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Level 4 Contributor

CSP and Delegated Admin security concerns: MFA is great, but what about the several outstanding Microsoft limitations?

Bringing-forward from https://www.yammer.com/office365partners/?show_login=true#/Threads/show?threadId=145300852449280...  (Why the multiple communities here?  Which is the go-forward platform here, Yammer or microsoftpartnercommunity.com ?)


How to support CSP customers while protecting the security of their tenant? Critical for security-conscious customers, and/or those with high-security requirements. Permissions granted by delegated admin are too far-reaching, do not allow for fine-grained access, and even the ability to audit use is unclear or non-existent.


This is something I had first started looking at just over a year ago. It doesn't look like anything has improved since, but customers are understandably only becoming increasingly concerned with this.


Here is some feedback we just received earlier today from a current customer looking to move to CSP licensing:


> Even with a NDA with <direct CSP provider> I am not at all comfortable making a third party of a third party delegated admins for our environment and granting them the ability to access all our cloud data which is what the terms state we’d be agreeing to. ... I really like the benefits of CSP otherwise so if there’s some other way to make this work we’d probably still do it. I also have reservations about a vendor having these all-encompassing permissions. I understand it can be needed for some admin tasks and troubleshooting but I don’t like how much of a free for all Microsoft makes it.


(I do believe there is some confusion in the above, in that our direct CSP provider / reseller would not have delegated admin - but only access to contact, subscription, and billing details. However, even this would be good to have further detailed in a format that we can share with concerned customers.)


If I were in the customer's place, I would absolutely be asking the exact same questions, and imposing the same requirements - and have so in prior organizations.


I have several other customers I've been working with, who I have not, in good faith, been able to recommend putting into CSP and the required delegated admin for - given the concerns outlined here.


We currently have a few hundred customers enrolled in CSP - and have an opportunity to bring even more into the CSP program, but the concerns outlined here do not help with the effort.


See also: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/cloud-solution-provider/customer-management/administration-delegation


A number of specific points and concerns:


1) The list of roles and permissions that can be applied through Partner Center are available at https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/partner-center/permissions-overview . Of these, only "Admin agent", "Helpdesk Agent", and maybe "Sales agent" apply to the customer tenants. "Admin agent" is basically the equivalent of "Global Administrator" within a customer tenant, and "Helpdesk Agent" is effectively a "Helpdesk Administrator" (Password Administrator). The admin roles from a tenant perspective are documented at https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/office365/admin/add-users/about-admin-roles . As an O365 admin in my own organization, I can delegate permissions to others through at least 262,144 different combinations of the 18 customized administrator roles currently available in my tenant. (This increases to 38 roles available and nearly 275 billion combinations when using the roles available in Azure AD.) As a partner with delegated admin to a customer, there are only 2: "Everything", or "Helpdesk Agent" (or none). See also: https://www.yammer.com/office365partners/#/Threads/show?threadId=119473804279808 and https://www.yammer.com/office365partners/#/Threads/show?threadId=804328021 .


2) Everything is "all or nothing". We also have well over 100 engineers in our organization (not counting back office staff, etc.). To assign either "Admin agent" or "Helpdesk Agent" to one of our staff, means that they have that same permission across a few hundred customers. There is no way to filter a staff member's access to only one customer, or ideally a group of customers. (While we do have some additional flexibility in granting access through guest accounts in Azure AD, these permissions do not carry over to / are not usable in O365.)


3) We could consider falling-back to the use of extended and manually-reviewed audit logging as a compensating control. However, there are many limitations here - including that all logging appears to be held within each individual customer tenant only - and for us to review delegated admin activity from our partner account as a whole, it appears that we'd need to query each and every one of our customer tenants. Further concerns are raised here at https://www.yammer.com/office365partners/#/Threads/show?threadId=62199238885376 (unanswered).


While I'm on the topic, the "pretty wicked security hole" documented at https://office365.uservoice.com/forums/264636-general/suggestions/33233917-powershell-mfa-for-csp-delegated-admin-privileges also still needs to be addressed, well over a year later now. Can someone from Microsoft please review and respond to this UserVoice entry? Everyone else - please vote...


What are other CSP partners doing in terms of security controls to meet customer needs and expectations as it relates to CSP licensing? (We do have our own internal security program that I am a part of - which includes even stronger MFA controls across our entire organization than we'd otherwise been able to have approved, partially because of the customer security concerns here.)


