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Microsoft IT Showcase

Just Enough Administration:


Windows PowerShell security
controls help protect enterprise
data
Just Enough Administration (JEA)the latest update that is now included with Windows Management
Framework 5.0is a security technology that helps organizations enforce information security by
restricting IT administrative rights. JEA provides a practical, role-based approach to set up and
automate restrictions for IT personnel, and reduces the risks associated with providing users full
administrative rights.
JEA uses the built-in capabilities of the Windows PowerShell scripting environment. Anything that you
can manage with PowerShell, you can manage with JEA more securely. JEA provides standardized
methods of reducing administrative access with more granularity than traditional access control
models.
JEA allows specific users to perform designated administrative tasks on designated servers without
giving them full administrator rights. JEA is based on Windows PowerShell-constrained run spaces, a
technology used at Microsoft to help secure administrative tasks in environments like Microsoft
Exchange Online.

JEA reduces risk by limiting administrator


exposure
When organizations grant users administrative access to servers, they assume a level of risk based on
trust. Traditionally, organizations grant administrative rights to users who are entrusted with IT
administration. Depending on the system, the level of access ranges from full control over every
aspect of the system to more granular levels, where only certain components can be changed.

Before JEA, access control models were potentially risky


Before JEA, access to perform specific tasks was grouped into defined roles. But even the best-
intentioned role-based access control (RBAC) models give users more access than they need. This
leaves room for potential risk. For example:

Operations auditors need access to verify server logs, but they shouldnt be able
to make changes to settings or information on the server. When used as a way to
provide access to server logs, unrestricted administrative access opens the
opportunity for auditors to inadvertently make changes to business-critical
systems.
Helpdesk or front-line administrators are responsible for basic troubleshooting
tasks on a server, or server instance, but shouldnt have full administrative
access to the server itself.
A server operator who is expected to apply the latest security updates typically
requires total control over the application server, either directly or through a
tool. In addition, the operator may need to complete other tasks such as
starting or stopping services or restarting hardwarebefore and after applying
updates to system components. This full control could result in inappropriate
service shutdowns or restarts.
In an RBAC model, its hard to grant access to a service provider that is
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responsible for implementing changes on behalf of a tenant without exposing


tenant data. Such a service provider needs to be able to restart a service
during an outage or to provision additional capability, but shouldnt be able to
sign in to the tenant environment.

How JEA addresses risk


JEA overcomes many of the challenges of implementing a comprehensive RBAC model.

Users can perform only those tasks for which they are authorized as part of their
role by using Windows PowerShell constrained run spaces.
Users can perform required tasks without being given administrator rights on the
server.
The tasks that users are allowed to perform, and their server access, are defined
and managed from a central configuration server by using Windows PowerShell
Desired State Configuration (DSC).
Constant, detailed logging gives details about who has accessed the
environment and whats been changed.

How JEA works


JEA provides an RBAC platform that allows you to create a management endpoint on any computer and
to manage it locally or remotely. JEA is implemented as a Windows PowerShell session endpoint, which
includes a PowerShell Session Configuration file and one or more Role Capability files.
PowerShell Session Configuration file. This file lets you specify who can connect to an
endpoint. You can map users and security groups to specific management roles. You can also
configure global settings such as virtual accounts and transcription (logging) policies. PowerShell
Session Configuration files are specific to each machine, so you can control access on a per-
machine basis, if you want.

Role Capability files. These files let you specify what actions users in a
particular role can perform. For instance, you can restrict them to using
certain cmdlets, functions, providers, and external programs. Role Capability
files are often generic for a particular role (such as DNS admin, tier 1
helpdesk, read-only inventory auditing). They are part of PowerShell modules,
and you can easily share them with others.

An example of JEA
Suppose you have users in your organization who are part of Tier 1 frontline support. These users
typically troubleshoot and perform routine tasks to help resolve issues. They can use many of
PowerShells diagnostic cmdlets to perform their troubleshooting, while having limited ability to add,
remove, or change objects.
To support such users, you can take advantage of the updated JEA Helper Tool, which helps you easily
create an endpoint definitionusing a graphical user interface (GUI). This tool guides you through
creating and deploying your own Session Configuration and Role Capability files. You can use any
cmdlets, and specify any roles, security groups, and individuals assigned to a particular role.

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Implementing JEA at Microsoft


Microsoft IT conducted a successful pilot using the original version of JEA on many servers in its
production environment. Now that JEA has been redesigned, were exploring scenarios to drive
adoption of least-privileged access to reduce security risk.

Benefits of JEA
Reduce the number of administrators in your environment. JEA enables
administration and management of computers without the need for privileged
credentials.
Easily create and configure your own endpoints. Set up your non-
administrators to perform specified commands, functions, scripts, and
executables as if they were administrators. With new role definitions, virtual
accounts, and other improvements, its now even easier to create and configure
endpoints, by using the JEA Toolkit Helper.
Limit what users can do, with control. Decide precisely what actions youll
let your users carry out; for instance, which cmdlets, functions, and external
commands they can run. JEA eliminates the need for elevated, privileged
administrator credentials that can be lost, stolen, or misused.
See what users are doing, with actionable logging and reporting. All
operations performed through the JEA endpoint can be recorded in the
Windows event log. These event logs show who accessed the environment
and when, and what changes were made.

Challenges
The primary challenge that Microsoft IT has faced while implementing JEA has been that many
administrators are still accustomed to using GUIs rather than the Windows PowerShell command-line
shell and scripting environment. Windows PowerShell uses common cmdlets to perform common
system administration tasks, such as managing the registry, services, processes, and event logs, and
using Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI). Beyond using JEA Windows PowerShell security
controls to help protect servers in the enterprise, Windows PowerShell proficiency is quickly becoming
a necessity in administering Windows-based systems. Although its a worthwhile time investment, this
learning curve has influenced how quickly JEA can be implemented across the production environment.

Get JEA
The current release of JEA is available on the following platforms:
Windows Server

Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview 5 and higher


Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2012, and Windows Server 2008
R2* with Windows Management Framework 5.0 installed
Windows Client

Windows 10 with the November Update (1511) installed


Windows 8.1, Windows 8, and Windows 7* with Windows Management

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Framework 5.0 installed


* Support for virtual accounts in JEA sessions is currently not available on Windows Server 2008 R2 or
Windows 7.

For more information


JEA documentation on GitHub

Windows PowerShell blog

Microsoft IT Showcase
microsoft.com/itshowcase

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trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries. The names of actual companies
and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners. This document is for
informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.

microsoft.com/itshowcase May 2016