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Today’s workforce is arguably part human, part machine. In fact, it’s likely that the number of machines — from servers, containers, and IoT devices — far outnumbers humans in any given organization’s network.

This rapid proliferation of machine identities has created new challenges for IT and security teams. Most alarmingly, 81% of organizations have experienced at least two or more disruptive outages caused by expired certificates in the past two years, according to the second-annual State of Machine Identity Management Report, conducted jointly by Keyfactor and Ponemon Institute. The new research provides an in-depth look at the role machine identities and public key infrastructure (PKI) play in securing modern enterprises. 

Along with the rise of machine identities, the report showed that enterprises struggle with a lack of complete certificate visibility. This year’s survey revealed that the number of internally trusted certificates grew nearly 16% since last year, with the average business issuing 267,620 internally trusted certificates across its organization.

Bar graph. The frequency of machine identity-related incidents in the past 24 months. The full results of this graphic can be found in the text of the article itself.

If left untracked, certificates expire unexpectedly, causing critical applications or services to stop working — which explains the alarmingly high number of organizations experiencing certificate-related outages. On average, respondents said it takes them more than three hours to recover from a certificate-related outage, with 39% saying it takes four hours or more. Shorter certificate lifecycles have made it much more difficult for organizations to keep pace with certificate issuance and management. According to respondents, 65% are concerned about the increased workload and risk of outages caused by shorter SSL/TLS certificate lifespans.


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Businesses are also struggling to manage the exponential volume at which machine identities are being created. More certificates are proving difficult to manage, with 70% of respondents reporting that the growing use of keys and digital certificates has significantly increased the operational burden on their IT organization.

IT and security leaders are becoming more aware of the need for a centralized strategy to manage machine identities, with 57% of respondents citing complete visibility of all certificates and 60% cite lifecycle automation as top priorities for the coming year.

This year’s report analyzed survey responses from 1,231 individuals across North America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, spanning 13 industries, including financial services, industrial & manufacturing, public sector, healthcare & pharmaceutical, education & research and retail.

Read the full report by Keyfactor and Ponemon Institute.

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