As per https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/uspartner_ts2team/2016/04/30/removing-the-csp-as-delegated-admin-in-office-365-customer-tenants/ , it looks like the simplest answer may to just be to have needing customers remove the delegated admin permissions. However: 1) Is this still accurate and working, 3 years later? And 2) we'll need to determine what limitations, if any, may then exist that would prohibit us from providing CSP licensing in this model, even if we then are not able to directly assign new licenses to users, or otherwise provide direct support to the customer as per CSP terms (at least not without having other customer-provided access given to us).


Just looking at this again now, it looks like we *might* be able to put the "Admin agent" and "Helpdesk Agent" roles behind the new "Azure AD entitlement management". This is less than 2 months old, still in preview, and what Privileged Identity Management really should have been all along, in my opinion. It does require Azure AD Premium P2 (or its parent EMS E5 offfering).


@Mithilaj Not sure if Business Central licenses do show up to buy on admin.microsoft.com in web direct, I know that there is the plan to have them available in web direct but not sure if this has happened. Other options might be via Volume Licensing agreements (e.g. Open Value - would recommend to ask your Partner for alternatives they can offer outside of CSP). 


Note that Partners can now establish Granular Delegated Admin relationship as well, only giving them access to certain areas/services.  And CSP is not only a different way to get a license, the idea is to have Partner doing service & administration and deliver the Licenses all within a single invoice. If you are not interested in getting help on the service itself, indeed CSP might not be the right option. 


That said, since this is a forum for Microsoft Partners, I would recommend to post in Microsoft Dynamics Community

 for other questions relevant to your customer perspective. 

Kind regards, Janosch (Note: Leaving role as of March 2023, don't expect further answers. Connect with me via LinkedIn: https://linkedin.com/in/janoschulmer)
Visitor 1

Hello together,
I have question from a customer which I cant answer.
I hope you can help me.
Boy - I hope I can explain it in english.


OK. They are using partner relationship with another customer im Azure and M365.
And they are using "Delegated administartion privileges (DAP)" _NOT_ "Granular delegated admin permissions (GDAP)".


If understand it right, they should have "Global Admin" privileges in Azure and M365.
Like in this documentation:


They point now is:
They told me they cannot see all administration options, which they should see with "Global Admin" privileges.

I dont know which options are missing, but thats what they told me.

Is there any reason why they should not have all admin options, even though they have "Delegated administartion privileges (DAP)?"




@JKL : Yes, possible that they do not see everything, without knowing the specific workload/portal/service where they have an issue it is impossible to confirm if this is a design limitation or a technical problem.

A delegated admin is an admin that is not in the customer tenant - naturally some portals might have issues with this because they do not understand the user type (e.g. Buying licenses in the customer tenant is not possible as delegated admin).

Kind regards, Janosch (Note: Leaving role as of March 2023, don't expect further answers. Connect with me via LinkedIn: https://linkedin.com/in/janoschulmer)
Level 1 Contributor

Do I understand correctly from the perspective of a CSP's customer, that there's currently no way to use CSP subscriptions without providing full admin rights to the whole subscription? I.e. without giving the CSP unrestricted access to all Azure resources in that subscription?


@zoltanlehoczky : That is not correct. Partner can provision licenses and Azure subscriptions without having permissions. However, with the CSP being the trusted service provider for the customer (at least, this is the idea) the question is if this would make sense.


More Detail:

 - In order to sell something into a customer tenant, the Partner needs to set up a reseller relationship with the customer tenant. This reseller relationship can be set up with or without delegated admin permissions. However, in order to be able to open support tickets on behalf of the customer (since customer can not do this themselves), the Partner needs to have delegated admin - if not present, the Partner can just send the relationship invite again, this time with delegated admin. And customer can remove it later without impact on the billing of licenses. This is where the discussed new "GDAP" comes into play - currently delegated admin means full global admin, in the future this can be more restricted.

 - When Partner provisions an Azure subscription, the Partner will by default always be added as "Owner" on the Azure subscription, even when no delegated admin is established. Without delegated admin, the Partner could not set/customize permission on the subscription, but control services. This "Foreign Principal" created automatically on the Azure subscription permissions can be removed and/or re-added using different set of permissions, e.g. support request contributor. Again, the Partner needs some form of access to be able to open support tickets.


However, for Azure the Partner also needs some form of access 24/7 to receive a margin (Partner Earned Credit) - it does not need to be owner though.  Again, the idea of acting as CSP is that the CSP plays a crucial role in managing the customer environment, so some form of access for the specific Azure services the Partner manages should usually be acceptable. GDAP, when this goes GA;:  will currently not change the Azure behavior, but this might be addressed as well at a later time..



