Azure Active Directory is the key to your Microsoft 365 realm. Responsible for vital functions, such as authentication and authorization, Azure AD is the key to managing access across the entire Microsoft ecosystem in the cloud. For this reason, it is the target of many cyberattacks. This article will look closely at five security best practices for securing your Azure Active Directory and protecting your business.
Limit Administrator Privileges
Administrator accounts are the #1 target for attackers because they provide access to the most sensitive data and systems in the organization’s ecosystem. While essential to IT and business functions, they also represent a significant risk to your organization.
For this reason, experts insist that it is of paramount importance not only to secure these accounts but also to limit the number of them. To accomplish this goal, you must comprehensively understand your organization’s administrator accounts—apparent and not.
Therefore, in addition to listing members of known groups and roles with admin access, audit individual access rights to ensure that no admin in the shadow is looking for an opportunity to increase his privileges by unregulated means.
Regularly Review Access And Application Permissions
Azure AD goes beyond the powers granted by the on-premises Active Directory; it is responsible for authenticating and authorizing access to users and groups, and applications through authentication methods like SAML or OAuth.
Over time, the applications in question may no longer need the access permissions assigned to them. Without constant monitoring, accesses can multiply, significantly increasing the organization’s attack surface.
Enable Azure AD Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
Azure AD MFA reduces the risk of password-only authentication by asking users for a combination of two or more factors: “something they know” (e.g., a password), “something they have” (e.g., a trusted device, such as a phone) and something they are (e.g., a fingerprint). In general, it is recommended to enable MFA for administrators and the rest of the accounts, especially those that would pose a significant threat if compromised.
Microsoft offers several methods to enable MFA:
- Azure AD Default Security – This option allows organizations to standardize MFA deployment and enforce policies to challenge administrator accounts, require MFA through Microsoft Authenticator for all users, and restrict the inheritance of authentication protocols. This method is available for all licenses.
- Conditional Access Policies – These policies provide the flexibility to request MFA under certain conditions, such as logging in from an unusual location, an untrusted device, or a risky application. This approach only reduces user inconvenience by requiring additional verification when identifying potential risks.
- Change user states individually – This option works with Azure AD in the cloud and Azure MFA Authentication Server. This requires users to perform two-step verification on every login and overrides conditional access policies.
Audit Activity In Azure AD
It is essential to audit what is happening in your Azure AD environment, including logins that take place, changes that are made, and application usage that is made. Organizations should deploy tools that can not only monitor events taking place but also detect and indicate when something unusual or threatening is happening, such as:
- Changes to administrative privileges, e.g., app permissions, app certificates, or critical generation, as well as changes to sensitive roles (e.g., Global Admin) or groups
- Suspicious activity, such as unrealistic or abnormal connection geolocation or abnormal behavior in comparison with historical activity trends
- Signs of known attacks, such as failed login attempts, which may indicate a password-spraying attack
Secure Active Directory On-Premises
While some organizations are deployed exclusively in the cloud, most enterprises currently use a combination of physical systems and cloud-based platforms and applications. In the case of these hybrid AD deployments, the importance of monitoring both Azure AD and Active Directory cannot be overstated.
When identities are synced in place and online with tools such as Azure AD Connect, if a breach affects an AD user account, it will easily affect the Azure AD user account, giving the attacker access beyond the physical boundaries of the infrastructure.
Where To Find Help
Now that you’ve discovered the best practices for hardening your Azure Active Directory environment, it’s time to implement them. Understanding your admin accounts, securing them with MFA, regularly reviewing access, and productively monitoring changes may seem daunting.
Don’t worry: Netwrix has the tools to help! Learn how to audit admin privileges, detect malicious activity across your hybrid ecosystem, and replace vulnerable permanent admin accounts with just-in-time access with our diverse suite of products.
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