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Introduction to Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement CIEM


Matt Graves | October 24, 2023  I  5 min read

Introduction to Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management (CIEM)

Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management (CIEM) handles the management and control of identities and their entitlements (or permissions) within an organization’s cloud environment. As the number and complexity of cloud-based infrastructures continue to grow, CIEM platforms provide a framework for auditing, monitoring, and managing cloud entitlements. With the proper program in place, organizations can identify excessive permissions, enforce least privilege, and reduce the risk of data breaches and stolen IP.

Let’s break down the significance of CIEM for cloud security, give a brief overview of cloud infrastructure entitlements, and the differences between Identity and Access Management (IAM) and CIEM.

The significance of CIEM for cloud security

CIEM plays a pivotal role in enhancing cloud security by addressing the complexities associated with managing and monitoring permissions and entitlements. Modern cloud environments are extremely complex, with the sheer number of permissions and roles making it challenging to monitor and manage who has access to what.

By providing visibility into user access, CIEM helps reduce risk and even cloud costs (especially for organizations with large development teams). Organizations can avoid unknown breaches, identify over-privileged accounts with permissions to critical data, applications, and systems, and apply user policies and conditions to further secure the environment.

4 Ways CIEM solutions help organizations:

  • Identifies the entitlements like permissions, roles, and policies within an organization’s cloud environment
  • Monitors and manages those entitlements to ensure adherence to the principle of least privilege
  • Detects and remediates excessive, unused, or unnecessary permissions and reduces the risk of unknown breaches
  • Audits and reports on entitlements for compliance purposes (such as GDPR, CCPA, and HIPAA)

What are cloud infrastructure entitlements?

Cloud infrastructure entitlements refer to the permissions or rights granted to users, services, or applications within a cloud environment. These entitlements dictate what actions they can take on specific resources. In other words, entitlements define who can do what with resources in the cloud and how that access is defined to enable data, project, application utilization. There are 11 key elements that make up CIEM that are central to securing cloud environments that govern all user types.

The role of CIEM in preventing breaches and unauthorized access

CIEM serves as a critical defense against security breaches and unauthorized access in cloud environments. It accomplishes this by tightly controlling user identities, enforcing strong authentication, and implementing fine-grained access policies. CIEM continuously monitors user activities, swiftly detects anomalies, and responds to potential threats. It also supports access reviews, ensuring proper permissions, and integrates privileged access management for heightened security. CIEM's role is to maintain robust identity management, access controls, and compliance, collectively reducing the risk of data breaches and unauthorized access, thereby bolstering overall cloud security.

Differences between IAM and CIEM

IAM (Identity and Access Management) and CIEM (Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management) both play crucial roles in governing access within cloud environments, but they serve distinct functions. IAM primarily focuses on identity governance through establishing, defining, and verifying the identities of users and services, ensuring that the right entities have access to appropriate resources. It manages authentication (who you are) and authorization (what you can access).

On the other hand, CIEM dives deeper, emphasizing the management and oversight of the permissions or entitlements granted to those identities. It concentrates on the specifics of what those identities can do once they have access. While IAM might grant a user access to a particular database, CIEM ensures that the user has only the necessary permissions on that database, like reading data but not deleting it. In essence, while IAM determines who can access a resource, CIEM fine-tunes and governs what they can do with it across public, hybrid, and multi-cloud environments.

In conclusion

A strong CIEM platform can serve as the foundation of your identity strategy in the cloud. Protecting your critical business applications, people, data, and, in essence, your IP. It enables visibility and accountability of user access within their cloud environments. In terms of the differences between IAM And CIEM – while IAM identifies who is allowed access to specific resources across your critical systems, CIEM is narrowly focused on understanding and managing what those identities do within cloud environments. The major benefits of CIEM include reducing an organizations security risk with over-privilege accounts and providing audits for compliance reporting.


Matt Graves, MajorKey Principal Solution Advisor – Cloud Security

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