Why SMEs Need Conditional Access Policies

Written by Kate Lake on May 4, 2022

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Cybersecurity risks show no signs of abating. On average, there were 270 attacks per company over 2021, representing a 31% increase over the previous year.

And while small to mid-size enterprises (SMEs) generally believe in the secure cloud, many weren’t able to prioritize security when the pandemic forced them to make the quick shift to remote work.

Now, workers and businesses have both witnessed the benefits of a flexible workplace: remote work is here to stay, and security must catch up.

IT departments are now tasked with finding a way to securely verify remote logins without negatively impacting the user experience. Conditional access policies help companies manage bring your own device (BYOD) policies, non-corporate networks, remote user identities, and more. In short, they provide contextualized access control that both improve the user experience and heighten security, all in real time.

Why Are Conditional Access Policies Important for SMEs? 

Identity protection remains a core security challenge for IT administrators. Compromised credentials are the leading cause of cybersecurity breaches. It’s the weakest link in the cybersecurity chain; if additional measures aren’t put in place, leaked credentials alone could grant attackers access to a company’s main network and all associated resources and data. 

These are not often overly sophisticated attacks. User identities could be compromised simply because a user relies on the same password for multiple accounts. A leak from any unrelated source could end up compromising the organization’s systems. 

That is precisely why conditional access policies are so important. Think of them as the gatekeeper to your data. Anyone who wishes to access it must meet certain conditions. If they’re unable to meet the conditions, the gatekeeper doesn’t allow them to go through.

Conditional access policies are important for SMEs, particularly those with a remote workforce or a need to provide third-party access, as they enable organizations to ensure that the relevant resources are only accessed by authorized parties, and only when they have met specified conditions.

Conditional Access Policy Best Practices

There are several best practices that organizations should stick to when implementing conditional access policies. 

First, there should be conditional access requirements for every authentication request for all users and apps. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is one of the simplest yet powerful access policies: requiring an MFA challenge before granting access significantly improves the security of the login. 

In addition, conditional access policies should enforce the organization’s security standards. For example, if the organization does not allow personal devices to be used for work, conditional access policies should deny access to unregistered devices. This allows organizations to automate the enforcement of these standards.

By focusing on the quality and not the quantity of conditional access policies, IT admins can reduce disruption that the newly introduced policies may bring. Minimizing the number of policies is a best practice — but only when the policies that are put in place are airtight.

Testing is an integral part of the process. There should be visibility and knowledge into the expected results that the new policies will generate. They should thus be scoped out on test accounts in order to validate the expected results.

Finally, conditional access policies must be based on the Zero Trust security model. This model assumes that all users, networks, and devices are untrusted; it’s up to the users to verify their identities or meet the conditions specified in order to gain access. This may involve blocking access requests through geofencing from countries where an organization may never expect a log in, for example. 

Conditional Access Policies with JumpCloud 

JumpCloud offers a powerful and versatile conditional access solution that enables IT administrators to apply the conditional access policies for their organization across entire IT environments, regardless of the vendor or operating system. With JumpCloud’s conditional access policies, IT admins can create an ironclad security policy by combining trust elements. 

In addition, JumpCloud will automatically enforce the strongest policy if more than one policy is applied to certain users and groups. It even allows for a global policy to be applied when no other policy applies to a certain user or group. This is essential in providing a strong baseline security coverage.

The JumpCloud directory platform is a single-pane-of-glass solution for user management and authentication, combined with device management, MFA, single sign-on (SSO), and more. It requires no on-prem servers or infrastructure, and it supports native, API-based integrations with Google Workspace, Microsoft 365, Okta, and Azure Active Directory. 

It’s free to try JumpCloud! You can test our full platform for 10 users and an equal number of devices with access to the entire suite of Premium features. As you take it for a spin, enjoy 10 days of Premium 24×7 support to truly absorb the JumpCloud advantage.

Kate Lake

Kate Lake is a Senior Content Writer at JumpCloud, where she writes about JumpCloud’s cloud directory platform and trends in IT, technology, and security. She holds a Bachelors in Linguistics from the University of Virginia and is driven by a lifelong passion for writing and learning. When she isn't writing for JumpCloud, Kate can be found traveling, exploring the outdoors, or quoting a sci-fi movie (often all at once).

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