Tag Archives: Power BI Data Security

Power BI Data Security – Power BI Report Server

Power BI Security LogoPower BI Report Server was released as a way to host reports on premises. It was one of the highest requested features for Power BI. Power BI Report Server offers a subset of Power BI Service capabilities and as such does not have the rich collaborative or security options as seen in the service (online). I have a number of other thoughts on this tool, but that is not the purpose of this post. I am often asked in sessions on Power BI Data Security about Power BI Report Server. The problem is that Power BI Report Server is not what Power BI was intended to be and as such security is very different.

Power BI Report Server Uses Files and Folder Security Model

Unlike Power BI Service which leverages the Office 365 security model with workspaces and apps, Power BI Report Server only supports deploying Power BI Desktop files as Power BI Reports in SQL Server Reporting Services. Each file is uploaded to the Report Server and it is viewed by opening the report.

Power BI Report Server - Portal

You have essentially three layers of access to the report file security in Power BI Report Server.

  1. The portal itself can be secured. You can and should limit access to the reports by only allowing specific users or groups access to the report portal.
  2. Folders can be used to provide more granular security over a group of assets in the report portal. In the image above, I created a folder called PBI Secure Reports. A specific AD group has access to this folder. If a user does not have permissions to the folder, the folder does not show up in the portal and they cannot access the folder or the assets, including Power BI reports, stored in this folder.
  3. Individual reports can be secured as well. I never recommend this option as it becomes administratively difficult to manage. However, the capability is there is a single asset needs to be secured in this fashion.

These options work for any asset stored in the Report Portal and are not limited to Power BI reports.

Power BI Report Server Report Nuances

If you have read many of my posts around Power BI Data Security, I have discussed gateways, workspaces, and even Office 365 groups. The following items are uniquely related to Power BI reports stored in the report server.

Data Sources

Because it is not possible to use a Reporting Services Shared Data Source with your Power BI reports at this time (not sure if this will change), the data source information will need to be managed by report. This is not dissimilar to the Power BI Service. However, for on premises data we use the gateway with the service. There is not a common or shared data access feature in Power BI Report Server. Data sources are included in the report and can be managed in the deployed report by clicking the ellipses on the icon and selecting manage.

Power BI Report Server - Data Source

Only the report creator, Content Managers, and Publishers have permissions to see and modify this information.

Protecting Data Sources

One concern raised is whether data sources with credentials are downloaded when the Power BI file is downloaded. First key idea is that only users with the Publisher and Content Manager roles can download the files

When a Power BI report file is downloaded, you are prompted for credentials when refreshing data. Passwords are encrypted so they must be reentered when the file is opened or data refreshed in the desktop.

Mapping SSRS Roles to Power BI Functions

The portal, folders, and files are secured using SSRS roles. Here is a high level summary of the roles and how it impacts Power BI Reports

  • Browser – This is similar to a read only function or if you would deliver the report as a Power BI App in the service. This should be used by anyone who needs access to the report, but does not create content.
  • Content Manager – This is for a content creator with admin privileges. This role can manage content and user access.
  • Publisher – This is for content creators who do not need to manage users. Most content creators fall into this category.
  • Report Builder – does not apply to Power BI Reports which use Power BI Desktop to develop reports.

Avoid Deploying to the Portal Home Page

I would recommend you not allow Power BI reports to be deployed to the primary portal, but create folders to manage the group of content creators and managers based on the department or group level needs.

Reports deployed to the home page of the portal should be managed as enterprise assets. Use the folders and related security groups to manage who can deploy at this  level.

Wrap Up

I would like to extend a special thanks to Kathy Vick, Principal Consultant at Pragmatic Works. She provided guidance on implementing Power BI Report Server. Thanks Kathy for the help on this topic. Check out Kathy’s Twitter (@MsKathyV)  and LinkedIn account to learn more.

Check out more about Power BI Data Security in my blog series.

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Power BI and Data Security – Audit Logs, Powershell, Power BI and @AngryAnalytics

The following has been reposted with permission from Steve Howard a.k.a. @AngryAnalytics. I have made some formatting changes but the content is unchanged. Thanks again to Steve for allowing me to repost this content. You can find the original post and the rest of Steve’s great work on his blog.

