Active Directory & Office 365 Reporting Tool

Azure AD Role-Based Access Control Best Practices: How to Use Azure AD Roles and Privileges Effectively. Are you responsible for managing Azure AD roles and seeking to develop a best practices strategy for Role-Based Access Control

To develop a best practices strategy, you must first understand the Roles and Role-Based Access Control concept in Azure AD. This article commences by explaining these Azure AD concepts.

Following that, the guide outlines 10 best practices for efficient management of Azure AD Roles and Privileges.

What are Roles and Role-Based Access Control in Azure AD?

Azure AD uses roles to manage directory resources. Assigning roles to users, groups, or other objects is known as Azure AD role-based access control (Azure AD RBAC).

Regarding roles, Azure AD offers multiple built-in options with specific permissions. However, there may be rare instances where the built-in roles do not fully meet the needs of organizations.

In such cases, admins create custom roles with limited permissions to address their requirements.

The 3 most important Azure AD built-in roles include Billing Admin, User Admin, and Global Admin. To view all roles available in Azure AD, navigate to “Roles and administrators” in the Azure Active Directory portal.

It is crucial to mention that users with a free Azure AD subscription can use built-in roles. However, a user must be assigned the Azure AD Premium P1 license to create custom roles.

Best Practices for Azure AD Role-Based Access Control

1. Use Built-in Azure AD Roles where Possible

Find an existing role and use it to assign resource management. Azure AD has more than 70 built-in roles.

However, if none meets your need, create and use custom roles.

To check Azure AD roles, sign in to porta.azure.com. Search for and open “azure active directory.”

Finally, click “Roles and administrators”. 

2. Approach Azure AD RBAC from the Principle of Least Privilege

The “Least Privilege” principle promotes granting admins the explicit permission required to perform a task. Following this guideline limits the risk to your environment.

Embracing this principle may require creating custom roles. This is essential as existing roles may have more permissions than you need to assign for a specific task.

3. Assign Permissions for a Limited time using Just-in-time Access

Another feature of the “Least Privilege,” approach is to grant users permission for a limited time.

To achieve this, admins use the Azure AD Privileged Identity Management (PIM). This feature allows granting of just-in-time access to another admin.

Once you enable Azure AD PIM, admins that require permissions request authorization. After that, users in the approver’s group grant or deny the request.

With just-in-time access, Admins avoid granting permissions for unlimited periods by utilizing Azure AD Role-Based Access Control, making it one of the crucial best practices.

4. Minimize the Vulnerability and Attack Surface of Privileged Accounts

Azure AD has some privileged roles, with the Global Admins role having the highest access. Attackers target these accounts because gaining access grants them the immediate authorization to cause the most significant harm.

So, it is best practice to reduce these accounts’ vulnerability and attack surface. One way to achieve this is by limiting the number of admins assigned the Global Admin role to a maximum of 5.

Why is this best practice crucial?

This role has full access to modify all resources in the Microsoft 365 tenant. 

Try our Active Directory & Office 365 Reporting & Auditing Tools

Try us out for Free.  100’s of report templates available. Easily customise your own reports on AD, Azure AD & Office 355.

5. (Option 1 of 2) Protect all Admin Accounts with Multi-factor Authentication via Role Settings

Organizations reduce it further by enabling multi-factor authentication (MFA). When MFA is turned on for admin accounts, an intruder requires additional authentication to sign in.

This additional security layer reduces the “attack surface” of this all-important role. 

Turn on MFA from role settings or by enabling Conditional Access. 

To turn on MFA from role settings, sign in to the Azure portal , open the Azure AD Privileged Identity Management. Click “Azure AD roles -> Roles.”

The “Roles” page displays a list of Azure built-in and Custom roles. Select the admin role you want to enable MFA. 

On the roles page, click “Role settings.”

View the “Require Azure Multi-Factor Authentication status on active assignment.” status. 

