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What is Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management (CIEM)?

It is no secret cloud computing here to stay, and most organizations are gradually shifting their core operation to the cloud environment. The advent of modern cloud computing may have been highly beneficial for modern businesses, but it also gave rise to many security issues. 

Although security teams are able to deal with most issues using popular security solutions like CSPM, CWPP, and CVM, security admins still face while managing user access and permission to access cloud infrastructure. Most cloud security solutions can’t monitor users’ access privileges as an ecosystem has millions of access privileges.

As Gartner has projected, 75% of cloud security breaches by 2023 will arise due to improper management of access and privilege. However, cloud infrastructure entitled management or CIEM has emerged as a plausible solution for these challenges, and it was able to manage users’ privileges and identities while mitigating security breaches. In this guide, we are going to take a comprehensive look at CIEM and various other details that will give you a broad idea about it.

What is CIEM?

CIEM solution can be defined as an automated process of managing users’ privileges, identities, and entitlements in a cloud and multi-cloud environment. Unlike legacy or non-cloud security and entitlement management, it takes an automated approach where it applies the principle of least privilege access to the cloud resources and infrastructure. 

The main aim of CIEM is to analyze access entitlements that are present in the cloud environment and then identify the risk arising from those entitlements that provide more access than needed. Thus it is considered as an integral part of any business’s CPSM and identity and access management of cloud infrastructure. 

Using a cloud infrastructure entitlement management framework, your security team can effectively reduce the cloud attack surface and mitigate data breaches and malicious attacks arising due to excess entitlements. 

With CIEM implemented in your cloud infrastructure, you can continuously monitor the permission and activity of entities and make sure they adhere to access control set by the security team. 

An efficient CIEM solution will help you with complete reporting, which plays a crucial role in streamlining access management and enhancing cloud security posture. There may be various CIEM solutions in the market, but every solution has the same components at the basic level; identity governance, security policies, and centralized management.

How Does CIEM Work?

 CIEM, in its unique approach, empowers organizations to identify, monitor, and manage entitlements to the infrastructure in real time. It stands out by continuously scanning the cloud environment, tracking identities, and gathering comprehensive information about their permission, behavior, and other activities. 

This scanning provides a comprehensive view of all entitlements, access privileges, and potential risks like excess privileges and dormant accounts. Essentially, it offers a topographic map of all the entitlements and their access privilege in the cloud environment, facilitating efficient identity management.

CIEM leverages modern algorithms and analytics capabilities to monitor the behavior of identities and uncover potential breaches and unauthorized access in the cloud infrastructure. 

Once it identifies risks, it quickly sends alerts (sometimes with remediation recommendations) to the security administrator for quick response. This solution also enables the security team to implement security policies that ultimately help the administrator to block unauthorized access, revoke permission, and perform other corrective tasks. 

It also plays a crucial role in implementing least privilege policies that rightsize access privilege and prevent the granting of excessive entitlement. It is useful in preventing privilege abuse and enhancing overall security posture by automatically modifying entitlements according to security guidelines. 

CIEM also provides the organization with detailed reports regarding entitlements that help in auditing user access and also ensure compliance with industry standards.

Components of CIEM

CIEM solutions, though they may vary in their design and functions, share common components that enable them to provide complete entitlement visibility, perform analysis, rightsizing permission, and maintain compliance. These components, which you will find in a CIEM, are:

Identity Governance

It serves as one of the primary pillars of CIEM that helps in determining which entities are applicable to which policies. It helps in setting the entitlements and provides you with a broad view of the level of access granted to any of the cloud entities. Through automated scanning, this solution enables you to continuously analyze all the rules, access control policies, and configurations that have been implemented. 

Besides, this component also provides you with a report regarding entitlements present in the environment, activities every cloud entity can perform, and what resources the entities can access with those entitlements. 

Once CIEM identifies the entitlements, it assesses whether the access level of the cloud entity follows the least privilege principles and can perform established tasks with that minimal access level. After assessment, if it finds out that the entitlement provides more excess privilege, then it sends alerts for automated remediation or manual intervention.

Centralized Management

The centralized management comes in the form of a dashboard that enables your team members to manage entitlements across your multi cloud environment from a single window pane. 