Power BI Audit Log Analytics Solution

As Power BI adoption in your organization grows, it becomes more and more important to be able to track the activity in the environment.

When you start to think about deploying a Power BI Audit Log solution that is repeatable there are a few challenges that you will face.

  • Going to the O365 Audit Logs portal each time you want to extract log events is a manual process and doesn’t scale
  • When automating this process through API or PowerShell, there is a limit to how much data you can pull, therefore examples that are currently available also don’t scale very well
  • The AuditData field is a JSON format by default and although Power BI can parse JSON beautifully, when doing this over several thousand record entries may result in data load errors

Based on these factors, i have put together a PowerShell script that can be scheduled on a nightly basis that can iterate MORE than 5000 records so that no data is lost. Also, the screenshot below is of an initial template that you can use to start with to analyze your audit logs for your organization.

TL;DR

  • The required files can be found on my GitHub
  • Update the PowerShell script with a UserID and Password that has O365 audit log privileges
  • Use Task Scheduler to schedule the PowerShell script to run each night at midnight (run as admin).
  • At the end of the script, specify the directory you would like the script to generate CSV files in
  • In the PBIX file, it was challenging to get a parameter to work for the file location that the CSVs are in, so in the Query Editor the script for the AuditLog table needs to be manually modified to include your file path.
  • Enjoy

Quick look at the PowerShell

First, there is a PowerShell script.

Set-ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned

#This is better for scheduled jobs
$User = "<<enter o365 admin user email here>>"
$PWord = ConvertTo-SecureString -String "<<enter password here>>" -AsPlainText -Force
$UserCredential = New-Object -TypeName "System.Management.Automation.PSCredential" -ArgumentList $User, $PWord

#This will prompt the user for credential
#$UserCredential = Get-Credential

$Session = New-PSSession -ConfigurationName Microsoft.Exchange -ConnectionUri https://outlook.office365.com/powershell-liveid/ -Credential $UserCredential -Authentication Basic -AllowRedirection
Import-PSSession $Session

$startDate=(get-date).AddDays(-1)
$endDate=(get-date)
$scriptStart=(get-date)

$sessionName = (get-date -Format 'u')+'pbiauditlog'
# Reset user audit accumulator
$aggregateResults = @()
$i = 0 # Loop counter
Do { 
 $currentResults = Search-UnifiedAuditLog -StartDate $startDate -EndDate $enddate `
 -SessionId $sessionName -SessionCommand ReturnLargeSet -ResultSize 1000 -RecordType PowerBI
 if ($currentResults.Count -gt 0) {
 Write-Host (" Finished {3} search #{1}, {2} records: {0} min" -f [math]::Round((New-TimeSpan -Start $scriptStart).TotalMinutes,4), $i, $currentResults.Count, $user.UserPrincipalName )
 # Accumulate the data
 $aggregateResults += $currentResults
 # No need to do another query if the # recs returned <1k - should save around 5-10 sec per user
 if ($currentResults.Count -lt 1000) {
 $currentResults = @()
 } else {
 $i++
 }
 }
} Until ($currentResults.Count -eq 0) # --- End of Session Search Loop --- #

