CIEM and the future of Cloud Identity Management

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Julissa Caraballo

May 16 2024

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The increasing utilization of cloud services has led to vast amounts of sensitive data being stored in cloud environments. It’s estimated that 30% of data stored in the cloud is sensitive. However, many organizations lack the necessary controls to secure this data despite this exposure. All too often, sensitive information is left unprotected or is accessible to an excessive number of people, increasing the risk of data breaches.

In this article, we explore the challenges of cloud security management and how it can be implemented without hindering operations.

What is CIEM?

Organizations need to manage the access permissions and entitlements to contain the evolving cloud infrastructure, which is done with Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management (CIEM). At its core, CIEM aims to provide a structured and secure way to manage who or what can access various resources in a cloud infrastructure, ensuring that these permissions align with security policies and regulatory requirements. Traditionally, CIEM has focused on controlling and monitoring access rights to cloud-based resources, safeguarding sensitive data, and maintaining the integrity of cloud services.

The primary purpose of traditional CIEM was to streamline access and permissions management. This involved defining and enforcing who could access specific resources, what actions they could perform, and under what conditions. By doing so, CIEM helped organizations maintain compliance with various security policies and regulations, such as GDPR, HIPAA, and other industry-specific standards. These regulations mandate strict controls over data access and require organizations to demonstrate that they have appropriate measures to protect sensitive information.

The Evolution of CIEM

Several critical factors reflecting the changing landscape of cloud computing and the increasing complexity of managing cloud environments have driven CIEM evolution. One of the primary drivers has been the rapid adoption of cloud services, which has introduced many new security challenges. As organizations move more of their operations to the cloud, the number of identities and entitlements that need to be managed grows exponentially. This proliferation necessitates more sophisticated tools and approaches to ensure secure and efficient management of these entitlements.

Another significant factor is the shift towards multi-cloud and hybrid-cloud environments. Organizations are no longer relying on a single cloud provider but are instead utilizing a mix of public and private clouds. This diversity complicates managing identities and permissions, requiring CIEM solutions to adapt and provide comprehensive coverage across various platforms. Additionally, the rise of non-human identities, such as service accounts, bots, and APIs, has further complicated the landscape. These non-human entities require the same level of management and security as human users, necessitating CIEM solutions to expand their scope and capabilities.

In response to these evolving needs, CIEM has branched into three distinct but interconnected areas: Identity Security, Cloud Infrastructure Security, and SaaS Security.

Identity Security Tools

Identity Security tools are a vital component of modern CIEM, focusing on managing and protecting both human and non-human identities within cloud environments. These tools ensure access to sensitive resources is strictly controlled and monitored. 

Key features of Identity Security tools include the comprehensive management of identities, encompassing everything from users to service accounts and automated processes. They provide robust access management and control mechanisms, utilizing Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) and Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC) to ensure that permissions are granted based on roles and specific attributes, respectively. 

Unlike traditional CIEM, which primarily managed access permissions in a more static and less dynamic manner, modern Identity Security tools offer more granular and flexible control. These tools enable organizations to adapt quickly to changing security needs and reduce the risk of unauthorized access.

Cloud Infrastructure Security Tools

Cloud Infrastructure Security tools safeguard the integrity and security of cloud environments. These tools focus on monitoring and managing cloud resources to ensure they are secure and compliant with industry standards and regulations. 

Key functionalities include continuous cloud infrastructure monitoring, which detects and manages potential threats in real time. Additionally, these tools provide automated threat detection and response capabilities, enabling organizations to swiftly identify and mitigate security incidents. 

Unlike traditional CIEM, which is primarily concentrated on managing access permissions, modern Cloud Infrastructure Security tools offer a more comprehensive approach by addressing the security of the entire cloud infrastructure. This evolution enhances an organization’s ability to maintain a robust security posture and ensures compliance across diverse cloud platforms.

SaaS Security Tools

SaaS Security tools are designed to protect data and applications within Software as a Service (SaaS) environments. These tools manage access and permissions, ensuring only authorized users can access sensitive information and applications hosted on SaaS platforms. 

Key features of SaaS Security tools include robust data protection measures, comprehensive access management, and the ability to seamlessly integrate security protocols across multiple SaaS platforms. This integration ensures consistent security policies and controls, reducing the risk of data breaches and unauthorized access. 

Compared to traditional CIEM, which primarily focuses on managing cloud infrastructure access, SaaS Security tools address the unique challenges posed by SaaS environments, providing a more tailored and effective approach to securing cloud-based applications and data.

The Need for a Holistic Approach to Cloud Identities

A holistic approach to managing human and non—human cloud identities is essential for ensuring robust security and compliance. A comprehensive view of all cloud identities enables organizations to effectively manage their entire lifecycle, from creation and modification to deactivation. This approach involves setting up and adjusting identities as needed and continuously monitoring and auditing their activities to detect and respond to suspicious behavior. 

Effective lifecycle management helps prevent unauthorized access and minimizes the risk of security breaches. Modern CIEM solutions must incorporate strategies for holistic identity management, including advanced monitoring tools and automated workflows, to maintain a secure and compliant cloud environment.

Savvy’s CIEM for SaaS

Savvy assists organizations in enhancing their CIEM capabilities through advanced, modern tools designed for comprehensive security. By adopting Savvy’s solutions, businesses can thoroughly understand their SaaS infrastructure, effectively manage human and non-human identities, and ensure robust security across their environments. Savvy enables organizations to assess risky access combinations, uncover hidden IT resources driven by business needs, and streamline compliance procedures. Leverage Savvy’s expertise and innovative tools to achieve effective CIEM and maintain a secure, compliant SaaS infrastructure.

Take control over SaaS security, making it part of your overall IT organization rather than an exception. Schedule a demo to see Savvy in action. 


What are the main differences between Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) and Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC) in CIEM?

  • RBAC assigns permissions based on predefined roles, while ABAC grants access based on attributes like user department, time of access, and resource type.

How do CIEM tools handle the management of non-human identities such as service accounts and bots?

  • CIEM tools manage non-human identities by applying the same strict access controls, monitoring, and auditing processes used for human identities, ensuring secure operations.

What are the key compliance standards that modern CIEM tools help organizations meet?

  • Modern CIEM tools help organizations comply with standards such as GDPR, HIPAA, ISO 27001, and other industry-specific regulations by ensuring secure and managed access to cloud resources.