How Can Ransomware Damage Microsoft 365 Data?

Ransomware is rapidly becoming a more severe threat, with more intricate ransomware technology constantly being developed. Data has become an even more critical commodity with the shift towards remote work and the digitalization of the modern workplace. Because of this, criminals have been targeting companies and their data for the last couple of years.

Most users believe their data is safe and stored within the Microsoft 365 cloud. Even though Microsoft 365 offers users many security tools, data stored within the applications can still be affected by a wide range of dangers, ransomware being one of them. In this article, you will learn how a Ransomware infection can lead to data loss within Microsoft 365 and how to avoid this danger.

Isn’t my Microsoft 365 data safe?

One important thing to mention about ransomware is that no known ransomware methods can directly attack the data stored within your organization’s Microsoft 365. Cloud environments are generally more challenging to breach via ransomware, giving them an additional layer of protection. On-premise data sources contain typically much more valuable information and are, at the same time, more accessible to infect than the cloud.

The danger to your Microsoft 365 cloud is the various endpoints used to access the data. One feature that makes Microsoft 365 an excellent choice for office work is its ability to quickly and easily sync the data stored within a device with the information currently uploaded to OneDrive or Sharepoint. Although this makes remote office work very easy and efficient, it also gives way to many kinds of ransomware and malware. Although a ransomware attack won’t specifically target your Microsoft Office 365, if the cloud environment syncs with an infected endpoint, the infection can spread further, modifying files stored within the cloud.

Phishing emails are another popular method of infecting the data stored within the Microsoft Office 365 cloud. It involves having a user click an infected link or open an attachment containing the malware, giving the attackers free entry to the data. Human error of this type is the leading cause of ransomware infections. With further technological developments, we can expect to see more intricate fishing methods in the future, making this a real danger to any organization that stores its data in a Microsoft Office 365 cloud.

What about native Microsoft Office 365 security tools?

Microsoft offers Office 365 users several security measures that they can take to ensure the safety of their data. It’s important to remember that the natively offered options are minimal regarding data security. Therefore, relying only on these options for your database safety is not recommended. However, if you are looking to additionally increase your Microsoft Office 365 cloud security capabilities, keep these features in mind:

  • Versioning

Versioning is a feature enabled by default for files shared to OneDrive and Sharepoint. With versioning enabled, Microsoft Office 365 cloud retains the previous versions of a modified document. This applies to all types of files stored. While by default, versioning keeps the last 500 versions of files stored, depending on what type of Office 365 your company uses, this can be extended even up to the last 50 000 versions.

Although you should be able to retrieve previous versions of most of the data which might have gotten encrypted, this is not always the case. If an attacker gains access to your network via compromised login details, they can reconfigure the versioning settings and proceed to encrypt the data from there. If you’re looking for an additional endpoints protection, you should definitely check Storware Backup end Recovery for Endpoints

  • Ransomware notifications

Microsoft 365 has built-in ransomware detection, which triggers when certain conditions are fulfilled. This generally happens when many files have been modified quickly in a short amount of time. Although this does not directly help prevent ransomware infection by defending your files significantly, it can bring to your attention that some of your data might have been exposed to danger. This, in turn, can give you enough time to counteract the threat and prevent excessive data loss if an actual infection has occurred.

  • Anti-virus scanning and Microsoft Defender

Microsoft Office 365 comes with an in-built Anti-virus scan. It can help you with suspicious data or e-mails. It can also scan individual files for threats of potential attack. One of the most significant benefits of this feature is that it can help your employees filter phishing attempts out of their legitimate correspondence in the inbox.

Microsoft Defender offers even further options, allowing users to create a sandbox environment where they can check if the files are infected. The native security tool also includes endpoint detection and response, making it helpful in dealing with potential ransomware infections. Relying only on the anti-virus and Microsoft Defender does not provide your data adequate security. It can be helpful in scanning and trying to restore individual files. However, if a significant amount of your data stored within the Microsoft Office 365 cloud has gotten encrypted, you might need to try other methods to retrieve it.

How to prevent Microsoft Office 365 cloud ransomware infection?

Although ransomware remains a severe threat to databases worldwide, it can also be prevented if your organization takes a number of security measures. Here are some of the best methods to avoid data loss due to ransomware infection:

  • Employee education

All ransomware attacks that damage Microsoft Office 365 cloud environments are caused by human error. This often involves downloading an infected file, opening a phishing e-mail, or otherwise syncing to the cloud with an infected piece of data.

Because of this, ransomware infections can be avoided by simply educating your employees on necessary security measures. Database users should continually be updated on any significant developments within cyber-security or new, more intricate methods of ransomware. It will increase their safety while at the same time helping you ensure that no users with infected endpoints will connect to your cloud.

  • Perform regular backups

One of the main dangers associated with ransomware is the fact that, currently, it is almost impossible to decrypt data that was lost this way. Special tools are made to decrypt the infected data, but so far, there is never a 100% guarantee that tools of this type will be able to find the unique hash key necessary to retrieve the encrypted information.

Because of this, you should always regularly back up the data stored within Microsoft Office 365 cloud. Having a backup that your organization can use for data restoration in an emergency is the most effective method you can employ to protect your organization’s Microsoft Office 365 cloud and the data stored within. If an infected endpoint syncs up encrypted data with your cloud environment, you can simply restore the latest safe backup and continue your work almost uninterrupted with minimal data loss.

Watch the video to see how Storware responds to this issue.

  • Pay attention to the Microsoft Secure Score

One of the security features offered to the Microsoft Office 365 users is the security score. The app gives you a total security rating based on the enabled and disabled features. Although this is only an estimation based on your Microsoft Office 365 settings, it is still a helpful tip regarding your overall security status. By further looking into the security score in the Microsoft 365 Defender panel, you can see useful information on how to further expand your safety measures and help prevent ransomware attacks on your cloud environment.

  • Enable multi-factor authentication

Depending on your security settings, users of your organization’s Microsoft Office 365 cloud environment might be required to provide further authentication when trying to access the data. Setting up proper security settings might require the users to further authenticate their login by providing additional information or enabling the authentication on another device.

Although multi-factor authentication is a very powerful tool that can be used to guard your data, it is essential to keep in mind that you must maintain a balance between the security and safety of your cloud environment. Your Microsoft Office 365 can become unusable if no one can do any work because of the constant MFA authentication prompts. The level of security within MFA can be changed in the security settings to fit the needs of your data. There are also options to add trusted devices, which can make this process more efficient but lower the total security provided.

To sum up

Although your data might seem secure when stored within the Microsoft Office 365 cloud, it is still exposed to the security threat of ransomware. Suppose your organization combines the native security measures with the extra steps you can take to ensure the safety of your data. In that case, ransomware should be no threat to your Microsoft Office 365.

If you are serious about the security of your data stored and processed as part of Microsoft 365 applications and services (Exchange, SharePoint, One Drive or Microsoft Teams), you should definitely test Storware Backup and Recovery. Use the free Trial or contact us if you are interested in a one-on-one demo.

text written by:

Paweł Piskorz, Presales Engineer at Storware