As we move into a time of machines conducting business on our behalf, we need to start thinking about the implications of that in terms of security and identity.

If your machine is talking to my machine, we suddenly have a completely different identity problem. Instead of proving I’m me, my computer has to prove it’s a computer operating on behalf of my company before it sends information to another computer operating on behalf of my customer, partner, or supplier.

It’s a mind-boggling proposition, but it’s where we will increasingly find ourselves moving forward as technology like Robotics Process Automation and other automation technologies gain traction inside businesses, large and small.

This is not an easy problem to solve. In fact, a June 2018 Forester study found that 80 percent of enterprises struggle when it comes to machine identity access management. That means only a handful have figured out how to solve this problem, so if you’re having issues, at least you can take comfort in knowing that you’re not alone.

It’s worth noting that the study was commissioned by Venafi, a vendor that sells a machine identity management solution. So take those numbers as you will, but suffice to say that companies are looking for ways to solve these issues.

How about blockchain?

We are increasingly using bots to undertake automated tasks and communicate internally and externally with other systems. How can you trust that the bot asking for permission to access your network is truly the bot you think it is? It seems as though it would be easier for a person to program a bot to pretend like it’s acting on behalf of a company.

Managing identity becomes even more crucial in this context, especially if we get to the point where money actually changes hands, something that is very likely to happen in a digital context in the not-too-distant future. Talla, a Cambridge, Massachusetts startup has created BotChain, a blockchain for storing and confirming bot identity to to help address the bot identity issue. 

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It provides a secure way to register bots and enter all of the information about the bot’s owner and purpose. It could provide a mechanism for bots to conduct business safely, and only do what they have been registered to do and nothing more.

The blockchain has been touted as identity platform for humans, and could offer a way to think about securing identity for machines as well. The idea is that a digital ledger provides a way to build a trusted network with an immutable and irrefutable record. Nobody can put a bot on the network without authorization from the other members. When a registered bot is conducting business with your company, you can reasonably trust that it’s been authorized to do so.

Whether it’s the blockchain or a more traditional means of proving identity, as more machines communicate without a human involved, we need ways to prove that those interactions are secure.

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Photo:  sdecoret / Shutterstock. 

Posted by Ron Miller

Ron Miller is a freelance technology reporter and blogger. He is contributing editor at EContent Magazine and enterprise reporter at TechCrunch.

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