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Completed the Azure Solution Architect Expert Certification

After earning my Microsoft 365 Certified Enterprise Administrator Expert certification in May, I decided to continue my certification journey and earn the Azure certification. Today I completed the last exam in order to earn the Azure Solution Architect Expert certification. The Azure Solution Architect Expert Certification is earned by completing two exams: AZ-300: Microsoft Azure Architect Technologies and AZ-301: Microsoft Azure Architect Design.

Machine generated alternative text:
Microsoft 
CERTIFIED 
AZURE SOLUTIONS 
ARCHITECT 
EXPERT
Microsoft Certified Azure Solutions Architect Expert

From the description about an Azure Solutions Architect Expert:

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May 2020 update of the Conditional Access Demystified Whitepaper, Workflow cheat sheet, Implementation workflow and Documentation spreadsheet

In August last year, I published eight articles in a series on Conditional Access, and later when finished I decided to bundle those articles in a paper which I made available on the TechNet Gallery. In March this year, Microsoft decided to retire the TechNet Gallery, so I had to find another solution to host this paper and some of the additional workflows and spreadsheets I posted as well. For now I’ve decided to host these on GitHub since that is an easy accessible location as well.

The articles I wrote at that time, will remains as is, and I’ve decided to update the paper once in a while to reflect the current status of Conditional Access. Even though some of the information in the articles is outdated, I still think that they can be of value.

Below I’ve summarized the articles I published last year:

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Some welcome additions to the Admin consent workflow in Azure AD

In February this year, I wrote an article about Admin consent in Azure Active Directory. The article titled: “Did you already modify your Azure AD consent defaults settings? Here is why you should“, explained why giving end-users within your Azure AD the ability to give consent for every Application might not be such a good idea.

While disabling this option for the end-users is recommended by Microsoft, and having a workflow in place to review any requests and approve if found valid is a more secure solution it introduced an administrative burden since each request must be reviewed by one of the defined users in the list of users to review admin consent requests.

In order to address this, Microsoft made some changes to the way the Admin consent workflow is working which allows an Azure AD administrator more control over which requests must be approved and which are allowed automatically.

Note: This post reflects the status of Admin consent as of May 22, 2020. Functionality may change, even right after this post has been published.

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Azure AD Identity Protection deep dive

One of the advantages of Microsoft having many customers using its services is that Microsoft can leverage data from those customers and apply some real fancy Machine Learning on that data, coming from Azure AD, Microsoft Accounts and even Xbox services.

Based on all that data the Machine Learning capabilities are able to identify identity risks. Based on the risk, automatic investigation, remediation and sharing of that data with other solutions able to leverage it is possible. The outcome of risk is expressed as either High, Medium, Low or No Risk. This outcome can later be used to define policies.

By leveraging Azure AD Identity Protection you are able to use the signals provided by Microsoft and trigger “actions” – the signals can also be leveraged in your conditional access policies.

This article covers the following topics:

Disclaimer: This post reflects the status of Azure AD Identity Protection as of April 7th 2020. Functionality may change, even right after this post has been published.

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Lessons learned while implementing Azure AD Privileged Identity Management (PIM)

In this blogpost I will share my experiences with implementing Azure AD Privileged Identity Management (PIM).  PIM is a service that enables you to manage, control, and monitor access to important resources in your Azure environment. These resources include resources in Azure AD, Azure, and other Microsoft Online Services like Exchange Online, SharePoint Online or Microsoft Intune. 

PIM provides the following functionality: 

  • Just-in-time privileged access to Azure AD and Azure resources 
  • Assign time-bound access to resources using start and end dates 
  • Require approval to activate privileged roles 
  • Enforce multi-factor authentication to activate any role 
  • Use justification to understand why users activate 
  • Get notifications when privileged roles are activated 
  • Conduct access reviews to ensure users still need roles 
  • Download audit history for internal or external audit 

This article will cover the following topics:

Note: This post reflects the status of Azure AD Privileged Identity Management as of March 24th 2020. Functionality may change, even right after this post has been published.

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License requirements for administering Microsoft 365 services

Microsoft licensing is tough and vague but something we must deal with while implementing our solutions. I’m also aware that some of the features I describe on my blog are only available in the most expensive licensing options Microsoft provides, making some of the features I describe not usable for some of my readers.

Update June 23rd 2020: Microsoft has removed the Intune license requirement for administrators, see this blogpost by Peter van der Woude for more information: Quick tip: Allow access to unlicensed admins

If you administer Microsoft 365 services like Azure Active Directory (AzureAD), Exchange Online (EXO), SharePoint Online (SPO), Intune and many other products the license requirements for your administrative accounts are extra vague. I’ve asked Microsoft in December last year to clarify this, but until now no response was given.

