Almost all businesses use Power BI to consolidate their multiple data sources together to shape the data into visually interpretable reports. Needless to say, these reports help businesses take important decisions backed by actionable data insights. But is your data secure on Power BI platforms? Ensuring data security on Power BI is critical since they handle sensitive business information raising following concerns:
· Is my cloud data accessible to unauthorized users?
· Are my reports getting shared outside the premises?
· Is my Power BI data center secure on hybrid cloud?
This blog post outlines Power BI security best practices and all the different types of security features offered by Microsoft to safe guard your crucial data from unauthorized users and hackers.
What are the different types of security features in power BI?
Power BI, a business intelligence tool, offers various security features to ensure that data is secure and accessible only to authorized individuals. These features are:
Data security: Control access to data by ensuring that only authorized users can access specific data. Power BI provides several features such as row-level security,dynamic security, and Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) security.
Authentication security:This refers to the process of verifying the identity of a user or device attempting to access the system. Power BI supports various authentication methods, such as Azure AD, Active Directory Federated Services (ADFS), and OAuth 2.0.
Network security: Secure data in transit between Power BI and other systems or users through SSL/TLS encryption.
Compliance security:This refers to ensuring that data is compliant with regulatory requirements such as GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI DSS. Power BI provides several features to ensure compliance, such as data classification, data loss prevention, and audit logs.
24 Best Power BI Security Practices to Implement Now
1. Enable Power BI Row Level Security (RLS)
Row-level security (RLS) is a security feature in Power BI that enables you to restrict data access at the row level based on user roles or other criteria. With RLS,you can control who can access specific data, and which data they can access.
How to add row level security in Power BI?
To implement Power BI row level security, follow these steps:
· Define roles based on user groups, departments, or any other criteria that you choose.
· Assign users to roles either manually, or you can use Active Directory or other authentication providers to automatically assign users to roles.
· Create filters to restrict data access for each role based on any field in your data,such as department, location, or any other criteria that you choose.
· Apply filters to tables in your data model. You can do this by creating a DAX expression that filters the data based on the user's role.
· Test RLS implementation to ensure that it is working correctly by logging in as different users and verifying that they only see the data that they are authorized to see.
Note that you need a Power BI Pro or Power BI Premium license to implement row-level security as it is not available in the free version.
2 . Implement Power BI Object Level Security (OLS)
Instead of restricting users from accessing the entire report or file, limit the access to particular tables and columns with sensitive data such as financial records.This is called Power BI object level security model. However, Microsoft does not allow OLS in Power BI desktop. Use external tools like Tabular editor for configuring OLS and creating roles.
Steps to use the external tools feature to automatically connect the Tabular editor to OLS model.
· Go to model view and select Roles from the drop-down menu.
· Define the role at which you want to enable OLS.
· Go to table permissions and set whether you want a particular column or table to read by the user or not. Selecting None will secure a specific table or column from the user by hiding it and Read option will make it visible.
· Save the changes
· Publish the dataset to the Power BI service and then assign members or groups from the more options from Security page
Only users with permission can access the specific table or column on which OLS is applied, others will get a message ‘field not found.’
Remember Power BI object level security is applicable only to users with viewer role in workspace.
3. Use Azure AD
Azure AD allows you to enforce security policies, control access to your Power BI content, and manage user authentication. Here are some ways to use Azure AD for Power BI Desktop security:
· Single sign-on (SSO) enables users to sign into Power BI Desktop with a single set of credentials. This eliminates the need for users to remember multiple usernames and passwords and reduces the risk of weak passwords or password reuse.
· Conditional access helps control access to Power BI Desktop based on specific conditions,such as user location, device type, or risk level.
· Multi-factor authentication (MFA) adds an extra layer of security to user authentication and provides a second form of authentication, such as a fingerprint or a code sent to their phone number.
· Role-based access control (RBAC) enables you to control the content access based on user roles and permissions assigned.
4. Add Sensitivity Labels
Admins of Microsoft 365 and Azure can control the amount of information shared within and outside the businesses using sensitivity labels. The feature lets admins configure labels on reports thus restricting the distribution capability.
What’s great about this feature is that the labels are also applied to the Office file. However, implementing this security practice can be costly depending on your Microsoft 365 subscription.
5. Secure Workspaces
Adding security to workspaces help you define who can access datasets, reports, and other published content. Dividing the user roles( Admin, member, contributor, and viewer) in workspace will further enhance data security. Additionally, you can limit the extent of data access by assigning privileges to these user roles.
For example, a user with view access can only see the content whereas contributor can make changes in the content. You can define the access level for users from the admin portal and then go to settings.
6. Conduct Regular Auditing
Regularly checking the logs of activities on the Power BI platforms helps evaluate whether all the regulatory requirements are met or not. Only admins with authority to access Office 365 Admin centre can review the Power BI event logs such as dataset created and deleted reports,shared, and exported reports with other users.
