The Role of CIEM in Managing Access and Enhancing Security

April 29, 2024

Keeping your data safe isn't wishful thinking; it's essential.

As businesses increasingly leverage cloud computing to drive efficiency and innovation, the complexity of managing access and permissions in such environments also escalates.

Enter Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management (CIEM) Software. This solution is specifically designed to tackle the challenges of unregulated permissions, overly generous access rights, and the nuanced threats inherent to cloud infrastructures.

If your organization operates within a cloud landscape, you likely have hundreds, if not thousands, of applications and numerous touchpoints, with scores of users accessing them. Now, imagine you have top-notch encryption and security measures in place but have provided unrestricted access to all users in your organization. This scenario could lead to significant security vulnerabilities. 

According to the 2023 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, 74% of breaches involve a human element—errors, privilege misuse, use of stolen credentials, or social engineering. Despite having robust security measures, your security posture remains highly vulnerable.

The limited access that CIEM grants not only minimizes unauthorized access but also reduces the attack surface if a breach occurs. If an attacker gains access to an application, they would not have access to additional assets, drastically reducing the potential attack area and mitigating the scale of the attack.

Capabilities of CIEM software

CIEM has a host of features that can help organizations curb the many threats related to cloud infrastructures.

  • Visibility in access and entitlements: CIEM provides visibility into the entitlements of the entire cloud landscape, like APIs, users, and machines.
  • Granular access control: CIEM follows the principle of least privilege(POLP). It grants access only to the required functionalities. This prevents exposure and vulnerability to other areas of the landscape if a malicious user gains access to the system.
  • Automated entitlement management: CIEM automates the provisioning and de-provisioning of access across the landscape. This makes compliance and security more robust with minimal human involvement. 
  • Risk assessment and compliance reporting: CIEM also analyses all the entitlements to see if over-permissions have been given or if there are any risks based on usage pattern trends. It recommends actions that can be taken to remedy these risks and also creates compliance reports required by regulators.
  • Anomaly detection and alerting: CIEM continuously monitors the system using AI and analytics to detect security threats. When a threat is found, it alerts the administrators and recommends remedial actions.

Is CIEM the same as identity and access management (IAM)?

While identity and access management (IAM) and CIEM share similarities in managing access rights and identities, they cater to different needs across organizations of various sizes and structures. 

IAM is a baseline access management solution that focuses on managing user identities, roles, permissions, and access across an organization. It involves creating and managing user accounts, defining roles with specific permissions, and ensuring users have appropriate access.

In contrast, CIEM goes a step further by specifically addressing the challenges of managing and securing access to cloud resources. This includes monitoring permissions, detecting excessive privileges, ensuring compliance, and reducing the risk of unauthorized access to cloud services. 

Generally, smaller organizations may suffice with just an IAM solution, while larger organizations might also integrate CIEM. This is reflected in G2’s review data, where a larger portion of IAM reviews come from smaller organizations, whereas CIEM reviewers typically belong to the enterprise segment.

Things to keep in mind while buying CIEM software

When buying CIEM software, it is vital to ensure that the tool manages permissions across cloud environments. Additionally, some main points to keep in mind are:

  • Cross-cloud compatibility: Most organizations today have multi-cloud environments.   CIEM tools should be able to work consistently across these different environments by different vendors and provide seamless access management across the cloud estate.
  • Integration with existing security tools: CIEM tools must seamlessly integrate with existing solutions, such as security information and event management (SIEM) systems, as well as cloud access security brokers (CASBs), to ensure a comprehensive security posture.
  • Automation and scalability: CIEM tools should be able to automate the access lifecycle, including provisioning when access is required and removing the access once use is complete with minimal manual intervention.
  • Cost: The cost structure of different CIEM vendors might vary, ranging from user-based to transaction-based prices. It is important to understand the cost structure and then take a call on what cost structure best fits the organization’s requirements.

The strategic importance of CIEM in cloud security

As cloud landscapes become more complex with increasingly numerous applications and users, integrating a robust CIEM system offers a proactive approach to securing cloud infrastructures against both internal and external threats. 

CIEM serves as a sophisticated extension beyond traditional IAM systems, providing targeted control and visibility over cloud-specific vulnerabilities. CIEM is an essential part of cloud-native application protection platforms (CNAPP), a holistic security solution to create an impenetrable cloud environment that is gaining popularity. 

All of this makes CIEM an indispensable tool for medium-to-large organizations seeking to fortify their cloud operations against evolving security threats.

Learn more about securing the cloud with a cloud-native application protection platform.

Edited by Jigmee Bhutia

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The Role of CIEM in Managing Access and Enhancing Security Learn how CIEM enforces the principle of least privilege, reduces attack surfaces, and integrates with broader security frameworks to protect against all threats.
Rachana Hasyagar Rachana is a Research Principal at G2 focusing on cloud. She has 11 years of experience in market research and software. Rachana is passionate about cloud, ERP, consumer goods, retail and supply chain, and has published many reports and articles in these areas. She holds an MBA from Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, India, and a Bachelor of Engineering degree in electronics and communications. In her free time, Rachana loves traveling and exploring new places.