What is CIEM?

Cloud systems are one of the most useful tools for multi-device data storage, use, and sharing — but they’re also highly vulnerable to cyberattacks, making cloud infrastructure entitlement management solutions a necessity for cloud-based organizations.

Cloud infrastructure entitlement management (CIEM) is the missing piece to the complete cybersecurity puzzle: it accounts for human error and abused access privileges in cloud environments that are traditionally very complex and difficult to mitigate. By automatically revoking and limiting internal entitlements to the least possible degree, CIEM patches vulnerabilities that other cybersecurity tools, such as privileged access management (PAM) solutions and SSH key managers, don’t have the ability to address. 

Moreover, multi-cloud infrastructures are becoming the norm, revealing integration issues that most security programs have yet to seamlessly resolve. Let’s take a closer look at how CIEM protects cloud entitlements and infrastructures as more and more companies embrace a remote and dynamic operational system.

Contents

What is Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management?
What are Cloud Entitlements?
What is a CIEM Tool?
What are Common Threats to Cloud Security?
Why CIEM is Essential to Your Cloud Strategy
What are the Components of CIEM?
How is CIEM Used?
Cloud Security Benefits of CIEM
Are CIEM, IAM, and PAM Converging in Cloud-First Environments?


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What Is Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management?

Managing resources and configurations on the cloud can get complicated as overwhelming amounts of data migrate to this digital platform. With enterprises eagerly shifting to multi-cloud environments, manually keeping track of access privileges and the millions of servers and services they’re tied to becomes nearly impossible. 

It’s important to ensure that all IT and OT framework areas are properly safeguarded with cloud infrastructure entitlement management, or CIEM for short. CIEM aims to spot, organize, audit, and flag cloud entitlements that grant different levels of permission to users for certain tasks.

 

What Are Cloud Entitlements?

Cloud entitlements define user permissions as they engage with access credentials and undergo authentication processes for privileged tasks. Entitlements, and how they’re administered and configured, are unique to each cloud provider. This means that multi-cloud systems need to find a way to accommodate all these nuances while centrally managing user privileges. Many resources within the cloud are also transient, but how authorized users access them requires careful consideration and surveillance. Fortunately, CIEM tools can help.

 

What Is a CIEM Tool?

CIEM tools are applications that bring much-needed automation and interoperability to singular cloud and multi-cloud environments by continuously scanning for anomalies in entitlement usage. 

On the enterprise level, CIEM tools operate by analyzing existing entitlement inventories, associated users, and privileged tasks as they’re being performed to determine the least privilege necessary to perform an action. Think of it this way: a new hire that needs to clock in their work hours on a secure cloud-based database shouldn’t be able to view and edit the hours of their fellow coworkers. In this case, a CIEM tool would notify an administrator that this employee has excessive access to prevent any malicious behavior or unauthorized changes from occurring. The CIEM solutions will also suggest ways to limit or revoke this level of access to ensure that the employee can still resume their tasks without disruption.

 

What Are Common Threats to Cloud Security?

The open, sharable nature of cloud infrastructures inherently enables a high risk for data leaks, but they also shield organizations from being able to properly view and manage information stored and used within the cloud. For example, organizations very rarely deploy their own cloud infrastructures and often rely on third-party providers to set up a cloud-based operational ecosystem. While administrators are offered privileges to extensively tweak cloud settings to their organization’s preferences, they don’t have as much visibility or control over these environments as providers do.

Moreover, cloud users still fall victim to weak passwords and improper key management, with organizations unable to fully view the scope of internal credentials used for cloud access without some sort of management tool. At the same time, it’s incredibly tricky to restrict access to certain users on the cloud because it was designed to make data-sharing effortless and collaborative. This makes cloud environments valuable to hackers and even internal malicious actors hoping to slip into cloud systems undetected.

 

Why CIEM Is Essential to Your Cloud Strategy

While identity and access management (IAM) tools practically share the same function as CIEM applications, some of them are only viable in locally wired and stable environments. Organizations are realizing the limitations that on-premises infrastructures carry as IoT and wireless capabilities provide a level of convenience, flexibility, and possibility that IAM systems can’t compete with or fully safeguard. 

