What Is Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management (CIEM) and Why Your Multi-Cloud Enterprise Needs It

Image of an open padlock with computer keys floating in the background.
Are users still assigned access to a platform? CIEM aims to resolve this.
SOURCE: Tugboat Logic

Putting more data in the cloud and working with distributed systems and complex networks poses some entitlement problems for user management. You need to determine who has what permissions and whether that person should have those permissions. This is because an active directory (AD) solution that traditionally manages users and permissions doesn’t work natively across multi-cloud providers. As a result, an AD that can’t manage permissions on another provider’s platform isn’t helpful to your security team. You can use Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management (CIEM) to solve this compatibility issue.  

CIEM exists to help your team figure out who has access to what across cloud and multi-cloud environments. To this end, it identifies risks from poor entitlement management and enables you to update entitlements from a centralized solution.

Does this sound like something your team is looking for? Let’s learn more about CIEM! 

What Is Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management?

CIEM is software that your security team can use to track all your users’ entitlements and permissions across the entire enterprise in a single or multi-cloud environment. Accordingly, you can enforce the security principle of the least privilege to ensure the right people have the right amount of access.

To follow this principle, you should ensure that you give each staff member the right amount of access to perform their job successfully. You shouldn’t give any staff member access beyond what they need to do their job, as this will open you up to security risks. 

Next, I’ll look at why CIEM is important for cloud security.

Why Is CIEM Important For Cloud Security? 

Many cloud providers have their own identity and access management (IAM) tools built into the platform, such as Azure, AWS, Google, etc. However, most organizations have their IT infrastructure in two or more cloud providers. In this case, you can leverage some features that might be on one cloud provider but not the other. 

When companies have a multi-cloud environment, you can’t easily manage permissions and entitlements across both platforms natively because they don’t integrate. Obviously, this situation is a major pain point for security teams trying to manage entitlements. This is where CIEM comes in to save the day. 

So, how does CIEM work? I’ll discuss this next.

How Does CIEM Work?

CIEM breaks down user ID accounts by entitlement visibility, displaying users and their respective entitlements. This allows teams to manage entitlements so that each user has the correct level of access. 

The CIEM tool will allow your security team to see which entitlements exist and what each user or machine can do with those entitlements. The CIEM can also see which said users can access cloud-based resources. 

You can use the CIEM dashboard to see and manage token assignment. In some cases, you’ll find permissions that the user will always need on an unlimited basis. Occasionally, you’ll also find users who need to access a resource they don’t often need. Instead, a one-time access token or a token with a short life is required. 

Short-term tokens are issued to users who can then use them to log into resources just long enough to complete their work. Your user won’t be able to log back in again unless a new token is issued.

Additionally, your team can use analytics and compliance settings to further manage your enterprise’s entitlements. These analytics will help you find cases where users have too many permissions for their security level. 

So how exactly does CIEM improve cloud security? I’ll cover that next.

How Does CIEM Improve Cloud Security?

If your company isn’t monitoring your IAM policies well enough, many users could have access to resources they shouldn’t. CIEM will allow you to see who has old unused entitlements. Then, your security team can do some housekeeping, revoke old entitlements, and ensure everyone has the exact permissions they need and nothing they shouldn’t have. 

You may wonder what features to look for when choosing a CIEM tool. I’ll discuss the top 3 features to look for next.

Top 3 CIEM Features

When shopping around for a CIEM tool, you’ll want to ensure that you have the following 3 features. These 3 features will ensure that your CIEM is up to par with the current industry standards. 

1. Visibility 

Image of a CIEM dashboard.
Easily manage accessibility to multiple cloud-based platforms from a centralized CIEM dashboard.
SOURCE: Palo Alto Networks

Visibility is an absolute must to understand the complex connections between users and the systems they have access to. A good CIEM must have a graph view to map users to resources. It should have a query system to check entitlements and a metrics dashboard to track permissions usage and user behavior. 

2. Cross-Cloud Correlation

Image of a dashboard showing permissions across multiple cloud providers.
Once you can visualize the data, it will be easier to make decisions on who has the correct access.
Source: SysDig

Your CIEM should be able to work with a multi-cloud environment. Working across multi-cloud environments is one of the reasons the CIEM was created. If it doesn’t have multi-cloud support, then it’s a no go for sure. 

3. Discovery

Screenshot of Prisma CIEM viewing all Azure based users and permissions.
CIEMs are helpful when you are using more than one cloud provider.
Source: PaloAlto

A great CIEM offers user ID discovery regardless of whether human-based or computer-based users and has account activity for all. It should also be able to analyze all policy types and support various cloud providers.

Let’s wrap up next.

Final Words

Entitlement management is hard to manage if you don’t have the right tools. It gets even more complicated if you’re trying to manage access and entitlements across multiple cloud platforms

CIEM can fill the gap and make managing entitlements easier for you and your security team. If your CIEM tool has the correct features, such as visibility, cross-cloud correlation, and discovery, your venture into using CIEM will be enjoyable and fruitful. CIEM is a must-have for your security team’s arsenal. 

Want to learn more about CIEM and other related security technologies? Read the FAQ and Resources sections below!


What is “over-permissioned” access?

Over-permissioned access is when you give a user more access than what they need to perform their job functions. Companies often give broad access to systems so that a new user can get started immediately. This stops access requests from blocking productivity and administrators dealing with multiple unbatched requests.

Why can’t the built-in IAM be used?

You can use the built-in IAM if you only use one cloud provider. In most cases, companies have more than one cloud provider plus on-premise systems that they can’t integrate into a cloud provider’s IAM. That’s where CIEM comes in to help move all entitlement management into one tool. 

What does an entitlement management system do?

Entitlement Management Systems manage user accounts and their access. The management systems define users, define user roles, define permissions and resources, enforce and revoke permissions, enforce software entitlements, and more. Having the right entitlement management system is important. 

What are access packages?

Access packages are a set of permissions and tools that allow external users to access your networks and resources. You can create an access package to give a user from outside your organization access to only the systems required and for a time-boxed period if needed. 

What is the Permissions Creep Index?

The Permissions Creep Index is a quantitative risk measure associated with an identity or role determined by comparing permissions granted versus permissions used. It allows users to evaluate the risk metrics associated with the number of unused or over-provisioned permissions across identities and resources. 


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