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Implement Azure AD Role Based Access Control Policies. In today’s evolving digital landscape, safeguarding sensitive data and maintaining control over user access is paramount for organizations. Azure Active Directory (AD) Role Based Access Control (RBAC) policies. Hence Azure Policy and Blueprints offer a robust solution for implementing granular access controls and policies within Azure AD. This article delves into the essential aspects of Azure AD RBAC, Azure Policy, and Azure Blueprints. It provides a comprehensive guide on how to effectively implement access controls and policies, empowering businesses to enhance security, streamline operations, and protect their valuable assets in the Microsoft Azure ecosystem.

Implement Azure AD Role Based Access Control Policies

When one encounters the term Governance, various conceptions may arise, ranging from rules to policies. Well, Governance is vital in facilitating effective and efficient operations within a company. Similarly, Microsoft Azure employs the concept of Azure Governance. In order to diligently manage and monitor its resources, applications, and technology, ensuring robust control and adherence to established protocols.

Topic of Cloud Governance

Likewise, Governance is the framework that determines how our organization conducts business activities based on objectives and responsibilities. And when we talk about Cloud Governance, several principles are relevant: Subscription Management, Cost Management, Security, Resource Consistency, Identity Baseline & Deployment Acceleration. We lay down the guard rails for these disciplines early in process.

In an Azure cloud, we describe Azure governance as mechanisms and processes to maintain control over our applications and resources in Azure

Azure RBAC (Role-Based Access Control)

Then, Azure RBAC (Role Based Access Control) empowers organizations to manage access to Azure resources and define specific actions allowed for individuals. We define a role as a set of permissions.

Within Azure RBAC, numerous pre-defined roles are available, and it is also possible to create custom roles. Four examples of built in roles are as follows:

  • Owner: This role possesses complete access to all resources and the authority to delegate access to other users.
  • Contributor: Users with this role create and manage Azure resources.
  • Reader: Limited to viewing existing Azure resources only.
  • User Access Administrator: This role controls access to Azure resources.

Scope of Azure RBAC

The scope is the set of resources that access applies to. When we assign a role, it’s essential to understand the scope so that we grant a security principal just the admission it needs. Scopes are structured in a parent-child relationship. 

Therefore, each level of hierarchy makes the scope more specific. So, we assign roles at any of these levels of scope. As a result, the level we select determines how widely the role is applied. Lower levels inherit role permissions from higher:

  • Azure management groups help us manage our Azure subscriptions by grouping them.
  • Azure subscriptions help us organize access to Azure resources, and we determine the resources usage, billed, and paid for.
  • Resource groups serve as containers designed to house interconnected resources within an Azure solution. They encompass resources intended to be managed collectively as a cohesive unit.

Azure Active Directory Roles

All in all, Azure AD has unique roles, predominantly catering to users, passwords, and domains. There are several roles they manage the different key aspects of Azure AD but here are some main examples:

  1. Global Admin: Empowered to oversee administrative functionalities within Azure AD, including granting administrator roles to other users and password resets for any user or admin.
  2. User Admin: Responsible for comprehensive management of users and groups, handling support tickets, monitoring service health, and resetting passwords for specific user types.
  3. Billing Admin: Authorized to handle purchases, subscription management, support tickets, and service health monitoring. Azure provides comprehensive billing permissions alongside Azure RBAC permissions.

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Azure Policy

Together, Azure Policies and RBAC services work alongside to provide governance around our environment. We base Azure policies on how scope works in Azure Resource Manager. RBAC grants access to users or groups within a subscription, whereas we define policies within the resource group or subscription. Hence, RBAC focuses on what resources the users access, and we focus on the policies on the properties of resources.

Importantly, Azure Policy is a free Azure service that allows us to create policies, assign them to resources, and receive alerts or take action in cases of non-compliance with these policies. Moreover, Azure Policy enables us to define both individual policies and groups of related policies, known as initiatives.

Policies specify what and cannot create in a single resource group or a full subscription. We use these to ensure users create and work with approved resources without making over-provisioned machines rack up significant costs on our Azure bill.

Elements of Azure Policy

The essential elements of Azure Policy are Policy Definition, Initiatives, and Initiative or Policy assignments:

  • Policy Definition explains resource compliance (following a rule order) and what effect to take when resources are non-compliant (failing to act following rules or regulations). 
  • Initiatives is a collection of Azure policy definitions grouped toward a specific goal or purpose.
  • Policy or initiative assignments describe where the policy is applied. We involve resource groups and subscriptions, and different degrees of Azure policies are possible. They apply to resource groups, subscriptions, and management.

Use Case of Azure Policies

Use Azure policies to prevent users from creating resources that violate organizational standards. Policies define what resources are allowed or disallowed in our Azure environment. Also, we assign these policies to specific scopes, such as management groups or subscriptions.

Also, we use Azure policies to enforce various resource configuration settings, such as resource tags, required resource types, required resource locations, and minimum resource sizes. Used to enforce compliance with regulatory requirements such as HIPAA, PCI-DSS, and GDPR.

Interestingly, Azure Policy is integrated with Azure DevOps pipelines to check resource configurations before deployment automatically. This feature helps ensure resource configurations comply with organizational standards before deploying the policies in the production pipeline.

Also Azure Policy includes policy compliance reporting and monitoring capabilities. Administrators view policy compliance status at a management group, subscription, or resource group level. Export Compliance data to Azure Monitor Logs for further analysis and reporting.

Azure Blueprint

Cloud blueprints are much like the blueprints used in the construction industry. They include all the necessary server, software, storage, network, image, and firewall information, as well as a bill of materials and, most crucially, details on how each component interacts with the others. Cloud blueprints are a method to offer customers a way to drive extraordinary levels of efficiency and effectiveness, increase the quality of service and reduce cost.

In Azure, Azure Blueprints exist to maintain consistency and compliance. Azure Blueprints also allows us to quickly release new environments, adopting integrated components and accelerating development time and delivery.

What is more, the blueprint consists of artifacts like Role Assignments, Policy Assignments, Azure Resource Manager templates, and Resource Groups. After the creation, we must publish the blueprint specifying versioning. In turn, Azure Blueprints are very useful for companies that use the infrastructure-as-code model as it contemplates continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) processes.

Implement Azure AD Role Based Access Control Policies Conclusion

In conclusion, mastering the Azure AD Role Based Access Control (RBAC) policies opens up possibilities for organizations seeking heightened security and streamlined operations within the Azure ecosystem. By adequately defining RBAC roles, Azure Policies, and Azure Blueprints, businesses may implement granular access controls that lower the risk of data breaches and unauthorized access. With these robust tools at their disposal, organizations confidently embrace the power of Azure AD to protect their valuable assets, bolster productivity, and easily navigate the ever-changing landscape of modern cloud computing.


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Marion Mendoza

Marion Mendoza

Windows Server and VMware SME. Powershell Guru. Currently working with Fortune 500 companies responsible for participating in 3rd level systems support across the enterprise. Acting as a Windows Server engineer and VMware Specialist.

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