Not only does it enable your team to efficiently manage entitlements, but it also easily monitors to identify anomalies and automate various processes. Through centralized management, organization were able to enhance operational efficiency and risk detection.

Security Policies and Rules

This component of CIEM is used to find and determine an entity’s access to resources, tools, and services in the cloud or multi-cloud environment. In essence, it helps determine who, when, where, what, and why an entity’s entitlement to access workload and resources is. 

It leverages advanced tools user and user entity behavior analytics, and machine learning based analytics tools to assess the access level. The rules and policies used by CIEM comprise the following:

Security Protocol: These protocols in SIEM offer all the information regarding the workload access level an entity can achieve in the cloud environment.

Metric Logging: Metric logging helps in tracking cloud entities’s usage that enables the team to discover misuse of entitlements. By keeping track, security administrators of your organization can prioritize least privilege and prevent any potential threat arising from excessive privilege.

Compliance Management and Certification: It works by automating the assessment process where it compares current entitlements with regulatory requirements continuously and ensures compliance adherence. It also enables the team to identify the instances where configuration changes have made the entitlement violate compliance requirements.

Why is CIEM Necessary For Your Organization?

Organizations moving their workload to the cloud mostly utilize public cloud services like Amazon Web Services or Google Cloud Platform to enhance business workflow. Most organizations even implement multi-cloud architecture to streamline business operations. Every public cloud service provider you utilize provides a cloud-based and native control so that you can implement IAM policy at a granular level. 

However, legacy identity and access management solutions are only designed to provide control access and protection to static on-premises infrastructure and applications. Even though modern IAM tools from cloud providers are trying to cope with the fast-growing cloud environment, there are still many shortcomings. 

Due to the dynamic and scalable nature of the cloud, security personnel are still facing many operational and compliance challenges. Moreover, in a multi-cloud environment, two or more cloud environments don’t integrate natively, and this causes a huge issue in managing millions of user entitlements and identities in the environments. 

Along with IAM tools, popular privileged access management or PAM tools also can’t solve modern identity and entitlement issues in the modern cloud environment. However, with CIEM solutions, your security team can confidently address all the issues as they get deep visibility into all the user entitlements and identities in the cloud. 

They help your team in the automated detection and remediation of IAM misconfiguration, non-federated accounts, and unused permission. In this way, CIEM enforces least-privilege access across the single as well as multi-cloud infrastructure and secure cloud infrastructure access.

Benefits of CIEM

When you integrate CIEM in your cloud environment, it not only implements the least privilege access in the cloud environment but also provides many other benefits. Here are the major CIEM benefits that you can avail yourself;

Complete visibility: 

When you implement CIEM in your single or multi-cloud environment, it provides you complete visibility from a single interface. Through this platform, your security team can assess who accesses which resources and look for risks that might arise from there. It is highly useful for security personnel in devising mitigation strategies and also assists in efficiently managing access control.

Maintain speed and agility for DevOps: 

To maintain speed and agility in the development stage, your DevOps team often provides excessive permission to enhance the rollout and maintain everything efficiently. However, CIEM tackles this issue by curbing down excessive permissions without causing disruption in DevOps. It saves the DevOps team from focusing on the process, maintaining least-privilege access, and shifting their focus on development work.

Improves identity and access management: 

Your organization may have millions of user identities and entitles, among which there are many inactive identities. Attackers can explore those identities to gain access to your cloud infrastructure to cause disruption. However, when you bring CIEM on board, it identifies those inactive or outdated identities through continuous monitoring and ensures efficient identity management.

Works across all the cloud environments: 

With CIEM, your security team can manage user, application, and device identities across your multi-cloud infrastructure with ease. It makes it easier for you to implement consistent access control policies in all your cloud environments which ultimately helps in auditing.

Analyses behavior and provides insight: 

As an organization, you will be highly benefited from cloud-entitled management services because it analyzes users’ behavior and provides permission accordingly. Through automation, it can identify groups of similar users, look for situations where separate access is needed, and cases where you need to implement CIEM best practices.

