Benefits of SSH key management

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by Andrew Burns September 2022

In our previous article, we unpacked what SSH Key Management is. Here, you can read on to learn about the benefits of implementing SSH Key Management and Identity Access Management software tools – which together create a complete management system for user access.

1. Automated central control of user access and privileges

Managing a user's SSH keys requires central management of their user account. A good management tool will give you the ability to manage user accounts, group associations and privilege levels across your server infrastructure. Having visibility to see the privileges is not only important from a governance perspective but also knowing who granted the privileges (and when they did so) can provide valuable information during audits.

Centralised management makes it significantly easier to implement automated policies that govern what happens when a new employee joins the team and what happens when they depart. With the correct tool, a user and all associated SSH Keys can be removed from all servers across an organisation in seconds. Stale user accounts left on servers poses security risks, and by automating this process no account gets left behind.

2. Complete visibility and control of SSH Keys across the business and IT environment

Today’s IT teams are made up of a mix of roles and skills and not everyone is educated on the importance of creating the correct key type with the correct strength. SSH keys are typically created in an ad-hoc fashion based on an immediate need by tools that are typically installed by a user on their own computer. This creates a situation where quality, strength, and organisation of SSH Keys is left to the individual.

Organising user accounts and SSH keys in a central location allows for control, policy enforcement and visibility over the entire organisation’s SSH keys as well as the use of those keys. Centralised SSH key management allows organisations to guide users and enforce standards.

Part of efficiently onboarding new team members means granting them the access they need quickly. Centralised Identity Access Management and SSH Key Management tools grants the access they need in minutes. And in the event that a user account or SSH key is compromised, a central management system can quickly remove the key or disable the user account, limiting or removing the risk entirely in seconds.

3. Enforcement of IT Security policy

Centralised management of user accounts and SSH keys goes a long way to increasing security and implementing governance of accounts, but this is just one part of the puzzle. The correct Identity Access Management and SSH Key Management solution should allow your organisation to define and control SSH Server policies.

This creates the benefit of significantly increased security by:

  • Disabling SSH Password access
  • Enforcing SSH Two Factor Authentication
  • Enforcing SSH account brute force protection
  • Limiting concurrent SSH user sessions
  • Limiting SSH access based on time and date

4. Compliance with industry security standards and data privacy regulations

With strong user access and identity management, SSH Key management and auditability of access grants, you’ll level up your IT security by aligning with the industry standard IT Security frameworks including ISO27001, SOC2, PCI-DSS and HIPAA. These security frameworks typically cover IT security across the business, however particular sections pay attention to user access control and governance particularly for key IT assets and data.

In recent years, compliance with data privacy regulations such as GDPR, CCPA, LGPD and POPIA have become the norm for doing business in certain regions. While these regulations do not typically dictate the methods required for protecting data they do outline and look for demonstrable efforts and policies that show a commitment to safeguarding sensitive and private data.

By working towards compliance with IT security frameworks your organisation shows an intent to be compliant and, in many cases, exceed compliance with the relevant data privacy regulations.

Keystash is ideally suited to bring visibility and control to your Linux environment for businesses of all sizes. Contact us if you would like assistance in setting up an Identity and Access Management and SSH Key management tool.

Author Profile
Andrew Burns
Founder, Keystash Limited.

Andrew has spent the last 20 years working in IT infrastructure, networks and software development and is a passionate Linux fanboy and security scholar.

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