Reliance on cloud and SaaS (Software as a Service) platforms like Microsoft 365 has dramatically increased with the transition to remote work. Unfortunately, this popularity has drawn a fair share of attackers, leading to an exponential surge in cybercrime.

This surge has necessitated safe and reliable SaaS platforms that aren’t susceptible to attacks. Microsoft 365 is among the highly sought-after apps believed to be secure and almost impenetrable. But does it have what it takes to ensure data protection, with the numerous preconceived concerns surrounding web-based apps and safety? Let’s find out!

What Is Microsoft 365?

Microsoft 365, formerly Office 365, is a subscription-based service with the most up-to-date Microsoft Office applications.

Microsoft 365 is a secure, reliable platform that improves teamwork and individual output. Its data centers are safeguarded by cutting-edge security measures and processes, making hacking attempts virtually impossible. Microsoft offers a financially backed service-level agreement of 99.9% uptime for Microsoft 365. Microsoft 365 also has advanced safety features, such as identity and access management, threat prevention, data protection, and security and risk management.

Microsoft 365 Security Features

Microsoft 365 security is built on four fundamental pillars:

1. Identity and Access Management

Microsoft identity and access management (IAM) solutions enable digital identity management, facilitating secure access to your organization’s applications, networks, and databases.

Microsoft IAM provides risk-based access controls, identity protection capabilities, and strong authentication alternatives to help thwart unauthorized login attempts and safeguard user credentials. You can efficiently regulate users accessing certain resources by adopting role-based access control.

2. Threat Protection

Microsoft 365 comes with Advanced Threat Protection (ATP), which offers advanced security features to guard against online threats. ATP offers functions like Safe Links, which verifies the security of URLs in emails and Office documents, and Safe Attachments, which scans files for malware before launching them. It also incorporates anti-phishing measures, including impersonation protection, which recognizes and blocks emails that seem to originate from legitimate senders but are fraudulent.

3. Information Protection

Microsoft Information Protection (MIP) solutions safeguard sensitive data regardless of where it is stored or transmitted. MIP technologies allow swift configuration of data security policies with sensitivity labels. By generating sensitivity labels with pre-configured rules, you can conveniently assign security restrictions to files that apply regardless of where the data is stored.

4. Security & Risk Management

Microsoft 365 security and risk management enables swift identification and remediation of threats posed by malicious and inadvertent activities to safeguard your business’s sensitive data. It’s built to provide instant access to critical security data, allowing you to monitor your organization’s security in real time.

Office 365 Security Best Practices

1. Use Multi-Factor Authentication

Multi-factor authentication is the quickest and most efficient approach to bolstering your organization’s security. Microsoft Office 365 now requires a verification code entered on a mobile device when logging in. The extra layer reduces the chances of an account being hacked due to a leaked password or phishing scam. This is also referred to as 2-step verification.

2. Use Dedicated Admin Accounts

Your Office 365 administrative accounts have elevated privileges, making them appealing targets for cybercriminals. Administrators should have separate user accounts for regular, everyday use — only using their admin accounts when necessary. Creating an emergency access admin account and assigning role-based access control (RBAC) can also be helpful in the event of a problem.

3. Train Your Employees

While many measures are built into Office 365 to provide greater safety and compliance, human error is still the greatest threat every business faces. Research conducted at Stanford University concluded that human error accounts for 88% of all data breaches. Many businesses have adopted Office 365 security and awareness training to mitigate the risk of human error. However, since it is human to err, organizations should prepare for the possibility of error and not expect them to detect every attack.

4. Protect Against Ransomware Attacks

A ransomware attack restricts access to your organization’s data by encrypting files and locking out users. It will then demand “ransom” from the victims in exchange for data access, often in the form of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. Microsoft 365 Defender’s Safe Attachments feature can detect sophisticated ransomware, but attachment delivery and user experience are negatively impacted.

5. Raise the Level of Malware Protection

Office 365 includes malware protection, but you can further this security by restricting attachments with commonly used malware file types. PDFs and Microsoft Office documents are particularly susceptible to viruses.

6. Disable Email Auto-Forwarding

Cybercriminals who gain access to a user’s mailbox can exfiltrate email by configuring the mailbox to forward emails automatically. This may occur without the user’s knowledge. Setting up mail flow rules is an effective way to avoid this.

7. Use Office Message Encryption

Office 365 Message Encryption is a pre-installed feature of Microsoft 365. This functionality allows businesses to send and receive encrypted emails. Using Office 365 Message Encryption, you can ensure that only the intended recipients can view the message content.

Final Thoughts

Microsoft 365 offers a range of robust security features that can significantly enhance your organization’s security posture. With its advanced threat protection capabilities, Microsoft 365 helps detect and respond to sophisticated cyber threats effectively. Furthermore, Microsoft 365 offers intelligent identity and access management tools, enabling organizations to enforce strong authentication measures and control user access across applications and devices. The platform also incorporates powerful compliance and data governance features, assisting organizations in meeting regulatory requirements and managing data privacy effectively. Overall, Microsoft 365’s comprehensive suite of security solutions empowers organizations to strengthen their defenses, detect threats in real-time, and proactively mitigate risks, ensuring a more secure and protected digital environment.

If you would like to learn more on how to leverage Microsoft 365 security features, feel free to reach out to Softlanding!

Written By:


Softlanding is a long-established IT services provider of transformation, professional services and managed IT services that helps organizations boost innovation and drive business value. We are a multi-award-winning Microsoft Gold Partner with 13 Gold Competencies and we use our experience and expertise to be a trusted advisor to our clients. Headquartered in Vancouver, BC, we have staff and offices in Toronto, Montreal and Calgary to serve clients across Canada.

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