As more businesses have embraced modern cloud platforms like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and Microsoft Azure, traditional network barriers have been dismantled and security has been boosted. But this means taking on new obligations. When workloads are migrated to such infrastructures, it is not unusual for thousands of entities—both users and non-users—to require in-depth analysis and monitoring. To satisfy their unique roles and use cases, entities including humans, apps, services, and IaaS accounts require granular controls as well as a particular set of rights and access controls. It also raises the issue of a user’s level of accessibility and privilege.

Cloud Infrastructure Entitlements Management, or CIEM, is the answer to all of these identity access management (IAM) questions. In this blog post, we’ll unpack what CIEM is, how it works, its role in modern cloud security, and how businesses can begin to manage cloud access by implementing core CIEM tenets.

What Is Cloud Infrastructure Entitlements Management (CIEM)?

Cloud Infrastructure Entitlements Management (CIEM) is a systematic technique for managing access rights and permissions (often known as entitlements) in cloud environments. Gartner defines CIEM offerings as “specialized identity-centric SaaS solutions focused on managing cloud access risk via administration-time controls for the governance of entitlements in hybrid and multi-cloud IaaS.” CIEMs define the end-to-end permissions of the actions that a cloud identity can take and the resources that it can access within the data context.

CIEM solutions are used by IT and security organizations to manage identities and access credentials in cloud and multi-cloud settings. CIEM solutions, also known as Cloud Permissions Management (CPM) solutions, apply the principle of least privilege to cloud infrastructure and services, assisting organizations in defending against data breaches, malicious attacks, and other risks posed by excessive cloud permissions. The primary objective of CIEM technologies is to reduce the risk associated with the inadvertent and unregulated allocation of excessive permissions to cloud resources.

Why is CIEM Important?

CIEM is crucial for several key reasons. Firstly, it allows organizations to gain real-time visibility into entitlements, enabling the continuous discovery, management, and monitoring of access rights. By identifying potential risks and anomalies within the cloud infrastructure, CIEM helps administrators take immediate action to mitigate threats. Secondly, CIEM enforces least privilege policies, ensuring that identities have appropriate access levels without granting excessive privileges. This reduces the attack surface and minimizes the risk of privilege abuse. Lastly, CIEM is vital in maintaining compliance with regulations by monitoring and securing entitlements, supporting organizations during audits and ensuring adherence to user permissions requirements.

How does CIEM Work?

At its core, CIEM enables organizations to discover, manage, and monitor entitlements in real time. It continuously scans and tracks identities present in the cloud environment, capturing information about their permissions and behavior. This allows organizations to gain a holistic view of access privileges and potential risks associated with each identity.

CIEM employs advanced algorithms and analytics to identify risks and suspicious activities within the cloud infrastructure. By monitoring the behavior of identities, it can detect anomalies, unauthorized access attempts, or potential security breaches. When such risks are detected, CIEM generates alerts to notify administrators, enabling them to take immediate action to mitigate the threats.

Additionally, CIEM plays a crucial role in enforcing least privilege policies. It ensures that each identity within the cloud environment has the appropriate level of access and permissions needed to perform their tasks effectively, without granting excessive privileges. By automatically adjusting entitlements based on established security guidelines, CIEM helps minimize the attack surface and reduce the risk of privilege abuse.

The Role of CIEM in Modern Cloud Security 

Modern cloud infrastructure is more complicated than older data center security solutions, which had limited management access to a limited collection of systems and applications. With cloud infrastructure, teams must monitor and control access privileges for multiple entities, including resources, services, and accounts across an increasingly complicated environment. Cloud infrastructure helps to reduce costs, increase availability, and drive innovation. However, the fundamental difficulty that teams encounter is that most new cloud platforms are essentially dynamic, making entitlements difficult to assign and manage.

While traditional Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) techniques are adequate for static, on-premises infrastructure, they are not sufficient for protecting highly dynamic, ephemeral cloud infrastructure. Given the growing complexity of modern cloud architecture, CSPM solutions fall short of providing a comprehensive view of cloud security issues. This is due to the fact that CSPM tools are primarily aimed at detecting misconfigurations rather than examining the degree of identification permissions assigned to resources. CIEM steps in to fill the security vulnerabilities left by traditional CSPM technologies.

Benefits of Cloud Infrastructure Entitlements Management (CIEM)

CIEMs assist enterprises in achieving a strong cloud security posture by ensuring that identity and resource access is managed effectively across multiple cloud infrastructures. CIEMs provide several key benefits, including scalable entitlement visibility, compliance assurance, rightsizing cloud permissions, and the automatic detection and remediation of access risks. Below, we will discuss the major benefits of CIEM solutions.

Multi-Cloud Visibility 

A CIEM tool gives enterprises visibility into their cloud entitlements across various dynamic cloud providers, including entities such as accounts, users, roles, services, compute pieces, and policies. CIEM serves as a unifying platform that manages entitlements automatically across these complex, multi-cloud systems. This reduces the need for teams to switch context among multiple cloud providers.

