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Security Measures to Improve Microsoft 365 Data Protection

by | Jan 10, 2022 | Cloud, Managed Services, Microsoft 365, Security

Making the most of your Microsoft 365 apps means making appropriate security measures. 

Microsoft 365 is one of the best collaboration and productivity tools around. It provides users with seamless communication, scalability, and support for remote work with various features. The security is also solid due to a wide array of defense mechanisms.

But this doesn’t mean you’re impervious to cyberattacks. Microsoft doesn’t enable security standards by default. Your business data is always your responsibility, no matter who is hosting it.

Data leakage, unauthorized access, and malware can still jeopardize your system and offer ideal entry points for hackers. Should your business fall victim, the consequences can be dire, ranging from operational disruptions to severe reputational damage.

The only way to fend off hackers is to take your Microsoft 365 data protection to the next level. This article will list the 11 most effective security measures we, here at Hermetic Networks, use to help shield your data in Microsoft 365.

11 Security Measures for Microsoft 365

1) Activate Multi-Factor Authentication

We’ve written a lot about Multi-Factor Authentication already. It is, by far, the single most important step to protecting your Microsoft 365 data. Not to mention one of the easiest, too.

Out of the box, Microsoft 365 offers just one method of verifying their identity – using a username and password. Unfortunately, many people don’t follow robust password protocols. If you’re allowing users to enter weak passwords, you’re exposing your organization to inevitable intrusions. Microsoft Authenticator App

That’s where multi-factor authentication (MFA) comes into play.

It can boost your Microsoft 365 security with one-time passphrases or other factors to verify user identity. Best of all, this measure is easy to apply.

However, enabling MFA should only be your first step. The next one is to activate Security Defaults, a Microsoft feature that enforces MFA in each administrator account.

Another great idea is to implement MFA in all accounts without administrator permissions. The reason being these accounts can still endanger services and apps in your ecosystem.

Finally, Microsoft now also allows you to increase your security visibility by viewing the service being requested for sign in as well as the approximate GPS location of the sign in using Microsoft Authenticator.

2) Use Session Timeouts

Many employees fail to log out of their accounts and lock their mobile devices or computers. This can grant insiders or even hackers unlimited access to enterprise accounts, enabling them to compromise your data.

Incorporating session timeouts into internal networks and accounts automatically logs users out after a certain inactivity period. That means hackers can’t take over their devices and access sensitive information.

Whenever we start with a new client, we ensure that enabling computer timeouts is one of our first actions. The standard 15 minutes is a good idea, and even setting timeouts to occur when the screensaver starts can be a great way to keep unauthorized users off computers.

3) Don’t Use Public Calendar Sharing

Calendar sharing enables your employees to synchronize and share schedules with colleagues. While this facilitates team collaboration, it can also give hackers insight into your operations and vulnerable users.

For example, if your security administrator is on vacation and this information is publicly available, attackers can use this window to launch malware.

Additionally, if your public calendars allow anonymous editing, malicious links can be added straight into shared calendar items, opening the door to many potential problems.

4) Set up Advanced Threat Protection

Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) is a robust solution that recognizes and prevents advanced threats that usually bypass antivirus and firewall defenses.

It grants your organization access to vendor resources that receive real-time updates, allowing users to understand the threats and integrate the data into their analysis.

ATP notifies you about attacks, the severity, and the method that stopped them, regardless of the source. It’s especially effective at preventing phishing.

It relies on machine learning and a massive database of suspicious sites notorious for malware delivery or phishing attempts.

All of our Hermetic Networks Managed Services clients have ATP enabled right out of the gate, so there’s never anything to worry about.

5) Configure DLP Security and Policy Alerts

Microsoft 365 lets you establish policy notifications in the Compliance Center to meet your company’s security needs. For example, they send your employees tips on sending sensitive information whenever they’re about to send a message to a contact outside your network.

These warnings can safeguard against data leaks while educating your team on safe data sharing methods.

Data Loss Prevention (DLP) rules can even help automatically block certain types of data from leaving the organization and alert managers when someone tries. Things like credit card and social security numbers are easily recognizable in all types of 365 datasets and should be configured for alerts.

Mobile Device Security

6) Enhance Mobile Device Security

Your team often uses smartphones to access work email, contacts, documents, and calendars, especially if they work remotely. So, securing devices should be your top priority when protecting data.

The best way to do so is to install Microsoft 365 Endpoint Management MDM features. They can let you manage your security policy, permissions, and restrictions, as well as wipe crucial information from stolen or lost devices.

7) Disable Legacy Authentication Methods

It’s worth noting that legacy protocols (standard username\password) don’t support several security features in Microsoft 365 that reduce the chances of intrusion, such as MFA. This can make them perfect gateways for adversaries who want to target your organization.

Many times, when we see an organization get breached and start sending out spam, we check to see if legacy authentication is enabled and multi-factor authentication is disabled. 9 times out of 10, they are.

That said, your best bet is to deactivate legacy protocols altogether in order to mitigate risks.

However, you may not want to disable legacy authentication if your team needs it for older email accounts. The good news is that you can still make your network safer by restricting access to users who don’t need this protocol.

8) Configure Role-Based Access and Security Controls

Access management is a convenient security feature that can limit the flow of private information across your business. It allows you to establish the users who can access data in your company.

For instance, you can minimize data leaks by preventing rank-and-file team members from reading and editing executive-level files. The same is true for Microsoft 365 features and apps. Standard users shouldn’t have administrator rights on 365 services and all administrator accounts should have MFA configured.

9) Use the Unified Audit Log

Unified audit log (UAL) includes logs from several Microsoft 365 services, such as Azure AD, SharePoint Online, OneDrive, and Microsoft Teams. Enabling it can give the administrator insight into malicious activity and actions that violate organizational policies.

You may also want to incorporate your logs into an existing SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) tool. Doing so enables you to connect logs with current log monitoring and management solutions to reveal abnormal activity. Plus, it can improve the overall security of your Microsoft 365 suite.

10) Use Email Encryption

Encrypting sensitive data is often the last resort when dealing with data breaches. But if cyber attackers access your emails, robust encryption tools can make them unreadable. That’s why email encryption is something worth looking into.

This feature is essential for Microsoft 365 users who share emails and files regularly. All of our Hermetic Networks Managed Services customers have email encryption capabilities for the full office users.

11) Provide Security Training and Education for Employees

The above measures are undoubtedly effective, but they may amount to nothing if you leave your employees out of the picture. In fact, human error is the leading cause of most data breaches and Social Engineering is still the most commonly used attack vector.

One of the best ways to prevent security breaches in your business is to schedule employee security training and education. It can raise awareness of potential threats and provide guidance on how to address them.

This is especially important when recruiting employees. Make sure they undergo in-depth security training before granting access to sensitive data and organizational devices.

Don’t Leave Your Security to Chance

Microsoft 365 offers incredibly intuitive and convenient tools. The experience can be so smooth that you may even forget about protecting your data.

However, you’re taking a huge gamble in doing so, as it leaves your system open to attackers.

With that in mind, applying the defense mechanisms mentioned in this article will dramatically decrease security threats to your business.

We can help you further ensure your security when using Microsoft 365 apps. Contact us for a 10-15-minute chat that’s obligation-free. Let’s discuss how you can keep cyber threats at bay.