Getting More Out of Microsoft Entra ID With Extension and Custom Security Attributes

Microsoft Entra ID offers a robust identity management platform that can be extended and customized to meet specific organizational needs. Two powerful features that can significantly enhance functionality and security are directory extension attributes and custom security attributes. Effectively using these features can greatly improve your identity management and security posture. 

What are Microsoft Entra ID Directory Extensions? 

Microsoft Entra ID directory extensions are additional properties that can be added to the default set of attributes provided by Microsoft Entra ID. They can be used to extend the schema in Microsoft Entra ID with attributes from on-premises Active Directory. These attributes allow the storage of additional information about directory objects (such as users, groups, or devices) that are not included in the standard schema. This enables organizations to build line-of-business (LOB) apps by consuming attributes that you continue to manage on-premises.

Extension attributes provide flexibility in managing custom information that is unique to your organization. These extensions can be accessed via the Microsoft Graph Explorer and can be used to build dynamic groups. 

How Can Microsoft Entra ID Directory Extension Attributes Be Utilized?

Custom User Information: Store additional user information such as employee IDs, department codes, or personal preferences. This data can be used to personalize user experiences or integrate with other business applications.

Enhanced Application Integration: Facilitate the integration of third-party applications by storing application-specific data within Microsoft Entra ID. This can simplify application configurations and reduce the need for separate databases.

Streamlined Workflows: Use extension attributes to streamline business workflows by storing relevant data directly within the directory. For example, you can store approval statuses, project assignments, or training completions, making it easier to automate and manage these processes.

Improved Reporting and Compliance: Keep track of additional compliance-related information such as certification dates, audit statuses, or regulatory classifications. This can help ensure that your organization meets compliance requirements and simplifies reporting processes.

What are Microsoft Entra ID Custom Security Attributes? 

Custom security attributes in Microsoft Entra ID are designed to enhance access management and security by allowing organizations to define and manage their own security-related properties. These attributes provide a more granular level of control over access policies and can be tailored to meet specific security requirements. They are business-specific attributes (key-value pairs) that can be defined and assigned to Microsoft Entra objects. Currently, custom security attributes support the following capabilities: 

  • Define business-specific information for your tenant
  • Add a set of custom security attributes on users and applications
  • Manage Microsoft Entra objects using custom security attributes with queries and filters
  • Provide attribute governance so attributes determine who can get access

You cannot use custom security attributes to extend the schema of Microsoft Entra Domain Services or as SAML token claims. 

Custom security attributes differ from directory extensions in a number of ways. For example, while both types can be used to extend objects in Microsoft Entra ID, only the custom security attributes can have read/write access restricted through a separate RBAC model.

Directory extensions are viewable by anyone with permission to read the object. Therefore, directory extension attributes should never be used to store sensitive data. 

How Can Custom Security Attributes Be Leveraged in an Effective Access Management Program?

Role-Based Access Control (RBAC): Define custom security attributes that align with your organization’s roles and responsibilities. These attributes can be used to enforce RBAC policies more effectively, ensuring that users have the appropriate level of access based on their roles.

Conditional Access Policies: Use custom security attributes to create more granular conditional access policies. For example, you can define attributes that indicate whether a user has completed specific security training or whether a device meets certain security standards. These attributes can then be used to enforce access conditions.

Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC): Implement ABAC by leveraging custom security attributes to define access policies based on user, device, and environment attributes. This approach provides greater flexibility and control over who can access what resources under specific conditions.

Security Posture Monitoring: Monitor and assess the security posture of users and devices by defining custom attributes that track security-related information. For instance, you can create attributes to track the presence of multi-factor authentication, device encryption status, or software versions. This data can be used to enforce security policies and quickly identify potential vulnerabilities.

Compliance and Auditing: Ensure compliance with regulatory requirements by defining and managing custom security attributes that track compliance-related information. This can simplify the auditing process and provide clear visibility into your organization’s compliance status.

Final Thoughts

Microsoft Entra ID’s directory extension attributes and custom security attributes offer powerful ways to extend and enhance the functionality and security of your identity management system. By utilizing these attributes, organizations can store additional custom information, streamline workflows, improve application integration, and enforce more granular access and security policies. Implementing these features can lead to a more effective and secure access management program, tailored to meet the unique needs of your organization. 

To learn more about how to leverage these features in your Microsoft Entra ID deployment, contact Oxford Computer Group for a detailed consultation. Our experts can help you implement these capabilities to optimize your identity management and security strategies. 

Further Resources

Webinar Recording: Configuring and using Custom Claims in Microsoft Entra ID