Reliance on cloud and SaaS platforms, such as Microsoft 365, has drastically increased with the shift to remote work. However, with many preconceived concerns surrounding web-based applications and security, does Microsoft 365 provide the necessary security features to protect your business and data? Let’s find out in this blog.

How Secure Is Microsoft 365?

Given the surge in cybercrimes, security is the top concern for small and large businesses alike. But before we discuss how Microsoft helps you maintain security, let’s understand what Microsoft 365 is.

Microsoft 365 is one of the most widely used productivity suites in the world. More than a million companies globally use Microsoft 365 today and there are nearly 250 million monthly active Microsoft Teams users. Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) is a subscription-based suite of productivity and security applications and services, including Office 365. Microsoft 365 provides everything Office 365 offers and more, including business-class email, cloud storage, Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS), Windows 10, etc.

Microsoft 365 is a highly secure platform that enhances productivity and collaboration. Its data centers are protected by state-of-the-art security infrastructure and processes, which make them virtually impossible to breach directly. Microsoft provides a financially backed 99.9% application uptime guarantee for Microsoft 365. It also includes a range of robust security capabilities, such as identity and access management, threat protection, information protection, and security and risk management.

What Are the Security Features of Microsoft 365?

Microsoft 365 security is based on four main pillars:

1. Identity and Access Management

Microsoft identity and access management (IAM) solutions allow your IT to manage digital identities, thereby enabling secure access to your company’s resources such as applications, networks and databases. Microsoft IAM helps you fend off suspicious login attempts and protect user credentials with risk-based access controls, identity protection tools and strong authentication options. It allows your IT administrators to assign the right access levels using role-based access control to efficiently manage which user has access to what resources.

  • Secure Adaptive Access: Helps protect your users against identity compromise. By using strong authentication and real-time, risk-based adaptive access policies, you can ensure only authorized users and reliable devices can access your organization’s critical resources and data.
  • Seamless User Experience: IAM reduces the hassle and time spent on managing passwords, enabling your users with easy and fast sign-in to applications. This helps keep your users secure while boosting productivity.
  • Unified Identity Management: Gives you greater visibility and control by empowering you to effectively manage all your identities and access to apps, regardless of whether they are in the cloud or on-premises — all from a central location.
  • Simplified Identity Governance: Strengthens security by allowing you to control access across resources for all users and administrators. Automated identity governance ensures only authorized users have access to your company’s apps and data.

2. Threat Protection

Microsoft threat protection includes integrated, automated security solutions that help secure your email, data, applications, devices and identities against emerging cyberthreats.

  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM): Azure Sentinel enables you to detect and prevent threats before they cause any damage. It gives you a holistic view across your organization. Powered by artificial intelligence (AI), Azure Sentinel enables you to detect threats efficiently and respond to suspicious events quickly.
  • Extended Detection and Response (XDR): XDR capabilities of Microsoft 365 Defender and Azure Defender allow you to prevent and detect attacks across your identities, endpoints, email, data and cloud apps while protecting your Azure and hybrid cloud workloads.

3. Information Protection

Microsoft Information Protection (MIP) helps you locate, organize and protect your company’s sensitive information across clouds, apps and endpoints. MIP capabilities and solutions help you know your data, protect your sensitive information and prevent data loss.

  • Data Classification: Allows you to identify important information across your cloud and on-premises environments and add appropriate labels to control where the data travels to. Data classification enables you to protect your sensitive information regardless of where it lives and ensures the information is properly stored or deleted based on your organization’s needs.
  • Data Loss Prevention (DLP): Helps protect your organization’s sensitive information, such as financial data, credit card numbers, health records, social security numbers, etc., by allowing you to create and manage DLP policies in the Microsoft 365 Compliance center.
  • Microsoft Information Governance (MIG): Helps you stay compliant with data privacy regulations by enabling you to efficiently manage information lifecycle and records (retain or delete information) with in-place management, automated policies, defensible disposal and pre-built data connectors.

4. Security & Risk Management

Microsoft 365 security and risk management helps you quickly identify and remediate risks from both malicious and unintentional activities to protect your organization’s critical information.

