7 Tips to Secure Your Microsoft 365 Environment

WME-Microsoft 365 Environment

In today’s digital world, securing your Microsoft 365 environment has never been more critical. With sensitive information and data being stored on the cloud, any security breach can have severe consequences. In this blog post, we’ll explore seven expert tips that can help you protect your Microsoft 365 environment and ensure maximum security against cyber threats. Whether you’re an individual user or a large organization, these tips will help you safeguard your data and enjoy a worry-free Microsoft 365 experience.

1.            Setting Up Defender for Microsoft 365 for Optimal Protection

What is Microsoft Defender?

Microsoft Defender is a suite of advanced security technologies that protect computers and devices from various threats, including malware, viruses, phishing, and other cyberattacks. It is available as a built-in feature on Windows 10 and as an add-on for Microsoft 365 subscriptions.

Defender uses artificial intelligence, machine learning, and behavioral analytics to detect and block potential threats in real time. It also includes features such as anti-phishing protection, anti-malware protection, safe attachments, and safe links, which can be configured to provide additional layers of security for your devices and online accounts.

How to Use Defender to Secure Microsoft 365?

You can manually configure Microsoft Defender’s important features that can enhance the security posture of your organization. These features include:

Preventing Phishing Attacks:

Defender offers a range of tools and features to help admins prevent phishing attacks, including advanced email protection, anti-phishing policies, threat intelligence, and user education.

  • Exchange Online Protection (EOP) uses machine learning algorithms and advanced heuristics to analyze incoming email messages and identify suspicious patterns to block messages that contain known or suspected threats.
  • Anti-phishing policies allow admins to define rules for handling suspected phishing messages and specify how to handle messages that contain suspicious links or attachments.
  • Threat Intelligence provides real-time insights into the latest cyber threats, including phishing attacks, to inform email protection and anti-phishing policies.
  • Lastly, Security Awareness Training provides training materials and simulations to help users recognize and avoid phishing attacks.

By utilizing these tools and features, organizations can better protect themselves against the growing threat of phishing attacks.

Preventing Malware Attacks:

Defender for Microsoft 365 is a comprehensive security solution that helps admins prevent malware attacks in various ways. Firstly, it detects and blocks known and unknown malware in real-time. For example, identifying suspicious files, URLs, and email attachments and stopping them before they can infect the system.

  • Also, this tool uses sandboxing to isolate and test suspicious files in a controlled environment, minimizing the risk of infection.
  • It provides admins with granular control over access and permissions, enabling them to limit the attack surface and prevent unauthorized access to critical systems and data.
  • Finally, Defender also integrates with other Microsoft security solutions, such as Azure Active Directory, to provide a holistic security approach that spans across devices, identities, and data.

Secure File Sharing:

One of the key features of Defender is its ability to provide advanced threat protection, which helps to identify and prevent malicious files from being shared within the organization.

There’s a dedicated tool called, Safe Attachments. It performs a powerful double scan on files that have previously been checked by the anti-malware safeguard function, thus adding an additional level of security to your file sharing.

That said, Defender for Microsoft 365 offers data loss prevention capabilities, which allow administrators to control and monitor the sharing of sensitive data. This includes the ability to define policies that restrict the sharing of certain types of files or information, as well as providing alerts when sensitive data is shared outside of approved channels.

Protected URLs:

Defender comes with a feature called “Safe Links” that enables quick verification of URLs sent through emails.

How Does Defender’s Safe Links Tool Ensure Protected URLs?

Safe Links provides real-time protection by scanning URLs in email messages, Office documents, and other file types. When a user clicks on a URL, Safe Links automatically checks the URL against a list of known malicious websites and potentially unsafe links. If the URL is identified as unsafe, the user is redirected to a warning page, which informs them that the website is malicious and advises them not to proceed.

Admins can customize Safe Links policies to meet their organization’s specific security requirements. For example, they can block access to known malicious websites or allow access to specific URLs that may have been flagged as suspicious by mistake. Admins can also track the URLs that have been clicked by users and analyze the data to identify potential threats and take appropriate action.

