Managing SharePoint roles dynamically

Posted by Edward Killeen on Thu, Feb 21, 2013

Looking at the title of this blog post, you would think, "that's crazy, there are no roles in SharePoint!"  Microsoft liberally uses SharePoint groups to mean roles in their documentation, but these groups aren't useful in any RBAC manner beyond SharePoint.  SharePoint can also utilize Active Directory security groups, but there is a downside to this with token bloat and the accidental mixing of permissions between SharePoint and AD (add a user to a group to grant access to a SharePoint site accidentally gives them access to the deepest darkest secrets in accounting).

Dynamic SharePoint rolesGroups are not roles.  Especially when they are static by nature.  Over 85% of organizations manage groups manually, you can never really be certain that the correct users are in the correct groups if that is the case.  You need your roles to be dynamic and rule-based.  You need your RBAC to be augmented by ABAC for on the fly fine grained permissions.

So, how do you do this in SharePoint?  By setting EmpowerID as your claims provider. SharePoint Claims providers add claims to the security tokens of users when configuring permissions on secure objects like lists, sites, items, and documents.

This gives you the ability to expose your roles in the People Picker to find and select people, groups, and claims when a site, list, or library owner assigns permissions in Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010. When claims-based authentication is used, the People Picker allows end-users to search and select claims for permissions assignments from a custom Claim Provider or Claims Augmentation provider just as they would normally search for users or groups. Typically a Claims Provider would support more flexible role-based assignments or dynamic fine-grained authorization assignments to increase the flexibility and security of the SharePoint permissions system.

In EmpowerID's RBAC engine, roles are assigned dynamically, either by set groups or a role structure (location/department, etc).  The role structure is polyarchical and is generated based on your applications and corporate structure.  Powerful RBAC policies leverage EmpowerID’s multi-tiered model to pre-calculate access to all known enterprise applications and resources based on an organization’s structure, a person’s job function, and all directly assigned access. These rules allow information from authoritative systems to drive changes in application access and provisioning policies.

What you end up with are roles that can be applied to any application, access or provisioning policy.  The role membership is updated dynamically based on changes in identity information from any connected identity store (HR, customer database, Active Directory) and inventoried as often as every couple of minutes.  And, very importantly, used to manage SharePoint permissions without having end users have to manually update AD or SharePoint groups. 

Think about that, SharePoint permissions that stay accurate without you having to manage it!

These permissions can be assigned as Administrator, Contributor, Reader or any level of access within SharePoint.  When the user signs in, the EmpowerID claims provider will pass along a claim with all of the user's permissions within SharePoint.  You can even use EmpowerID for SharePoint single sign-on for external or internal users.  The same process applies and you won't have to give an AD account to the external user.

Make SharePoint work by managing SharePoint roles dynamically.  If you want a demo, we would be happy to show you how this works by clicking here.  Or click the button below for a whitepaper on our method of managing permissions with an RBAC / ABAC hybrid.

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Tags: Role Based Access Control (RBAC), SharePoint