Why Monitoring Azure AD User Activity is Essential for Security? Relying solely on traditional security measures is no longer sufficient as the number of cyberattacks only increase year on year. Organizations must proactively monitor and analyse user activity within their Azure AD environment to detect anomalies, potential breaches, and insider threats.
So, in this blog post, we explore six compelling reasons why monitoring user activity has transitioned from being a best practice to an absolute necessity for maintaining the security of your Azure AD environment.
Shall we start with Why Monitoring Azure AD User Activity is Essential for Security?
Why Monitoring Azure AD User Activity is Essential for Security?
Enables You To Take Timely Action Against Unauthorized Access Attempts
An unauthorized access attempt simply means that attackers are trying to gain entry into your system, network, application, or resources by exploiting vulnerabilities or using stolen credentials.
Brute force attacks involve systematically trying all possible combinations of usernames and passwords until the correct ones are found. These attacks are manual or automated, and attackers often employ specialized tools that speed up the process.
And monitoring user activity helps you detect patterns of multiple failed login attempts in a short time frame, which indicates a brute force attack in progress.
Monitoring user activity involves analysing logs and data related to login attempts, authentication successes, and failures. By establishing a baseline of normal user behaviour, it becomes easier for you to identify anomalies that indicate unauthorized access attempts. This include logins from unusual locations, unusual times of day, or unusual devices.
Take a couple of measures to avoid these attacks:
Supports Quick Identification Of Compromised Accounts
Compromised accounts are those that have already been taken over by malicious actors.
So, when you monitor user activity, you spot sudden changes in user behaviour. This prompts you to quickly investigate further and take corresponding corrective measures.
How monitoring user activity helps to weed out compromised accounts?
- Unauthorized Data Access: Trusted users with access to sensitive information might attempt to access data outside their regular scope. Monitoring help you identify when employees access data they haven’t interacted with before or when they access data outside their usual job responsibilities.
- Unusual Login Locations: Monitoring login locations helps you identify when a user logs in from an unfamiliar geographic location.
- Excessive Data Downloads: Employees planning to steal data might attempt to download a large amount of sensitive information in a short period. So, monitoring flags excessive data downloads.
- Abnormal Working Hours: Detecting logins to critical systems during unusual (or unexpected) hours indicates potential unauthorized activities.
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Helps You Block Privilege Escalation Attempts
When you consistently monitor user activity you observe alterations in user roles and permissions. This identifies instances where an individual’s level of access is rapidly and illegitimately escalated.
Such unauthorized elevation of privileges could signal a deliberate effort to infiltrate your resources.
Facilitates Faster Threat Identification And Response Time
Real time monitoring of user activity within your Azure AD environment involves tracking actions like logins, access requests, application usage, and more. Analyse this data in real time to identify suspicious behaviour faster.
Also, once a threat is identified, time is of the essence. So, security teams have immediate insight into the situation. That allows them to take quick action. Like blocking or suspending a suspicious user account, restricting access to compromised credentials, or isolating a potentially infected device from your network.
Taking security of your Azure AD environment seriously requires you to minimize dwell time. It’s the duration a hacker remains undetected within a network after gaining unauthorized access. So, the higher the dwell time, the more of a headache it is for your company.
And guess what, real time user activity monitoring minimizes dwell time and the attack surface by helping you swiftly detect and respond to threats, which reduces the window of opportunity for attackers to carry out their malicious activities at a big scale.
Complements Active Threat Hunting
Active threat hunting goes beyond predefined rules and automated alerts.
Security professionals use their knowledge and experience to look for indicators of compromise (IoCs) and tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) that might not match known patterns. Especially important for detecting advanced persistent threats and zero day attacks that bypass conventional security measures.
It allows your security teams to detect threats in their early stages, which minimizes potential and recovery costs.
Human analysts provide context to alerts and anomalies factors in your company’s unique Azure AD environment, business processes, and user behaviour. This contextual understanding helps you differentiate between legitimate activities and potential threats.
Since this flexible security approach strays from conventional security measures, it is especially useful for dealing with novel or complex threats that may not fit standard response procedures.
Helps You Comply With Various Industry Regulations And Standards
Maintaining audit trails of user activities is a critical requirement for compliance with various industry regulations and standards.
And monitoring Azure AD user activity not only helps you meet these compliance requirements but also provides a comprehensive record of user interactions with your company’s resources.
Numerous industries are subject to strict regulations that mandate the recording and retention of user activities. Regulations like HIPAA, GDPR, PCI DSS, and SOX require organizations to maintain audit trails to demonstrate accountability, transparency, and data protection.
In the event of security incidents or breaches, having a detailed audit trail enables you to conduct thorough investigations. Auditors trace back the activities leading up to the incident, helping them and you understand the root cause and scope of the breach.
Allows You To Manage Risks Effectively
By evaluating the risk associated with users, applications, and resources, you prioritize security efforts corresponding to the associated risk level and allocate resources efficiently.
And monitoring Azure AD user activity enables you to assess and manage risk effectively. For example:
- User Risk Assessment: assess the behaviour of individual users like employees or contractors. Analyse their access patterns, privilege utilization, and compliance with security policies. Assign risk scores to users. This identifies high risk users who are engaging in suspicious or unauthorized activities.
- Resource Sensitivity Analysis: Since not all resources are equally critical or sensitive, monitoring helps to classify your Azure AD resources based on their importance and the potential impact of unauthorized access. This categorization enables you to allocate security resources based on the resource’s significance.
- Application Risk Evaluation: Monitoring user interactions with the applications and services integrated within your Azure AD environment helps you identify any risky behaviours. For example, when an application repeatedly and without authorization attempts to access resources, it could be an indicator of a security breach or compromise in progress.
Why Monitoring Azure AD User Activity is Essential for Security? Conclusion
The insights gained from monitoring user behaviour inside your Azure AD environment provide a sizeable view of your company’s security health. This proactive approach empowers your IT teams to identify patterns, anomalies, and trends that could signal a potential breach.
And the ability to quickly identify and respond to potential security incidents means all the difference between a minor disruption and a catastrophic breach.
Whether it’s recognizing a sudden increase in failed login attempts, detecting unauthorized privilege escalations, or pinpointing irregular usage patterns, real time monitoring of user activity equips administrators with the tools to address security issues promptly.
Plus, it not only helps you comply with numerous industry regulations and data protection laws but also builds trust with customers, partners, and stakeholders.
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