CIEM: 7 Key Capabilities and How to Choose a CIEM Solution

Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management (CIEM) is a cloud security model that provides visibility over entitlements in the cloud environment.

What Is Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management (CIEM)? 

Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management (CIEM) is a cloud security solution that provides granular visibility and management over identities, entitlements, and resources in the cloud environment. It enables organizations to control who has access to what, ensuring that only the right people have the right access to the right resources at the right time.

CIEM is designed to address the unique challenges that arise in cloud environments, where traditional on-premise security controls may not be sufficient. In the cloud, identities and entitlements can proliferate rapidly, making it difficult to maintain visibility and control. 

CIEM provides a solution to this challenge, offering a robust, scalable, and flexible way for managing cloud security identities. It can help address organizational challenges such as identity governance, enforcement of security policies, visibility of entitlements, removing unused entitlements, and discovering identity-related anomalies.

In this article:

Why Is CIEM Important to Your Cloud Security Strategy? 

The cloud has revolutionized the way businesses operate, providing scalability, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness. However, the cloud also presents new security challenges. One of these is managing who has access to what—a concept known as entitlement. This is where Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management (CIEM) comes into play.

CIEM is a security model that helps organizations manage and control user access to resources in the cloud. It’s a crucial part of a cloud security strategy because it ensures that only authorized individuals have access to sensitive data and resources. Effective CIEM can prevent data breaches, protect intellectual property, and ensure compliance with regulations.

Moreover, CIEM provides visibility and control over entitlements, which are the permissions that users have to access cloud resources. Without CIEM, it’s challenging to keep track of who has access to what, leading to excessive permissions and potentially, security breaches. CIEM tools allow businesses to monitor and adjust entitlements in real-time, reducing the risk of unauthorized access.

7 Key Capabilities of CIEM 

1. Identity Governance

Identity governance provides the foundation for effective access management. By effectively governing identities, organizations can ensure that only authorized users have access to sensitive resources. This reduces the risk of unauthorized access and potential data breaches.

Identity governance involves establishing clear policies and procedures for managing identities and their associated entitlements. This includes defining roles and responsibilities, managing access requests, and monitoring and reviewing access privileges. With effective identity governance, organizations can minimize the risk of excessive or inappropriate access and improve overall security posture.

2. Security Policies

Security policies are another crucial component of CIEM. These are the rules and guidelines that govern how identities and resources are managed in the cloud. Security policies should be designed to enforce best practices and regulatory requirements, helping to protect your organization from security threats and compliance violations.

Security policies should cover a range of areas, including authentication and authorization, data protection, incident response, and more. They should be regularly reviewed and updated to reflect changing business needs and threat landscapes.

3. Unified Visibility of Entitlements

With the proliferation of cloud services and resources, it’s easy for entitlements to become complex and unwieldy. Without clear visibility, it’s difficult to manage access effectively, and the risk of unauthorized access or data breaches increases.

CIEM solutions provide a comprehensive view of entitlements across your cloud environment, helping you to understand who has access to what. This enables you to identify potential security risks, such as excessive permissions or unused accounts, and take action to mitigate them.

4. Removing Unused Entitlements

Unused entitlements pose a significant security risk. If an account or role with unused entitlements is compromised, it can provide an attacker with a pathway to access sensitive resources. Therefore, removing unused entitlements is a critical part of CIEM.

CIEM solutions enable organizations to identify and remove unused entitlements efficiently. They can also automate this process, ensuring that unused entitlements are regularly reviewed and removed to minimize risk.

5. Discovering Identity-Related Anomalies

Another important component of CIEM is the ability to discover identity-related anomalies. This involves monitoring user behavior and access patterns to identify any unusual or suspicious activity.

CIEM solutions use advanced analytics and machine learning techniques to detect anomalies. For example, they might flag a user who is suddenly accessing resources they’ve never accessed before, or who is logging in from an unusual location. This enables organizations to identify potential security incidents early and take action to mitigate them.

6. Automating Compliance for Identities and Entitlements 

Regulatory compliance is a major concern for many organizations. CIEM can help to automate compliance processes related to identities, making it easier to meet regulatory requirements and avoid penalties.

CIEM solutions can automate tasks such as access reviews, policy enforcement, and reporting. This helps save time and resources and reduces the risk of human error and helps to ensure consistent compliance.

7. Centralized Management

CIEM provides centralized management of cloud security identities. With CIEM, organizations can manage identities, entitlements, and resources across multiple cloud services and platforms from a single console.

Centralized management simplifies the task of managing cloud security entitlements and improves visibility and control. It also enables organizations to apply consistent security policies and controls across their entire cloud environment, enhancing security and compliance.

