Securing Kubernetes with Identity and Entitlement Management (KIEM)

by Atharva Shah | January 30, 2024

Securing Kubernetes with Identity and Entitlement Management (KIEM) allows you to identify overprovisioned access policies and unused service accounts, providing real-time monitoring and centralized permissions.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Kubernetes and Traditional CSPM Tools

Kubernetes creates a dynamic, auto-scaling virtual infrastructure in Public and Private Cloud infrastructures. Things spin up and down constantly based on demand – we’ve got an ephemeral environment that looks nothing like traditional servers. This presents some unique security challenges! Given the ephemeral and transient nature of Kubernetes, traditional CSPM tools just aren’t equipped to handle the nuances of the Kubernetes control plane. They cannot keep up with secret management, network policies, or workloads that appear and disappear by the minute.

Doing occasional scans or snapshots also leaves major blindspots. It is easy to miss short-lived threats like cryptojacking, ransomware attacks that last just minutes at a time. And good luck trying to piece together how permissions and roles are being assigned across clusters!

Here’s a quick example – Kubernetes RBAC roles are assigned to users/groups separately from bindings. So if you need to figure out what access a user has, iterate through a mess of bindings to trace things back. Now multiply that by dozens of clusters – it is impossible!

Challenges in Kubernetes Security

What we really need for Kubernetes is a real-time security solution designed for dynamic environments. Rather than periodic scans, it should provide:

  • Continuous visibility into all K8s resources
  • Detection of short-lived security events
  • Centralized view of permissions across clusters
  • Tight integration with runtime environment

This not only makes Kubernetes more secure but also simplifies troubleshooting issues when they do pop up.

Kubernetes has become one of the most sought-after platforms for developers worldwide, as it allows them to focus entirely on building their applications instead of managing complex infrastructure. However, securing K8s clusters has proven to be a challenging task. Granting the least privilege access, hardening configurations, and monitoring workloads are some of the essential aspects that require attention. Moreover, reported security breaches at renowned companies like Tesla and Capital One raise concerns about whether the security measures we undertake are adequate.

Introducing Kubernetes Identity and Entitlement Management (KIEM)

Unfortunately, most K8s security tools only throw alerts without providing sufficient assistance in fixing the underlying issues. It’s like receiving a call that your front door is wide open; it’s helpful to know, but it’s much better to have automatic locks that engage themselves. To address this issue, Kubernetes Identity and Entitlement Management (KIEM) is a viable solution. KIEM allows you to control access explicitly and then define detailed access policies tailored to each user, service account, and workload. It also integrates with existing OAuth/OIDC providers, blocking any attempt to escalate privileges actively.

For example, you can:

  • Restrict access to only necessary namespaces, nodes, and cluster resources 
  • Automatically revoke over-provisioned permissions if detected
  • Prevent lateral movement between clusters

In order to establish secure Kubernetes (K8s) infrastructure, it is essential to integrate preemptive controls into identity access. If you too are experiencing frustration with receiving only superficial alerts without practical solutions for cluster security, it is recommended to consider utilizing tools like KIEM. It is time to adopt a proactive approach toward securing K8s infrastructure and close all existing gaps.

Gartner reports 95% of IaaS accounts use less than 3% of their privileges, with many businesses using dormant identities. CIEM systems monitor access activities to adjust permissions. While SaaS IAM options provide convenience, a purpose-built tool like KIEM gives you more control and customization for securing Kubernetes clusters.

Some key advantages:

Flexibility & Elasticity

  • Auto-scales policies across dynamic K8s environments
  • No vendor lock-in – supports all major cloud providers

Resilience

  • Decentralized architecture, no single point of failure
  • 99.95% uptime SLA

Observability

  • Real-time visualization of permissions and access
  • Detailed audit logs for incident investigation
Feature KIEM SaaS IAM
Custom Policies Limited
Workload Identity
Least Privilege Partial
Lateral Movement Prevention

By embedding controls in how identities access infrastructure, KIEM takes an API-first, security-focused approach tailored to Kubernetes. It integrates with SPIFFE and can help enforce standards like zero-trust segmentation. An ingress controller/API gateway is still recommended for hiding internals and exposing custom APIs. KIEM manages identities and access within the cluster boundary.

How does KIEM Work?

