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What is entitlement management?

Entitlement management is used to control and regulate user access to resources, systems and data within an organization. It involves determining who is permitted to access what, when and under which circumstances.

Entitlements, also known as access rights, permissions and privileges, are granted to users based on their job roles and responsibilities. For example, a software engineer may be given access rights to source code repositories, whereas a database administrator may have permissions to modify schemas in a cloud database.

The overarching goal here is to ensure that the right people have the right access to the right resources, at the right time and for the right reasons. This is fundamental for maintaining security and compliance across different infrastructure types, including private cloud, public cloud, hybrid cloud and on-premise setups.

What is entitlement management?

How entitlement management works

To manage today’s complex IT infrastructures, where applications are deployed across cloud and onsite platforms, and employees require secure remote access from everywhere, entitlement management is crucial. By giving administrators fine-grained control over access rights, it effectively reduces the risks of unauthorized access and potential threats like privilege escalation.

Here’s a simplified breakdown of the entitlement management process:

  1. Administrators identify all the resource groups within the organization. This can include applications, network elements, devices, databases and more.
  2. Policies or access rights are defined for each resource group. These policies not only determine the approval workflow, but also outline the eligible user groups or roles that can access the resources, along with the specific actions they can perform. For example, the policy may specify that only users belonging to the "database administrators" group are allowed to request “read” access to production databases.
  3. After the policies are defined, users can submit requests for access to resources based on their needs. These requests must pass through approval workflows established within the entitlement management system.
  4. Once approved, users are given time-limited access to the approved resources.
  5. User access is monitored and audited to identify any suspicious activity or unauthorized access attempts. Moreover, entitlements are periodically reviewed and updated to reflect changes in user roles or organizational needs.

Entitlement management and identity governance

Entitlement management is an integral component of a broader concept known as identity governance. Identity governance encompasses a range of processes and practices to manage identities within an organization, including provisioning, entitlement management, lifecycle management, access certification, auditing and reporting, and privileged access management.

Entitlement management mainly focuses on assigning and managing access permissions to resources, whereas identity governance takes a holistic approach to orchestrate the entire user identity lifecycle.

Cloud infrastructure entitlement management (CIEM)

Cloud infrastructure entitlement management (CIEM) is a specialized security solution designed to manage identities and entitlements in the cloud. CIEM solutions are a crucial part of a comprehensive cloud security policy because:

  • Cloud infrastructures are inherently complex, with a large number of services, applications, resources and data spread across platforms and regions. CIEM helps administrators manage this complexity, without hampering agility, by providing centralized control over access and permissions.
  • Cloud environments are also highly dynamic, with new virtual machines, services and applications being provisioned, modified, scaled and decommissioned regularly. CIEM ensures that access rights and privileges are consistently applied and updated as the cloud environment evolves.
  • Security is a shared responsibility in the cloud. Vendors are responsible for the security of the underlying infrastructure, while the customer remains accountable for securing their data, avoiding misconfigurations and managing access rights. CIEM enables organizations to effectively fulfill their cloud security obligations.
  • Cloud environments are a prime target for data breaches, insider threats and cyberattacks. CIEM plays a leading role in mitigating these risks by enforcing the principle of least privilege, reducing the overall attack surface and monitoring user access for suspicious activity.
  • In cloud environments, organizations are often required to comply with different regulatory requirements and industry standards. CIEM helps organizations achieve and maintain compliance by enforcing granular access controls, managing audit trails, detecting compliance deviations and generating compliance reports. For example, the best CIEM tools can identify if an entitlement grants excessive rights to a user or role.

Hybrid identity management

In addition to cloud ecosystems, entitlement management can also be used in hybrid environments, where organizations leverage a combination of on-premises infrastructure and cloud offerings. In such setups, entitlement management helps enforce consistent security controls and access control policies, regardless of the location or type of resource being accessed.

Examples of entitlement management

Examples of entitlement management solutions offered by leading providers include:

  1. Azure: In Microsoft Azure, entitlement management is achieved via access packages. An access package includes a collection of resources, associated user roles required for accessing those resources and one or more policies that define the access rules.

    These policies can be used to govern whether users can request access or are automatically assigned access. They also specify the “appropriate" users (or user types) for accessing the package resources.

  2. AWS: AWS offers a suite of natively available identity services that can be used to implement entitlement management. For example, you can use AWS IAM to create granular authorization policies, enforce permission guardrails, assign temporary credentials and more.

    The AWS IAM access analyzer is a handy tool for defining, verifying and fine-tuning policies and permissions. Moreover, you can leverage the AD connector to relay directory requests to your self-hosted Microsoft Active Directory to enable centralized management.

  3. GCP: The IAM service in GCP offers features to achieve centralized entitlement management. Administrators can grant access at the resource level, automatically detect excessive permissions, limit access to resources based on contextual parameters (IP address, resource type etc.) and more.

    Besides the console, IAM policies can be managed using the IAM API and the Gcloud command line tool.


Entitlement management ensures compliance with security best practices and frameworks while helping to mitigate the risk of unauthorized access and data breaches. To maintain a robust security posture, it's crucial to integrate entitlement management into your organization’s cybersecurity strategy.

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