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What is Cloud Infrastructure Entitlements Management (CIEM)?

IT and Security organizations use Cloud Infrastructure Entitlements Management (CIEM) solutions to manage identities and access privileges in cloud and multi-cloud environments. Sometimes referred to as Cloud Entitlements Management solutions or Cloud Permissions Management solutions, CIEM solutions apply the Principle of Least Privilege access to cloud infrastructure and services, helping organizations defend against data breaches, malicious attacks and other risks posed by excessive cloud permissions.

Why are CIEM Solutions Necessary?

Businesses are leveraging public cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) to accelerate the pace of innovation and streamline operations. Many are implementing multi-cloud architectures to optimize choice, costs or availability.

Cloud resources are highly dynamic. Traditional identity and access management (IAM) solutions and practices are designed to protect and control access to conventional static on-premises applications and infrastructure. These solutions aren’t typically well suited for safeguarding highly dynamic, ephemeral cloud infrastructure.

For this reason, cloud providers have created their own native IAM tools and paradigms to help organizations authorize identities to access resources in fast-growing environments. Even so, the scale, diversity and dynamic nature of cloud IAM pose significant operational, security and compliance challenges for Cloud Security personnel.

CIEM solutions address these challenges by improving visibility, detecting and remediating IAM misconfigurations to establish least-privilege access throughout single and multi-cloud environments.

Cloud IAM Challenges

The vast scale and diversity of the cloud

Conventional IAM solutions were designed to control access to a limited set of systems and applications deployed in a corporate data center. With cloud infrastructure, corporate IT and security professionals must control and track access privileges for human, application and machine identities across an ever-increasing variety and volume of attributes including:

  • Cloud resources such as files, Virtual Machines (VMs) / servers, containers and serverless infrastructure.
  • Cloud services such as business applications, databases, storage and networking services.
  • Cloud administrative accounts such as cloud management consoles, security admin consoles, and ordering and billing portals.

The transitory nature of the cloud

The cloud is inherently dynamic. Applications and services are instantiated on demand, and containers are spun up and spun down continuously. This makes assigning entitlements and tracking access privileges even more challenging.

Lack of consistency and standards across clouds

Each cloud provider has its own approach to IAM security with distinct roles, permission models, tools and terminology. Businesses leveraging multiple cloud providers are forced to use multiple provider-specific tools, which can lead to configuration inconsistencies, security gaps and vulnerabilities. Managing identities and entitlements can become a resource-intensive, time-consuming and error-prone function.

Poor security hygiene

Many organizations rely on manual, risk-prone administrative practices for managing cloud permissions and accessing credentials. Passwords and other credentials are often statically configured or infrequently rotated, exposing the organization to security breaches and data leakage. In addition, credentials are sometimes shared among multiple users, creating additional security vulnerabilities and forensics challenges.

Excessive privileges

Organizations often dole out privileges unnecessarily or haphazardly, creating additional risk and exposure. This process is particularly difficult when considering the technical debt and permissions debt of moving “lift and shift” workloads to the cloud. Over-permissioned entities and excessive cloud entitlements can increase attack surfaces and make it easier for adversaries to move laterally across an environment and wreak havoc.

CIEM Solution Features and Functions

Cloud security solutions like Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) tools, Cloud Workload Protection Platforms (CWPP) and Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASB) provide only limited visibility and control over cloud infrastructure entitlements. Cloud Infrastructure Entitlements Management solutions are specifically designed to tightly and consistently manage privilege in complex, dynamic environments.

CIEM solutions apply the Principle of Least Privilege access to cloud infrastructure, providing IT and security organizations fine-grained control over cloud permissions and full visibility into entitlements. They help businesses strengthen security, reduce risks and accelerate the adoption of cloud-native applications and services by identifying and removing excessive permissions.

Most CIEM solutions provide a centralized dashboard to track and control access permissions to resources, services and administrative accounts scattered across public clouds like AWS, Azure and GCP. Leading CIEM solutions provide AI-powered analysis and assessment tools to intelligently identify and rank risks associated with configuration errors, shadow admin accounts and excessive entitlements for human, application and machine identities. This helps cloud security teams prioritize remediations to tackle first while developing a proactive, well-informed phased approach to risk reduction.

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