Kubernetes infrastructure entitlement management (KIEM) manages identities and privileges in Kubernetes environments. It helps identify and mitigate risks resulting from entitlements that grant higher levels of access than they should. KIEM solutions help security teams manage cloud identities and entitlements and enforce the principle of least-privileged access to cloud infrastructure and resources. Cloud service providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud provide unique, native, cloud-based controls to help businesses enforce granular IAM policies. KIEM solutions help cloud security teams understand access risk and manage all entitlements across multi-cloud environments. The Managing Privileged Access in Cloud Infrastructure document guides security and risk management professionals on deploying tools for effective management of cloud infrastructure entitlements. With the right KIEM tooling, you automatically scan access control policies, rules, and configurations to determine which entitlements exist, what each human or machine user can do based on those entitlements, and which users can access each cloud resource based on those entitlements.

They use advanced machine learning and UEBA analytics for entitlement assessments, aligning them with compliance requirements and detecting “drift” instances. This aims to create a secure platform for enforcing least-privileged access credentials across cloud resources and providers.

KIEM Life Cycle

KIEM uses the principle of least privilege (POLP) to manage cloud permissions for identities, minimizing the risks of excessive privilege. It goes through processes of entitlement discovery, cross-cloud correlation, entitlement visualization, optimization, protection, detection, and remediation. A good solution continuously searches and reports existing entitlements, provides consistent entitlement policies across multiple clouds, and aids in the visualization of entitlements. It should also regulate excessive privileges, detect suspicious activity, and support multiple means of remediation to ensure the least privileged state is maintained.

How does KIEM improve cloud security?

Entitlements, effective permissions assigned to users, workloads, and data can be overallocated without proper monitoring and security enforcement. To strengthen cloud security, KIEM provides visibility into net effective permissions, governance for excess privileges, and a responsive framework for misalignment.

Gartner reports that 81% of organizations use multiple public cloud providers, making managing entitlements across these environments overwhelming. A CIEM solution helps security teams understand access risk.

Benefits of KIEM Solutions

Cloud infrastructure entitlement management (KIEM) delivers multi-cloud visibility into entitlements, improved identity and access management, automatic detection and remediation, audit-ready compliance, detection and remediation, governance, and visibility. KIEM solutions monitor access activity, identify outdated identities, and rightsize net effective permissions. It also helps in compliance, detection, and remediation of misconfigured or bypassed privileges. KIEM ensures governance across different cloud environments and provides a single view of all identities and privileges.

AccuKnox KIEM simplifies Kubernetes Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) management with powerful analytics and visualization.

Address Kubernetes security and compliance challenges through advanced Kubernetes Identity Entitlement Management (KIEM) Tool

  • Full-text search across all RBAC entities like service accounts and role bindings
  • Interactive graph visualization that reveals connections between users, permissions, and resources
  • Predefined queries that highlight critical issues like unnecessary privileges
  • Custom filtering to continuously monitor access configurations and changes

Managing access control and permissions in Kubernetes is complex. According to industry surveys, over 65% of Kubernetes admins struggle with properly configuring and analyzing RBAC policies.

The default RBAC implementation in Kubernetes offers flexibility to assign granular privileges through users, roles, and bindings. However, this creates a web of interdependent entities and relationships that quickly become difficult to monitor and secure.

A Tour of AccuKnox KIEM Features

📝 Multi-Entity Search – Instantly search across service accounts, bindings, roles and more

🕸️ Relationship Graphing – Visualize connections between users, permissions and resources

🔎 Critical Query Packs – Spot issues like unnecessary privileges and orphaned accounts

 💾 Custom Filters – Define and save filters to continuously monitor RBAC state

📈 Change History – Review changes over time to identify risky modifications

Getting Started with AccuKnox KIEM

  1. Install KIEM agents to start indexing Kubernetes audit data
  2. Define admin users and access credentials for the KIEM console
  3. Review pre-built dashboards, relationship graphs, and risk queries
  4. Customize searches and alerts tailored to your deployments
  5. Get notified when risky changes or configurations are detected

Adopting KIEM provides Kubernetes admins and security teams

🔒 Increased Visibility into Access Policies
🛡️ Detection of Unnecessary or Risky Permissions
⚙️ Easier RBAC Management and Troubleshooting
📈 Meeting Compliance Requirements
🔑 Safeguarding Sensitive Resources and Data

Confidently visualize and secure Kubernetes access with AccuKnox KIEM starting today.

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