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Azure AD Security Best Practices for Remote Work. Are you developing an Azure AD remote work strategy and aiming to incorporate security best practices into your plan? This comprehensive article serves as your guide.

First, we examine the Azure Active Directory (AD) features that enable remote work. By looking at these features, we better understand how to ensure their security.

Next, we explore four essential safety best practices for Azure AD remote work. Specifically, we promote following a “Zero Trust” strategy, focusing on identity and access management, device management, and the necessary Azure tools to safeguard against data loss and compromise.

Get ready to enhance your Azure AD remote work strategy with these valuable security insights.

Microsoft 365 and Azure AD Features for Remote Work

1. Microsoft 365 Collaboration Tools for Remote Work

Microsoft 365 equips team members with remote work and collaboration tools. First is Microsoft Teams, providing unified communication and collaboration capabilities. “Teams” enables real-time meetings, calls, chats, and document management.

Another essential tool for remote work collaboration within Microsoft 365 is SharePoint Online. It is an intranet site tool with remote working capabilities, allowing teams to connect and share data, files, news, and other resources.

In addition to Teams and SharePoint, Microsoft 365 offers OneDrive for Business, Azure DevOps, and Azure Boards, further enhancing remote collaboration.

While these tools empower remote team collaboration, they also raise security concerns. Thankfully, Azure AD offers security features that enable companies to allow access outside their organizations securely.

As we explore other remote work capabilities of Microsoft 365 and Azure, we provide further insights on Azure AD features that enhance security for remote work.

2. Remote Access to Azure Cloud Apps

With physical office or remote work, people require apps to do their job. However, one of the biggest challenges of making apps available to remote workers is the ability to do that securely.

Fortunately, Azure AD allows companies to let remote workers access cloud and on-premises apps safely. Specifically, organizations register on-prem apps to Azure Active Directory.

By doing so, Azure Active Directory provides a single sign-on for cloud and registered applications. Moreover, registering apps on Azure AD means they enjoy additional secure access capabilities like Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) with Conditional Access

3. Management of Devices and Apps

Remote workers use devices (computers, smartphones, or tablets) to access Microsoft 365 collaboration tools and Azure AD apps. While this enables remote collaboration, these devices also pose a security risk to the infrastructure. 

Thankfully, Azure AD has some built-in features that permit teams to connect from devices without compromising the integrity of the network. 

For instance, it has a feature to enable BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Device) securely. Additionally, companies use a feature like Intune app protection policies to protect connected apps. 

Not only that, but Intune also supports remote provisioning and deployment of new devices and device compliance policies. 

When we discuss Azure AD security best practices for remote work later, we explain how to implement these features to enable remote workers access resources safely and securely. 

4. Built-in Data Protection Tools

Another huge challenge for companies that allow remote working is data protection. Team members accessing business data from anywhere increases the risk of data theft and compromise. 

So, while companies want their staff to work remotely, they must consider ways to safeguard their data. Regarding data security, Microsoft 365 and Azure AD have some features that reduce the risk of data compromise. 

For instance, enabling data loss prevention policies may prevent people from sharing sensitive information on Microsoft Teams.

Other features are: enabling safe links and safe attachment policies. 

Later, we explore the best practices for using Azure AD and Microsoft 365 data loss prevention tools to improve the security of remote work. 

5. Enables Secure Partner Collaboration

Working with partners may involve them connecting to your network. 

This poses some risks for safety and security. If you use Microsoft 365, you have access to a range of tools that enables safe remote working with third parties. 

Azure AD’s B2B collaboration capabilities allow businesses to connect securely with partners remotely. Some of these capabilities include securely sharing apps.

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Four Security Best Practices for Azure AD Remote Work

Step 1: Approach Remote Working with "Zero Trust" Strategy

Microsoft recommends using a “Zero Trust” approach to securing in-office and remote work. This principle is based on two pillars: “never trust,” and “always verify.”

Therefore, “Zero Trust” should form the bases of your organization’s Azure AD security best practices for remote work. Remote working should follow the “never trust,” and “always verify” approach. 

But before you start looking at improving your remote work security posture, assess its current state. Regarding this, Microsoft has a page where you appraise the current state of your Microsoft 365 infrastructure’s zero trust posture. 