2.            Take Charge of Your Email Inbox: Disable Auto-Forwarding

If your Microsoft 365 email security is compromised, it can lead to several potential consequences, including:

  • Data Breach: The attacker may gain access to sensitive information, such as your emails, contacts, and other confidential data.
  • Email Hijacking: Hackers can send spam or phishing emails or distribute malware to your contacts.
  • Exchange Online Hijacking: Security breachers can potentially carry out a range of activities, such as deleting messages, modifying email rules, and setting up automatic forwarding of all your emails to an external address.
  • Financial Loss: The attacker can use your email account to perform fraudulent activities, such as stealing money from your bank accounts or making unauthorized purchases using your credit card.

Fortunately, you can preemptively address this issue by disabling the auto-forwarding feature through the Microsoft 365 admin center.

How to disable email forwarding in Microsoft 365?

Here are the step-by-step instructions to disable the auto-forwarding of emails in Microsoft 365:

  • Open the Microsoft 365 Admin Center and sign in with your admin credentials.
  • In the left navigation menu, click on the “Exchange” option to access the Exchange Admin Center.
  • Now, click on the “Mail flow” option in the left navigation menu.
  • Click on the “Rules” tab to view the email rules that are currently in place.
  • Look for any rules that have been created for auto-forwarding emails. To do this, you can search for the keyword “forward” in the “Name” column.
  • Once you have identified the rule, select it and click on the “Edit” button.
  • In the “Edit Rule” window, uncheck the box next to “Enabled” to disable the rule.
  • Click on “Save” to save the changes and disable the auto-forwarding rule.

Also, if you want to prevent users from creating auto-forwarding rules in the future, you can also set up a transport rule to block auto-forwarding.

Here’s how:

  • In the Exchange Admin Center, click on the “Rules” tab under “Mail flow”.
  • Click on the “+” button and select “Create a new rule”.
  • In the “New rule” window, give the rule a name, such as “Block Auto-Forwarding”.
  • Under “Apply this rule if”, select “The sender is located” and choose “Inside the organization”.
  • Under “Do the following”, select “Block the message” and choose “Reject the message and include an explanation”.
  • In the explanation field, provide a message to explain why auto-forwarding is not allowed.
  • Click on “Save” to create the transport rule and block auto-forwarding.

3.            Safeguard Your Data with a Third-Party Backup Provider

Despite the robust security features incorporated in Microsoft 365 plans, there still exists a potential vulnerability to new undetectable malicious attacks that can infiltrate your Microsoft 365 environment, ultimately compromising the organization’s data. The repercussions of such attacks could result in substantial financial losses and damage to your organization’s reputation.

To mitigate this risk and ensure seamless recovery of data after an attack, it is recommended that you deploy a third-party backup solution like AvePoint or Veeam for a fast incremental backup for your Microsoft 365 apps.

 According to Microsoft’s Shared Responsibility Model (https://learn.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/security/fundamentals/shared-responsibility), the responsibility for the safety of data generated and stored in Office 365 applications lies solely with the organization utilizing these applications. As such, it is imperative that you implement all the necessary security mechanisms and put in place a backup strategy with a reliable third-party solution to ensure quick recovery in case of any data loss.

4.            The Importance of Monitoring and Auditing Your Security Policies

The landscape of security threats is in a state of constant evolution, emphasizing the importance of regularly reviewing and updating security policies to ensure alignment with organizational needs. That said, you should also consider enabling auditing and reporting functionality to monitor user activity within your environment.  

In fact, to identify and mitigate potential threats more effectively, always keep notifications activated. Also, Microsoft 365 security offers alert policy creation to provide timely updates about potential vulnerabilities and sudden system changes. This enables tracking and management of alerts related to data security, information governance, email routing, access permissions, and cyber threat mitigation.  

5.            Get Comprehensive Data Protection with Microsoft Purview

Microsoft Purview is a cloud-based data governance solution that provides a unified and integrated view of your organization’s data across multiple sources and platforms.

With Purview, you can discover, classify, and manage your data assets to help ensure compliance with regulatory requirements and improve data security.

Microsoft Purview can help Microsoft 365 admins keep their security up by providing a centralized view of their organization’s data assets and helping them better manage and protect their data.

Purview includes a range of tools to help you manage your data, including:

1. Data discovery and classification: It enables you to automatically discover and classify data across multiple sources, including on-premises, multi-cloud, and SaaS applications. You can use Purview to classify data based on sensitivity, such as personal or confidential information, to help you better manage and protect your data.

