Microsoft next month will start phasing out Client Access Rules (CARs) in Exchange Online – and will do away with this means for controlling access altogether within a year.
CARs are being replaced with Continuous Access Evaluation (CAE) for Azure Active Directory, which can apparently in “near-real time” pick up changes to access controls, user accounts, and the network environment and enforce the latest rules and policies as needed, according to a notice this week from Microsoft’s Exchange Team.
That might be useful if suspicious activity is detected, or a user account needs to be suspended, and changes to access need to be immediate.
“Today, we are announcing the retirement of CARs in Exchange Online, to be fully deprecated by September 2023,” the advisory read. “We will send Message Center posts to tenants using client access rules to start the planning process to migrate their rules.”
CARs is used by Microsoft 365 administrators to allow or block client connections to Exchange Online based on a variety of characteristics set forth in policies and rules.
“You can prevent clients from connecting to Exchange Online based on their IP address (IPv4 and IPv6), authentication type, and user property values, and the protocol, application, service, or resource that they’re using to connect,” according to a Microsoft document from earlier this year.
For example, access can be granted to Exchange resources from specific IP address, and all other clients blocked. Similarly, the system can filter access to Exchange services by department or location, or based on usernames.
Microsoft announced the replacement CAE in January, touting its ability to act fast on account revocation, disablement, or deletion; password or user location changes; the detection of nefarious activity; and other such updates, according to a blog post at the time by Alex Simons, corporate vice president of product management for the Windows giant’s identity and network access division.
“On receiving such events, app sessions are immediately interrupted and users are redirected back to Azure AD to reauthenticate or reevaluate policy,” Simons wrote. “With CAE, we have introduced a new concept of zero trust authentication session management that is built on the foundation of zero trust principles – verify explicitly and assume breach.”
With this zero-trust focus, session integrity – rather than a set session duration – is what dictates a user’s authentication lifespan, we’re told.
CAE not only aims to give enterprises greater and more immediate control over access and events, but users and managers may appreciate the speed at which changes are adopted, Microsoft claims.
“Continuous access evaluation is implemented by enabling services, like Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and Teams, to subscribe to critical Azure AD events,” Microsoft added earlier this month. “Those events can then be evaluated and enforced near real time. Critical event evaluation doesn’t rely on Conditional Access policies so it’s available in any tenant.”
Critical events can include a user account being deleted or disabled, a user password is changed or reset, or multifactor authentication is enabled for a user. There also are other events, such as when an administrator explicitly revokes all refresh tokens for a user or a rogue insider is detected by Azure AD Identity Protection.
Finally, for workload identities, CAE enforces token revocation for workloads, among other things, according to Microsoft. ®