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Conditional Access demystified, part 3: How does Conditional Access work?

This article is part 3 of a series, for which the following articles are available:

Conditional Access demystified, part 1: Introduction
Conditional Access demystified, part 2: What is Conditional Access?
Conditional Access demystified, part 4: Designing a Conditional Access strategy
Conditional Access demystified, part 5: Implementing Conditional Access

Conditional Access demystified, part 6: Troubleshooting Conditional Access
Conditional Access demystified, part 7: Modifying Conditional Access to suit your special needs
Conditional Access demystified, part 8: Resources and further references

Microsoft explains Conditional Access in the following way. Conditional Access consists of access scenario’s called Conditional Access policies. An Conditional Access policy follows the following pattern:

When this happens, then to this

“When this happens” defines the reason for triggering your policy. This reason is characterized by a group of conditions that have been satisfied. With “Then do this” you define how users can access your cloud apps.

Technically this is translated to Conditions (When this happens) and Access controls (Then do this)

Conditional Access policy
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Conditional Access demystified, part 2: What is Conditional Access?

This article is part 2 of a series, for which the following articles are available:

Conditional Access demystified, part 1: Introduction
Conditional Access demystified, part 3: How does Conditional Access work?
Conditional Access demystified, part 4: Designing a Conditional Access strategy
Conditional Access demystified, part 5: Implementing Conditional Access
Conditional Access demystified, part 6: Troubleshooting Conditional Access
Conditional Access demystified, part 7: Modifying Conditional Access to suit your special needs
Conditional Access demystified, part 8: Resources and further references

Microsoft describes Conditional Access as followed: “With Conditional Access, you can implement automated access control decisions for accessing your cloud apps that are based on conditions.” and “Conditional Access policies are enforced after the first-factor authentication has been completed. Therefore, Conditional Access is not intended as a first line defense for scenarios like denial-of-service (DoS) attacks, but can utilize signals from these events (e.g. the sign-in risk level, location of the request, and so on) to determine access.

The way I see it, the best way to explain what Conditional Access does, is by making the comparison to a firewall. A firewall determines what traffic can access your resources, under what circumstances and Conditional Access sort of does the same. Conditional Access describes under what circumstances users can access your cloud applications.

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Conditional Access demystified, part 1: Introduction

In July 2016 Microsoft made Conditional Access generally available as a feature of Azure Active Directory (AzureAD). Since that time I had a love and hate relationship with this functionality of Azure AD. Mainly because it’s difficult to test scenario’s and some changes can have a really high impact. I even experienced being locked out of accessing the Azure portal during one of my tests.

Why this series of articles?

Some good documentation from Microsoft and blogpost by fellow bloggers detailing Conditional Access scenario’s, but not really a one-stop shopping overview. With this series of blog posts I hope to achieve this.

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