There are more details, tips & tricks to discuss for specific customer scenarios - simply open an advisory request with my team: https://aka.ms/technicalservices to discuss with a Partner consultant.


Kind regards, Janosch (Note: Leaving role as of March 2023, don't expect further answers. Connect with me via LinkedIn: https://linkedin.com/in/janoschulmer)
Level 1 Contributor

Thanks for the detailed reply.


Let's suppose that the customer only wants a billing relationship, nothing else (no management of services, no support tickets, etc.). What's the way to do this?


The subscription created by the Partner will have them as an Owner of it, which as far as I understand gives them unrestricted access (see docs). This access can be removed after provisioning but you're saying "Partner also needs some form of access 24/7". What other form can this be, if not an Owner nor delegated admin? Or rather, what's the role with the minimal level of access that's sufficient? Simply adding a user of the Partner with the Support Request Contributor role would suffice?


@zoltanlehoczky : Yes, adding a user from the Partner tenant as B2B guest or adding a Foreign Principal - both with "Support Request Contributor" Azure RBAC - would work to be able to open support tickets as Partner, and become eligible for Partner Earned Credit.

However, having just the billing relationship somehow defeats the purpose of acting as CSP, if the customer has this ask there is some reason for doubt CSP is the right option for them - if they want to act independently from a Partner maybe they should buy directly from Microsoft instead - this way they would also have the option to raise support tickets themselves in case a problem occurs. 

Kind regards, Janosch (Note: Leaving role as of March 2023, don't expect further answers. Connect with me via LinkedIn: https://linkedin.com/in/janoschulmer)
Visitor 1

Like Mithilaj, we also are a business running into this issue as we contemplate a cloud migration.  Microsoft makes licensing overly difficult, I've spent more time researching licensing than I have the actual technical requirements/steps to complete our migration.  I can't think of any other vendor where I feel like I have to practically have a 4 year degree in licensing verbage to purchase a product or service.  We're a small company, which rules out an Enterprise Agreement and I believe all other programs except for possibly the Open Value licensing for bringing Windows licenses to Azure?  We thought Microsoft had killed the Open Licensing program in January...  I'm still seeing Open Value licenses being sold, so we might be able to go that route. That is our remaining hang up at this point... not how to move our SQL databases to Synapse, or moving our web apps, or even the network appliances and other infrastructure components.  Yes, you can buy the license as part of the VM purchase... if you're willing to pay $100+ a month for Windows per VM which is insane.  A 3 year 8 core license pack of Server Standard 2022 for CSP is ~$600 total.  So it seems like the suggestion is that we either give up global admin rights to a 3rd party for our environment (which we're perfectly happy to manage ourselves) or pay 6x on Windows licensing per VM.  Brilliant.  We're currently using SPLA.


@arh86 : Can you please raise a new thread on your question, this is far away from the original topics in this thread. Also I don't quite get the scenario here - you want to migrate your own environment or those of customers?

If it is your environment, what is it what you are running in there? It sounds like a hosted service  you provide for third parties?  What are your referring to when saying that you need to give up global admin permissions?

Note that only Open License was discontinued, Open Value, Open Value Subscription is still sold. But CSP Software Subscriptions can also be used for Windows Server licenses - if this is a hosted scenario where you are building a "customer solution" for service hosting to third parties, neither CSP Software Subscriptions nor Open Value/OVS can be used though. 


You can also raise a consultation request in my team, see below signature.


Kind regards, Janosch (Note: Leaving role as of March 2023, don't expect further answers. Connect with me via LinkedIn: https://linkedin.com/in/janoschulmer)
Visitor 1

Hi Janosch, 

We are one of the End-users stuck with Business Central Implementation project as we cannot move out of our Global Tenant and we realized our organization is not comfortable with providing delegated administrative rights to a CSP Partner to have the Lisences provisioned.


I learned from your comment that  if we as an end-user want to act independently from a CSP Partner we do have an option of buying Licenses directly from Microsoft instead. Could you guide us here as we would like to purchase Business Central Licenses bypassing a Third Party Partner. 


Level 1 Contributor

I see, great, thank you!

Level 1 Contributor

I agree with the need for granular levels of delegated roles/permissions, one thing I have not been able to figure out though, even with the current setup is if it is at all possible for a partner to be granted access to a customers sharepoint sites for management of document libraries etc.


While the original post is about limiting control (and I'm all for that as it's best practice) as a delegated global admin, I can access the sharepoint admin page but I cannot for example, get into their sharepoint site nor can I find any way for the customer to be able to add myself as a member/owner with their permission in order to be able to manage these things for them as a delegated administrator.


