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Azure AD Fundamentals

Azure Privileged Identity Management (PIM) – An overview

Azure Privileged Identity Mangement

Introduction 

The Privileged Identity Management (PIM) feature of Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) enables you to manage, monitor, and control access to privileged roles and resources. The purpose of this article is to provide a step-by-step approach on how to configure PIM in Azure AD and to explore the use cases and examples of PIM.

What is Privileged Identity Management? 

With PIM, organizations can manage privileged access to applications, data, and infrastructure resources. It allows only authorized users to perform specific actions on high-risk resources, reducing the risk of unauthorized access and ensuring regulatory compliance.

Benefits of using Privileged Identity Management in Azure AD 

PIM in Azure AD provides several benefits, including:

  1. Reduced risk of unauthorized access: PIM enables organizations to restrict access to sensitive resources to only those who require it, which helps reduce the risk of unauthorized access.
  2. Improved compliance: PIM helps organizations comply with various industry standards, such as PCI-DSS, HIPAA, and SOX, by providing detailed audit logs and reporting capabilities.
  3. Improved security posture: PIM provides an additional layer of security by ensuring that users are only granted privileged access when it’s needed and for a limited period.
  4. Better control and governance: PIM provides a centralized mechanism for managing and controlling privileged access, enabling organizations to monitor and audit access to resources and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.
  5. Streamlined access management: PIM simplifies the management of access to resources by providing a mechanism for automating and delegating access requests, reducing the workload of IT teams.

Types of privileged roles available in Azure AD 

Azure AD PIM offers several built-in roles, including:

  1. Global Administrator: Users with this role can manage all aspects of Azure AD, including managing other administrators.
  2. Privileged Role Administrator: Users with this role can manage privileged roles and assignments.
  3. Password Administrator: This role has access to all password-related activities, including password resets, password changes, and password policies.
  4. Security Administrator: Users with this role can manage security-related features in Azure AD, such as Conditional Access policies.
  5. Conditional Access Administrator: Users with this role can create and manage Conditional Access policies that control access to Azure AD resources.

How to configure PIM in Azure AD 

1. Enable PIM

To enable PIM in Azure AD, follow these steps:

  1. Sign in to the Azure portal (https://portal.azure.com) and navigate to Azure Active Directory.
  2. Click on the option labelled “Privileged Identity Management” from the left-hand menu.
  3. Then, click on the “Getting started” tab.
  4. Now check the “Enable PIM” button.
  5. Following the prompts will complete the PIM setup process.

2. Configure PIM Settings 

After enabling PIM, you can configure PIM settings by following these steps:

  1. Click on the “Settings” tab in the PIM portal.
  2. Choose the “General” option to configure general settings for PIM.
  3. Then, configure the settings as per your organizational requirements. You can configure settings such as session length, approval workflow, and notification settings.
  4. Click on “Save” to apply the settings.

Here are some best practices to follow when configuring PIM in Azure AD:

  1. Use Azure AD PIM to manage access to all privileged roles in your organization.
  2. Enable MFA for all users with privileged access.
  3. Use JIT access to limit the duration of access to privileged roles.
  4. Configure alerts and notifications for changes to privileged roles and assignments.

3. Configure PIM Roles 

Privileged Identity Management roles are the privileged roles that are available in your Azure AD. To configure PIM roles, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the “Roles” tab in the PIM portal.
  2. Then, click on the “Add” button to add a new PIM role.
  3. Choose the type of role you want to add. Azure provides built-in roles, or you can create custom roles based on your requirements.
  4. Configure the role properties, such as name, description, and permissions.
  5. Click on “Save” to create the new role.

Here are some best practices to follow when creating and managing privileged roles and assignments in Azure AD:

  1. Limit the number of users who have privileged access.
  2. Use role-based access control (RBAC) to ensure that users only have access to the resources they need to do their job.
  3. Assign roles to groups rather than individual users.
  4. Regularly review and audit privileged roles and assignments to ensure they are still necessary and appropriate.

4. Configure PIM Assignments 

PIM assignments are the assignments of PIM roles to users or groups. To configure PIM assignments, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the “Assignments” tab in the PIM portal.
  2. Then, click on the “Add” button to add a new assignment.
  3. Now, choose the PIM role you want to assign.
  4. Choose the user or group to whom you want to assign the role.
  5. Configure the assignment properties, such as start and end date, and the reason for the assignment.
  6. Click on “Save” to create the new assignment.

5.  Use Azure AD audit logs to detect and investigate suspicious activity 

Azure AD provides a wealth of information through its audit logs, which will be helpful to detect and investigate suspicious activity. To use Azure AD audit logs effectively, you should:

  1. Ensure that audit logs are enabled for all Azure AD resources.
  2. Configure audit log retention settings to retain logs for a sufficient period.
  3. Regularly review audit logs to identify any suspicious activity.
  4. Use advanced analytics tools, such as Azure Sentinel, to analyze the audit logs and identify patterns of suspicious activity.

If you are interested in knowing how to manage privileged access to resources in Azure AD, check out this article: Azure AD PIM: How to manage privileged access to resources

Use Cases of PIM 

  1. Just-in-Time (JIT) Access:

Users can request JIT access to a resource for a specific period of time, reducing the risk of unauthorized access. JIT access can be requested for a limited period of time, for example, if a user needs temporary access to a sensitive database. PIM will review the request and grant access if it meets the predefined criteria. When the time limit expires, access to the resource is automatically revoked to ensure that users have access only for an authorized period of time.

  1. Time-bound Access:

It reduces the risk of prolonged unauthorized access by limiting the duration of access to a resource. For example, if an employee leaves the company, their access to high-risk resources should be revoked immediately. By using PIM, organizations can set time limits for privileged roles, ensuring that access is automatically revoked at the end of the time period.

  1. Segregation of Duties (SoD): 

The SoD prevents users from having too much access to resources, reducing the risk of fraud and abuse. For instance,  a single user should not have access to both the accounting and finance systems in a financial organization, Organizations can define roles with specific access permissions in PIM, preventing unauthorized access to resources.

  1. Compliance Reporting:

With PIM, organizations can demonstrate compliance with regulatory requirements by auditing all privileged access. The use of PIM can be particularly helpful when an organization must comply with HIPAA regulations. In this way, the organization can prove regulatory compliance and avoid costly penalties.

  1. Emergency Access:

It may be necessary to grant temporary access to a resource to a user who does not have the appropriate permissions, in an emergency, such as a system outage or security incident. For a limited period of time, PIM can grant emergency access to privileged resources. As a result, only authorized users can access the resource during an emergency, and access is automatically revoked when the time limit expires. An organization can also track and monitor emergency access to sensitive resources using a detailed audit trail provided by PIM.

Conclusion

Privileged Identity Management (PIM) in Azure AD provides comprehensive capabilities for identifying, monitoring, and managing privileged access across your organization’s Azure resources. It is important to follow best practices when configuring, creating, managing, and monitoring privileged access in your organization so that sensitive data and systems are protected from unauthorized access.

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