Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management: Overview & Best Practices

Categories: SecurityDevOpsCloudTechnology

Overview & Best Practices 

Cloud infrastructure entitlement management, or CIEM, is the process of managing and controlling access to cloud-based resources within an organization. It’s a way to ensure that the right people have the right level of access to the right resources, while also maintaining security and compliance with organizational policies and regulations.

CIEM includes managing user permissions, access controls, and other entitlements for cloud services, such as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS).

As organizations increasingly rely on cloud infrastructure to support their business operations, having a robust CIEM system in place is essential. This helps to minimize the risk of security breaches, data leaks, and other security incidents that can harm the organization's reputation and bottom line.

In this article, you’ll find an overview of what cloud infrastructure entitlement management is, how it works, what challenges to watch out for, and the benefits of getting it right. You’ll also find a helpful list of best practices to guide a successful CIEM strategy in your organization.

The Importance of Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management

CIEM is an essential component of any organization's cloud security strategy and should be a top priority for any organization with cloud-based services. It can help to streamline access management processes, reduce administrative burdens, and improve overall operational efficiency. By automating entitlement provisioning, de-provisioning, and access requests, organizations can reduce the likelihood of errors and ensure that resources are available to users who need them promptly.

CIEM works by establishing policies and procedures for managing entitlements to cloud-based resources, automating entitlement provisioning and de-provisioning, monitoring entitlements continuously, and auditing entitlements regularly. Without a proper entitlement management system in place, organizations may face a variety of security and compliance risks, including unauthorized access to sensitive data, data breaches, and regulatory violations.

Benefits of Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management 

The benefits of CIEM include and aren’t limited to:

Improved security. Effective entitlement management can help organizations ensure that only authorized users have access to their cloud resources, reducing the risk of data breaches and other cyberattacks.

Regulatory compliance. Entitlement management can help organizations ensure compliance with regulations such as HIPAA, GDPR, and PCI-DSS by enforcing access control policies and auditing entitlements.

Cost savings and operational efficiency. Effective entitlement management can help organizations save costs by eliminating unnecessary access rights, reducing the risk of over-provisioning, and automating user access requests and approvals.

Recommended reading: 4 ways cloud helps future-proof your teams

Challenges in Managing Cloud Infrastructure Entitlements 

Managing cloud infrastructure entitlements can be demanding due to the complex nature of cloud environments, the dynamic nature of cloud resources, and the need to ensure that only authorized users have access to cloud-based resources. Among others, these factors are paramount:

Oversight of access to ephemeral resources

In today’s cloud environments, people might provision or de-provision resources at any given moment. Managing and monitoring access to those resources requires a dynamic approach.

Over-permissioned access to cloud resources

With a manual approach to permissions, many enterprises err on the side of granting access to excessive permissions that significantly raise the risk of a security breach. 

Multi-cloud complexity

A vast number of companies adopt a multi-cloud approach - this leaves enterprises without a single, unified approach to managing permissions across all of their cloud resources.

Gaining clarity at scale

Enterprises that err on the side of over-permissions need a clear understanding of what entities have more privileges than they ought to. That clarity will allow them to reduce the risk of a security breach.

Consequences of Poor Entitlement Management

Implications of poor entitlement management can result in security breaches, data leaks, regulatory violations, and other security incidents that can harm the organization's reputation and bottom line. Among others, these few crucial implications are worth your attention: 

Security breaches

Inadequate entitlement management can result in security breaches, where unauthorized users gain access to sensitive data and resources. This can lead to data theft, financial losses, and damage to an organization's reputation.

Compliance violations

Failure to manage entitlements properly can result in compliance violations, where an organization fails to meet regulatory requirements for data privacy and security. This can result in legal and financial penalties, as well as damage to an organization's reputation.

Financial losses 

Insufficient entitlement management can also result in financial losses, as over-provisioning can lead to unnecessary expenses, and under-provisioning can result in decreased productivity and operational inefficiencies. Additionally, security breaches and compliance violations can lead to direct financial losses, as well as indirect losses such as reputational damage and lost business opportunities.

Best Practices for Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management

The vast majority of practices intended to be preventive are aimed at avoiding unnecessary risks for organizations while establishing and overseeing cloud entitlements. Each is profoundly rooted in the cloud security paradigm and has been proven in implementation. 

A. Establishing a policy

To effectively manage cloud infrastructure entitlements, organizations should start by establishing a policy that outlines the rules and processes for entitlement management. This policy should include the following:

  1. Defining entitlements: Clearly define the different types of entitlements, such as user access levels, permissions, and roles.
  2. Assigning responsibilities: Designating individuals or teams responsible for managing entitlements and enforcing the policy.
  3. Setting access control policies: Establishing policies for granting and revoking entitlements, managing password policies, and limiting access to sensitive data.

