What is conditional access?

February 6, 2024
Connect & Support People

You are probably familiar with the problem. Your team is a global one, and they use many devices to access their work. You don’t have a fixed workplace, either. Sometimes your team works from home, sometimes the office, and other times on the road. Your team is mobile, and your work needs to be too.

On the one hand, this new way of working boosts efficiency and lowers costs for your business. On the other, however, it introduces many challenges for cybersecurity, data protection, and compliance.

One effective way of addressing this problem is by having a secure conditional access system in place. Let’s unpack that now.

What is conditional access?

Simply put, conditional access is a kind of automated security approach. It grants or denies access to assets based on specific conditions or criteria. By applying conditional access, businesses can boost security and control their IT.

According to Microsoft, conditional access policies are best described as if-then statements. Basically, if a user wants to access a resource, then they must complete an action. If a user wants to use a company device, for example, then they must input a password.

But what kind of criteria are used in a conditional access system? Well, some of them include things like user-authentication, device compliance, location, time of access, and the status of the person seeking access. All these criteria can play a part in a secure and effective conditional access system.

Let’s take an example of a colleague — let’s call her Sarah — who’s based in London and always works from a local IP address. One day, your IT administrator gets an alert. It appears that Sarah is trying to access business data from an IP address in the USA. In this case, a conditional access system will allow you to demand extra verification before providing access.

Conditional access is often introduced with specialized software like TeamViewer’s remote access platform. You can also integrate it in an identity and access management (IAM) solution. Putting it at the heart of your business yields many benefits. Most importantly, you’ll stay secure and compliant and ensure superior control over your IT assets.

How does conditional access work?

There’s lots of ways to introduce conditional access in your business. These include multi-factor authentication (MFA) or biometric verification. It’s also common to only give access to devices with up-to-date encryption software.

Another way of applying conditional access is with time and location criteria. For example, you might restrict access to within business hours. Or you might only allow access when in a set physical location or network.

Lastly, conditional access policies can help you to ensure only the right people have access to data. One way of doing this is by tying access permissions to the user’s role or membership within your business. This can help save both time and money by preventing the need for different platforms or software.

Of course, all these strategies are only doable with a full picture of your IT fleet. TeamViewer’s remote access solution gives you exactly that. By allowing you the full overview of all devices, you can prevent unauthorized remote access to ensure best-in-class security.

Why do we need conditional access?

As you can probably tell by now, conditional access policies can bring huge benefits against a context of remote working, dispensed IT fleets, as well as increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks. Let’s dive into some of the most important benefits of conditional access now.

Increased security

This is a bit of a no-brainer. Conditional access policies can help to deliver improved security for businesses of all sizes. By granting access based on certain criteria, they allow you to stay in control of your fleet. Let’s dive in a little bit more to this crucial benefit.

Access control policies help you to allow or restrict access based on specific conditions. This means only authorized users or devices can access your most sensitive data.

Using adaptive authentication also enhances your security. At its simplest, this is a dynamic approach that assesses contextual factors and user behaviour to adjust the level of authentication required.

Probably the best-known example of adaptive authentication is multi-factor authentication. This verifies user identity and so reduces the risk of unauthorized access. This keeps you safe even when login information is compromised.

Device compliance also plays a big role. With conditional access policies, you can restrict access to devices that meet your security standards. Doing this can help you to avoid potential vulnerabilities.

Another key trait for improved security is role-based access control. Conditional access facilitates role-based access control. This means employees only have access to the data necessary for them to do their job. This minimizes the risk of insider threats and limits exposure to sensitive data.

Lastly, many conditional-access solutions offer monitoring and reporting capabilities. These help businesses to track access patterns and generate auditing reports. By doing this, you can identify and address security risks before they cause any problems.

When it comes to security, a proactive approach is so important right now. According to IBM’s 2023 report, the global average cost of a data breach in 2023 was USD 4.45 million, with a 15% increase over 3 years.

Maybe you’re thinking of boosting your business security measures? If so, you’re not alone – according to the same report, 51% of businesses are now planning on investing in improved security. Conditional access policies can play an effective part in this.

Increased efficiency

Conditional access policies can also play a positive role in improving efficiency across your company.

One way, as already mentioned, is by enhancing security. By enforcing access controls based on specific conditions, you reduce the risk of unauthorized access and data breaches.

Conditional access policies can also help you to streamline processes. By automating onboarding and offboarding processes and adapting authentication based on roles, you can minimize manual intervention and refine operations.

They also help you to optimize your resource utilization. Ensuring users have access only to necessary resources and enforcing device compliance contributes to efficient resource allocation.

Of course, all these benefits can contribute to lower operational costs for your business, helping you to stay competitive and concentrate on what really matters to you.

Better compliance

Staying compliant is a huge concern for all businesses these days. Under the EU General Data Regulation (GDPR), for example, business can face fines of up to €20 million or 4 % of worldwide turnover for the preceding financial year — whichever is higher.

No surprise, then, that compliance is such an important issue for all businesses. Conditional access policies can help you to stay compliant by putting controls on who access your devices, as well as how and when that data is accessed. This all helps prevent authorized access and data breaches.

Let’s say you have sensitive client data on your network. To stay compliant with data regulations, this data can only be accessed in a particular location.

In this case, conditional access policies can help you to make sure they are only accessed in that one place — all without negatively impacting your workers’ ability to access other, less sensitive data elsewhere.

Supporting new kinds of work

Which leads us neatly to another huge benefit of conditional access policies — supporting mobile and diverse work.

Conditional access policies can create adaptable and diverse work environments. Nowadays, more and more workers are operating across many devices. This can lead to negative consequences, with the rise of so-called shadow IT. Conditional access policies help you respond to this shift without compromising on security.

Another benefit is improved user experience. Customized access allows your employees to switch painlessly between approved devices. This flexibility can help to ensures greater satisfaction and boost productivity.

Enhanced mobility and remote work are further important benefits of conditional access. Since the pandemic in particular, remote work has become common, and workforces are much more mobile. Conditional access policies can help here. For example, VPNs or multi-factor authentication can help employees work securely from anywhere.

Conditional access policies also help to optimize costs associated with device management. You can align access controls with the specific requirements of each device type. This minimizes the risk of security incidents and their financial impact.

Summary

With dispersed IT fleets now the norm, conditional access policies make sense for a lot of reasons. Most importantly, they can help deliver best-in-class security to your business. This is a vital consideration for businesses big and small.

But conditional access policies also have many other benefits. They can help your business to be more efficient, optimize resources, and support BYOD (‘bring your own device’) policies and remote work.

To install conditional access policies, however, you first need to have the full picture of your fleet. With TeamViewer’s remote solution, you can track all devices in your business. By defining and enforcing access rules at user, group, or device level, your conditional access system acts like a firewall for your network. At the same time, you gain access to your own private and secure cloud. In essence, it can help you to embrace digital transformation without getting bogged down in the security risks it often brings.

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