Microsoft 365 Security Best Practices for Keeping Your Data Safe

Over the years Microsoft office 365 has grown to be one of the biggest and most commonly used online platforms for office work. With its cloud integration, Microsoft Office 365 allows you and your employees to access all of the necessary Microsoft applications in one place, on any device which can connect to the internet.

Sadly, due to its increased popularity, Microsoft 365 is also a common target of many cyber-attacks, such as ransomware or malware infections. In this article, you will learn how to improve your Microsoft Office 365 security and ensure that your company can keep working efficiently without any threat of data loss.

Securing Microsoft Office 365

One of the more essential benefits of using Microsoft Office 365 is its native security tools. If you’re an Office 365 subscriber, consider paying closer attention to these features:

  • Check your secure score

The secure score is one of the most important Microsoft Office 365 security tools. Accessible directly from the office dashboard, your secure score is a way of letting the Office platform calculate its safety level for you. This can be used as a quick reference point when working on improving your Microsoft Office 365 security.

Your total score is calculated based on points you receive for setting up the security features recommended by Microsoft, performing various security-related maintenance tasks, or addressing suggested security recommendations with a third-party app. The further you develop your Microsoft Office 365 security settings, the more points you will receive on your score.

  • Multi-factor authentication

It is possible to set up a two-factor login authentication for you and your employees using the Microsoft Office 365 platform. This is one of the best ways to secure Office 365, as this can prevent hackers from accessing your data, even if some important login data was compromised. With MFA, users trying to log in to the platform will be required to use their phone or another device to authenticate the process. This effectively means that anyone who does not have a device necessary to perform the MFA won’t be able to access your data.

For users looking for additional security, Office 365 offers an option to trigger conditional access. Much like the MFA, conditional access can further limit who can access your Office 365 platform, allowing you to block login attempts from select locations or IP addresses.

  • Enable security defaults

Security defaults are several additional security options provided to Microsoft Office 365 users. While these options are enabled by default for users who have bought their subscription in recent years, if you’re a long-time user looking to improve your Office 365 security consider enabling your security defaults. Go to the properties tab in your Microsoft 365 admin center and select the enable security defaults setting.

  • Pay attention to audit logs

Microsoft Office 365 allows its users to enable audit logs. This allows your platform to collect information on all the activity within its workloads, retaining this information for up to 90 days. The audit log panel also includes a search bar, allowing you to quickly search for relevant information and pinpoint suspicious behavior in the audit logs.

Office 365 subscribers also receive an option to enable Azure Identity Protection. This feature dynamically analyzes average user activity, informing you of any unusual behavior that might harm your workload security.

  • Secure link sharing

The Office 365 security settings also allow users to control who can share the data stored within the workloads. Content stored in SharePoint and OneDrive can be further limited in who can access it, even if they receive the link. While, by default, this option allows everyone who has the link to access the shared files, secure link sharing enable you to make this data accessible only to people within your organization. Furthermore, if the data stored requires additional security, you can select for it to be accessible only to a select group of people.

Increase Employee Awareness

While various types of ransomware remain the most prominent danger to data stored within the cloud, Office 365 security tools should be more than enough to avoid a potential threat and, in the worst case, to mitigate the damage caused. Despite the functionality of Office 365, the best way to prevent possible data loss caused by malware or ransomware is to not get infected at all. According to research done by Stanford, around 88% of all data security breaches are caused by users opening infected messages. This is why many companies hold regular cyber-security seminars for their employees to remind them of threats that may lurk online. From a crisis management point of view, it is also important to have a Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP), but you can read about it below. So if you want to help your team avoid potential data loss, consider:

  • Using strong passwords – most of the time, when a severe security leak happens online and everyone has access to the compromised data, the passwords used to protect this information are laughably lackluster. Passwords that are easy to guess or break with a decryption program seriously threaten your Office 365 security. The best way to avoid it would be to instruct your employees to create strong passwords that will protect your data. Also, if you’re storing particularly delicate information, consider changing the password regularly. A secure password policy is an irreplaceable boon to any cloud user seeking more protection.
  • Educate your employees on the most common phishing attempts – while most ransomware and phishing happens via email, the mail attached to the infected file is often accompanied by the same message, even if it’s sent to millions of users. Users should be regularly informed on this subject to be able to identify potentially dangerous mail and avoid clicking any unwanted attachments.
  • Prepare a Disaster Recovery Plan – To avoid profound data loss, your organization must possess an emergency management strategy. This set of rules enumerating the steps necessary to prevent further data loss is a disaster recovery plan. While the creation and management of this plan are left to the security teams and their managers, it is still essential to keep the users informed about the course of action in case of a data disaster.

In the context of SaaS (Software as a Service) applications and services, such as Microsoft 365, the data responsibility model is also important. We wrote more about it in this blog: Why Should We Backup SaaS Application Data?

The security of data processed and stored in the cloud is crucial for maintaining the company’s business continuity. However, it is not always possible to protect data from danger, and then the only salvation is to restore them from a backup. Find out more in the video below.

The Office 365 security tools offer a wide range of choices, particularly for premium users. Aside from all the valuable options, such as multi-factor authentication and secure link sharing, the Office 365 environment also allows for some easy automation of the security processes regarding your workloads. If you’re looking to improve your data security, consider employing some methods in your workplace.

If you are serious about securing your Microsoft 365 data, download and test Storware Backup and Recovery and be sure to restore your data in case of any problems.

text written by:

Paweł Piskorz, Presales Engineer at Storware