The zero trust review page has 6 categories. Specifically, examine how secure your Identities, Endpoints, and Apps are. 

Also, review the zero trust state of your Infrastructure, Data and Network

The results of the review helps you build the remaining strategies for your Azure Active Directory remote work security. To accomplish this task, continue reading the remaining subsections below.  

Step 2: Enforce Strong Identity and Access Management

Implement identities and access management based on the results of your Identities zero trust quiz. Regarding Identities and Access management, Azure AD has some tools to use to help with this. 

First in the toolkit is enabling multi-factor authentication (MFA) with Conditional Access policy. To create a Conditional Access policy and enable MFA, follow these steps:

1. Search and open “Conditional Access” in portal.azure.com. 
2. Once the “Conditional Access” opens, click “+ Create new policy.”

3. Next, give the new policy a descriptive name that identifies what it does. Then, click “0 controls selected” in the Grant section. 

After that, select “Grant access” (this is the default selection), check “Require multifactor authentication,” and click Select

4. Finally, select “Report only,” On or Off in the “Enable Policy” section, and click Create. Microsoft recommends gathering information with policy using “Report only” before turning it on. 

MFA is your first Azure AD Identities management and access control tool. Another essential Azure AD remote work security best practice is enabling risk-based Conditional Access. 

Risk-based access control policies block or require additional authentication conditions for users with abnormal behaviour. If you have an Azure AD Premium P2 license, include sign-in risk detections in your Conditional Access control policy. 

By including a sign-in risk assessment in your Conditional Access policy, you improve security by blocking risky sign-ins from users not registered for MFA. 

When you create a Conditional Access policy, enable Sign-in risk detection by clicking “Conditions.” Then, complete the configuration as shown in the screenshot below. 

Besides enabling MFA and Sign-in risk detection, Azure Active Directory has another tool for improving remote working security: Azure AD B2B collaboration. This feature allows companies safely collaborate with people outside their organization. 

Step 3: Enforce Strong Device and App Management

Firstly, securely enable BYOD if you want your remote work staff to sign in with their devices. To learn different ways to enrol devices in Microsoft Intune, visit the Microsoft Intune device enrolment page. 

However, if you want a quick start registering devices on Microsoft Intune, sign in to endpoint.microsoft.com.

Sign in to the Microsoft Intune Admin center, click “Devices.”

On the “Devices” page, click “Enrol devices.” Finally, select the category of the device you want to register and complete the process. 

Step 4: Protect Against Data Loss and Compromise

With remote working becoming prevalent, organizations prioritize data loss prevention as a top security concern. Thankfully, Microsoft 365 offers a range of tools to safeguard business information.

To secure data accessed by remote workers, create data loss prevention policies. Additionally, it is best practice to set up safe link and safe attachment policies.

Azure AD Security Best Practices for Remote Work Conclusion

Remote work has become a permanent fixture and is here to stay.

Companies are seeking tools to facilitate collaboration and resource sharing among their staff, regardless of location. Moreover, remote workers need to connect to apps using their devices.

This creates the imperative to provide on-premises and cloud apps to remote workers securely.

Thankfully, Microsoft 365 offers a range of tools that empower remote workers to access, collaborate, and work from anywhere. However, it is crucial to prioritize security in remote work to protect business assets.

To achieve this, we explored different remote work capabilities of Microsoft 365 and discussed best practices for utilizing Azure AD to ensure remote work security.

Specifically, this article advocated adopting a “zero trust” perspective when approaching remote work strategy. A mindset of “never trust” and “always verify” in remote work scenarios.

We also discussed the best practices for Azure AD remote work security, which include implementing strong identity management and enforcing robust device and app management and data loss prevention policies.

By following the guidelines outlined in this article, we hope you were able to develop an Azure and Microsoft 365 best practices strategy that suits your needs.

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Victor Ashiedu

Victor Ashiedu

Victor is an IT pro based in Manchester, UK. With over 22 years of experience managing Windows Server, Active Directory, and Powershell, and 7 years of expertise in Azure AD and Office 365, he's a seasoned expert in his field. When he's not working, he loves spending time with his family - a wife and a 5-year-old. Victor is passionate about helping businesses succeed in today's fast-changing tech landscape.

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