B. Implementing automated provisioning and de-provisioning.

Automating the process of provisioning and de-provisioning entitlements can help to ensure consistency and reduce the risk of errors. This process can be accomplished through the use of workflows and integration with HR systems for user lifecycle management. The following steps are essential for effective automated provisioning and de-provisioning:

  1. Automating user onboarding and offboarding: Streamlining the process of adding and removing users from cloud infrastructure entitlements.
  2. Using workflows to ensure consistent entitlements: Creating standardized workflows for requesting, approving, and provisioning entitlements.
  3. Integrating with HR systems for user lifecycle management: Synchronizing the entitlement management process with HR systems to ensure that changes to user status are reflected in entitlements.

C. Monitoring entitlements continuously.

Real-time monitoring of entitlements is critical for detecting and preventing unauthorized access. Organizations can use the following methods to effectively monitor entitlements:

  1. Real-time monitoring of entitlements: Continuously monitoring entitlements for unauthorized changes or access.
  2. Alerting on entitlement violations: Setting up alerts for unauthorized changes or access to entitlements.
  3. Using machine learning to identify anomalous behavior: Using machine learning algorithms to identify and flag suspicious behavior, such as unusual access patterns.

Recommended reading: Cloud Sandboxes: How to Train Your Engineers To Go Cloud-Native

D. Auditing entitlements regularly.

Regular auditing of entitlements can help to ensure that entitlements comply with the organization's security policies and regulatory requirements. The following steps are critical for effective entitlement auditing:

  1. Periodic review of entitlements: Conduct regular reviews of entitlements to ensure they are still necessary and in compliance with the organization's security policies.
  2. Identifying and removing unnecessary entitlements: Identifying and removing entitlements that are no longer needed or that pose a security risk.
  3. Conducting compliance audits: Performing compliance audits to ensure that entitlements comply with regulatory requirements.

E. Providing self-service access requests.

Empowering users to request their entitlements through a self-service portal can help to reduce the workload on IT and increase user satisfaction. To effectively provide self-service access requests, organizations should consider the following:

  1. Empowering users to request entitlements: Giving users the ability to request entitlements through a self-service portal.
  2. Providing a user-friendly interface: Creating a user-friendly interface that makes it easy for users to request entitlements.
  3. Automating approval workflows: Streamlining the process of approving entitlement requests through automated workflows.

F. Using a unified access management platform. 

This enables establishing a centralized policy abided by the entire organization that precludes the option of management by a bias, influence, or authority. It eliminates excessive permission to strictly sensitive cloud data.       

  1. Centralizing entitlement management: To effectively manage cloud infrastructure entitlements, organizations should adopt a unified access management platform that centralizes entitlement management across different cloud environments. This can provide a single source of truth for all entitlements, making it easier to manage, monitor, and audit entitlements.
  2. Integrating with identity and access management (IAM) systems: A unified access management platform should integrate with an organization's identity and access management (IAM) systems to enable consistent management of users, groups, and roles across different cloud environments.
  3. Providing a single source of truth for entitlements: By integrating with IAM systems and centralizing entitlement management, a unified access management platform can provide a single source of truth for all entitlements. This can help ensure that entitlements are consistently managed across different cloud environments, reducing the risk of security breaches and compliance violations.

Overall, implementing these best practices for cloud infrastructure entitlement management can help organizations reduce security and compliance risks, achieve cost savings and operational efficiency, and improve their overall cloud security posture. 

Organizations must prioritize entitlement management as a critical security function and continuously improve their entitlement management practices to stay ahead of evolving cloud security threats and vulnerabilities.

Key Takeaways

CIEM is critical for maintaining security and compliance in cloud environments. It helps organizations control access to cloud-based resources, reduce security risks, and ensure compliance with policies and regulations.

A robust CIEM system can help organizations to:

  • Control access to sensitive data and resources
  • Enforce security policies and best practices
  • Maintain compliance with relevant regulations and industry standards
  • Reduce the risk of data breaches and other security incidents
  • Improve overall cloud security posture

Organizations must prioritize the implementation of cloud infrastructure entitlement management to mitigate security risks and comply with regulatory requirements. By following best practices such as establishing policies, implementing automated provisioning and de-provisioning, and monitoring entitlements continuously, organizations can improve their overall security posture and reduce the likelihood of security incidents.

As cloud adoption continues to increase, CIEM will continue to grow increasingly important. Organizations that fail to implement proper entitlement management practices may face serious security and compliance risks. Investing in cloud security is a long-term strategy for success, and organizations should recognize the value of proactive entitlement management as part of that strategy. 

More helpful resources:




Andrii Troianov

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Ievgenii Martynovych

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