Automatically detects threats and solves them: 

One of the biggest benefits of CIEM is that it can automatically analyze access activity across the cloud environment and detect threats. Whether it is an insider threat, stolen access, or any malicious activity, CIEM compliance, and risk management can identify them and solve them. You can even configure the CIEM solution for taking automatic actions in specific events

Enhanced security posture: 

When you have CIEM integrated into your cloud environment, it will not only ensure appropriate access to resources but will also reduce the attack surface. It can help your security team to create and maintain a correct inventory of all the entitlements in your cloud infrastructure. It is highly suitable for finding high-priority risks and providing appropriate processes to solve them.

How to Choose the Right CIEM Tool?

While deciding to implement a CIEM solution, you have to be careful with your choice. When you choose the right CIEM solutions like CloudDefense.AI’s CIEM tool , it becomes easier for you to manage users’ entitlement and privileges. Here are some right features that should be available;


The CIEM solution you would choose should offer complete visibility so that it is easier to understand access control in your environment. It should provide a metrics dashboard so that you can monitor user behavior and entitlement usage. The right solution will also offer you a graph view where it highlights the user’s access to every resource in the cloud.

Proper discovery: 

A right CIEM platform will help you to properly discover all the identity, entitlements, and account activity in your cloud infrastructure. It should be able to analyze all policy types to maintain efficient permission across all environments.

Cross-platform support: 

Nowadays, most organizations utilize a multi-cloud environment, and you must also operate in the same manner. So the CIEM solution should maintain native support and simplify entitlement management across the cloud environment.

Optimization of entitlements: 

The CIEM should have the capability to analyze entitlements across the cloud environment and find out which entitlements are overused and which are unused. Using the analysis, your team can implement an optimized entitlement policy.

Threat analysis and response: 

The CIEM solution you are about to choose should come integrated with UEBA (user and entity behavior analytics), which should provide SIEM alerts during malicious activity. It should be able to automatically detect potential threats to the cloud environment and provide alerts to the security team.

Protection of entitlements: 

When you have the right CIEM solution, it should be able to protect the entitlements through entitlement detection and remediation. It should automatically detect anomalous entitlements, especially dangerous ones, and solve the issue through automatic remediation.

Security posture analysis: 

Implementing CIEM in your cloud infrastructure will help you to analyze whether your cloud entitlements adhere to industry standards, regulations, and best practices. After analyzing, it should provide reports and recommendations to solve any gap.

Logging and reporting functionality: 

The CIEM solution you are about to choose should generate complete and consistent access logs that are needed for incident response and compliance. It should also be able to provide templated reports.

Cloud IAM Challenges

Even though cloud IAM is gaining popularity by adding extra security and protection to resources, modern businesses are still plagued by cloud IAM challenges. These challenges are;

Vast and diverse nature of the cloud: 

Traditional identity access management solutions are designed to cater to a limited amount of applications and systems. However, with ever-increasing and vast cloud infrastructure, it becomes daunting for security teams to track access privileges for applications, users, and machine identities across the cloud environment.

Maintaining single identity across the cloud environment: 

Since the multi-cloud infrastructure of businesses has multiple identities of the same user, it creates issues for cloud IAM to maintain them. Ultimately it widens the area of cloud attack surfaces as it is quite difficult to authenticate them.

The dynamic nature of the cloud: 

As you know, cloud infrastructure is highly dynamic, and applications and services are instantiated whenever needed. So it becomes problematic for cloud IAM to assign privileges and track them across the cloud environment.

Different approaches to IAM from different cloud providers: 

Every cloud provider in the industry has their specific approach to cloud IAM security which leads to permission models, roles, and tools that are different from others. So when you opt for multi-cloud providers, the security team has to utilize multiple cloud-provider tools. Managing several entitlements for different cloud platforms leads to not only inconsistencies and vulnerabilities but also unnecessary wastage of resources.

Excess amount of privilege: 

In a cloud environment, organizations often provide excess amounts of privilege to users and machines, causing a lot of security issues. An excessive amount of cloud entitlement also leads to the widening of attack surface area and also makes it easier for attackers to gain access across the cloud environment.

Following poor security practices: 

Organizations often follow manual practices of managing cloud permissions and credentials, making the cloud environment prone to attacks. Moreover, many organizations statically configure all the credentials of the cloud environment and don’t rotate the password frequently, which also increases the chance of data leakage.

