Cloud Security

What Is CIEM? The Ins and Outs of This Least Privilege Access Solution

Every security professional is familiar with the three pillars of security: people, processes, and technology. They all need to work together to maintain a safe, secure environment — if one pillar fails, the others must provide reinforcement.

Remember, anyone can fall victim to phishing or another type of attack. Organizations need to have the right processes and technology in place to keep this initial issue from becoming catastrophic. Otherwise, a bad actor could compromise a cloud account and take advantage of excessive access controls in order to move laterally to access code repositories, logging servers, and more.

It has become clear that there must be a greater focus on access to cloud infrastructure and resources, commonly referred to as “entitlements.” In fact, experts from Gartner explain that cloud-based user entitlements are too complex for traditional solutions, such as Identity Governance and Administration (IGA) or Privileged Access Management (PAM).

This is why cloud infrastructure and entitlement management (CIEM) tools have emerged. What is CIEM, exactly? These new solutions simplify managing cloud infrastructure and entitlements, making it simpler to maintain complex multi-cloud environments. Let’s take a deeper dive into the basics of CIEM and how it benefits organizations.


What Is CIEM and Why Is It important?

To start off, it’s important to gain a solid understanding of the definition of CIEM. Effectively, CIEM tools allow enterprises to better manage permissions, identities, and entitlements within cloud environments.

The ultimate objective of CIEM is to enforce least privilege access, meaning that every user is granted the lowest level of permissions possible to perform their job functions. This becomes incredibly complex in a multi-cloud environment. Watch the video below for a full explanation illustrating precisely why this is:

In short, there are a number of challenges to managing cloud infrastructure entitlements, including:

  • Difficulty monitoring and preventing entitlement misuse
  • The fact that some accounts have long standing privileges
  • Limited visibility, governance, and compliance oversight

These complex challenges help to explain the rise in identity-related incidents. According to research from the Identity Defined Security Alliance (IDSA), 79% of companies have experienced an identity-related breach within the last two years. No organization is immune, either. There are multiple examples of high-profile companies that have fallen victim to such attacks.
Because CIEM solutions are purpose-built to address these challenges, they play an essential role in the world of cloud native security.


4 Functions of Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management

Now that you understand the importance of CIEM, you should know about the four key functions that this type of solution serves to help organizations.

1. Providing Visibility Into Net-Effective Permissions

Firstly, a CIEM solution is capable of accounting for every entitlement and showing you precisely what any given user is able to do within the cloud environment. In other words, the right tool provides visibility into who can take specific actions in specific resources.

Having a baseline knowledge of every user and their level of access helps to create boundaries within the cloud environment and minimize security risks.

2. Discovering and Remediating Excessive and Outdated Permissions

Permissions should never be viewed as set in stone. Instead, they require continual monitoring to provide another layer of visibility that allows you to determine whether a user has the appropriate level of access. In some cases, the user shouldn’t have any level of permissions at all.

Consider, for instance, a terminated employee that still has access to a number of accounts within your organization. Without an effective means of identifying this now outdated access, they could continue to leverage those accounts and do potential damage.

The sooner you’re able to identify any expired, outdated, or excessive permissions, the sooner you can take action to protect your cloud environments.

3. Enforcing Least Privilege Access

With a solid understanding of permissions, a CIEM solution should provide you with all the information you need to know about what actions must be taken to ensure every user is adjusted to a state of least privilege.

This particular function is incredibly needed among today’s enterprises. According to the IDSA report, only 48% of organizations have fully implemented a least privilege access approach.

As for how to enforce least privilege, dig into the specifics of what users are able to access, how they can access it, and what they’re able to do with that level of access. They should be able to perform their work activities effectively, but they shouldn’t have access to anything beyond that required level.

4. Performing Advanced Security Investigations

Lastly, with a CIEM solution, you can run a query against all of your cloud identity data to gain an even deeper level of insight. Conducting periodic audits here and there simply isn’t an effective way to protect complex, multi-cloud environments. Only by performing advanced investigations can you immediately detect issues and take action to truly protect your cloud entitlements.


Begin Your Cloud Infrastructure and Entitlement Management Journey

Having the right CIEM solution is undoubtedly critical for modern enterprises. Not only do these tools streamline least privilege access controls but they also enable you to perform quick audits and take full control of risk management.

Just remember not to forget about any of the other security pillars. After all, people are still an important part of the equation, especially those who are working from home. By providing them with actionable security tips, you can ensure they remain your greatest assets.


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