$data=@()
foreach ($auditlogitem in $aggregateResults) {
 $datum = New-Object –TypeName PSObject
 $d=convertfrom-json $auditlogitem.AuditData
 $datum | Add-Member –MemberType NoteProperty –Name Id –Value $d.Id
 $datum | Add-Member –MemberType NoteProperty –Name CreationTime –Value $auditlogitem.CreationDate
 $datum | Add-Member –MemberType NoteProperty –Name CreationTimeUTC –Value $d.CreationTime
 $datum | Add-Member –MemberType NoteProperty –Name RecordType –Value $d.RecordType
 $datum | Add-Member –MemberType NoteProperty –Name Operation –Value $d.Operation
 $datum | Add-Member –MemberType NoteProperty –Name OrganizationId –Value $d.OrganizationId
 $datum | Add-Member –MemberType NoteProperty –Name UserType –Value $d.UserType
 $datum | Add-Member –MemberType NoteProperty –Name UserKey –Value $d.UserKey
 $datum | Add-Member –MemberType NoteProperty –Name Workload –Value $d.Workload
 $datum | Add-Member –MemberType NoteProperty –Name UserId –Value $d.UserId
 $datum | Add-Member –MemberType NoteProperty –Name ClientIP –Value $d.ClientIP
 $datum | Add-Member –MemberType NoteProperty –Name UserAgent –Value $d.UserAgent
 $datum | Add-Member –MemberType NoteProperty –Name Activity –Value $d.Activity
 $datum | Add-Member –MemberType NoteProperty –Name ItemName –Value $d.ItemName
 $datum | Add-Member –MemberType NoteProperty –Name WorkSpaceName –Value $d.WorkSpaceName
 $datum | Add-Member –MemberType NoteProperty –Name DashboardName –Value $d.DashboardName
 $datum | Add-Member –MemberType NoteProperty –Name DatasetName –Value $d.DatasetName
 $datum | Add-Member –MemberType NoteProperty –Name ReportName –Value $d.ReportName
 $datum | Add-Member –MemberType NoteProperty –Name WorkspaceId –Value $d.WorkspaceId
 $datum | Add-Member –MemberType NoteProperty –Name ObjectId –Value $d.ObjectId
 $datum | Add-Member –MemberType NoteProperty –Name DashboardId –Value $d.DashboardId
 $datum | Add-Member –MemberType NoteProperty –Name DatasetId –Value $d.DatasetId
 $datum | Add-Member –MemberType NoteProperty –Name ReportId –Value $d.ReportId
 $datum | Add-Member –MemberType NoteProperty –Name OrgAppPermission –Value $d.OrgAppPermission

#option to include the below JSON column however for large amounts of data it may be difficult for PBI to parse
 #$datum | Add-Member –MemberType NoteProperty –Name Datasets –Value (ConvertTo-Json $d.Datasets)

#below is a poorly constructed PowerShell statemnt to grab one of the entries and place in the DatasetName if any exist
 foreach ($dataset in $d.datasets) {
 $datum.DatasetName = $dataset.DatasetName
 $datum.DatasetId = $dataset.DatasetId
 }
 $data+=$datum
}

$datestring = $startDate.ToString("yyyyMMdd")
$fileName = ("c:\PBIAuditLogs\" + $datestring + ".csv")
Write-Host (" writing to file {0}" -f $fileName)
$data | Export-csv $fileName

Remove-PSSession -Id $Session.Id
  • Notice that you need to enter O365 audit log privileged credentials at the top so that this can be ran automatically. If you have more clever ways to pass these credentials in so they are not exposed in the file by all means, do that
  • The Do/Until loop handles if there are more than 5000 records in the result set which would easily be the case for a large Power BI community.
  • The foreach loop extracts the AuditData column JSON format and creates an individual record for each entry. This makes the Query Editor in Power BI less complex and easier to accomplish retrieving several hundred thousand records without import errors
  • finally we create a CSV for the data with the date of the file entries (yesterdays info if this is ran at midnight every day). This dumps each file in c:\PBIAuditLogs. You can obviously change this file location to wherever you want to store your CSV extracts

You can use Task Scheduler to run the above PowerShell script every night at midnight.

The PBIX file

In the Power BI file, we are connecting to the content of the entire folder shown above. I went ahead and included the PBIX file WITH the sample data so you could get an idea of what your data may look like.

This is where i have to admit that i tried to use a parameter for this but ran into some Query Editor challenges with how Power BI creates a Sample File transform to import multiple files from a single folder. If you can see what i did wrong here I would love your feedback, but for now, you can ignore the file directory parameter in the Query Editor and need to go to “Advanced Editor” on the “AuditLog” query and modify the file location to be the location you are dumping files from the PowerShell script.

Change the below file location as needed.

Once you have made this change, you should be able to “Close and Apply” and your data will now be populated in this basic audit log analytics view.

