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Introducing Microsoft Entra

The truth of the matter is that it is virtually impossible for businesses to plan ahead for the different access scenarios that might arise across the organization as well as its third-party suppliers. Microsoft identifies this need for secure access to a connected world by launching its newly branded suite of products dubbed Microsoft Entra.

Microsoft Entra encompasses all Microsoft identity and access capabilities with the aim of ensuring customers can trust each of their digital experiences and interactions. The company leveraged Microsoft Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), newly acquired Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management platform CloudKnox and Verified Credentials to create a centralized platform for identity and access management.

During the launch, Microsoft also announced the public preview of workload identity management that presents users with world-leading identity security capabilities that come in handy when it comes to protecting apps and services in need of accessing and communicating with different services. Similarly, the public preview of lifecycle management was announced, which should help users automate and simplify the entire identity and access lifecycle. In hindsight, this launch is similar to the Microsoft Purview suite launch in that needed functions were conveniently bundled together for easier management and coordination.

Importance of Microsoft Entra

Two years after the pandemic, hybrid and remote workforces have become the order of the day. While this distributed workforce model boasts of a number of advantages, including an increase in productivity and access to a broader pool of employees, it presents security risks. Particularly, more organizations are coming to terms with the vulnerability that’s identity and access.

This has necessitated the adoption of modern security parameters. At present, identity is solely the ideal security perimeter. Besides, seeing as the cloud is here to stay, IT departments have got to find realistic means to determine who can use particular resources and how these permissions can be assigned to different employees.

What’s more, third-party contractors currently present a security risk that’s in need of a newer and comprehensive defense approach. Finally, the current IT ecosystem comes with threats that are becoming more complex and seem to be presenting greater risk. Overall, seeing as our lives will continue becoming digital, identity and access management is surely timely.

Microsoft Entra Azure Active Directory 

AAD helps safeguard your business with a cloud identity and access management solution. The latter comes in handy when it comes to connecting your employees, customers, and partners within your entire IT ecosystem.

Similar to most organizations, you want to minimize the number of parties with privileged access to secure information and resources. The idea is to reduce the chances of malicious actors getting access to your IT infrastructure and those of an employee or other authorized party, potentially compromising sensitive resources.

Enters, Privileged Identity Management. The latter’s meant to help your business limit your business controls when the need arises. To further protect your IT networks and systems, you also have the option of deploying multifactor authentication (MFA), which is, in hindsight, the most basic means to secure your Office 365 suite.

Further, the chances are that your IT administrators are constantly faced with the choice of whether to empower employees with constant access for greater productivity or protect the organization’s assets. That’s where Azure AD Conditional Access comes in. Administrators can use Conditional Access policies to give access when needed while still keeping your IT infrastructure secure. Finally, with the onset of hybrid and remote workplaces, you are going to need Azure Single Sign-On, an integrated identity solution that ensures your employees will have constant access to all the applications they need without having to sign in every time.

Microsoft Entra Permissions Management (Formerly CloudKnox) 

Microsoft Entra Permissions Management (formerly CloudKnox) is a Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management (CIEM) solution that should enable users to discover, remediate, and monitor permission risks throughout their cloud infrastructure. Users get to manage permissions across the three cloud providers, Azure, Amazon Web Services, and Google Cloud Platform. This comprehensive visibility will be part of what will be standalone offerings getting rolled out this July,

Note that the Entra Permissions Management will be integrated within Microsoft Defender for Cloud dashboard. Finally, it is prudent to mention that you should confuse this with Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) provided by Azure Sentinel.

Microsoft Entra Verified ID   

Microsoft Entra Verified ID is a decentralized identity service that should be available in August. This is a rebranded version of Verified Credentials and is expected to streamline the complexities most businesses encounter during employee onboarding. In retrospect, it appears as though Microsoft is positioning Verified ID as an alternative to SSO.

Traditionally, users had to grant broad consent to the different applications and services. This meant that identity data had to be distributed to different providers across your network. Verified ID is somewhat of a decentralized approach.

Note that for the purpose of pricing, Verified ID is going to be offered as part of AAD with the possibility of premium services in the future. Overall, Verified ID should enable users to secure their interactions better while still staying in line with privacy standards across different platforms. The consequence is faster remote onboarding as businesses can reduce time-to-hire as validating identity information becomes easier. Finally, in the event that your data is compromised, you should be able to easily recover your account, including support calls and security questions, in a streamlined self-service process.

A wide outside shot of a big building of Microsoft.

Preview Microsoft Workload Identity Management 

Microsoft is determined to extend the capabilities of AD Identity Protection, including detecting, investigating, and remediating identity-based risks with Microsoft Workload Identity Management. Specifically, these will be extended to include workload identities meant to protect applications, service principles, and Managed Identities.

These workload identities are a shift from the traditional user accounts in a number of ways. For starters, these workload identities can’t perform MFA. Moreover, they often won’t have a formal lifecycle process, and finally, they need some form of storage for the credentials and identities. In hindsight, these make workload identities a headache to manage as they are increasingly susceptible to compromise.

Microsoft Workload Identity Management that’s in public preview allows you to secure all of your workload identities via Identity Protection and Azure Active Directory Premium P2 edition. You should be able to set access policies, grant permissions, and recognize risks. Further, you should be able to secure access with adaptive policies and finally detect compromised identities.

Customers have available to them Conditional Access for workload identities which enables your team to block access to pre-identified accounts based on how Identity Protection marks them. Besides, you have the ability to investigate risky workloads identities as Identity Protection avails two reports. The latter enables your security team to download the events for further analysis away from the main Azure portal.

Finally, Workload Identity Management allows remediation of risky workload identities. You get an inventory of the assigned credentials on to which you could add a few credentials, remove those that have been compromised, and rotate any Azure KeyVault secrets as part of remediation.

Preview: Lifecycle Workflows 

Nothing streamlines your workflows and safeguards your organization better than Lifecycle Workflows. By simplifying identity governance, you are better able to control access to applications and data. The direct consequence is improved productivity as you then end up empowering your employees as it pertains to accessing resources throughout the enterprise. Besides, it will offer a great foundation for Identity Governance and effective governance throughout the different facets of your modern lifecycle management infrastructure.

Additionally, you should be able to reduce the risk arising from simple access abuse. Your business is able to make smarter access decisions based on machine learning, all of which should help you strengthen your overall security. To curb the rise in cybercrime and safeguard your business from the financial ramifications of data breaches, you need to streamline your entity’s compliance process, which is made easier with Lifecycle Workflow.

Conclusion

Overall, with identity access management, you should be able to automatically create and manage all the different identities within your cloud apps. You have the ability to connect your workflow with human capital management (HCM) systems like SAP SuccessFactors and Workday. Other than improved productivity, your business should be able to benefit from more efficient onboarding, what’s more, being able to automate provisioning and de-provisioning while managing all ongoing changes to user access rights across your ecosystem. Overall, you should be able to maintain employee productivity while still protecting, monitoring, and auditing access to critical infrastructure and assets.

The announcement of Microsoft Entra is timely at a moment when Microsoft seems to be reshaping its security, privacy, and identity offerings. The Entra product family comes at a time when businesses are in need of means to protect access to their apps and resources. Further, businesses should be better equipped to discover and manage permission, especially in today’s cloud boom. Overall, Microsoft should be able to comprehensively secure digital identities from end to end.

Identity is the most important pillar of security. Agile IT leverages the entire stack of Microsoft services. It is to provide security against the most stringent cybersecurity standards in the world. For help implementing Microsoft’s next generation of identity and access management tools, request a quote today.

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