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Microsoft Previews Office 365 Privileged Access Management

Microsoft this week announced the availability of a preview of a new Privileged Access Management capability for IT departments overseeing Office 365 tenancies.

The preview of Privileged Access Management for Office 365 is just available to tenancies with Office 365 E5 subscriptions. It's also available to organizations using "advanced compliance SKUs," according to the announcement, although that requirement wasn't defined.

Privileged Access Management is a policy-based scheme that limits the administrative tasks that IT pros can do in an organization. It keeps a log of the permissions that were granted, and includes a way for workers to request access related to a task. There's also a "just-in-time" (JIT) access capability that grants permissions for a specific time period so that the access doesn't stay open, which could enable "rogue administrators." Tasks can be limited, too, with a "just-enough-administration" capability.

Right now, at the preview stage, the Privileged Access Management for Office 365 capability can only address Exchange Online tasks. It'll be expanded to support "other Office 365 workloads" in the future, the announcement promised.

The Privileged Access Management for Office 365 preview is a new addition to the Office 365 Admin Center management portal, but IT pros with access to the portal won't necessarily see it. The preview currently is only available after signing up to use it, as described in Microsoft's announcement. Privileged Access Management for Office 365 is only available to global or tenant administrators, but Microsoft is working on adding a new role with access to it.

Microsoft already has an Azure Active Directory Privileged Identity Management capability, and it would seem it might cover Office 365 services, as well. However, Microsoft has a different conception about the two tools. It sees them as complementary, with one serving for overall role access control, while the other is for task-level control. Here's how Microsoft's announcement characterized the distinction:

Privileged access management in Office 365 can be defined and scoped at the task level, while AAD PIM applies at the role level with the ability to execute multiple tasks. AAD PIM primarily allows managing accesses for AD roles and role groups while privileged access management in Office 365 is applied at the task level.

Microsoft designed the Privileged Access Management for Office 365 preview based on how it manages its own administrative access internally. All activity gets logged and is auditable for "internal reviews and auditor requests," the announcement explained.

Questions about the new capability will be fielded in an upcoming "ask Microsoft anything" online Q&A session. It's scheduled for May 24, and runs from 9 to 10 a.m. PST.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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