It seems that nearly as long as passwords have been around, they’ve been a major source of security concern. 81% of security incidents happen due to stolen or weak passwords. Additionally, employees continue to neglect the basics of good cyber hygiene. For example, 61% of workers use the same password for multiple platforms. And 43% have shared their passwords with others. These factors are why compromised credentials are the main cause of data breaches. Access and identity management have become a priority for many organizations.
This is largely due to the rise of the cloud. As well as the practice of people needing to only enter a username and password to access systems. Once a cybercriminal gets a hold of an employee’s login, they can access the account and any data that it contains. This is especially problematic when it’s an account like Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace. These accounts can access things like cloud storage and user email. Below, we’ll explain what conditional access is. As well as how it works with multi-factor authentication (MFA). We’ll also review the advantages of moving to a conditional access process.
Conditional access is also known as contextual access. It is a method of controlling user access. You can 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.” Conditional access allows you to add many conditions to the process of user access to a system. It is typically used with MFA. This is to improve access security without unnecessarily inconveniencing users.
Some of the most common contextual factors used include:
· IP address
· Geographic location
· Time of day
· The device used
· Role or group the user belongs to
Conditional access can be set up in Azure Active Directory. It can also be set up in another identity and access management tool. It’s helpful to get the assistance of your IT partner. We can help with setup and the conditions that would make the most sense for your business.
Using conditional access improves security. It allows you more flexibility in challenging user legitimacy. It doesn’t just grant access to anyone with a username and password. Instead, the user needs to meet certain requirements. Contextual access could block any login attempts from countries where no employees are. It could also present an extra verification question when employees use an unrecognized device.
Once the if/then statements are set up, the system takes over. It automates the monitoring for contextual factors and takes the appropriate actions. This reduces the burden on administrative IT teams. It also ensures that no one is falling between the cracks. Automated processes are more accurate and reliable than manual processes. Automation removes the human error component. This helps ensure that each condition is being verified for every single login.
Conditional access isn’t only for keeping unauthorized users out of your accounts. You can use it in other ways. One of these is to restrict the activities that legitimate users can do. For example, you could restrict access to data or settings based on a user’s role in the system. You can also use conditions in combination. Such as, lowering permissions to view-only. You could trigger this if a user holds a certain role and is logging in from an unknown device.
Studies show that as many as 67% of businesses don’t use multi-factor authentication. This is despite the fact that it’s one of the most effective methods to stop credential breaches. One of the biggest reasons it is not used is because of the inconvenience factor for employees. They may complain that it interferes with productivity. Or say that it makes it harder for them to use their business applications. Using conditional access with MFA can improve the user experience. For example, you can require MFA only if users are off the premises. You can put in place extra challenge questions on a role or context-based basis. This keeps all users from being inconvenienced.
Using the rule of least privilege is a security best practice. It means only granting the lowest level of access in a system as necessary for a user to do their work. Once you have roles set up in your identity management system, you can base access on those roles. Conditional access simplifies the process of restricting access to data or functions. You can base this on job needs. It streamlines identity management. This is because it contains all functions in the same system for access and MFA rules. Everything stays together, making management simpler.
Once conditional access is set up, the automated system takes over. It improves your security and reduces the risk of an account breach.
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Article used with permission from The Technology Press.