Using the file

I created a couple basic pages to get this blog post shipped and so you can start taking advantage of the solution, but it is nowhere near as complete as you can eventually make it. I have a simple overview page that was screenshotted above. It can help you determine number of active users, reports, dashboards, and datasets being used for any time period your audit log data covers.

The second page is a user activity view I created from a calculated table. It helps you determine which users in the system may be inactive so you can re-assign power bi licenses and also shows detailed activity for an individual user that you can select from the slicer.

Other things you can mine from this data:

  • Who has signed up for Free Power BI trials
  • What “Apps” are being created
  • what embed tokens are being generated and used
  • many other possibilities

The PowerShell script and the PBIX file are located on my GitHub here

Link to the original post:  http://angryanalyticsblog.azurewebsites.net/index.php/2018/02/16/power-bi-audit-log-analytics-solution/

Thanks again, Steve

SQL Saturday – Dallas – May 2018

sqlsat-dallas-2018I was able to present at SQL Saturday Dallas this year. Thanks to those of you who were able to attend. As I noted in the meeting you can find details related to Power BI Data Security in the following posts on my site.

Power BI Is Finally in the Azure Trust Center

Power BI Data Security – Sharing in Email

Power BI Data Security – Sharing

Power BI and Data Security – App Workspaces and Power BI AppsPower BI Security Logo

Power BI and Data Security – Free User’s Cannot Share, Read Only in Premium

Power BI and Data Security – Row Level Security (RLS)

Power BI and Data Security – Data Classification and Privacy Levels

Power BI and Data Security – On-premises Data Gateway

Power BI and Data Security – Sharing Data

Power BI and Data Security – Compliance and Encryption

I have also added the presentation here if you want to review it as well.

Thanks again for joining me in Dallas.

Power BI and Data Security – App Workspaces and Power BI Apps

Power BI Security LogoShortly after I published the Power BI Security Sharing Data post in April, Power BI Premium, Power BI Apps, and Power BI App Workspaces were released. These changes impacted that post in many ways. As part of the follow up, I also did an updated webcast with Pragmatic Works. This is a follow up post with some of the changes called out.

We are in the process of restructuring our organization around Apps and App Workspaces. Here are some of the highlights and changes related to sharing data using these new features.

Information Architecture and the Importance of Planning

My company, Pragmatic Works, uses a number of collaborative features in Office 365 including Planner, Teams, SharePoint, and Power BI. With this level of usage, a number of Office 365 groups get created. As we begin the process of updating our reporting structure, we will be using the App Workspace model to manage content creation and the Power App model to deploy content to users.

Before we began, we had to understand who the content creators are and who the consumers would be. App Workspaces are currently managed as Office 365 groups. We have a lot groups that match to our consumers, however, they really don’t work for content creators. Why? As we began the research, consumers exist in the current groups and are excellent targets. App Workspaces already exist for these users and groups due to our use with Teams and SharePoint. But due to the current limitations within Power BI and Office 365 with regards to group management, we need to create new App Workspaces, which also create new Office 365 groups to manage content creators. Typically these groups will be small and easy to manage. By limiting the users in these workspaces, we are also able to keep the additional clutter that is required.

In our process, we treated the end result as the guidance for the required workspaces. Each workspace creates and app that we want to target a specific set of consumers. By starting there, we created the list of workspaces we need to create. Because the apps and workspaces have a 1:1 relationship with each other, the apps (collection of Power BI content with the same permissions) are the determining factor for whether a workspace will be required. Our goal was to have the appropriate level of security while still minimizing management of the additional workspaces.

App Workspaces

We created the App Workspaces based on our Information Architecture Plan. The workspaces were created with two admins and set with members who would be content creators. Part of our exercise was to understand the impact of changing roles in Office 365 and related products such as Teams. What we learned is that Admin and Owner roles are shared throughout and managed by the Office 365 group. If you make a user an Owner in Teams they become an Admin in the matching Power BI Workspace. THIS IS IMPORTANT! While creating additional workspaces for report creation adds complexity by creating Office 365 groups, we have different security and content management rules for Power BI groups.