CIEM Lifecycle

The CIEM lifecycle defines a framework that all CIEM solutions should follow to efficiently implement a scalable principle of least privilege across the cloud environment. The framework plays a vital role in managing identities in the cloud environment and mitigating all the risks. The frameworks that every CIEM solution adheres to;

Discovery of accounts and entitlements: 

To enforce POLP efficiently, the CIEM solution should first discover and list all the existing accounts and entitlements in the cloud.

Cross-cloud entitlement correlation: 

The CIEM solution should deploy a consistent process of maintaining entitlement policies across all the cloud environments.

Entitlement visualization: 

The CIEM solution must provide proper visibility of all the cloud entitlements and all the accesses it has.

Entitlement optimization: 

To maintain an optimum least privilege state, the CIEM solution must regulate all the existing entitlement privileges and make sure there aren’t excessive privileges. This is highly useful in reducing the attack surface.

Entitlement protection: 

If there is any modification in the entitlement’s access, the CIEM solution must automatically provide the alert of the modification. The solution should also offer a configurable rule set that can be enforced on entitlements of the cloud.

Entitlement detection: 

During monitoring of the entitlements, the solution should be capable enough to detect any suspicious activity.

Entitlement remediation: 

After identifying any risk like excessive permission, the solution must come forward with different and effective remediation.

How Can CloudDefense.AI Help You With Its CIEM Solution?

We are excited to announce that CloudDefense.AI has come up with a comprehensive CIEM tool that will help you automate the detection and analysis of cloud entitlements and privileges. CloudDefense.AI’s CIEM solution effectively enforces POLP to cloud entitlements so that it can systematically manage and protect permission and identities. 

With this solution, not only can you get complete visibility of all your cloud entitlements, but you also have the ability to rightsized the cloud permission. Using the CIEM solution from CloudDefense.AI, you can continuously audit your cloud identities and entitlements to get an insight into how security risks might impact your vast cloud environment. 

The single interface of this solution is quite user-friendly, so you won’t have any problem managing all the entitlements and privileges in your cloud environment. A huge benefit of opting for CloudDefense.AI is its agentless CNAPP that connects with your cloud and Kubernetes environment to help you in an agentless instant onboarding. 

Our effective cloud governance and entitlement management solution also brings entitlement management to your DevOps processes so that you won’t have to compromise on security. This service’s cloud entitlement management tools are instrumental in enforcing consistent policies across multiple cloud environments and help in ensuring compliance with CIS, GDPR, SOC2, PCI-DSS, ISO, and NIST.


Is CIEM a category of IAM?

CIEM solution serves as the main platform for implementing IAM in cloud deployment and helps in applying consistent security policies across the cloud. It enforces the least privilege access to all the entitlements and ensures all the risks are mitigated.

What is the primary difference between CIEM and PAM?

CIEM serves as the management of entitlements and identities in the cloud environment. At the same time, PAM refers to the tools suitable for controlling access to accounts, monitoring user activity, and enforcing password policies.

What are the three primary categories of IAM?

The three primary categories of IAM are access management, authentication, and administration. Access management controls how users can access your enterprise system, whereas authentication determines whether you should access certain systems. Administration assists enterprises in creating governance around identity and access management.

What is entitlement management?

Entitlement management of CloudDefense.AI is an identity monitoring feature that allows your organization to manage identity and access lifecycle at scale. It helps in automating access assignment, expiration, and access request workflows.


Cloud infrastructure entitlement management has emerged as an effective solution to monitor cloud entitlement and identities while making sure there is no security breach. When you take CloudDefense.AI’s CIEM solution, you can effectively address the challenges of enforcing zero trust policies and consistent IAM throughout the cloud. 

Whether you have a single or multi-cloud environment, CIEM will manage privilege in dynamic and complex environments and helps in improving cloud security posture. CloudDefense.AI’s CIEM solution works well with CSPM and CASB tools, so you can utilize the solution to enhance the cyber protection of your cloud environment.

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Abhishek Arora
Abhishek Arora, a co-founder and Chief Operating Officer at CloudDefense.AI, is a serial entrepreneur and investor. With a background in Computer Science, Agile Software Development, and Agile Product Development, Abhishek has been a driving force behind CloudDefense.AI’s mission to rapidly identify and mitigate critical risks in Applications and Infrastructure as Code.
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