Using the location condition in a Conditional Access policy
Conditional Access policies are at their most basic an if-then statement combining signals, to make decisions, and enforce organization policies. One of those signals is location.
IPv6 is coming to Azure Active Directory (Azure AD). We will begin introducing IPv6 support into Azure AD services in a phased approach, starting April 3, 2023. Organizations that use named locations in Conditional Access or Identity Protection must take action to avoid possible service impact.
Organizations can use this location for common tasks like:
- Requiring multifactor authentication for users accessing a service when they're off the corporate network.
- Blocking access for users accessing a service from specific countries or regions your organization never operates from.
The location found using the public IP address a client provides to Azure Active Directory or GPS coordinates provided by the Microsoft Authenticator app. Conditional Access policies by default apply to all IPv4 and IPv6 addresses. For more information about IPv6 support, see the article IPv6 support in Azure Active Directory.
Conditional Access policies are enforced after first-factor authentication is completed. Conditional Access isn't intended to be an organization's first line of defense for scenarios like denial-of-service (DoS) attacks, but it can use signals from these events to determine access.
Locations exist in the Azure portal under Azure Active Directory > Security > Conditional Access > Named locations. These named network locations may include locations like an organization's headquarters network ranges, VPN network ranges, or ranges that you wish to block. Named locations are defined by IPv4 and IPv6 address ranges or by countries/regions.
IPv4 and IPv6 address ranges
To define a named location by IPv4/IPv6 address ranges, you need to provide:
- A Name for the location.
- One or more IP ranges.
- Optionally Mark as trusted location.
Named locations defined by IPv4/IPv6 address ranges are subject to the following limitations:
- Configure up to 195 named locations.
- Configure up to 2000 IP ranges per named location.
- Both IPv4 and IPv6 ranges are supported.
- The number of IP addresses contained in a range is limited. Only CIDR masks greater than /8 are allowed when defining an IP range.
Locations such as your organization's public network ranges can be marked as trusted. This marking is used by features in several ways.
- Conditional Access policies can include or exclude these locations.
- Sign-ins from trusted named locations improve the accuracy of Azure AD Identity Protection's risk calculation, lowering a user's sign-in risk when they authenticate from a location marked as trusted.
Even if you know the network and mark it as trusted does not mean you should exclude it from policies being applied. Verify explicitly is a core principle of a Zero Trust architecture. To find out more about Zero Trust and other ways to align your organization to the guiding principles, see the Zero Trust Guidance Center.
Organizations can determine country location by IP address or GPS coordinates.
To define a named location by country/region, you need to provide:
- A Name for the location.
- Choose to determine location by IP address or GPS coordinates.
- Add one or more countries/regions.
- Optionally choose to Include unknown countries/regions.
If you select Determine location by IP address, the system collects the IP address of the device the user is signing into. When a user signs in, Azure AD resolves the user's IPv4 or IPv6 address (starting April 3, 2023) to a country or region, and the mapping updates periodically. Organizations can use named locations defined by countries/regions to block traffic from countries/regions where they don't do business.
If you select Determine location by GPS coordinates, the user needs to have the Microsoft Authenticator app installed on their mobile device. Every hour, the system contacts the user’s Microsoft Authenticator app to collect the GPS location of the user’s mobile device.
The first time the user must share their location from the Microsoft Authenticator app, the user receives a notification in the app. The user needs to open the app and grant location permissions. Every hour the user is accessing resources covered by the policy they need to approve a push notification from the app.
Every time the user shares their GPS location, the app does jailbreak detection (Using the same logic as the Intune MAM SDK). If the device is jailbroken, the location isn't considered valid, and the user isn't granted access.
A Conditional Access policy with GPS-based named locations in report-only mode prompts users to share their GPS location, even though they aren't blocked from signing in.
GPS location doesn't work with passwordless authentication methods.
Multiple Conditional Access policies may prompt users for their GPS location before all are applied. Because of the way Conditional Access policies are applied, a user may be denied access if they pass the location check but fail another policy. For more information about policy enforcement, see the article Building a Conditional Access policy.
Users may receive prompts every hour letting them know that Azure AD is checking their location in the Authenticator app. The preview should only be used to protect very sensitive apps where this behavior is acceptable or where access needs to be restricted to a specific country/region.
Include unknown countries/regions
Some IP addresses don't map to a specific country or region. To capture these IP locations, check the box Include unknown countries/regions when defining a geographic location. This option allows you to choose if these IP addresses should be included in the named location. Use this setting when the policy using the named location should apply to unknown locations.
