In the complex landscape of corporate cloud management, the tightening of access controls is essential for bolstering security. However, this process can inadvertently lead to self-lockouts, cutting off access to crucial administrative interfaces. Moreover, occasional failures in components like multi-factor authentication (MFA) within Microsoft Entra ID further emphasize the necessity for backup plans. Enter break-glass accounts, also known as emergency access accounts, offering a lifeline during such crises.

Understanding Break-Glass Accounts

Break-glass accounts serve as bastions of privilege, reserved exclusively for emergency situations where standard access methods fail. These accounts operate outside the confines of regular restrictions, exempt from conditional access policies and MFA requirements. They ensure uninterrupted access to critical systems and data, circumventing unforeseen hurdles like authentication failures.

Determining Break-Glass Account Numbers

Regardless of organizational size, the presence of break-glass accounts is imperative. While at least one account is recommended, having two offers redundancy and configuration diversity, minimizing single points of failure.

Securing Break-Glass Accounts

Securing break-glass accounts demands a dual approach encompassing technical and organizational measures.

Technical Measures:

Primary Account:
Utilize FIDO2 keys, offering password-less and phishing-resistant authentication. Employ long, randomly generated passwords, stored securely and discarded after setup. Apply a dedicated conditional access policy mandating phishing-resistant authentication.
Secondary Account:
Employ strong, randomly generated passwords for emergency usability. Ensure password manageability without electronic vaults, favoring secure offline storage methods like paper printouts.

Organizational Measures:

Access Management:
Distribute access responsibilities across multiple individuals to prevent single-point misuse. For large organizations, segregate FIDO2 keys and passwords to different custodians, enhancing accountability.
Physical Security:
Safeguard break-glass account credentials by storing them in secure locations like safes, mitigating the risk of unauthorized access.

Best practices:

Monitoring Break-Glass Accounts with Microsoft Sentinel

Rigorous monitoring is paramount to detect and respond to break-glass account activity effectively. Microsoft Sentinel provides a robust platform for this purpose, offering advanced threat detection and automated response capabilities. Any account usage should trigger high-risk security incident reports within Microsoft Sentinel, ensuring prompt intervention and accountability.

In essence, break-glass accounts serve as indispensable safety nets in the tumultuous terrain of corporate cloud management. By meticulously implementing and safeguarding these accounts, organizations can navigate unforeseen crises with resilience and confidence.

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