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What is CIEM?: A Comprehensive Guide 101

Imagine you own the cloud. You have many users, software programs, and total control over cloud resources. These resources comprise data and other sensitive information. They are all collectively referred to as ‘identities.’ Now imagine all these elements are uncategorized, and there is unrestricted access. It could cause a severe data breach. You need to […]

Mansi B.

Written by Mansi B.

September 26, 2023 | 8 min read

Imagine you own the cloud.

You have many users, software programs, and total control over cloud resources. These resources comprise data and other sensitive information. They are all collectively referred to as ‘identities.’

Now imagine all these elements are uncategorized, and there is unrestricted access.

It could cause a severe data breach.

You need to arrange such elements and bring order to these identities. CIEM (Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management) solutions add privileges to identities and build structure.

IAM (Identity and Access Management) tools. Still, a downside is that IAM can only do something if someone misconfigured your identity or if any of these privileges stop working suddenly.

CIEM (Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management) checks these identities, modifies privileges where needed, and manages these identities across single or multi-cloud environments. Let’s dive deeper into what Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management is and more on that below.

Table of Contents:

  1. What is CIEM (Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management)?
  2. Why Is CIEM Important to Your Cloud Security Strategy?
  3. How CIEM Is Different from IAM?
  4. CIEM Lifecycle
  5. CIEM Overview: Challenges, Benefits, and Limitations and Best Practices
  6. Fortifying Cloud Security Posture with PingSafe
  7. Conclusion

What is CIEM (Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management)?

Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management (CIEM) constantly monitors, tests, and detects identity-related misconfigurations across cloud environments. It is the process of reducing risks by enforcing least privilege access for user accounts. CIEM is one of the many features embedded within Cloud-Native Application Protection Platform (CNAPP) solutions and works in combination with Cloud Workload Protection (CWPP), Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM), and other security processes. Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management alone cannot secure the cloud, but it is mighty when used with other tools.

What are the CIEM Features?

Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management solutions offer powerful features such as:

  • IAM Configuration, Management & Compliance – IAM configuration, management, and compliance settings allow organizations to meet risk management requirements and regulatory standards. It authenticates users, removes unused roles, and ensures data integrity by enforcing higher levels of protection.
  • DevOps Security – DevOps security overcomes roadblocks in Agile development and drives innovation. It enables granular, manual permissions and remediates excessive permissions automatically without disrupting business operations.
  • Targeted Threat Intelligence Collection – Targeted threat intelligence collection neutralizes threats before they have a chance to occur. It addresses security issues from the roots and takes a proactive approach to cyber security.
  • Behavioral Analytics – Behavioral analytics analyzes user behaviors in cloud environments and looks for suspicious patterns. It flags network anomalies, gives enhanced visibility into insider threats, and generates insights from historical data..
  • Risk-based prioritization – Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management assigns priority levels to risks, categorizes them, and sets an order of prioritization. The highest-level risks are addressed first, while the negligible ones are taken care of last.
  • Comprehensive IAM Risk Posture Visibility – AI and ML-powered analytics in Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management help maintain an accurate inventory of all IAM and cloud entitlements. It also manages the sheer volumes of growing entitlements data and assesses their risks.
  • Entitlement Rightsizing and Unified Visibility – Entitlement rightsizing refers to managing and mitigating entitlements within the environment. Unified visibility handles multiple entitlements from a single solution and enforces pre-built identities.
  • Least Privilege Enforcement Implementation – CIEM privilege escalation attacks are common, and organizations can secure cloud accounts by enforcing least privilege access. It prevents unwanted escalations and grants unrestricted permissions for data access on a need-to-know basis.

What are the Components of CIEM?

The main components of Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management are:

  • Entitlement visibility, discovery, and management
  • Data discovery and visualization
  • Advanced analytics
  • Compliance
  • Permissions monitoring

Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management tools scan:

  • User entitlements and analyze which entitlements exist
  • The roles granted to users and what users on machines can do with said entitlements
  • Which humans and machines can access cloud resources and how assigned entitlements are used to interact with them

CIEM solutions assess whether the access privileges granted to users are necessary for achieving a workload’s intended purposes. If an entitlement provides excessive access, the solution will automatically alert administrators for a manual review and revoke it. Additionally, CIEM tools can detect drifts in entitlement configurations and ensure that compliance standards automatically align with business objectives and user demands.

