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If your organization hasn’t already adopted the Cloud, you’ll be met with one question: “Why?” The shift towards Cloud computing brings unprecedented advantages, yet it heightens exposure to cyber threats. As organizations increasingly rely on technology, unforeseen vulnerabilities often lurk in the shadows, catching security teams off guard until disaster unfolds. 

The evolution towards hybrid work models and the rising dominance of AI further complicate the landscape. 60% of mid-sized businesses that asked their employees to work remotely swiftly experienced a cyberattack. Given this dynamic scenario, a revamped strategy for countering cyber threats in Cloud environments becomes imperative.

In this article, we’ll break down two important Cloud cybersecurity approaches: CIEM and ITDR. While they address distinct aspects of cybersecurity for a Cloud environment, we will learn how they can be combined for a holistic action plan for managing security risks.

What is CIEM and How Does it Work?

Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management (CIEM) is primarily responsible for governing Cloud infrastructure privileges and entitlements. It manages access pathways to secure Cloud services and applications by enforcing certain principles that prevent excessive privileges and providing visibility and analytics about them. As a result, CIEM is responsible for streamlining access control, enforcing access policies, and ensuring compliance related to privileges across the entire Cloud environment.

How Does CIEM work?

To understand CIEM better, let’s break it down. Firstly, we know that a Cloud infrastructure represents the cluster of components such as servers, databases, networking hardware, and platform services representing the underlying workload for hosting an application. 

“Privileges” refers to the permissions required to access the components and data within the workloads, which are assigned to human users, connected devices, and AI bots via IAM, an essential part of any Cloud service for managing user access rules and permissions.

CIEM works in conjunction with IAM best practices. It acts as an overarching layer that audits the IAM configurations. It scans the IAM entitlement configurations to determine what permissions are allocated to humans or machines. It performs remediations, if necessary, to ensure every device or person has the right permissions.

Why Do You Need CIEM?

In today’s increasingly Cloud-centric and remote work-focused IT landscape, CIEM is crucial to administering an organization’s cybersecurity posture. CIEM solves four major problems.

1. Manual IAM Provisioning

Native IAM services supported by Cloud providers (like Azure Identity Protection) offer a manual interface that lacks intelligence about the security impact of each privilege configuration. Therefore, you’re missing out on the opportunity to use automation to act on possible blind spots. CIEM fills this gap with intelligence capabilities to automate and remediate over-privileges.

2. Misconfigured Privileges

In a complex hybrid or multi-Cloud environment, IAM provisioning leads to human privilege errors, which are difficult to visualize and understand. CIEM provides continuous visibility into all Cloud entitlements and enforces the principle of least privilege by identifying and mitigating entitlements with excessive permissions.

3. Unchecked Identity Lifecycle

How can you preempt identities in specific conditions, such as unused or dormant identities? CIEM is capable of addressing these issues through proactive identity lifecycle monitoring. It ensures that privileges are activated at the right time for the right set of identities and are quickly revoked when identities are dormant, reducing security risks.

4. Lack of Compliance

Any lapses in the above aspects of privilege management can lead to noncompliance with regulatory requirements, which creates headaches in the form of penalties or bad press. CIEM solutions help organizations meet regulatory compliance requirements by continuously monitoring and reporting access control across Cloud and multi-Cloud environments.

What is ITDR and How Does it Work?

Identity Threat Detection and Response (ITDR) tackles cybersecurity risks by safeguarding Cloud identities for accessing a Cloud infrastructure instead of infrastructure components such as servers, networking equipment, and devices.

A Cloud identity can include information like credentials and secrets and determines whether the identity can access specific resources in the Cloud environment. However, if the identity data is compromised and credentials are stolen, access gets transferred to a rogue user. ITDR helps prevent malicious use of identities like this.

ITDR maintains a vigil on each identity’s dynamic activities in the Cloud environment, including login and logout events, command execution logs on servers, and network traffic on workstations where the identity has access rights. Based on these activities, ITDR can predict possible suspicious activities arising out of any identity provisioned in the IAM.

Why Do You Need ITDR?

ITDR also adds an intelligent layer atop IAM and is essential in preserving your organization’s security posture. The significant problems addressed by ITDR include:

Static Identity Monitoring

IAM is responsible for provisioning the identities and can’t monitor how they are used in the Cloud environment. ITDR is capable of real-time monitoring of identities to ensure that all identities are used within the parameters behavior expected by the users of those identities.

Lack of Visibility in Entitlement Usage

IAM doesn’t guard the Cloud infrastructure from unruly users who want to abuse their entitlements. This rogue activity can happen knowingly or unknowingly, either by disgruntled employees or through identity theft. Based on its real-time monitoring capabilities, ITDR can flag an identity if it detects suspicious use.

