If you’re reviewing your privileged access management policies and considering solutions to help you secure and automate the process of discovering, managing, and cycling privileged account passwords and SSH keys, BeyondTrust can help.
PowerBroker Password Safe adds security and simplifies the management of SSH keys by automatically rotating SSH keys according to a defined schedule and enforcing granular access control and workflow. Private keys stored in Password Safe can be leveraged to automatically log users onto systems through a proxy with no user exposure to the key, and with full privileged session recording.
To read more about our SSH key management capabilities, check out this data sheet.
Or, watch this video to see PowerBroker Password Safe’s SSH key management capabilities in action.