Why Is CIEM Important to Your Cloud Security Strategy?

The global Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management market is forecasted to grow from USD 1.2 billion in 2023 to USD 7.5 billion by 2028 at a CAGR of 44.2%. More than 96% of organizations experienced an identity breach in 2022.

Increased proliferation of cyber threats, rising consumer demand for better cloud security, and soaring cloud adoption rates by large-scale organizations and startups fuel this segment’s growth. There is a considerable demand for CIEM across several industry verticals like healthcare, ITeS, BFSI, and many others.

Organizations are investing in CIEM solutions since it allows them to use advanced technologies like Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) with other cloud security solutions. Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management prevents data from migrating to the wrong users and locations. Over-permission identities pose a significant risk to cloud infrastructure, and securing all identities across multi-cloud environments is essential.

Many enterprises need to protect their identities and data as they follow a shared responsibility model for cloud security. Cloud service providers (CSPs) offer their capabilities to streamline the organization’s processes while customers are responsible for uploading, transmitting, and sharing personal data. Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management adds awareness to roles and responsibilities for security team members and enforces the best identity management practices. Where CSPs are responsible for the security ‘of’ the cloud, the customers are responsible for the security ‘in’ the cloud; CIEM bridges gaps by implementing the best security standards between them.

How CIEM Is Different from IAM?

Digital identity and access management solutions govern access to cloud systems, resources, and data and restrict the level of access users have within the organization. However, one major limitation is that they cannot monitor excessive privileges. IAM solutions cannot fix misconfigurations or mitigate identity risks in cloud environments. In contrast, CIEM solutions offer enhanced security capabilities, such as granular level access, increased visibility, multi-cloud consistency implementation for identities and permissions, and automated alerts for effective anomaly detection.

CIEM Lifecycle

Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management lifecycle is a framework followed by cloud security solutions to remediate anomalies and manages identities and permissions. It enforces the least privileged access and uses a combination of machine learning and analytics for effective identity access management (IAM) across cloud services.

The CIEM lifecycle process involves the following:

· Entitlement discovery – Organizations achieve the discovery of cloud identities and entitlements, along with granular visibility of all cloud-based activities.

· Entitlement Optimization – It involves the enforcement of strict access controls in line with the Principle of Least Privilege (POLP)

· Entitlement Visualization – DevOps teams can enable a strong security posture, centralize data points, and receive actionable insights via entitlement visualization. It also allows consistency in the enforcement of cloud entitlement policies across deployments.

· Automated entitlement remediation – Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management solutions identify risks related to access rights and provide automated remediation whenever threats are detected. It also sends alerts to administrators and removes excessive permissions.

CIEM Overview: Challenges, Benefits, and Limitations and Best Practices

CIEM Challenges

The following are the critical challenges of Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management:

  • CIEM identifies overpowered active identities where some cloud identities have more permissions than they should. It ensures that users can access only specific privileges and reduces the risk of unauthorized, not automatically scaling them up or down before manual reviews.
  • CIEM grants cross-account identity access for third parties to access different cloud resources. It provides improved visibility into cloud entitlements and access patterns but does not analyze visibility oversights.
  • Unauthorized access to machine identities is another common issue faced and not addressed by CIEM solutions. These tools cannot make good recommendations on how to improve password security.

CIEM Benefits

Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement benefits are:

  • CIEM Eliminates excessive privileges and any risks associated with them. It mitigates cloud-based identity risks and comprehensively discovers all identities, resources, and activities within the environment.
  • CIEM minimizes the number of cloud attack surfaces. It brings all data governance and monitoring controls under one umbrella. It also automatically implements continuous event-based discoveries and resource monitoring and analysis.
  • CIEM Automatically adjusts IAM permissions and ensures they align with business requirements. It enforces security policies for each cloud and removes unused privileges in multi-cloud environments.
  • Multi-cloud environments are dynamic, complex, and robust CIEM solutions that enable organizations to map cloud entitlements, detect high-risk changes, and generate visualizations.