  • Insider Risk Management: Enables you to identify, detect, analyze and take appropriate actions against insider risks in your organization through measures such as insider risk policies.
  • Communication Compliance: Helps minimize both internal and external communication risks by allowing you to quickly identify and act on inappropriate messages that violate your company’s code-of-conduct policy.
  • Information Barriers: Empowers you to limit or restrict communication and collaboration between certain users or groups if required, to avoid conflict of interest or protect internal information.
  • Customer Lockbox: Allows you to gain greater control over your company’s data. The Customer Lockbox feature allows you to manage how Microsoft support engineers access your content by empowering you to grant or deny access to your data.
  • Privileged Access Management (PAM): Allows you to manage privileged admin access by removing privileges from otherwise privileged accounts, and providing just enough access to perform critical, privileged tasks.
  • Advanced Audit: Helps you perform forensic and compliance investigations by increasing audit log retention. It also provides access to crucial events to better understand the scope of a breach.

Microsoft Cloud App Security and Compliance Management

Apart from the four pillars discussed above, there are Microsoft cloud app security and compliance management pillars that help you safely migrate to the cloud, give you complete visibility into your applications, provide greater control over your data and help meet legal and regulatory requirements.

What Is Microsoft 365 Security Center?

The Microsoft documentation defines the Microsoft 365 Security Center as the centralized hub for monitoring and managing security across your Microsoft identities, data, devices, apps and infrastructure. The Microsoft 365 Security Center allows security administrators and risk management teams to effectively manage and protect their business and data with Microsoft 365 advanced security solutions.

What Is Microsoft Compliance Manager?

Microsoft Compliance Manager is a compliance management solution in the Microsoft 365 compliance center that helps you stay on top of data privacy and information security. Microsoft Compliance Manager makes managing compliance requirements seamless and easy for your business, including taking inventory of data protection risks, staying up to date with regulations and certifications, and reporting to auditors.

What Is Microsoft Cloud App Security?

According to Microsoft documentation, Microsoft Cloud App Security (CAS) is a Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) that operates on multiple clouds. CAS keeps your organization and cloud data secure by improving visibility of cloud applications, providing greater control over your data, and providing centralized management and powerful analytics to vanquish cyberthreats across all your cloud services.

Microsoft 365 Security Best Practices

Most users don’t realize, or fail to take full advantage of, the built-in security features that come with Microsoft 365. Let’s look at the top five ways to make your Microsoft 365 more secure.

  1. Multifactor Authentication (MFA): Setting up multifactor authentication is an easy and effective way to ramp up the security of your organization. MFA means using two or more ways of verifying your users when they log in to their Microsoft accounts. For example, their passwords, passcodes sent to their phones, fingerprints, etc. This prevents threat actors from gaining unauthorized access to your apps and data even if they know your password.
  2. Dedicated Admin Accounts: Admin accounts are a goldmine for cybercriminals since they include elevated privileges. You must ensure your admins have a separate user account for regular, non-administrative tasks and only use admin accounts when necessary.
  3. Office Message Encryption: There are several encryption capabilities within Microsoft 365, such as Office Message Encryption, that ensures the email messages shared and received within and outside your organization are encrypted. Other encryption capabilities include BitLocker and TLS connections that protect your files on Windows machines, OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online.
  4. Data Loss Prevention (DLP): Create and manage DLP policies in the Microsoft 365 Compliance center to stay compliant with industry regulations. Having a DLP policy will ensure your company’s sensitive information is not lost, mishandled or accessed by unauthorized users.
  5. Anti-Phishing Protection: Phishing emails are the delivery system of choice to compromise accounts and penetrate Microsoft 365 tenants through malicious links and attachments. Anti-phishing protection and Safe Attachment protection, both of which are a part of Microsoft Defender for Office 365, help protect your organization from phishing attacks and attachments and files containing malware, virus, etc.

Ultimate Microsoft 365 Data Protection With Spanning Backup

You’re probably wondering why you need additional protection when Microsoft provides a financially backed 99.9% uptime guarantee for Microsoft 365 and their data centers are protected by robust security infrastructure and processes. While this is true, the architectural and functional aspects of Microsoft 365 make your tenant vulnerable to compromise and data loss due to human mistakes, programmatic errors, malicious insider activity, phishing, malware and ransomware attacks, all of which are not covered by the 99.9% guarantee.

Microsoft also follows the shared responsibility model where the vendor (Microsoft) assumes responsibility for application availability and everything it entails, whereas the customer (you) retains responsibility for application data, administration and user management, and security configuration.

Furthermore, if your organization uses an older version of Microsoft Outlook, you won’t be able to access your Microsoft 365 and Office 365 services unless you upgrade to the latest subscription models. Come November, Microsoft will drop older Outlook clients from Microsoft 365 services.

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