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In this digital age, security should be every business’s top priority. Microsoft 365 (M365) is a powerful and robust platform that millions of people use every day. As much as it offers efficiencies and collaboration, it also has its vulnerabilities. 85% of organizations using Microsoft 365 have suffered email data breaches with severe repercussions. Securing your M365 platform is crucial for your organization’s cybersecurity as an email breach is a fast track to a data breach. Phishing is the leading cause of data breaches as per both IBM and Verizon’s data breach reports. In this blog we list 5 best practices to secure your M365 platform and data by harnessing Microsoft’s numerous security features.
5 Best Practices to Ensure Microsoft 365 Security
#1 Setup Baseline Microsoft 365 Security
Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
The first step in securing your M365 data is to use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). MFA adds an extra layer of security for your accounts by requiring at least two proofs of identity when signing in. It can be a combination of something you know like a password and something you have, like a phone or email. MFA can block over 99.9 percent of account compromise attacks. It is “highly recommended” by Microsoft and is in fact a mandatory requirement for all of Microsoft’s Partners. MFA is essential as it makes it more challenging for attackers to gain unauthorized access to your M365 data. Microsoft offers MFA as a free feature – follow these steps to set up MFA in Microsoft 365.
Apart from MFA setup strong password policies and well-compartmentalized admin accounts.
Setup Office 365 Message Encryption
Microsoft offers message encryption to send and receive encrypted email messages between employees within and outside your organization. Office 365 Message Encryption works with Outlook, Yahoo!, Gmail, and other email services. Email message encryption helps ensure that only intended recipients can view message content.
Secure your Endpoints
Your M365 data may be accessed from various devices, including laptops, smartphones, and tablets. Securing these devices is critical. Ensure that all devices accessing your M365 data are up to date with the latest security patches, and that you have installed security software on them. You should also enforce device-level encryption, set up a password or passcode on all devices, and implement remote wipe capabilities so that you can wipe data from lost or stolen devices.
#2 Harness Microsoft 365 Security Tools
Microsoft comes with a rich array of security tools. We detail a few essential ones below
- A good place to start is the Security Center which in essence is Microsoft’s unified Microsoft 365 Defender that combines Microsoft Defender for Endpoint and Microsoft Defender for Office 365 experiences.
- Enforce endpoint security with Microsoft Defender for Endpoint to regularly scan devices that are synchronizing data or targets of mapped network drives.
- The former Microsoft Defender for Cloud Apps (now part of the unified Defender) monitors and blocks the download of sensitive data.
- Secure Score is a Microsoft 365 service that assesses your organization’s security posture and provides recommendations on how to improve it. It provides a benchmark score of your current security posture and identifies which areas have room for improvement. Secure Score also includes a dashboard that provides prioritized recommendations and actions for you to take to improve your security posture. These recommendations are tailored to your organization, and they are designed to help you minimize security risks.
- Microsoft 365 also includes features to secure against cybersecurity’s greatest scourge – ransomware. Here is a rundown of ways Microsoft protects against ransomware.
- Data Loss Prevention (DLP) is a security feature in M365 that helps prevent sensitive information from leaving your organization’s network. DLP enables you to define rules that prevent users from sharing sensitive data through email or other applications. DLP can also flag sensitive data in documents and emails, prompt users to classify the data, and enforce retention policies so that data is not deleted accidentally or maliciously.
#3 Don’t Forget Compliance
Microsoft’s new compliance center allows your team of compliance, privacy, and risk management professionals to effectively collaborate to evaluate and mitigate your compliance risks. Get visibility into your compliance posture against key regulations and standards like the GDPR, ISO 27001, and NIST 800-53. Secure and govern your data using sensitivity and retention labels. Manage regulatory inquiries such as Data Subject Requests and access a range of other compliance and privacy solutions. It also brings in Microsoft Cloud App Security (MCAS) insights to help you identify compliance risks across applications, discover shadow IT, and monitor employees’ non-compliant behaviors.
#4 Educate Your Employees on Security Best Practices
Although technology plays a significant role in securing your M365 data, it’s your employees who can make or break your security efforts. Educating your employees on security best practices and cybersecurity awareness is crucial.
Your employees should know how to practice safe browsing, how to recognize phishing attempts, and how to report security incidents. They should also know the importance of strong passwords, and why they should never share their passwords with anyone.
#5 Develop a Robust and Tested BCDR Plan
A robust Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plan (BC/DR) is an organization’s safety net. BCDR plans are comprehensive plans that help organizations prepare for unexpected disruptions or disasters. The plan outlines procedures and instructions an organization must follow to maintain essential functions in case of a disruption. These plans may cover a variety of potential scenarios, such as natural disasters, power outages, cyber-attacks, or even pandemics.
Two key aspects of a BCDR plan are the Incident Response Plan and a Backup and Recovery Plan. The Incident Response Plan details steps to assess the risks, mitigate them, recover from the attack, and communicate and coordinate with your teams and customers. The other crucial part of a BCDR is a Backup and Recovery Plan. Though Microsoft 365 is stringently secure it cannot protect you from data loss at your end due to prevalent causes such as accidental deletion, malware/ransomware, device syncs, and more. While Microsoft offers native data retention and archival methods, as the name indicates, they are archival in nature and cannot offer accurate point-in-time recovery. An ESG survey reported that 81% of companies have lost Office 365 data and only 15% were able to recover the lost data without the use of a third party backup service.
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In conclusion, securing your M365 data requires a multi-layered approach, with technology, policies, and employee awareness all playing a crucial role. Adopting MFA, enabling DLP, using Secure Score to monitor your security posture, educating your employees, and securing your devices are all essential steps you can take to ensure the security of your M365 data. By implementing these measures, you can minimize the risk of security breaches, protect your sensitive data, and maintain business continuity.
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