Benefits of CIEM 

Protection Against Cloud-Based Identity Attacks

CIEM shields against identity-based threats in the cloud by continuously monitoring user activity and entitlements. Its real-time analytics can identify abnormal behavior patterns and flag them for investigation or immediate action. For instance, if multiple failed login attempts are detected in a short period, CIEM could temporarily lock the account or trigger additional authentication measures.

By combining these threat detection mechanisms with centralized control, CIEM can pinpoint identity-based vulnerabilities, thereby reducing the risk of unauthorized access to cloud resources. This makes it easier to spot and counter potential identity theft, insider attacks, or other forms of unauthorized access.

Improved Compliance

One of the key advantages of CIEM is its ability to enhance compliance. In today’s regulatory landscape, maintaining compliance is essential. Non-compliance can result in hefty fines, reputational damage, and loss of customer trust. CIEM simplifies compliance by automating entitlement management, ensuring that only authorized users have access to resources. It also provides audit trails, which are useful for demonstrating compliance during audits.

CIEM solutions can be programmed to enforce specific policies, thereby ensuring that all access is in line with regulatory requirements. For example, a CIEM solution could automatically prevent access to sensitive data from unsecured locations, thereby helping to maintain compliance with data protection regulations.

Continuous, Granular Visibility

Another significant benefit of CIEM is its ability to provide continuous, granular visibility into who has access to what. This visibility is crucial for managing risks and maintaining control over your cloud environments. With CIEM, you can see who has access to specific resources, what they’re doing with that access, and when they’re doing it. CIEM solutions can alert you to unusual or potentially risky behavior, enabling you to take quick action to mitigate risks.

Additionally, the granular visibility provided by CIEM can help you to identify and eliminate unnecessary access. For example, if a user has access to resources that they’re not using, you can revoke that access to reduce the potential attack surface.

Improved Security Posture

By providing enhanced control over access to resources, CIEM improves your overall security posture. CIEM solutions can help you to enforce least privilege policies, whereby users are only given the access they need to perform their jobs and nothing more. This reduces the risk of identity-based attacks and minimizes the potential impact of a breach.

CIEM can also help you to identify and remediate misconfigurations related to access control, permissions, and privileges, which are a common cause of security incidents in the cloud. By continuously monitoring your cloud environments, a CIEM solution can detect these misconfigurations and either alert you to them or automatically fix them.

Rightsized Permissions

Over-permissioning, where users are given more access than they need, is a common issue in cloud environments. This can occur for a variety of reasons, such as when permissions are granted on a temporary basis and then not revoked, or when permissions are granted based on a user’s role without considering their individual needs.

CIEM can help to address this issue by providing visibility into who has access to what, enabling you to identify and eliminate unnecessary permissions. Additionally, some CIEM solutions offer automated rightsizing capabilities, which can automatically adjust permissions based on usage patterns.

Speed and Agility for DevSecOps

Finally, CIEM can enhance the speed and agility of your DevSecOps processes. By automating entitlement management, CIEM can significantly reduce the time and effort required to manage access to resources. This can help to accelerate development cycles and enable your team to deliver new features and updates more quickly.

Choosing the Right CIEM Solution 

Increasingly, CIEM functionality is offered as part of larger cloud security posture management (CSPM) solutions. When selecting a CIEM solution, prefer a CSPM product that includes CIEM capabilities.

Cross-Cloud Correlation

When evaluating CIEM solutions, one of the most important factors to consider is their ability to provide cross-cloud correlation. Given that most organizations use multiple cloud providers, it’s essential that your CIEM solution can manage access across all of your cloud environments.

Look for a solution that can aggregate and normalize data from different cloud providers, providing a unified view of access across your entire cloud estate. This will enable you to manage access more efficiently and effectively, and ensure consistent enforcement of policies across all of your cloud environments.

Entitlement Optimization

Over-permissioning is a common issue in cloud environments, and it can significantly increase your risk exposure. Look for a solution that offers automated rightsizing capabilities, which can adjust permissions based on usage patterns. This can help to eliminate unnecessary access, reduce your attack surface, and ultimately improve your overall security posture.

Cloud Identity Threat Detection and Response

Look for a solution that can alert you to unusual or potentially risky behavior anomalies, enabling you to take quick action to mitigate risks. This can help protect against identity takeover attacks (IAM-based attacks) and insider threats.

Some CIEM solutions offer automated response capabilities, which can take action to mitigate threats on your behalf. For example, if a user is detected accessing sensitive data from an unsecured location, the solution could automatically revoke their access or quarantine the data.

The Cloud Native Experts
"The Cloud Native Experts" at Aqua Security specialize in cloud technology and cybersecurity. They focus on advancing cloud-native applications, offering insights into containers, Kubernetes, and cloud infrastructure. Their work revolves around enhancing security in cloud environments and developing solutions to new challenges.