How to properly deal with impersonation in a Web application? (security vs. usefulness for tech support)
Our team has begun migrating a pretty old internal application and one aspect that got my attention is the impersonation. This is implemented as follows:
- only administrators are allowed to impersonate someone else
- impersonation means setting the current session user to the impersonated user
- the result is that ALL operations are done as if the impersonated user is acting (entities created with that id, logs indicate that user etc.)
This is very convenient for technical support because they can easily "see" through any user reporting an issue.
The security model is quite complex: many roles and rights, fined grained security based on multiple dimensions (country, business units, categories etc.)
However, my reaction was that is uncompliant and will fail any decent audit, because administrators can do actions with other users and nobody will know. The PO agreed that this is not OK and that the migrated version should tackle it.
Now I am looking for a solution about implementing the impersonation and get a good compromise between security and usefulness for the technical support.
The big picture that I have in mind right now is the following:
all actions (queries, commands and their results) will be logged to minimize the need for impersonation. Logging in the legacy application is very poor.
all records generated by an impersonator will get their user identifier. This ensures that impersonator cannot abuse their role, but might prevent some flows from being checked (e.g. security rules that rely on the actual user identifier like "I am not able to see non-shared documents created by another identity")
all rights checks (e.g. can edit a document) will be executed against the impersonated user. This ensures that the impersonator see the restrictions applied to the impersonated identity and all rules that do not rely on the actual user identifier
having multiple test users is hard because everything relies on Azure A/D authentication tied up to the domain account
alternative: allow the old fashioned impersonation to work on test environments, but I find this particularly risky and I generally dislike having any functional differences between prod and non-prod, except for the work in progress developments
How should I balance the security and usefulness for technical support-related activities?