Anyone know of a way to do this? it would make our lives a lot easier if there is a way to enable this functionality such that when asked, we do not have to login as the clients tenant global admin account just to make some changes or check something for them and would rather be able to have not only access but granular control for the engineers as discussed in the OP.


@ITGDaryl With GDAP there is also a broader effort from the product teams to make delegated admin work in the respective admin portals (M365 Security & Compliance Center, Teams as a few examples). If have not heard about specific improvements for Sharepoint though - the main issue is that delegated admin do not exist in the customer tenant, and thus the Sharepoint sites can not identify the users.

You can still onboard the pilot, which would also allow you to give feedback: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/partner-center/announcements/2021-december#9 

Kind regards, Janosch (Note: Leaving role as of March 2023, don't expect further answers. Connect with me via LinkedIn: https://linkedin.com/in/janoschulmer)

Should have updated this earlier, but here it is - GDAP preview now available:

November 2021 announcements - Partner Center | Microsoft Docs

@simbur666 , @Leho @VNJoe @ziesemer @PHarrisonCWSI @patrickbutler @AlexCBrewer 


Kind regards, Janosch (Note: Leaving role as of March 2023, don't expect further answers. Connect with me via LinkedIn: https://linkedin.com/in/janoschulmer)
Level 4 Contributor

Great news. Already registered for pilot.

Level 2 Contributor

While we wait for lighthouse to become a solution for this, we looked into other ways to achieve the goal.  You can do most things using B2B guest access and client targeted URLs (appending the client tenant to the admin URL):


Azure - https://portal.azure.com/customer.com  
Intune - https://endpoint.microsoft.com/customer.com  
Security Center - https://security.microsoft.com/customer.com  
Exchange - https://outlook.office365.com/ecp/@customer.onmicrosoft.com 
SharePoint - https://customer-admin.sharepoint.com/


Unfortunately this doesn't seem to apply for the 365 Admin Center, which is where you would want

Helpdesk staff to be performing User / Exchange tasks, rather than jumping between Azure AD and Exchange (but at least it works, and achieves the goal your client is after).


Here is the process:

1. customer accepts MSP invitation

2. customer removes the admin / helpdesk agent privileges from the partners area of the customers portal (this keeps the association and you can still procure licensing for them, but removes the default partner permissions)

3. create two or more groups in customers Azure AD; one for your Helpdesk and one for Admins (with assign roles to group enabled)

4. assign the roles to the Helpdesk group (change to fit your needs or use custom roles):
User Administrator
Exchange Recipient Administrator

5. assign roles to the Admin group as required from this list (you can use more admin groups to assign roles to different support groups if required):

Intune Administrator
Authentication Administrator
Exchange Administrator
User Administrator
Guest Inviter
Application Administrator
Compliance Administrator
Global Reader
Conditional Access Administrator
Cloud App Security Administrator
License Administrator
Azure AD Joined Device Local Administrator
Groups Administrator
SharePoint Administrator
Privileged Role Administrator
Azure Information Protection Administrator
Security Administrator


6. assign Azure subscription roles to the Admin groups as required:


7. you can also use these groups to assign permissions to certain Azure objects, using the IAM blade under the resource


8. Use Bulk Invite in customers Azure AD users blade to invite all your support staff to the customer tenant as guests


9. Add the invited guest accounts to the groups you created


After a support staff member accepts the invitation, they can open the URLs mentioned above using their standard user account to perform tasks in a customer tenant.

Not perfect, but it does work until MS refines lighthouse.



Visitor 1

Looks like the first (public) use of this functionality to bulk compromise the clients of a Partner (or in this case even worse, the CSP disti to multiple Partners)?  https://www.theregister.com/2021/07/07/synnex_rnc_microsoft_attack/

Synnex have been emailing clients/partners asking them to remove their delegated admin access immediately.


In light of a very similar thing happening via Kaseya last weekend it is now time for Microsoft to close this crazy risk ASAP.


@v-crcarl addin you on this thread for awareness.

Visitor 1

Have there been any improvements to this situation since the last post?   From a customer perspective, I am not comfortable granting delegated global admin to partners.  In fact, I agree with previous posters who point out that this betrays even basic security practice and common sense.   Any alternatives?


@jschw78 Not yet. Alternatives are as discussed here - create a user account in the customer tenant to do administration, and only establish/allow delegated admin when Partner needs to escalate a problem to support.

Kind regards, Janosch (Note: Leaving role as of March 2023, don't expect further answers. Connect with me via LinkedIn: https://linkedin.com/in/janoschulmer)