Next, click the edit button to turn on MFA for identities assigned to this role. Finally, select “Azure MFA,” and click the Update

5. (Option 2 of 2) Protect all Admin Accounts with Multi-factor Authentication via Conditional Access Policy

Well, Azure AD offers a better option via its Conditional Access policy feature. 

To enable MFA for admin accounts via Conditional Access Policy, open the tool in the Azure portal. Then, click “+ Create new policy.”

Next, give it a name on the new policy page, then click the “Users” section. Click “Select users and groups” on the Include tab, then click “Directory roles.”

Finally, click the drop-down and check the checkboxes for all the admin roles you want to enable MFA.  

To enable multi-factor authentication in the policy, click “Conditions.” Select “Grant access” (default selection). 

Finally, check the “Require multi-factor authentication” checkbox and click Select.

After, select an option in the “Enable policy” section and click Create

6. Automatically Revoke Unnecessary Permissions with Access Reviews

Over the lifecycle of an Azure AD tenant, roles and permissions are assigned to users. As time passes, some users may retain permissions they no longer require. 

Considering the principle of “least privilege” best practice, organizations must develop a strategy for revoking needless admin privileges. 

Regularly perform administrators’ account auditing or reviews.

For the steps to create access, visit the Microsoft page. Similarly, see the steps to create an audit review for Azure AD groups applications. 

7. Assign Roles to Groups Instead of Directly to Users

Some admins assign Azure AD roles directly to users. This is an incorrect way to manage permissions.

The best practice is to add users as members of a group. Then, assign roles to the group.

For instance, if you need to remove a role from a user’s account, remove the user from the group.

Another essential best practice is to assign ownership to all groups. By assigning group owners, Global admins have indirectly delegated control and management of that group to the owner.

8. Use "break glass" Accounts to Avoid Global Account Lockouts

This should be on top of your list of Azure AD Role-Based Access Control best practices you must implement. Imagine that your organization’s Azure AD tenant has one Global Admin, and that account is locked out. 

So, to avoid this negative experience, Microsoft recommends creating and using “break glass.” or emergency access accounts.

In addition to having a “break glass” account, as mentioned in best practice 4, an organization’s Azure AD tenant must have more than one Global Admin.

Implementing this best practice ensures that the business does not lose access to its Azure AD if one Global Admin is locked out. 

9. Be Proactive about Detecting and Responding to Identity Threats

Proactively detecting and responding to identity threats is an essential Azure AD Role-Based Access Control best practice. To ensure early threat detection and mitigation learn how to implement this recommended best practice. Read our article on detecting and responding to identity threats.

10. Implement Privileged Identity Management (PIM) for Groups

Implementing efficient Azure AD group management using PIM for Groups is the last but equally important best practice. This enables Azure AD admins to activate the membership or ownership for Azure AD security group or Microsoft 365 group.

By activating PIM for Groups, admins create policies that require approval for group membership and other requirements like MFA

Azure AD Role-Based Access Control Best Practices: How to Use Azure AD Roles and Privileges Effectively Conclusion

To conclude, using Azure AD roles and privileges effectively is vital for a secure and well managed environment. 

This article emphasized using built-in Azure AD roles, applying the principle of least privilege, and implementing just-in-time access. It also highlighted the importance of protecting admin accounts with multi-factor authentication and automating access reviews.

Not only that, but assigning roles to groups, not individual users, is recommended. Additionally, having “break glass” accounts and proactive threat detection and response are crucial measures.

Lastly, implementing Privileged Identity Management (PIM) for groups adds control and accountability. Organizations implement these practices to ensure a robust and secure Azure AD role-based access control framework.


Try InfraSOS for FREE

Try InfraSOS Active Directory, Azure AD & Office 365 Reporting & Auditing Tool

Victor Ashiedu

Victor Ashiedu

Victor is an IT pro based in Manchester, UK. With over 22 years of experience managing Windows Server, Active Directory, and Powershell, and 7 years of expertise in Azure AD and Office 365, he's a seasoned expert in his field. When he's not working, he loves spending time with his family - a wife and a 5-year-old. Victor is passionate about helping businesses succeed in today's fast-changing tech landscape.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *