Microsoft Office 365 takes the security of its services very seriously. With a large customer base worldwide, Microsoft Office 365 can sometimes be at the forefront of cyber-attacks, simply due to the number of people that use it. Let’s take a look at some of the safeguards that are included straight out of the box.
What is Microsoft doing to protect you and your data?
First off, Microsoft Office 365 comes with enterprise-grade threat protection included. The collection of technologies helps to protect against spam, malware, viruses, phishing attempts, malicious links, and other internet-based threats.
Microsoft Office 365 advanced threat protect (ATP) helps to protect against threats hidden in email attachments and links. It also provides defences again zero-day threats, ransomware, and other malware attempts. You can, if required, set up Microsoft Office 365 to notify you if any anomalies occur, with anomaly detection policies and controls. Giving you enhanced visibility into your Microsoft Office 365 usage.
Microsoft Office 365 encryption also helps protect against data breach and attacks on sensitive information. Microsoft Office 365 data loss prevention (DLP) helps to protect your HIPAA and GDPR related data.
From Microsoft’s website
“Each anti-malware solution in place tracks the version of the software and what signatures are running. The automatic download and application of signature updates at least daily from the vendor’s virus definition site is centrally managed by the appropriate anti-malware tool for each service team.
The following functions are centrally managed by the appropriate anti-malware tool on each endpoint for each service team:
- Automatic scans of the environment.
- Periodic scans of the file system (at least weekly).
- Real-time scans of files as they are downloaded, opened or executed.
- Automatic download and application of signature updates at least daily from the vendor’s virus definition site.
- Alerting, cleaning, and mitigation of detected malware.
When anti-malware tools detect malware, they block the malware and generate an alert to Microsoft Office 365 service team personnel, Microsoft Office 365 Security, and/or the security and compliance team of the Microsoft organisation that operates our datacentres. The receiving personnel initiates the incident response process. Incidents are tracked and resolved, and post-mortem analysis is performed.
Microsoft provides service-side technologies that encrypt customer data at rest and in transit. For example, for customer data at rest, Microsoft Azure uses BitLocker and DM-Crypt, and Microsoft Office 365 uses BitLocker, Azure Storage Service Encryption, Distributed Key Manager (DKM), and Microsoft Office 365 service encryption. For customer data in transit, Azure, Office 365, Microsoft Commercial Support, Microsoft Dynamics 365, Microsoft Power BI, and Visual Studio Team Services use industry-standard secure transport protocols, such as Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) and Transport Layer Security (TLS), between Microsoft datacentres and between user devices and Microsoft datacentres “
As you can see, there are many security solutions in place by Microsoft to help to protect your Microsoft Office 365 data. Added to that your own Endpoint – Antivirus – Anti Malware solution, plus your own continued vigilance when opening and clicking links in emails, makes for Microsoft Office 365 to be a pretty safe and secure software to use.
That being said, what are the best practice ways of keeping Office 365 secure? We look at some of the options available here. Please note, there are other additions that Microsoft recommends such as utilising ATP safe links, however, this is outside the scope of this article.
Set up multifactor authentication
Setting up 2FA (multifactor authentication) is pretty simple to do. It requires you to type in a code that will be sent to another device (usually a phone via SMS) to enable you to log into your email account. (You don’t need to do this every time when using your own outlook account on your own device). Essentially, it’s a 2 step verification process to help to ensure that your email account is not hacked.
Here is how to set up multi-factor authentication:
- In the admin centre, select Users > Active Users.
- In the Active Users section, select Multi-Factor Authentication.
- On the Multi-Factor Authentication page, select User if you are enabling this for one user Or you can perform a Bulk Update.
- Select Enable under Quick Steps.
- In the pop-up window, choose Enable Multi-Factor Authentication.
If you are interested, you can Microsoft’s full details and recommendations here.
Train your users
Training your users to not only use Microsoft Office 365 effectively but to know what to look out for in terms of attempting hacking attacks, Phishing Scams, and how to spot illegal emails is a great defence against cybercrime in your organisation.
Human-error; we talk about it all the time, but what exactly do we mean? Human-error occurs when an individual performs a task or does something with an unintended outcome. It is easy to point the finger at employees as being an organisation’s weakest link, but without appropriate security awareness training provided by the employer, how can employees truly know what to watch out for?
Security awareness training will certainly help employees learn how to spot malicious attempts by cybercriminals, but it is also required to comply with some government regulations. A lack of training can open the door for cybercriminals and may result in a breach, causing potentially significant fines and penalties as well as likely damage to an organisation’s reputation.
Use dedicated Admin accounts
Administrative accounts are the keys to the kingdom in many cases with I.T. and its no different with Microsoft Office 365. If your administrator account is hacked and becomes a victim of cybercrime, then the chances are that your entire organisation will be vulnerable and open to attack.
If you use administrator accounts purely for admin purposes and not linked to a user account, then this diminishes the opportunity for the hacker to gain control.
Additional recommendations from Microsoft are:
- Be sure admin accounts are also set up for multi-factor authentication.
- Before using admin accounts, close out all unrelated browser sessions and apps, including personal email accounts.
- After completing admin tasks, be sure to log out of the browser session.
Raise the malware protection level
Microsoft Office 365 comes with a level of Malware protection that you can enable directly from the admin panel. We would, however, advise that you add additional protection from 3rd party malware/endpoint protection software to ensure that the rest of your device is covered.
Here are the steps to enable malware protection in Microsoft Office 365:
- Go to https://protection.office.com and sign in with your admin account credentials.
- In the Security & Compliance Centre, in the left navigation pane, under Threat management, choose Policy > Anti-Malware.
- Double-click the default policy to edit this company-wide policy.
- Select Settings.
- Under Common Attachment Types Filter, select On. The file types that are blocked are listed in the window directly below this control. You can add or delete file types later if needed.
- Select Save.
Stop using auto-forwarding of email
A trick of the hacker is to forward your emails to another address without your knowledge, these are set up usually without your knowledge. You can prevent these by setting up a mail flow rule:
- Go to the Exchange admin centre.
- In the mail flow category, select rules.
- Select +, and then Create a new rule.
- Select More options at the bottom of the dialog box to see the full set of options.
- Apply the settings in the following table. Leave the rest of the settings at the default, unless you want to change these.
- Select Save.
Use Office Encryption (E3 License)
Office Message Encryption is already set up within Microsoft Office 365 (E3 License). To encrypt an email from within outlook to someone within, and outside of your organisation do the following:
- Start a new email
- Select “Options” from the menu
- Select “Encrypt” dropdown.
- Decide which Encryption you require, Encrypt or Do Not Forward
- Decide if you want to include company confidential
If the recipient is outside of your organisation and using an email client such as yahoo or Gmail, they will see a link that asks them to either sign in to receive the message or to request a one-time passcode to view the message in their browser.
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