There is some fragmented information available in the Microsoft documentation, that in combination with some other information to be found on the internet, like on twitter concludes that the license requirements are indeed very vague and could really use some official documentation from Microsoft to clear things up.

One thing in known, is that when asked about licensing requirements for the online services provided by Microsoft the statement returned is: “When the user benefits from the service, a license is required”

So let’s see what I found available online and see if it makes sense in some way…

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Microsoft is going to disable basic/legacy authentication for Exchange Online. What does that actually mean and does that impact me?

Update: On April 3rd 2020, the Exchange Team announced that due to the COVID019 crisis, they will postpone disabling legacy authentication until the second half of 2021.

Update: On April 30 2020, the Exchange Team announced that OAuth 2.0 authentication for IMAP and SMTP AUTH protocols is now available. In order to leverage this functionality mail clients need to start using it (so they need an update). Michel de Rooij did a nice article on how to configure Thunderbird for oAuth2 which you can read here: Configuring Exchange Online with IMAP & OAuth2

Update: On May 28 2020, the Exchange Team announced that OAuth support for POP is now also available for Exchange Online.

Update: On June 30th 2020, the Microsoft Exchange Team announced support for Modern Authentication in scripts using the new Exchange PowerShell module, see: Modern Auth and Unattended Scripts in Exchange Online PowerShell V2

Update: On July 28th, the Microsoft Exchange Team announced some new changes to Modern Authentication controls in the Microsoft 365 Admin center, see: Basic Authentication and Exchange Online – July Update

Make sure that you also

On March 7, 2018 the Microsoft Exchange Team announced that on October 13, 2020 it would stop the support for Basic Authentication (also called Legacy authentication) for Exchange Web Services (EWS) in Exchange Online (EXO), the version of Exchange offered as a service part of Office 365. EWS is a web service which can be used by client applications to access the EXO environment. The team also announced that EWS would not receive any feature updates anymore, and suggests customers to transition towards using Microsoft Graph to access EXO.

One and a half year later, on November 20, 2019 the Exchange Team also announced to stop supporting Basic Authentication for Exchange ActiveSync (EAS), Post Office Protocol (POP), Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) and Remote PowerShell on October 13 2020 as well. Authenticated Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) will stay supported when used with Basic Authentication.

Instead of supporting Basic/Legacy authentication Microsoft will move towards only supporting Modern Authentication for most of the methods used to connect to Exchange Online.

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A guide to implementing Applocker on your Modern Workplace

At our last Windows Management User Group Netherlands meeting, we had the honor to have Sami Laiho, one of the world’s leading professionals in the Windows OS and Security flying over to the Netherlands and present for our user group. In his presentation titled: “Securing Windows in 2020 and forward”, Sami made us aware that by implementing some simple Applocker policies on our Modern Workplace and by making sure that the user working on the device has no admin rights, we can seriously improve our security. In his presentation Sami referred to a quote from Mikko Hyppönen (Chief Research Officer at F-Secure): “Make your security better than your neighbours”.

In this blogpost I will share my experience with implementing Applocker policy within my own tenant, and how I started to use these principles myself which eventually led by removing my account from the local administrator group.

Disclaimer: This blogpost provides a very simplistic way of enabling Applocker policies, in the real world there are some caveats which must be addressed when implementing Applocker. I will address  those caveats later in this post as well.

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Challenges while managing administrative privileges on your Azure AD joined Windows 10 devices

By default, on Windows 10 devices which are Azure AD joined, the user performing the join is added to the Local Administrator group. Besides the user and the local administrator (which is disabled by default), two other SIDs are added without any friendly name which explain who they are. So where are those SIDs coming from?

It is possible to make the user a normal user while enrolling the device, but then you have to create a Deployment Profile and use Windows Autopilot. See: Configure Autopilot profiles or use Bulk enrollment. See: Bulk enrollment for Windows devices

Note: This post reflects the status of Azure AD local administrative privileges as of February 11th 2020. Functionality may change, even right after this post has been published.

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Ask yourself if you still really need ADFS

In Q1 2017 Microsoft released the Pass Through Authentication (PTA) functionality as part of Azure AD connect. With the release of Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) Pass-through Authentication allowed for your users to sign in to both on-premises and cloud-based applications using the same passwords without the need to implement a Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) environment.

With this options we now have the following authentication options available when setting up a hyrid identiy:

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