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CIEM (Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management) Demystified

Author: MJ Kaufmann

Date: 02/12/2021

What Kind of Cloud Security Is Right for You?

Managing access and permissions in the cloud remains a challenge for most organizations. A recent HelpNet article points out that close to 80% of the companies surveyed experienced a cloud data breach, and 43% reported ten or more. These numbers underscore the security issues stemming from mass cloud migration during the COVID pandemic.  

Operational security teams struggle to manage the rapid growth of cloud infrastructure. Unfortunately, traditional security controls and management practices lag behind the velocity and flexibility of the cloud. And tools from cloud providers often lack the capabilities to cover the complex needs of global enterprise organizations. 



There are many solutions out there to help organizations manage cloud infrastructure and applications securely. But when everything looks like alphabet soup, how can you know whether CIEM (Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management) or CPAM (Cloud Privileged Access Management) will solve all of your use cases? 

It can be tough to differentiate between technologies and decide on the right solution for your organization. In this article, we break down the facts and help you navigate the various options to choose the best fit for your business needs. 

What Is CIEM?

CIEM is part of an emerging new solution area in Cloud Security recently added in Gartner’s 2020 Cloud Security Hype Cycle. According to Gartner, Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management (CIEM) is a specialized identity-centric SaaS solution that focuses on managing cloud access risk using time-limited access controls. Leveraging analytics and machine learning to detect anomalies, CIEM manages entitlements and data governance in hybrid and multi-cloud IaaS architectures. This is because access and identities in the cloud are too complex to effectively control at scale manually. CIEM streamlines the implementation of least privilege access controls in highly-dynamic organizational IT environments. 

CIEM – When and Where?

CIEM is vital to managing complex and dynamic cloud environments, focusing on IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) and PaaS (Platform as a Service) when overseeing and managing numerous permissions. Using fine-grained access control, CIEM can integrate the visibility and governance from IGA solutions with the cloud to manage entitlements consistently.

By its very nature, the cloud is different from the traditional on-premises data center. The cloud is dynamic and ephemeral, where resources do not persist. Instead, resources are created and destroyed as needed. While this environment is fantastic for dynamic workloads, it presents management and oversight challenges. CIEM is designed for these changes and enforces the proper use of permissions by applying the principle of least privilege.

CIEM Benefits

CIEM protects data and prevents overly permissive and unintended usage. By reducing over-permissioned and orphaned accounts, CIEM tools work to prevent data breaches. What makes it different from other forms of data protection? It simplifies complex processes through automation. Automation handles scaling in the cloud by utilizing policies that ensure the right access is granted — while removing unnecessary access. This increases operational efficiency and creates a log trail, making it easier to verify compliance and provide evidence for audits.

Increased Visibility

The CIEM discovery process is part of its lifecycle for uncovering the unique human and machine entities that can access your cloud ecosystem. It determines risk by analyzing user behaviors and resource access across the cloud ecosystem. In combination with how access policies are implemented, this contextual identity information allows it to calculate risk and enforce least privilege. The discovery process continues throughout the lifecycle to ensure new identities are incorporated as they emerge.

Efficient Automation

CIEM leverages automation to set fine-grained permissions across cloud assets. Instead of manually setting and configuring access and permission every time a new asset or workload is created, CIEM automatically pushes policy configurations. Completing this type of granular configuration by hand is tedious — and prone to errors and oversights. Manual configuration runs the risk of leaving assets open or non-configured, creating openings for attack. By leveraging automation, consistency is ensured no matter how quickly assets scale up, or get removed.



Bridging Identity Governance and Access Gaps

Stand-alone CIEM fills the gaps where PAM and IGA solutions alone do not have the capabilities. CIEM focuses on cloud infrastructure rather than cloud applications. PaaS and IaaS environments suffer from excessive permissions and a complex entitlement model by default. CIEM helps to simplify the management and administration of these environments. Instead of taking the reactive approach to removing excessive or unintended access, CIEM approaches it proactively by applying policies.

Can Your CIEM Solution Do This?

A stand-alone CIEM solution lacks IGA capabilities and is limited to IaaS and PaaS. Most Cloud environments can benefit from a unified platform that incorporates SaaS and introduces an IGA component. CPAM integrates both IGA and CIEM — making it the best of both worlds. This provides a full breadth of functionality across the entire organizational IT ecosystem. By combining all three, you can appropriately scope down excessive access throughout cloud and on-prem environments. A unified solution simplifies and centralizes the administration and management of ephemeral cloud resources while ensuring consistent governance throughout the organization. This enterprise-wide consistency is vital to maintaining security and compliance in the cloud.

Take An Integrated Approach 

To avoid inefficient point solutions, customers need an integrated platform that brings IGA, CIEM, and CPAM together into one solution. The identity platform should bring an in-depth understanding of entitlements at a granular level to provide a comprehensive security solution that includes:

  • Entitlement discovery
  • Policy management
  • Access provisioning
  • Privileged access management
  • Monitoring

A unified solution brings in the governance, compliance, and security rules — and then applies them consistently throughout the cloud and on-prem ecosystem. By using a single-pane-of-glass interface, you can simplify the administration and management of ephemeral cloud resources. Simplifying management lowers TCO while increasing ROI and reducing the staff required for daily operations, freeing them up for other duties. With full tracking and logging capabilities, it is easy to produce evidence of continual compliance. 

This consistency is vital to maintaining security and compliance in the cloud. CIEM may be enough for many small to medium businesses. But the majority of enterprises will benefit from the full breadth of functionality provided by CPAM.

To learn more about how Saviynt’s Cloud PAM solution can help secure your cloud ecosystem, read Cloud PAM for Robust Cloud Security.

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