A lot of people want to have a “fire and forget” solution for their business needs. However, when it comes to ensuring strong cybersecurity for your company, this type of set it and forget it mentality can leave you vulnerable to outside attacks. Being proactive and staying on top of your cybersecurity settings is crucial for preventing data breaches in today’s ever-changing security environment. In today’s video, I sit down with security architect Sean Jacobs to talk about how security settings in cloud apps like Microsoft Office 365 are constantly changing, how that impacts business security, and the threats that these security setting changes are responding to.
Why You Shouldn’t Be Complacent about Cybersecurity:
What Are Conditional Access Policies?
One of the first topics that Sean brings up in the video is something that he’s planning to training others on soon: Conditional access policies. What are they? Why is he planning on holding training seminars about them?
Here’s what Sean had to say:
“So, in Azure, there is a feature called ‘Conditional Access’ that lets you set up policies that help do things like enable MFA [multifactor authentication] for certain users—like administrators… with conditional access policies you can do things like only allow users to log into their account if they’re located inside the United States.”
Supporting Sean’s comments, I’m reminded of how a security feature like this recently prevented me from logging into my own user account when I went on a trip to the Bahamas. While this was certainly inconvenient for me, it’s the kind of precaution that can keep some overseas hacker from stealing my login info and going to town on my company.
This is an example of a conditional access policy. Basically, the condition for this particular policy would be: “Is the user in Country X? If yes, allow access. If no, block.” The condition is the user’s presence in a particular country. However, that’s not the only condition that can be set for access.
The problem with this particular example is that, if your organization has a lot of people who travel abroad for business reasons, they aren’t going to be able to log in to their user accounts. This could put a bit of a damper on their productivity, so it’s important to consider what conditions you set.
Of course, there is an easy fix for this—if you’re staying on top of your company’s cybersecurity settings. You could set up a special “Travelers” group in your Azure portal and disable the regional access policy condition for those specific users. This way, they’ll be able to access their accounts even while on the go.
Why You Need to Check Your Security Policies FREQUENTLY
Reviewing your security policies to make sure that the right kinds of security rules are being applied to the right people sounds pretty simple, right? Why would you need to keep checking your security policies once everyone’s on the right set?
Well, one reason is that security policies in cloud-based tools like Azure, Microsoft Office 365, and the like change very frequently—sometimes with little to no warning—in response to ever-evolving security threats and user needs.
For example, in the video, Sean talks about a specific set of security features for Microsoft’s Azure platform, saying that:
“These were policies that just showed up automatically and they weren’t enabled, but they were there. Just in case you wanted to turn ‘em on and try them out. One of them basically enabled MFA for admin roles… So, several baseline policies that were very useful—because you didn’t have to go [into Azure] and manually create those policies.”
If you’re using these policies already, they won’t go away. However, if you haven’t enabled them yet, they’ll disappear. This was something that Sean discovered largely on accident—he logged into his account to take a look at some new features and suddenly discovered the upcoming change.
For people who don’t log into the admin center very frequently, maybe once a month or once a season, they may find that their dashboard is a completely different beast from what they remember. The security settings and menus that they remember may get shuffled around a lot while they’re not looking, which can be frustrating. Even people who use it every few days may come back to find a shocking new change or feature to learn.
However, by checking the admin center frequently, it’s easier to stay on top of these changes, and get advanced warning when a favorite feature is about to change. For example, because he was staying on top of the admin center’s changes, Sean was able to learn that many of the security features that were “disappearing” were actually getting shuffled into a new feature called “security defaults.” Now, these features will be available to every Microsoft Office 365 user as a baseline security settings tool, with all the settings being turned on or off with a single flick of the switch.
While not as customizable as the old version of the security policy tools, this new security defaults feature will provide a much simpler way to greatly increase cybersecurity. Practically everything in the tool is something that should be considered a baseline “good security” practice that businesses of all sizes should be using at any rate.
Want to learn more about these changes to the security settings in Microsoft Azure and Office 365? You can watch the whole discussion in the video above, or reach out to Protected Trust with any questions you might have on the subject!