Office365 is a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform whose reliance and usage have drastically increased due to the global shift to remote work. But considering the numerous preconceived concerns on web-based applications, the question that begs an answer is, “Is Office365 security enough to protect businesses and data?” Due to the increase in cybercrimes, most small and large enterprises have prioritised security in their business operations.
Microsoft Office365, formerly Office, is a widely used productivity suite with nearly 250 million monthly active Microsoft Teams users. There are also more than a million companies using it globally. It is a subscription-based suite that compromises productivity and security applications and services. It includes Office365, business-class email, cloud storage, Windows 10, Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS), etc.
Office365 is designed with high-security details that enhance productivity and collaboration. To ensure this security, Microsoft has established a state-of-the-art security infrastructure and processes that make it impossible to breach it directly. Microsoft 365’s uptime guarantee of 99.9% is financially backed. It has a range of robust security capabilities that include identity and access management, threat and information protection, as well as security and risk management.
Microsoft Office 365 Security Features
A security feature refers to any feature of a product designed to provide access security of that product. Office 365 security has four main capabilities:
1. Identity and Access Management
To allow your company secure access to its resources, such as networks and databases, Microsoft Identity and Access Management (IAM) solutions allow you to manage digital identities. IAM protects user credentials using risk-based access controls, identity protection tools, and strong authentication options. It allows you to give the right access levels with role-based access control so that you can manage the access rights of various users. The benefits of this feature include the following:
1. Secure Access
Adaptive Secure Access protects an organisation’s Microsoft 365 users against identity compromise. Use authentication and real-time adaptive access policies to ensure that only authorised users and reliable devices can access your critical resources and data.
2. Great User Experience
IAM helps your organisation save time by reducing the time spent managing passwords through easy and fast sign-in to applications. This keeps your users secure and increases productivity.
3. Unified Identity Management
This feature empowers Office 365 users to effectively manage all their identities and access to apps to give them greater visibility and control. This is done from a central location, whether they are in the cloud or on-premises.
4. Simplified Identity Governance
Identity governance allows the user to control access across resources to strengthen security. Thus, only authorised users can access the organisation’s apps and data.
2. Threat Protection
Office 365 threat protection has integrated, automated security solutions that help protect the user’s email, applications, data, devices, and identities against cyber threats. They include:
1. Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)
SIEM allows you to detect and prevent threat actors before they cause any damage. Azure Sentinel is powered by artificial intelligence, giving you a holistic view of your company. This helps you detect threats effectively and respond quickly to suspicious activity.
2. Extended Detection and Response (XDR)
Microsoft Defender and Azure Defender have XDR capabilities that help in detecting and preventing attacks across all user’s endpoints, data, identities, and email and cloud apps. They do this while at the same time protecting your Azure and hybrid cloud workloads.
3. Microsoft Information Protection (MIP)
MIP helps companies locate, organise and protect sensitive information across apps, endpoints, and clouds. Its capabilities and solutions allow you to know your data well to protect sensitive information from threat actors and prevent data loss.
1. Data Classification
A Microsoft 365 user uses data classification to identify important information across cloud services and on-premises environments to control where their data travels. It helps you protect your sensitive information by ensuring that it is properly stored or deleted according to your company’s needs.
2. Data Loss Prevention (DLP)
Data Loss Prevention (DLP) protects your company’s sensitive information, including financial data, credit card numbers, health records, etc. It allows you to create and manage DLP policies in the Microsoft Office 365 Compliance Center.
3. Microsoft Information Governance (MIG)
MIG uses automated policies, pre-built data connectors, in-place management, and defensible disposal to help you comply with data privacy regulations. It enables you to manage the information lifecycle and records efficiently.
4. Security & Risk Management
The work of Microsoft 365 security and risk management is to help organisations quickly identify and give solutions to risks from unintentional and malicious activity. This helps in protecting the organisation’s critical information. It includes:
1. Insider Risk Management
This feature helps you identify, detect, analyse, and take the correct actions against insider attacks in your organisation. Additionally, it includes measures such as insider risk policies.
2. Communication Compliance
Communication compliance minimises both internal and external communication risks. It allows a company to quickly identify and act on inappropriate messages that violate its code-of-conduct policy.