Location condition in policy
When you configure the location condition, you can distinguish between:
- Any location
- All trusted locations
- Selected locations
By default, selecting Any location causes a policy to apply to all IP addresses, which means any address on the Internet. This setting isn't limited to IP addresses you've configured as named location. When you select Any location, you can still exclude specific locations from a policy. For example, you can apply a policy to all locations except trusted locations to set the scope to all locations, except the corporate network.
All trusted locations
This option applies to:
- All locations marked as trusted locations.
- MFA Trusted IPs, if configured.
Multifactor authentication trusted IPs
Using the trusted IPs section of multifactor authentication's service settings is no longer recommended. This control only accepts IPv4 addresses and should only be used for specific scenarios covered in the article Configure Azure AD Multifactor Authentication settings
If you have these trusted IPs configured, they show up as MFA Trusted IPs in the list of locations for the location condition.
With this option, you can select one or more named locations. For a policy with this setting to apply, a user needs to connect from any of the selected locations. When you Select the named network selection control that shows the list of named networks opens. The list also shows if the network location is marked as trusted.
Conditional Access policies apply to all IPv4 and IPv6 traffic (starting April 3, 2023).
Identifying IPv6 traffic with Azure AD Sign-in activity reports
You can discover IPv6 traffic in your tenant by going the Azure AD sign-in activity reports. After you have the activity report open, add the “IP address” column and add a colon (:) to the field. This filter helps distinguish IPv6 traffic from IPv4 traffic.
You can also find the client IP by clicking a row in the report, and then going to the “Location” tab in the sign-in activity details.
What you should know
Cloud proxies and VPNs
When you use a cloud hosted proxy or VPN solution, the IP address Azure AD uses while evaluating a policy is the IP address of the proxy. The X-Forwarded-For (XFF) header that contains the user’s public IP address isn't used because there's no validation that it comes from a trusted source, so would present a method for faking an IP address.
When a cloud proxy is in place, a policy that requires a hybrid Azure AD joined or compliant device can be easier to manage. Keeping a list of IP addresses used by your cloud hosted proxy or VPN solution up to date can be nearly impossible.
When is a location evaluated?
Conditional Access policies are evaluated when:
- A user initially signs in to a web app, mobile or desktop application.
- A mobile or desktop application that uses modern authentication, uses a refresh token to acquire a new access token. By default this check is once an hour.
This check means for mobile and desktop applications using modern authentication, a change in location is detected within an hour of changing the network location. For mobile and desktop applications that don’t use modern authentication, the policy applies on each token request. The frequency of the request can vary based on the application. Similarly, for web applications, policies apply at initial sign-in and are good for the lifetime of the session at the web application. Because of differences in session lifetimes across applications, the time between policy evaluation varies. Each time the application requests a new sign-in token, the policy is applied.
By default, Azure AD issues a token on an hourly basis. After users move off the corporate network, within an hour the policy is enforced for applications using modern authentication.
User IP address
The IP address used in policy evaluation is the public IPv4 or IPv6 address of the user. For devices on a private network, this IP address isn't the client IP of the user’s device on the intranet, it's the address used by the network to connect to the public internet.
When you might block locations?
A policy that uses the location condition to block access is considered restrictive, and should be done with care after thorough testing. Some instances of using the location condition to block authentication may include:
- Blocking countries where your organization never does business.
- Blocking specific IP ranges like:
- Known malicious IPs before a firewall policy can be changed.
- For highly sensitive or privileged actions and cloud applications.
- Based on user specific IP range like access to accounting or payroll applications.
Conditional Access policies are powerful tools, we recommend excluding the following accounts from your policies:
- Emergency access or break-glass accounts to prevent tenant-wide account lockout. In the unlikely scenario all administrators are locked out of your tenant, your emergency-access administrative account can be used to log into the tenant to take steps to recover access.
- More information can be found in the article, Manage emergency access accounts in Azure AD.
- Service accounts and service principals, such as the Azure AD Connect Sync Account. Service accounts are non-interactive accounts that aren't tied to any particular user. They're normally used by back-end services allowing programmatic access to applications, but are also used to sign in to systems for administrative purposes. Service accounts like these should be excluded since MFA can't be completed programmatically. Calls made by service principals aren't blocked by Conditional Access.
- If your organization has these accounts in use in scripts or code, consider replacing them with managed identities. As a temporary workaround, you can exclude these specific accounts from the baseline policy.
Bulk uploading and downloading of named locations
When you create or update named locations, for bulk updates, you can upload or download a CSV file with the IP ranges. An upload replaces the IP ranges in the list with those ranges from the file. Each row of the file contains one IP Address range in CIDR format.
API support and PowerShell
A preview version of the Graph API for named locations is available, for more information, see the namedLocation API.
- Configure an example Conditional Access policy using location, see the article Conditional Access: Block access by location.
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