No More Backdoors: Know Who Has Access to What, Right Now
Jun 13
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Machine ID Manifesto

The world of machine identity is changing. Machines are trusted to complete ever more privileged tasks, and these tasks are no longer confined within the boundaries of a single organization or network. AI agents, once merely science fiction, are common-place and growing more autonomous at an accelerating rate.

This has made machines the regular target of attacks, with hackers stealing secrets and exploiting vulnerabilities to get access to sensitive data and to disrupt mission-critical systems. The potential cost of a successful attack has never been higher.

This creates an urgent need for trusted computing that rests on three pillars.

Strong identity-based authentication

Legacy systems rely on shared secrets, such as API keys, to authenticate. These shared secrets suffer from a number of problems: they do not provide a distinct identity for each service or machine, and their long-lived and shared nature makes them liable to be exfiltrated.

Instead, each service and machine should have a strong, cryptographic identity (e.g. an X.509 certificate) that is verifiable by other services inside and outside the organization. This identity should be used for authentication and form the basis of authorization decisions.

Trusted execution

Before an identity is issued, the integrity and authenticity of the subject machine should be verified. The chain of trust of the code running on the machine must be verified to guard against tampering prior to startup, and the code should be executed in a trusted execution environment to prevent tampering at runtime.

Complete visibility and unified access control

There must be a unified way to reason about and express the properties of the entire ecosystem of services: what data they have access to and why, what permissions they have, and what data have they accessed and modified with tamper-proof evidence of their execution.

Summary

Together, these three pillars create a strong foundation for AI, automations and other workloads running together in a predictable way that is secure and possible to reason about and maintain.

Teleport Workload & Machine Identity is on a mission to make this vision a reality.

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