What Are the Advantages of Implementing Conditional Access?

Ollie Le Prevost
22nd November 2022
Digital Transformation & Cloud

What Are the Advantages of Implementing Conditional Access?

As long as passwords have existed, they’ve been a major security risk. In fact, 81% of security incidents occur due to compromised or weak passwords.

Many employees ignore the basics of good cyber hygiene, due either to a lack of cyber awareness training or just plain negligence. For example, 61% of workers use the same password across multiple platforms, and 43% admit to having shared their passwords with others.

Once a cyber criminal gets hold of an employee’s login credentials, they can gain access to the user account and any data it contains. This is especially problematic when it’s an account like Microsoft 365 that holds huge amounts of shared data. Therefore, access and identity management should be a top priority for organisations.

In this article, I’ll explain what conditional access is, how it works and the advantages of implementing a conditional access process for your organisation.

What Is Conditional Access?

Conditional access, or contextual access, is a method of controlling user access. Think of it as several “if/then” statements, meaning “if” this thing is present, “then” do this.

For example, conditional access allows you to set a rule that would state the following: “if a user is logging in from outside the country, require a one-time passcode.”

You can add many conditions to the process of user access to a system and it is typically used in conjunction with Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA).

Some of the most common contextual factors used for conditional access include:

  • IP address
  • Geographic location
  • The device used, and the compliance of the device
  • The risk rating of the sign-in attempt
  • Role or group the user belongs to

The Benefits of Implementing Conditional Access for Identity Management

Improves Security

Using conditional access allows more flexibility in challenging user legitimacy, rather than just granting access to anyone with a username or password. This hugely improves business security.

Automates the Access Management Process

Once the if/then statements are set up; the system takes over. It automates the monitoring for contextual factors and takes the appropriate actions, reducing the burden on administrative IT teams.

Allows Restriction of Certain Activities

Conditional access isn’t only for keeping unauthorised users out of your accounts, you can also use it in other ways. One way is to restrict the activities that legitimate users can do.

For example, you could restrict access to data or functions based on a user’s role in the system. You can also use conditions in a combination, like reducing permissions to view-only if the user holds a certain role and is logging in from an unknown device.

Improves the User Login Experience

Studies show that as many of 67% of businesses still don’t use MFA, even though it’s one of the most effective methods to prevent credential breaches.

A lot of organisations opt out of MFA under the pretense that it’s inconvenient to employees, claiming it interferes with productivity or makes it harder to use business applications.

Combining conditional access with MFA can improve user experience. For example, you could only require MFA if the users are off-site. This prevents all users from being inconvenienced, whilst still maintaining a strong level of security.

Enforces Zero-Trust Pillars

Conditional Access Policies are a huge step into implementing and maintaining a zero-trust architecture for multiple pillars in the zero-trust model, identities, and devices. The granular controls available in conditional access policies means we don’t have to trust a sign-in attempt just because the username and password was entered successfully, and we don’t have to grant access to an application just because the authentication is coming from a known device, we can go further and require the device to be in a known compliant state (e.g., not infected with a virus, and up to date), or the user signing-in to be in a certain geographic location or that their username and password hasn’t been found on the dark web.

If you need a hand implementing conditional access, reach out to me and the cloud team here.

Ollie Le Prevost

Ollie heads up our Cloud Solutions team, designing and maintaining our cloud services baselines and ensuring we offer the most cutting-edge technologies to our clients. Ollie is involved in transitioning clients to the cloud, architecting and maintaining cloud environments and working with clients to develop IT roadmaps.

Ollie specialises in Microsoft cloud technology and has prior experience working at a leading offshore law firm. He achieved a triple distinction in his Level 3 IT diploma.

For Ollie, the best part about working at Resolution IT is being able to work with such a great team.

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