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Navigating a CIEM Vendor

Author: Eric Kedrosky | Date: December 23, 2021
Read Time: 5 minutes
Skill Level: Executive
Skill Level: Executive
CIEM and Access

Traditional Privileged Access Management (PAM) solutions are falling short in the ever-evolving world of the cloud The proliferation of non-people identities has stretched access management technology beyond its original scope, as they’re not equipped to understand identity beyond the concept of a human user, making least privilege enforcement for all identities a ubiquitous problem. This is where a Cloud Entitlement Infrastructure Management (CIEM) platform is needed.

CIEM monitors cloud identities and their effective permissions at any moment in time. Implementing this tool can reveal hidden access paths via complex identity chains, eliminate excessive permissions, and enable the least privilege or least access policies. Let’s get into the details of CIEM, what it offers your organization, and what to consider when purchasing one.

Typical CIEM Features

Any suitable CIEM enterprise cloud security platform must include a robust collection of features around identity monitoring and change detection. For example, an easy-to-use module for access control and provisioning helps cloud administrators manage privileged access for all accounts accessing the cloud infrastructure. This module must also facilitate enforcement of the least privilege principle and any other governance policies for the company.

A related entitlement management module gives administrators the means to control specific permissions for each user. An automated audit feature helps companies wrangle any dormant or orphaned accounts that exist. These kinds of accounts must be identified and removed, if necessary. They remain a significant security risk to any company's cloud infrastructure. Auditing also helps cloud administrators track the current entitlement level for each account.

Many leading CIEM platforms seamlessly integrate with the top cloud providers, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud. Of course, the best platforms also support multi-cloud and hybrid cloud infrastructures. Remember, when choosing a CIEM platform, easy integration helps ensure a successful implementation.

What Can You Expect From CIEMs?

CIEM solutions should be optimized for a holistic and strategic approach that considers the entire cloud footprint. Most importantly, a CIEM solution should provide total visibility into the entities currently accessing the organization's cloud infrastructure: employees, clients, applications, cloud services, and more. This analysis must also cover the specific resources being accessed, the type of access, and the time. Simply put, the information gathered must include the who, the what, and the when.

That analysis informs how to manage risk across the cloud infrastructure. Implementing policies that enforce the principle of least privilege are normally the most important controls to lock down exposure via identity abuse. The principle, In short, means restricting entities’ access to applications and data they need to complete their work and nothing else. 

Finally, CIEM should allow cloud engineers to monitor cloud activity on a 24/7 basis. This includes receiving actionable alerts whenever suspicious activity happens, such as unauthorized access.

Ultimately, partnering with a top CIEM provider lets companies work with their experts to devise an implementation strategy compatible with the organization's cloud security approach. As it is a relatively new sector in cloud technology, best practices for implementing a platform are still being developed, making that expert input all the more valuable.

Top Considerations for Evaluating a CIEM Solution


Automated Asset Discovery

In today’s complex multi-cloud environments, one of the first security challenges is ensuring correct access management across all data and identities. An undiscovered asset is a monitoring and compliance blind spot. Your solution must be able to automatically discover identities across all environments in order to build and maintain a comprehensive real-time inventory. It should also be able to automatically identify high-risk identities, such as those that access sensitive data.

Entitlements Visualization

Lack of actionable visualization continues to be one of the biggest cloud security challenges. The ability to visualize and inspect the relationships between identities and data is essential for detecting and remediating risks. Your CIEM solution should be able to build and maintain a real-time inventory and analytics graph to represent all identities connected to your organization’s most sensitive data. 

Prevention

If there is a misconfiguration or any other kind of risk in the environment, it will be inherited by all instances provisioned and deployed unless your CIEM vendor can inspect and assess the security posture impact of the identity, prior to deployment.

High Visibility

There’s visibility, and then there’s deep, centralized visibility. Your CIEM solution must be able to integrate with all the environments and entities that comprise your infrastructure. The solution must then aggregate and analyze the various monitoring data streams to deliver true situational awareness, providing real-time context into every data flow and audit trail.

Continuous Compliance

There are three compelling trends that have made periodic, sporadic compliance checks obsolete: the DevOps culture of continuous product and feature integration and deployment; the widespread use of ephemeral components such as containers, serverless functions, and microservices; and the highly elastic and dynamic nature of public cloud infrastructure. In order to keep up with the velocity of your business today, your CIEM solution must continuously monitor for risk.

Customizable and Flexible

Every enterprise has specific identity and data challenges that arise from its particular processes and architecture. Not all requirements of a compliance framework or set of best practices are relevant to an organization and those that are relevant may need to be tweaked. Thus, your tool must be customizable and flexible so that you can tailor its functions to your organization’s unique requirements.

Entitlements Reporting

Continuous audit-ready reporting. Your CIEM solution must allow you to easily query data and identities in order to gain meaningful insight into the different aspects of your organization’s security status. It should provide a toolbox of out-of-the-box yet customizable reports so that you are always ready for an audit.

Entitlements Overpermission Prevention

Your CIEM solution should be capable of alerting stakeholders to detect violations and risks so that they can take protective action in a timely manner. Two other important proactive protection features are the prevention of unauthorized tampering with security policies and automatic remediation of over permissive identities.

Entitlements Protection

An important control for ensuring the overall integrity of the cloud infrastructure is the ability to detect changes within all managed cloud infrastructure environments and to remediate changes made outside of policy.

Account and Entitlements Discovery

Your CIEM solution should be able to take an inventory of identities and entitlements across your enterprise's cloud infrastructure. Continuous, event-based discovery, identification, and management of all identity types (people and non-people,) analyzing all access policies, and discovery of any federated and native cloud identities, including those from CSP accounts, identity providers, and traditional directories, e.g., Active Directory.

Cross-cloud Entitlements Correlation

Organizations need a solution that can correlate and normalize identities, accounts, and entitlements within and across accounts and CSPs looking at all possible relationships.

Entitlements Optimization

Your solution should determine least privilege entitlement assignments through usage data generated by privileged operations across cloud infrastructure combined with entitlement data.

Entitlements Change Detection

Your vendor should be able to analyze processes and detect changes made outside of sanctioned processes or changes that are deemed anomalous due to external factors, are atypical, or considered high-risk.

Entitlements Remediation

Your CIEM platform needs to have the ability to detect cloud infrastructure threats and respond to those events by remediating or alerting the correct team at the right time with a sense of urgency. Depending on how you manage your entitlements, you may want a solution that can make changes directly or trigger an alert for a change event containing the updated policy or entitlement assignment. The ability to detect cloud infrastructure threats and respond by generating events and performing mitigation operations is a required security function regardless of how you manage.

Get The Right CIEM Vendor

The pillars of Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management (CIEM) are daunting in scope. Nevertheless, enterprises must move forward in all areas to continuously protect critical cloud resources from accidental misuse or malicious exploitation of permissions and achieve the least privilege across clouds.

Reducing complexity while also constantly keeping an eye on all your identities and their entitlements is the task at hand. A CIEM solution provides continuous monitoring of person and non-person identities, visibility into who has access, where, and what can that identity do with their access. Identity is the new perimeter of security and if you don’t know what your identities are and the power they hold, your environment poses a serious risk. Sonrai can help you get started with Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management, or at least start the conversation.

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