7. Limit Guest User Creation
When sharing the content with users outside your business, it is important to add an extra layer of security in Power BI.This external sharing is done through Azure Active Directory B2B where you can set permissions for guest users. There are two ways to share reports and files with guest users:
a. Enable edit and manage settings to enable content browsing and send access requests for a specific content. However, guest users cannot publish or update the reports without the Get Data service. Certain actions are still restricted for guest users, such as direct publishing to Power BI service, sending ad hoc invites, installing published apps, and more.
b. Use in-place dataset sharing, which allows guest users to access the content within their own home tenant.
8. Ensure Data and Service Security
Power BI guarantees data security, whether your data is at rest, in transit, or in use. Azure SQL DB and Azure Blob Storage provide encryption for data at rest while HTTPS encrypts data in transit. However, when sharing data, the complete responsibility of data lies with you.
Use credentials for Power BI reports when sharing with an unauthenticated person. For public reports, disable the ‘Share content with external users’ setting in the admin portal. There is another setting to secure the reports from getting published on the internet. Turn off the‘Publish to web’ setting, do it for the whole organization.
Also, turn off the’ export data’ setting if you don’t want users to print the reports. These settings will help what users can and cannot do with reports.
9. Monitor Data Gateways
Data gateways act as bridges between on-premises data sources and Power BI cloud services.Ensuring that these gateways are secure and up to date is crucial for maintaining data security. There are two ways to monitor and manage them:
a. Keeping your gateway software up to date to benefit from the latest security patches and improvements.
b.Restricting access to gateway administration by granting access only to necessary personnel.
c. Regularly reviewing and updating user permissions and access to gateways.
10. Implement Data Classification and Retention Policies
Implement data classification policies to categorize your data according to its level of sensitivity. Additionally, set up data retention policies to ensure data is stored only for the necessary duration and deleted when it is no longer needed.This reduces the risk of data breaches and ensures compliance with data protection regulations.
11. Educate Your Users
A significant aspect of maintaining security in Power BI is educating your users about the best practices and potential risks. Regularly train your users on topics such as:
a.Recognizing and avoiding phishing attacks
b. Creating strong and unique passwords
c.Understanding the importance of multi-factor authentication
d. Adhering to your organization's data security policies and procedures
12. Perform Regular Security Assessments
Regularly assess the security of your Power BI implementation to identify vulnerabilities and ensure that your security measures are effective. Conduct security assessments such as penetration testing, vulnerability scanning, and risk assessments to detect and fix any potential weaknesses in your system.
13. Utilize Power BI Data Protection Features
Power BI's built-in data protection features, such as Data Loss Prevention (DLP) and Information Rights Management (IRM), further enhance data security. DLP policies help prevent sensitive data from being inadvertently shared or leaked,while IRM allows controlling and restricting access to the sensitive reports and datasets.
14. Monitor User Activity and Anomalies
Track user activity in your Power BI environment to detect unusual or suspicious behavior that could indicate a security breach or unauthorized access. Use tools like Azure AD's monitoring and reporting features to create alerts and notifications for specific activities or behavioral patterns.
15. Develop a Security Incident Response Plan
Outline all the necessary steps to be taken in case of a breach or unauthorized access. Share this plan with all the relevant personnel who play a vital role in preventing those incidents.
16. Custom Security Solutions with Power BI APIs
Using power BI APIs, you can develop and integrate security features like custom authentication, access control, and auditing into your Power BI environment.
17. Secure Embedded Power BI Reports and Dashboards
When embedding Power BI reports and dashboards into your applications or websites,ensure that the embedded content is secure. Embedding options like App Owns Data or User Owns Data allow you control the access to the embedded content and protect it from unauthorized access.
18. Regularly Review and Update Security Measures
Stay informed about the latest security trends, vulnerabilities, and Power BI security best practices to ensure that the Power BI environment remains secure and compliant.
19. Backup and Disaster Recovery Planning
Ensure the availability and integrity of your data in case of a system failure, data loss,or other unexpected events with a backup and disaster recovery plan. Regularly backup your Power BI datasets, reports, and dashboards, and store these backups in a secure offsite location.
20. Secure Data Connections and Integration Points
When connecting Power BI to various data sources and integrating with other systems,ensure that these connections are secure. Use encryption, secure authentication methods, and access controls to protect data flowing between Power BI and external systems.
21. Follow the Principle of Least Privilege
Give users the minimum level of access required to perform their tasks. Regularly review and update their permissions and roles to prevent unnecessary access to sensitive data and features.
22. Utilize Data Masking Techniques
Data masking allows you to display a redacted or obfuscated version of sensitive data,preventing unauthorized users from viewing the actual information while maintaining the overall structure and appearance of the data.
23. Evaluate and Monitor Third-Party Integrations
Be cautious when integrating third-party applications, services, or custom visuals into your Power BI environment. Evaluate the security of these integrations and monitor their access to your data. Ensure that any third-party tools you use adhere to your organization's security standards and best practices.
24. Create a Security Awareness Culture
Promote a security awareness culture within your organization, emphasizing the importance of data security in Power BI and the role that every user plays in protecting sensitive information. Regularly communicate security updates, Power BI security best practices, and guidelines to your users, and encourage them to report any suspicious activity or potential vulnerabilities.
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