3. Information Barriers
When a company needs to protect internal information or avoid conflict of interest, they use information barriers. It limits or restricts communication and collaboration between certain users.
Microsoft Office 365 Security Risks
Although email and web security are vital considerations regarding the risks associated with Microsoft 365, security risks go beyond that. Due to the number of products it provides, it comes with several different attack vectors that cybercriminals can exploit. Some of the major risks that Office 365 users face include the following:
1. Phishing of Information
Attackers can use various mechanisms of delivering malware in the Microsoft 365 suite. They can deliver a malicious link or attachment via suspicious email, share documents in OneDrive, Exchange Online, or drop in chats in Microsoft Teams. Dedicated admin accounts are a high target for cybercriminals because they have many privileges. The admins must therefore have a separate user account for non-administrative tasks.
2. Malware Attack
The most crucial capability of Microsoft 365 is sharing and delivering files, making it highly vulnerable to malware attacks that mainly consist of malicious files. Malicious content can enter an organisation and spread through compromised email, OneDrive, Exchange Online, SharePoint, or Teams.
3. Data Exfiltration
When attackers try to steal an organisation’s information, it is referred to as data exfiltration. Attackers can exploit a built-in Microsoft application or power automation to exfiltrate emails and data. They automate workflows to extract data from other Microsoft applications like SharePoint Online, Microsft Exchange Online, or OneDrive.
If a data exfiltration attack occurs successfully, it can have a serious financial impact on the company. To prevent data exfiltration, a company should be able to detect behaviours such as mass downloading of files, exceeding send limits, and sharing files with personal email accounts.
4. Data Breach
Microsoft Office 365, like any other Software as a Service (SaaS) platform, makes sharing data and files inside and outside an organisation easy. However, this ease of sharing also extends to unauthorised parties. This may lead to a data breach.
Microsoft Office 365 Security Mitigations
You will need a long-term approach to protect your business against the cyber security risks of Microsoft 365. Some of the security best practices that will help you improve your organisation’s security posture and reduce your cyber exposure include:
1. Employee Awareness Programs
One of the most important components of Microsoft 365 security is training employees on cybersecurity awareness. The most common threats affecting Microsoft Office 365 occur due to employees falling for a scam or breaching data accidentally due to ignorance or negligence. Incorporating cyber security awareness training in your organisation can decrease risk exposure by instilling security best practices into your employees, as well as correct user management. They also learn to use the correct security settings in all apps and accounts.
2. Machine Learning Phishing Protection
Phishing emails are the main channel through which Microsoft 365 accounts are compromised and penetrated through malicious links and attachments. Cyber-attacks evolve constantly, and their malware cannot be detected through signature analysis. ML email security solution detects new or unknown malware and performs linguistic analysis to identify social engineering emails. Anti-phishing protection and Safe Attachment protection protect your organisation from phishing attacks, attachments, and files containing malware and viruses.
3. Outbound Data Protection
Although office 365’s data-sharing capabilities are useful, they also pose a threat of data exfiltration and loss. Outbound data protection monitors Microsoft office 365 traffic to pick out attempted exfiltration of sensitive data.
4. Encryption of Office Messages
Microsoft Office 365 has several encryption capabilities, such as Office Message Encryption, to ensure email messages shared and received in your organisation are encrypted. These measures prevent business email compromise. It also includes other encryption capabilities such as BitLocker and TLS connections. These capabilities protect your files on OneDrive for Business, Windows machines, Azure Ad, Exchange Online, and SharePoint Online.
5. Data Loss Prevention (DLP)
Creating and managing DLP policies within your organisation is important to stay compliant with industry regulations. This will ensure that your organisation’s sensitive information is not accessed by an unauthorised user, lost, or mishandled.
6. Multifactor Authentication (MFA)
One of the best ways to beef up security in many organisations is to enable multi-factor authentication. In Multi-factor authentication, you use two or more ways to verify your users when they log into their Microsoft accounts. For example, they can use passwords, codes that are sent to their mobile phones, fingerprints, etc. This makes it hard for unauthorised access to be granted to your accounts, apps, and data in case your password is compromised. It is also a great way of preventing business email compromise.
Microsoft Office 365 has put in place measures that help protect users from attacks. It has built-in security features, and if organisations follow the correct security practices, they will experience little to no malicious attacks.
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