Azure AD Premium: Why Identity Is the Key to Corporate Cloud Security

There’s one single question that I have to answer almost every day. It comes in many variations, but it amounts to this: “Is it safe?” My answer usually involves Azure AD Premium and the latest developments in identity management.

Security is on the top of everyone’s mind. IBM’s 2016 Cost of Data Breach study found that the average cyberattack destroys company value at $158 per record stolen. The chance of an attack hitting you in next 24 months is better than one in four.

In fact, many IT managers tell me that security concerns are preventing their companies from moving more data and services into the cloud. However, there are crucial security concerns that exist for both on-premises solutions and services that are delivered in the cloud. Instead of losing out on the benefits associated with the cloud, consider the impact of high level security advancements that also come from cloud providers.

When company employees can control access to their network resources wherever they reside, that company is in a better position to manage their risks. The world is increasingly becoming more interconnected in terms of technological access and sensitivity to global economic shocks. Network risks can come from foreign actors, former employees with a grudge, current employees with an economic incentive or simple mistakes. The more detail you have about the person behind the attack, the more accurately you can deploy the appropriate response. That’s why identity has become the new frontier of security.

What Identity Means Now

The role of identity in corporate security was one of the most closely watched discussions at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos earlier this year. The WEF concluded, “In an increasingly borderless and digital world, privacy and security cannot be ensured through the construction of walls around sensitive information. Identity is the new frontier of privacy and security, where the very nature of entities is what allows them to complete some transactions but be denied from completing others.”

Whether physical or digital in nature, identity is a collection of individual attributes that describe an entity and is used to determine the transactions in which the entity can rightfully participate. Identities can be assigned to three main kinds of entities:

  • Individual identity is the old-world concept of identity.
  • The identity of legal entities covers the collective actions of corporations, partnerships, trusts, etc.
  • The identity of assets is the new frontier, involving IoT communications and the digital fingerprint of tangible goods like connected cars and smart offices. Asset identity can also involve intangibles like data, intellectual property and software.

Identity and SSO in Azure AD Premium

Azure AD Premium, integrated with Office 365, is on the forefront of developments in identity management. Organizations of all sizes can now deploy enterprise-level security measures to protect their most valuable data and assets. There are three main identity models that you can implement:

  1. Cloud identity. Small and medium enterprises often prefer to manage their user accounts in Office 365 only. It’s simple and has a lower CapEx profile. You don’t need on-premises servers because you manage all user access rights in the cloud.

  2. Synchronized identity. This hybrid approach lets you sync up on-premises directory objects with Office 365. You manage your users in-house and assure that each user identity has a single password for on-premises systems and accounts in the cloud. Users will need to sign in separately for Office 365.

  3. Federated identity. This is also known as single sign-on (SSO). Many enterprises with a host of apps and systems have to move to this to save IT resources. You sync up on-premises directory objects with Office 365 and manage your users on-premises. It extends the shared password to Office 365, and all users are managed in-house.

There is a great deal more to learn about the state of identity management and where we are heading in the very near future. Contact the cloud security experts at Agile IT to find out exactly how Azure AD Premium and cloud identity access management will help you better manage and secure cloud access.

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