2. Data cataloging: Purview provides a centralized catalog of your data assets, making it easier for you to search and find the data you need. The catalog includes information such as the location, ownership, and lineage of your data assets, which can help you better understand and manage your data.

3. Data lineage and mapping: You can map and trace the lineage of your data assets, allowing you to track the flow of data across your organization and identify potential security risks.

4. Data governance and compliance: Purview includes tools to help you ensure compliance with regulatory requirements, such as GDPR and CCPA. You can use Purview to set policies for data retention, access control, and data protection, and monitor compliance across your organization.

How to leverage Microsoft Purview?

With Purview, admins can discover and classify sensitive data, track the lineage of their data assets, and set policies to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.

Moreover, by using Purview in conjunction with other Microsoft 365 security features, such as Azure Information Protection and Microsoft Defender for Endpoint, admins can create a more

comprehensive and effective security strategy.

6.            Control User Permissions and Accounts

For effective permission control management, it is crucial to follow the principle of least privilege. This means that users should only have access to the specific resources, systems, and data that they need to complete their work.

What is the Importance of the Principle of Least Privilege?

The principle of least privilege is important because it helps to minimize the potential damage that can be caused by a security breach or insider threat. By limiting user access to only what they need, the impact of a security incident can be contained, preventing unauthorized access or modification of critical systems and data.

Implementing this highly effective security principle requires careful planning and management of user access rights. Access control mechanisms such as role-based access control (RBAC) or attribute-based access control (ABAC) can be used to ensure that users are only granted the minimum level of access necessary to perform their job function.

Within Office 365, administrators can these controls and configure synchronization with Azure Active Directory (AD) to manage user accounts, assign specific roles, and authorize access to select applications. Regular audits of user access rights can also help to identify and mitigate any potential security risks.

Microsoft 365 is noticeably more vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

It is crucial to note that Microsoft 365 admin accounts are particularly an easy target of cyberattacks since they possess elevated privileges and can access valuable data, ultimately jeopardizing the security of the entire Office 365 tenant. As such, administrators should limit their use of such accounts to essential tasks and utilize a separate account to perform routine non-administrative activities.

7.            Analyze Your Security Health with Microsoft Secure Score

Let’s first deal with the elephant in the room…

What is Microsoft Secure Score?

Microsoft Secure Score enables users to analyze the security health of their Microsoft 365 environment comprehensively. This powerful tool provides valuable insights into the organization’s security posture by offering a dashboard that tracks and monitors key security metrics.

How You Can Benefit from Microsoft Secure Score?

The tool continuously assesses the security status of your Microsoft 365 environment and provides recommendations for improvement. You can follow its recommendations to enhance your score and safeguard cloud data.

How to Analyze Microsoft Secure Score?

  • Score 30: A Secure Score of 30 indicates that there is significant room for improvement in your organization’s security posture. At this level, you may be missing critical security controls or have vulnerabilities that need to be addressed. Organizations with a score of 30 or lower may be at higher risk for security incidents and may need to take immediate action to improve their security posture.
  • Score 80: A Secure Score of 80 or above indicates that your organization has implemented a strong set of security controls and is actively following best practices for securing your Microsoft 365 environment. Organizations with a score of 80 or higher are less likely to experience security incidents and may have more time to focus on other business priorities.
  • Score 100: Whereas you can achieve a score of 100 when your Defender is fully operational in combination with a third-party security solution.

By leveraging Microsoft Secure Score, users can access real-time data that reflects changes resulting from modifications in Office 365 security settings or third-party data protection solutions. This allows users to continuously evaluate their security posture and implement recommended security measures for better security.

Wrapping it Up:

In conclusion, securing your Microsoft 365 environment is essential to protect your organization’s sensitive data from cybercriminals. By following the tips we have provided, you can enhance the security of your Microsoft 365 account quite reliably. To implement these tips and protect your business from cyber threats, consider partnering with a trusted IT provider like WME.

At WME, our experts can help you develop and execute a comprehensive security strategy tailored to your business’s unique needs. Contact us at sales@winmgmtexperts.com to learn more about our services and how we can help secure your Microsoft 365 environment.



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