Any organization that has invested in cloud infrastructure and services knows its an imperative to monitor and control access to critical cloud-based resources. 

Without appropriate access control, threat actors can breach a cloud environment using illicitly gained credentials with elevated privileges.  Providing your developers and business users with secure, simplified yet effective just-in-time (JIT) access is possible and necessary to ensure your teams stay productive to drive the business. But doing so can be fraught with challenges—but it can be done to unlock the promise of the cloud without compromising security. 

In this blog we’ll cover key trends, challenges, and recommendations for privileged cloud identity access. Armed with this information, you have the guidepost to providing rapid access to cloud infrastructure, apps and data while strengthening your organization’s security posture.

From the Trenches: Key Cloud Identity Access Trends in 2023 

Over the course of 2023, Britive conducted a survey of over 1,000 IT and cloud operations practitioners in regarding identity and access management (IAM) and privileged access management (PAM) in the major cloud service providers (CSPs). 

The responses to our cloud access survey are clear: rapid adoption of multi-cloud environments present challenges to effectively managing identities and privileges. But many organizations haven’t implemented effective ephemeral cloud access. 

We utilized the survey data to create the 2023 State of Cloud Identities and Privileges Report to shed light on critical issues enterprises face in their quest for secure, scalable, and efficient multi-cloud access control.  

73% of organizations that Britive surveyed reported legacy IAM tools and developing their own DIY access tooling using CSP-native identity frameworks as their biggest challenge. 

Unfortunately, most organizations have failed to solve the cloud access management problem in a way that balances security with operational agility.

As a result, identity and access sprawl is the de-facto outcome of multi-cloud reality as developers rapidly spin up new instances to operate databases, APIs, and other cloud-based resources. This leaves a wide array of privileged permissions exposed across the major CSPs with massive security and operational implications for organizations operating in cloud environments. 

But there are ays to secure and control access management across cloud environments. 

Cloud Identity Trends 

We identified several key trends and challenges from the survey data pointing to the situation created by the speed and agility the cloud enables: 

  • Rapid adoption of cloud infrastructure and applications has led to identity sprawl driven by development and cloud operations teams’ need to spin up new cloud infrastructure and deploy code frequently. 
  • Thousands of permissions are exposed across the major cloud service providers with massive security and operational implications for organizations operating in multi-cloud environments.  

Cloud Identity Challenges 

With the rapid adoption of cloud infrastructure, SaaS applications, and data come challenges directly related to that speed: 

  • Organizations struggle to maintain a state of least privileged access as part of their overall security posture. Only 13% of companies maintain zero standing privileges, regardless of the CSPs they utilize. 
  • Development, platform engineering, and security teams are hobbled by fragmented, manual access procedures for request reviews and the granting and revocation of entitlements. 
  • 31% of organizations cannot effectively implement just-in-time (JIT) cloud access controls without extensive development work or outside assistance.  

Key Recommendations 

But there is a path forward to enabling rapid access to cloud resources while staying secure: ephemeral, just-in-time (JIT) access that ensures no identity—human or machine-based—has access to a cloud-based resource longer than necessary with the proper level of privileges.  

Adopting JIT access means reducing the attack surface related to identity access: 

  • Eliminate static privileges and ensure least privileged access with ephemeral JIT access, reducing the risk of security breaches and insider threats.  
  • Enable the adoption of cloud technologies more rapidly and securely with an automated approach to controlling cloud access.   
  • Integrate JIT tooling with your DevOps team’s tools and processes to streamline operations, reduce IT workload and eliminate over-privileged accounts consuming cloud resources, all of which saves time and resources that can be refocused on high-value initiatives. 

To learn more about the critical issues enterprises face in their quest for secure, scalable, and efficient cloud access control, download the complete 2023 State of Cloud Identities and Privileges Report