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Using Conditional Access Policies to Enhance Microsoft 365 Security. Organizations adopting Microsoft’s cloud services must keep their employees safe, especially when accessing these cloud services outside the organization’s network. In this article, we cover the setting up of conditional use policies by enterprises to control how their users use Office 365 and other Microsoft services.

Shall we start the article Using Conditional Access Policies to Enhance Microsoft 365 Security?

Using Conditional Access Policies to Enhance Office 365 Security

Security has emerged as a crucial issue for all firms as more and more workers demand the ability to work remotely and on any device. As a result, it has become essential for a firm to figure out how to protect personnel who work in person and remotely.

Security Challenges of Migrating to Microsoft Cloud Services

To provide better management and support, many businesses move to cloud services like Office 365 (or Microsoft 365). Although they increase complexity from a security standpoint, cloud services have several advantages for a company.

Microsoft 365 offers top notch solutions to help businesses migrate their data to the cloud while safeguarding access to the data. Knowing where these tools are, having a valid license, and learning how to use them for monitoring reasons are the keys to employing them.

In a Microsoft 365 environment, the Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) is the primary authentication component that provides access control to the tenant and all available services. Additionally, Microsoft 365 does not utilize anonymous access, which minimizes the process of accessing these services, no matter the device. 

What are Microsoft's Conditional Access policies?

Microsoft allows users to restrict access based on several factors as part of the Azure Active Directory service. For instance, Conditional Access Policies, combine many signals to decide whether or not access to a service or application should be permitted.

At their essence, these rules are straightforward. So, for instance, if a person wants to access Microsoft Teams, we set a requirement that they must be in the office before granting them access.

To limit access to Microsoft 365, conditional access restrictions act as a protective layer we activate at the time of login. Both internal staff members and visitors from outside the company are subject to these rules. We also construct policies that target particular users, groups, devices, or other Azure Active Directory signals.

Standard Conditional Access Policy Signals

These signals that we utilize to determine appropriate access controls and reduce the risk of unauthorized access to sensitive data and resources within an organization’s Office 365 environment:

  • Type of device.
  • User or group memberships.
  • IP address location.
  • Connecting application.
  • Real time risk detection.

Common Conditional Access Decisions

These access decisions help organizations enforce appropriate access controls and ensure the security of their Microsoft 365 environment. By utilizing Conditional Access policies to regulate access privileges, businesses reduce the risk of data breaches and unauthorized access to sensitive resources:

  • Block and Grant access.
  • Grant access with forced multi factor authentication.
  • Grant access with device compliance check.
  • Grant access with Hybrid Azure AD join requirement.
  • Grant access with approved client app requirement.
  • Grant access with app protection policy enforcement.

Conditional Access Policy Licensing

Microsoft initially implemented a few simple policies when Microsoft made Conditional Access policies available in Azure Active Directory (Azure AD). In addition, Microsoft supplied templates for manually generating rules as an alternative to the security defaults that eventually replaced these earlier policies.

Prerequisites

To utilize Conditional Access based policies, our organization needs to have one of the following licenses:

  • Azure Active Directory Premium P1 or P2.
  • Microsoft 365 Business Premium.
  • Microsoft 365 E3 or E5.
  • Enterprise Mobility and Security E3 or E5.

If we are an educational or government organization, we must use the equivalent “A” or “G” license.

Security Defaults

With security defaults, Microsoft wants to give the company a foundational level of enabled security without charging extra. The security defaults provide a range of basic settings, including:

  • Requiring all users to register for Azure Active Directory Multi-Factor Authentication (AAD MFA).
  • Mandating multi factor authentication for administrators.
  • Requiring users to use multi factor authentication when needed.
  • Blocking legacy authentication protocols.
  • Protecting privileged activities, such as access to the Azure portal.

Organizations wishing to improve their security posture but need help determining how or where to begin should use security defaults. Microsoft designs these security policies for companies using the Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) licensing model’s free tier. Microsoft advises adopting Conditional Access policies instead of additional security settings if an organization has more complex security needs.

Conditional Access Policy Templates

Conditional Access templates make implementing policies that adhere to Microsoft’s requirements simple. For example, we now assign either user identities or devices with one of the fourteen (14) policy templates we divide into various policies. The complete list of Conditional Access policy templates includes the following:

  • Admins must use multi factor authentication.
  • Security info registration must be secure.
  • Legacy authentication is blocked.
  • All users must use multi factor authentication.
  • Guest access requires multi factor authentication.
  • Azure management requires multi factor authentication.
  • Risky sign ins require multi factor authentication.
  • High risk users must change their passwords.
  • Admins need compliant, or Hybrid Azure AD joined devices.
  • We block access for unknown or unsupported device platforms.
  • No persistent browser sessions.
  • Approved client apps or app protection is required.
  • All users must use multi factor authentication, compliant or Hybrid Azure AD joined devices.
  • Application enforced restrictions apply to unmanaged devices.

It is recommended that we don’t use these templates, but they provide a place to start for speedy and straightforward deployment. We modify these policies or even add to organizational specific ones.

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Examples of Conditional Access Policies

Continuing with the article Using Conditional Access Policies to Enhance Microsoft 365 Security. Please find below the three common examples of Conditional Access policies we use to restrict access in the Microsoft 365 platform.

Block All Access Except for a Trusted Location

Here are the different settings we’ll be using to set up this Conditional Access policy:

Block Sign ins for Users Using Legacy Protocols

Here are the different settings we’ll be using to block sign ins from legacy authentication protocols:

Require MFA for All Guest Users Accessing Company Resources

Here are the different settings we’ll be using to require MFA authentication for all guest users accessing company resources:

These straightforward screenshots above highlight the setup options accessible for developing Conditional Access settings. They also offer a high level of granularity to guarantee that policies demand the appropriate identities for specific workloads.

Configuration Properties Available for Conditional Access

We select “All users,” “All guest and external users,” or “Directory roles,” or we choose certain users or groups when deciding which users or groups to include in a policy.

We can choose all applications or just a few for our Conditional Access policy by using the Cloud apps or action parameter. Additionally, we can pick certain user behaviors, such as registering security information or using an authentication context offered by another service, like SharePoint Online.

We examine the user or sign in risk level, the device platform we use for the connection, the origin of the request, and whether the request is a modern or legacy authentication request using the condition property. We use the filters to choose particular devices from the directory.

Options to limit user sessions are among Conditional Access policies’ other attributes. For instance, after a certain period, users are made to re-authenticate.

Thank you for reading Using Conditional Access Policies to Enhance Microsoft 365 Security.

Thank you for reading Using Conditional Access Policies to Enhance Microsoft 365 Security. We shall conclude the article now. 

Using Conditional Access Policies to Enhance Office 365 Security Conclusion

In conclusion, utilizing Conditional Access Policies in Office 365 significantly enhance the security of an organization’s sensitive data and resources. Businesses lower the risk of data breaches and unauthorized access by imposing particular access restrictions and applying them to only the relevant persons and devices. It is essential for organizations to regularly review and update their Conditional Access Policies to keep up with evolving security threats and ensure that their systems remain secure.

With robust security measures such as Conditional Access Policies, companies enjoy greater peace of mind and focus on their core business objectives.

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Marion Mendoza

Marion Mendoza

Windows Server and VMware SME. Powershell Guru. Currently working with Fortune 500 companies responsible for participating in 3rd level systems support across the enterprise. Acting as a Windows Server engineer and VMware Specialist.

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