CIEM Limitations

CIEM solutions have their limitations, which are:

  • Cloud Infrastructure and entitlement Management solutions need more support for proper implementation and are a relatively new technology in the security market. CIEM is a new technology that is not fully mature yet and addresses only specific gaps in cloud products that manage identity and data governance..
  • Using modern CIEM requires significant time, money, and resources, and teams need strict documentation for proper CIEM training and onboarding. CIEM only combines security information management with security event management and provides a unified view of cloud entitlements by simplifying complexity
  • Not all CIEM solutions support all data compliance and regulatory standards for organizations. CIEM detects instances of policy violations and non-compliance changes and ensures that specific compliance obligations are met so that organizations don’t face penalties or reputational damages

Best Practices for CIEM

Here are the best CIEM practices for organizations:

  •  Collect and process cloud audit logs to profile identities and detect abnormal behaviors.
  •  Reduce standing privileges by managing Just-in-Time (JIT) access
  •  Listing and tracking all identity relationships across multi-cloud workflows
  •  Proactively scan public and private repositories to maintain accurate and authoritative data for cloud identities.
  • Minimize Active Directory’s attack surface, monitor for signs of compromise, and roll back unauthorized changes.
  •  Enforce least privilege access and automated data governance and policy controls related to the scope of cloud infrastructure entitlement management.
  • Manage permissions versioning and establish granular visibility in the cloud infrastructure.

Fortifying Cloud Security Posture with PingSafe

PingSafe enhances Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management security by leveraging its revolutionary Cloud-Native Application Protection Platform (CNAPP). CNAPP offers CSPM (Cloud Security Posture Management), CWPP (Cloud Workload Protection Platform), and Cloud Detection and Response (CDR) tools which collectively contribute to CIEM security. Before deployment, it secures cloud workloads, VMs, and containers and actively scans for and monitors various threats. PingSafe can write and enforce custom security policies across multiple cloud ecosystems and accounts. It applies shift-left security and has an offensive security engine that simulates attacks from the malicious actor’s perspective so that organizations can better understand their flaws and weaknesses, thus effectively helping to remediate potential security gaps.

The platform supports using CloudFormation, TerraForm, Helm, and other IaC templates. It offers CI/CD integration support and real-time secret scanning for over 800+ secret types. It ensures continuous compliance with over 20+ industry regulations like PCI-DSS, NIST, ISO 27001, CIS Benchmark, etc.

AI and ML-powered analytics offered by CNAPP generate insights, eliminate unused and excessive identities, and help business owners manage permissions effectively. Overall, CNAPP’s features provide holistic security and provide organizations with enhanced visibility into cloud entitlements.

Conclusion

With the constantly evolving threat landscape, Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management (CIEM) is a big concern for organizations of all sizes. CNAPP secures identities and manages permissions across dynamic and highly complex cloud environments, unifying security features and compliance within a single platform. It identifies misconfigurations and security risks and delivers comprehensive cloud infrastructure entitlement management capabilities for full-stack platform applications.

Other features include API identification and protection, Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) scanning, Kubernetes Security Posture Management (KSPM), agentless vulnerability management, serverless security, and identity-entitlement management.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are the uses of CIEM?

CIEM solutions can manage cloud identity entitlements and enforce the least privileged access to cloud infrastructures and resources. They can mitigate access risks of granting excessive permissions and remove unused identities.

  1. What is CIEM in PingSafe?

PingSafe’s CNAPP provides cloud infrastructure entitlement management capabilities and enforces data governance controls. It offers Kubernetes Security Posture Management (KSPM) tools and practices for automating cluster compliance. CNAPP profiles the entire cloud infrastructure and delivers holistic security by implementing scanning during all development and deployment stages. It extends workload protection to applications across hybrid and multi-cloud environments.