Compliance gaps

ITDR looks beyond IAM’s identity and permissions configuration to investigate system logs, network traffic, and other data sources to monitor identities. Therefore, ITDR can provide deeper and more comprehensive observations on potential identity-related threats compared to IAM and CIEM.

How You Can Use CIEM and ITDR Together

CIEM and ITDR solutions provide different but complementary security capabilities over IAM. Here are a few ways to leverage these two approaches to strengthen your organization’s security posture and outsmart cybercriminals.

1. Better Visibility on Identity Lifecycle

You can leverage the capabilities of CIEM and ITDR for better visibility into the identity lifecycle. For example, CIEM can track quantitive aspects of an identity usage, whereas ITDR can deliver qualitative insights about the context in which the identity was used. 

Further, ITDR’s analysis of identity risks can establish links with cloud and IAM infrastructure where login and activity records of that identity are discovered. Therefore, by combining with CIEM, it is possible to visualize and trace the privileges, from identities all the way to cloud resources, SaaS applications, and IdPs.

2. Adaptive Security Posture

The combined strength of CIEM and ITDR is a potent weapon to dynamically equip you with the tools to respond to specific threat perceptions. 

One example is adaptive authentication. CIEM guards the authentication procedure while ITDR accesses the authentication and access related data to enforce additional policies that activate different authentication factors depending on the risks perceived by ITDR.  

3. Enhanced Threat Detection

By combining CIEM and ITDR solutions, you can enhance your threat detection and response capabilities. CIEM can help identify excessive or unused permissions that cybercriminals can exploit. At the same time, ITDR can quickly determine any matches between the credentials used in the malicious activity and those of authorized users. 

This level of scrutiny helps uncover the attack’s root cause. It provides an opportunity to bolster security measures to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future and to reduce the blast radius of an attack.

4. Better Control of Shadow IT Practices

Shadow IT refers to using information technology systems, devices, software, applications, and services without explicit approval from your organization’s IT department. The trend of working from home has contributed to the rise of shadow IT due to the increased use of personal devices and applications. Such practices also raise concerns about security due to data inconsistency, lack of IT visibility, and compliance violations.

CIEM and ITDR can solve all the above problems associated with shadow IT practices by detecting shadow access and tracing the identities and entitlements associated with them.

5. Intelligent Policy Enforcement

IAM and CIEM often define access control policies to add additional authorization criteria to entitlements. One example is time-based access, where an entitlement is granted for a limited time. While CIEM can enforce policies like this, ITDR can bolster them to ensure the policies are in force and any unauthorized access attempts trigger alerts and responses.

6. More Efficient Workflows

Organizations can leverage CIEM and ITDR platforms to share contextual information between the two systems for better synergy in security-related workflows. It includes user identity attributes, access permissions, and historical data. This enriched data enhances the response time to security incidents.

For example, security incidents can be logged with identity-related information for better first-hand context of the affected identities and enforcing access controls as part of the incident response workflow. You can achieve similar improvements in security audit workflows.

7. Centralized Management & Monitoring of IAM

Combining CIEM and ITDR solutions provides centralized management of Cloud identities. CIEM takes care of centralized provisioning of all identities and their associated permissions and supersedes the IAM configuration to ensure minimum privileges. ITDR handles centralized monitoring of all identities and enables deep insights into identity usage and potential threats.

CIEM and ITDR: The Path to Identity Resilience in the Cloud

CIEM is a strategic initiative – it manages identity security and monitors overall identity hygiene metrics. ITDR is a tactical initiative – it detects identity gaps in real time and predicts ongoing risks arising from identity usage. 

Both approaches are relatively new in the context of cybersecurity, which was traditionally dominated by EDR and XDR-based approaches. However, CIEM and ITDR offer a more resilient way to secure Cloud infrastructure since identity theft is the most potent way to commit cyber crimes stealthily without getting noticed.  

Rezonate is an identity centric security platform that provides CIEM capabilities across the entire identity fabric (everywhere identities are operating and managed), in the IAM infrastructure (like Okta and Azure AD), and business-critical SaaS applications. Also, Rezonate’s ITDR engine uses anomaly detection and AI-driven pattern analysis to profile the level of access, drive least privileges across the board, and detect and respond to threats. To find out more, you can book a demo.

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“Rezonate combines identity threat detection and posture management to reduce exposure time and optimize our response to suspicious activities. The robust remediation workflows and the UI, make the platform an important asset in our line of defense.”

Paul Groisman

Sr. Director Cyber Security, Fubo

Rezonate was recognized as a 2023 Gartner® Cool Vendor™ in Identity-First Security.  Learn More.