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Introducing the Suspended User Feature

3 min. read

Passbolt team

Passbolt team

9 November, 2023

Passbolt new feature: Suspend user.

Enhancing administrator control in Passbolt

Passbolt’s commitment to building the best collaborative passwords manager goes hand-in-hand with addressing real-world security and privacy challenges. Introducing a much awaited feature that empowers administrators and enhances security without sacrificing usability: the "suspended" status option. Picture it as a pause button for user accounts.

When do you need to press pause?

Having a feature that allows admins to temporarily suspend users is important, as it allows admins to put certain user accounts on hold for a specific period. Useful for cases where an employee is going on a long leave and you want to limit access during that time without deleting their account. It’s also a great feature for temporarily restricting access when you’re investigating unusual activity on an account. 

For organisations that have specific processes of compliance requirements, being able to suspend users can streamline the admin workflow and reduce time-consuming tasks. Essentially, this feature streamlines user management, maintains security, and makes sure that passbolt can adapt to a variety of organisation needs. 

Fig. A suspended user on the user workspace
Fig. A suspended user on the user workspace

What happens to a suspended user’s account and data?

For admins, there's a toggle to mark a user as suspended, which is tied to the user's record. When a user is flagged as suspended, that user will not be able to access the passbolt instance. This means they’ll be unable to perform authentication and account recovery processes. Email notifications won't be sent to the suspended user. 

It’s only temporary and the user is still part of the organisation. Access will be restored when the administrator removes the suspended flag.

Fig. User edit dialog with “suspend the user” option
Fig. User edit dialog with “suspend the user” option

Passbolt uses two types of access: Cryptographic access (the ability to decrypt) and Logical access (the ability to access encrypted content). To enable a suspended user to regain full access later, passbolt keeps the user's cryptographic access to shared items. Although the user lacks access to these items, the same permissions still exist. 

This approach makes suspensions seamless, with the limits at the logical access point and no alteration to cryptographic access. As a result, users can still access their encrypted data later. For instance, if a suspended user belongs to a group, sharing a resource to the group means the secret is still encrypted for the suspended users. 

Security Matters: ensuring clarity for everyone

There’s also a visual indicator so everyone can see if a user is suspended when adding them to a group or sharing items. This increases transparency while preserving the ability to collaborate in the future.

Fig. Share dialog with a suspended user
Fig. Share dialog with a suspended user

With this new feature, there are some security implications. For example, a rogue admin could abuse privileges and compromise the integrity or availability of the organisation's data. However, admins are already allowed to delete others accounts, so the level of risk is not increased. 

To mitigate accidents or potential abuse, passbolt has implemented admin notifications when a user is suspended. Administrators are also unable to suspend their own accounts – preventing a scenario where there are no admins left on the platform. 

Sneak Peek into the Future

The new “Suspended User” feature is all about flexibility – allowing admins to maintain a high level of security and transparency. It’s another step toward passbolt’s commitment to being a user-friendly platform for secure collaboration. 

So, what’s next? Currently, this first iteration lacks the ability to synchronise suspension status with user directory solutions such as LDAP. Additional enhancements are being explored, including dynamic rules for auto-disabling user accounts and bulk suspension of users. 

Stay tuned for updates as passbolt continues to innovate to meet your evolving needs. Share your feedback and ideas with the community forum. Passbolt relies on your insights to shape the future of collaborative password management and create a user-friendly experience.