Automated Detection and Remediation

CIEM solutions calculate the baseline activity automatically and detect any anomalous occurrences like insider threats, lost access keys, compromised accounts, and other potentially malicious user activities. To address simpler risks that do not require human participation, they can also be configured to perform corrective steps automatically for entitlement policies. For instance, CIEM tools can activate an automatic multi-factor authentication (MFA) policy to enforce corporate application security.

Compliance Advantage

CIEMs regularly assess, monitor, and secure entitlements in your cloud platforms, thus ensuring adherence to user permissions compliance requirements and standards. This means that your infrastructure is always ready for audits.

Rightsizing Cloud Permissions

Gartner reports that more than 95% of IaaS accounts use less than 3% of the entitlements issued. CIEM tools assist companies in improving identity and access management by continuously monitoring access activities in order to identify obsolete identities and right-size net effective permissions.

Challenges and Limitations

While CIEM tools offer significant benefits, there are also challenges and limitations to consider. Understanding these factors is crucial for implementing CIEM effectively. Here are some key challenges and limitations:

  • Complexity of Cloud Environments: Modern cloud infrastructures can be highly complex, involving multiple cloud providers, services, and accounts. Managing entitlements across these dynamic environments can be challenging, requiring careful configuration and ongoing monitoring.
  • Entity and Data Volume: Cloud environments often consist of a vast number of entities, including users, roles, services, and resources. As the volume of entities grows, managing and monitoring their access rights and permissions becomes more complex and time-consuming.
  • Continuous Monitoring: CIEM requires continuous monitoring of identities, their permissions, and behavior to detect risks and anomalies. This requires robust monitoring capabilities and the ability to handle large amounts of data generated by identity activities.
  • Compliance and Regulatory Requirements: Organizations operating in regulated industries face additional compliance requirements. CIEM solutions must align with these regulations and assist in maintaining compliance by providing adequate controls, audits, and reporting capabilities.
  • Integration Challenges: Integrating CIEM solutions with existing infrastructure, cloud platforms, identity providers, and security tools can pose integration challenges. Ensuring seamless interoperability and compatibility is essential for a successful CIEM implementation.
  • Scalability and Performance: As cloud environments scale, CIEM solutions need to handle increased data volumes and maintain performance. Ensuring scalability and robustness of the CIEM solution is essential to effectively manage entitlements in large and dynamic cloud infrastructures.

Despite these challenges and limitations, CIEM offers significant benefits and plays a critical role in enhancing cloud security. By addressing these challenges and implementing best practices, organizations can overcome limitations and leverage the full potential of CIEM to protect their cloud resources and ensure secure access management.

How to Choose the Right CIEM Solution?

When it comes to selecting the ideal CIEM solution for your business or organization, it’s important to make an informed decision on the type of tool you will be leveraging. Here are some considerations to help you choose the right CIEM solution:

  • Comprehensive Identity Discovery: Look for a CIEM solution that offers automated identity inventory to identify and catalog all identities present in your environment.
  • Effective Permissions Management: Ensure the solution provides a clear understanding of the abilities and permissions associated with each identity, even across multiple accounts.
  • Visual Representation: The best CIEM tools include an identity graph or analytics feature for a visual and easily understandable representation of your identities and entitlements.
  • Detection Capabilities: Prioritize robust monitoring capabilities to detect suspicious behavior and unauthorized activities when potential threats are present.
  • Customizability: Opt for a tool that allows you to customize frameworks, policies, and remediation options to meet your specific security needs and operational preferences.
  • Seamless Integration: Consider compatibility with your existing infrastructure, cloud platforms, identity providers, and other security tools to ensure smooth integration and interoperability.

By carefully evaluating CIEM solutions based on these factors, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your organization’s uniq

Learn More About CIEM on the Orca Cloud Security Platform

In today’s digital-first era, the cloud provides critical benefits to enterprises, but the increasing complexity of multi-cloud and hybrid infrastructures also increases identity and access security risks. Legacy methods and cloud security parameters that focus solely on misconfigurations are insufficient, especially when tracking a high number of identities and rights. The widening gap in identity access management, along with complex entitlements, is a major threat to cloud security and severely limits the scalability and agility of organizations.

That is why organizations need a robust Cloud Infrastructure Entitlements Management software solution that unifies and provides comprehensive visibility into their cloud deployments. By understanding the relationship between access rights and cloud resources, the Orca CIEM dashboard enables you to deliver seamless, identity-first cloud security. It gives security teams a centralized platform for protecting workloads and managing cloud security configurations. It also enables teams to manage cloud entitlements by alerting on and prioritizing any overly permissive identities. To get started with Orca’s CIEM, you can watch this demo and connect your first account in minutes.