The Admins have the ability to add users to the group. Members do not. Also a Team, for instance, may have 100s of members who are essentially consumers. We are using the same role, Member, to assign to content creators. Consumers will use the Power BI Apps to view and consume the data made available. Because of this distinction, we created new Power BI App Workspaces.

When creating Members in Power BI Workspaces, you have the option to make those members View Only. However, doing so means all content creators will need to be Workspace Admins. This may work well for your organization, but remember Admins have elevated permissions as they are also Owners in Office 365 groups.

Preventing App Workspace Creation

Currently the only way to prevent App Workspace creation in a Power BI subscription is to disable the ability to create Office 365 groups or limit that capability to a small group of people. (NOTE: This affects all Office 365 applications which use Groups to segment the app such as Teams.) This is done using PowerShell. You can find details here including what applications are affected by this change.

Power BI Apps

In order to use Power BI Apps, all users need to have a Power BI Pro license or the apps need to be deployed to Power BI Premium. Whether you choose to use Pro or Premium should be evaluated for your organization. With current retail pricing, around 500 consumers is the “break even point” when only considering licensing. I will be discussing non-license related reasons to choose Premium in a later post.

When publishing or updating an app as noted in the images below. You have the ability to assign permissions to the app. Unlike Workspaces, you are able to assign distribution lists, individuals, and security groups to an App. This allows you to manage consumers using Active Directory (AAS). PBI Workspace and App

PBI App Permissions

Once Apps are deployed, a link can be sent to the users or they can find it in their available apps from Microsoft Appsource and their organizations deployed apps. They should only see apps they have been given permissions to. Once they get the app and open it, they have read only access but full Power BI interactive capabilities.

Power BI Apps will honor Role Level Security (RLS). However, unlike content packs, users cannot modify or change any content in the app including dashboards. When using apps, you are essentially creating the entire experience for the user and it cannot be “personalized” with their own dashboard or other updates. For enterprise reporting scenarios, this makes sense. For self-service or configurable solutions, you should still consider Content Packs.

To finish our story, we will be deploying Apps based on reporting groups within our Active Directory structure. This will allow us to control access to reporting through standard processes. At the moment, a group of us will manage the Workspace groups to prevent unwanted exposure to data and to manage report “creep”. In some ways, this is contrary to the original purpose of Power BI as a self service product. We are not limiting our teams capability to do their own report creation, app deployment, or self service analytics. We are making a point that the Enterprise Reporting will be managed which most organizations need on some level. If you have a great report you want to include, the Power BI Desktop allows us portability. The only not portable portion is the Dashboard itself. Hopefully we will be able to transfer that between workspaces in the future.

Power BI and Data Security – Free User’s Cannot Share, Read Only in Premium

Power BI Security LogoAs part of the Power BI Premium release, Microsoft changed how the “free users” in Power BI work within the platform. There are two key changes that affect the data security within your organization.

Power BI Free Users Cannot Share

One of the key areas of concern around the free user accounts was the fact that a corporate user can deploy content to the Power BI service (online). This would allow users to unintentionally (or intentionally) share data with others who would normally not have access to that data. When Microsoft released Power BI Premium, this capability was removed. While Power BI Free Users have access to all of the core capabilities of the product, they are not permitted to share or participate in the collaboration in workspaces. Essentially they only have access to My Workspace.

Power BI Free User Workspace 1

If they try to create an App Workspace, they get prompted to upgrade.

Power BI Free User Workspace 2 - Dialog

Free Users Are Read Only in Power BI Premium

When a customer chooses to use Power BI Premium, they can take advantage of “unlimited”, free, read only users. I called out the fact that Power BI did not support free users in a previous post about sharing content. Now with Power BI Apps and Premium, free users are turned into Read Only users. This is a huge win for the Power BI user community. This currently only works with Premium, so if security and managing content creation are key to success within your organization, you should be reviewing Power BI Premium.

I will have a follow up post on how Power BI Apps and App Workspaces impact data security in Power BI soon. If you want to have a look at creating and using Apps and App Workspaces check out this post on the Power BI site.