Privileged access management systems run parallel to CIEM’s purpose in safeguarding role-based credentials; however, often they don’t offer much visibility into cloud entitlements and simply aren’t equipped to properly handle ephemeral and shifting cloud features. Ultimately, CIEM goes beyond managing credentials — it defends against the possibility of human errors and suspicious behavior even after credentials have been used.

 

What Are the Components of CIEM?

Cloud infrastructure entitlement management primarily consists of rules and policies that govern the following:

  • User identities: CIEM allocates and keeps track of the extent to which each user can access and control resources, tools, and services within a cloud.
  • Security protocols: Guidelines help decipher the highest level of workload access a user should be able to obtain at any given time.
  • Metric logging: CIEM organizes, rotates, and flags entitlement inventories for misuse to prioritize least privilege access and prevent exploitative gaps.
  • Compliance certification: Automated assessments continuously compare existing entitlements to security regulations and requirements for guaranteed compliance.
  • Control center: A comprehensive dashboard facilitates quick surveillance to detect operational efficiency and anomalies caused by manual setting changes.

 

How Is CIEM Used?

Since cloud components are constantly shifting and evolving to accommodate growing technologies, CIEM must update and adapt an individual user’s workload and responsibilities to this fluctuating environment.

A CIEM typically assists the initial SSH key verification process as a user connects to a machine or server via a cloud. Once the verification process is complete and the user enters their intended destination to perform a task, CIEM revokes access to this task and prompts the user to request the verification keys again the next time they use their credentials. With each entry, the CIEM compares the user’s permissions with their tasks to accurately determine the highest level of privilege that should be given to them, and repeatedly conducts this cycle to eliminate discrepancies in entitlements and user identities.

Administrators are able to oversee this cycle for additional visibility via a centralized CIEM dashboard with easy scalability, allowing them to navigate to particular problem areas and gain insight into general organizational functionality.

 

Cloud Security Benefits of CIEM

Simply put, cloud environments are complicated. Trying to individually monitor the actions of all users (as well as their permissions, identities, and privileges as they change or become obsolete) is a staggering challenge — particularly when the organization is managing up to millions of volatile entities at a time. Machine learning and AI technologies embedded in CIEM systems keep enterprises several steps ahead of malicious actors hoping to steal sensitive information or inflict harm without being detected. Specifically, CIEM helps companies:

  • Acquire comprehensive visibility into all entitlements and how they’re used.
  • Dispose of credentials and revoke access privileges from individuals no longer associated with an organization or who can no longer gain entry into sensitive internal information.
  • Audit existing privileged accounts and entitlements to maintain accountability and reduce human error.
  • Automate all monitoring processes, giving developers and IT experts more time for challenging, complex tasks.
  • Encourage internal teams to remain within the parameters of their access roles.
  • Remediate issues related to possible breaches through excessive access privileges, such as floating credentials, internal abuse, and stolen credentials.

As clouds cover more real estate in the digital sphere, organizations without a CIEM tool in place risk being prime targets for cybersecurity attacks.

 

 

New call-to-actionAre CIEM, IAM, and PAM Converging in Cloud-First Environments?

The shift to multi-cloud and hybrid IT/OT environments does not only have a big impact on the technology platforms businesses are adopting to host their business-critical applications and data. It is also challenging traditional management categories in the market analyst strategies.

KuppingerCole Analysts recently published their 2022 Leadership Compass for CIEM & Dynamic Resource Entitlement & Access Management (DREAM) platforms. DREAM is a new

classification for access management and entitlement platforms that can manage the challenges associated with computing environments that are dynamic and operate at cloud speed.

In the report, SSH was recognized as a:

  • Market Leader    
  • Market Champion
  • Product Leader
  • Innovation Leader

 

Download the KuppingerCole DREAM report to find out more about the importance of CIEM, IAM, and PAM in cloud security and in future cloud-based applications.