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Best Practices for Securing Your Office 365 Environment

Updated: 5 days ago

The cloud offers undeniable advantages for businesses, but it also presents a new security landscape. Cloud-based environments are attractive targets for cybercriminals because they often store sensitive data and offer a wider attack surface than traditional on-premises deployments. 

Phishing emails remain a top threat, preying on human vulnerabilities to trick users into surrendering credentials or clicking malicious links. Malware specifically designed to target cloud platforms is also on the rise. In addition, data breaches can occur due to human error, compromised accounts, or weak security configurations.

Understanding these threats is crucial for implementing Office 365 security best practices that will safeguard your valuable data.

The Ever-Shifting Threat Landscape

In the ever-shifting threat landscape, with evolving threats, it can be daunting to know where to start. By following some basic best practices, you can significantly bolster your Office 365 (O365) security posture:

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

This adds an extra layer of security beyond passwords. Even if a hacker steals a login credential, they won't be able to access an account without a secondary verification code sent via phone or app.

Two popular options for MFA include:

    • Free apps like Microsoft Authenticator or Google Authenticator offer a convenient way to receive verification codes on your smartphone or tablet

    • For users who may not have a smartphone, SMS verification is an alternative where a verification code is sent via text message. While convenient, SMS verification is generally considered less secure than authenticator apps due to the potential for SIM swapping attacks.

Regular Updates

Microsoft continually releases security updates to patch vulnerabilities in O365. These updates address newly discovered security flaws could be exploited to gain unauthorized access to your data. Ensuring your applications and devices are updated promptly minimizes the risk of exploitation by these ever-adapting threats. 

Configure automatic updates for your O365 applications and services whenever possible. This ensures you receive the latest security patches as soon as they become available. For situations where automatic updates are not feasible, schedule regular manual updates to ensure your software remains current.

Data Loss Prevention

Data Loss Prevention (DLP) safeguards sensitive data by proactively identifying and blocking its unauthorized access. Data breaches can be catastrophic, incurring significant financial penalties and reputational damage. DLP policies can be configured to identify and block the transmission of sensitive data types like credit card numbers or social security numbers.

DLP offers two primary functionalities to achieve data protection:

    • The initial process involves identifying and classifying your sensitive data. DLP empowers you to establish rules that scan emails, documents, and other content repositories for specific keywords, patterns, or data types indicative of sensitive information.

    • Once sensitive data is identified, DLP policies will execute various predefined actions. These actions may include notifying the user that they are attempting to share sensitive data or blocking the transmission. DLP policies can be tailored to meet the specific requirements of your organization.

Educating Users

Your users function as the frontline defense in your enviroment’s security posture. The human element constitutes a significant factor in Office 365 cybersecurity. Even the most sophisticated technical controls can be avoided by a user falling victim to a phishing attack or clicking on a malicious link. Regular security awareness training programs equip your users with the requisite knowledge and skills to recognize and evade cyber threats.

Modern security awareness training programs like interactive simulations and real-world scenarios can engage users and heighten their awareness of security risks. These programs can encompass topics such as phishing identification, password best practices, and how to recognize social engineering tactics. Ongoing training will empower users to actively

Access Control & Role-Based Permissions

The principle of least privilege dictates that users should only have access to the data and resources they need to perform their jobs. Implement granular access controls and assign roles with limited permissions to minimize the damage if an account is compromised.

Within the realm of O365, access control and role-based permissions function as the digital gatekeepers, ensuring that only authorized users are granted access to specific resources. 

The principle of least privilege dictates that users should only have the access to information they need for their jobs. Implementing granular access controls and assigning roles with limited permissions minimizes the damage if an account is compromised. Even if a hacker gains access to a user's credentials, they'll be restricted to the specific data and functionalities permitted by that user's role. Think of it as issuing specialized keys – they may open a specific lock, but they can't access everything.

User Activity Monitoring and Logs

Monitor user activity logs to detect anomalous behavior that could indicate a compromised account. Regularly reviewing logs allows you to identify and address potential security incidents promptly.

O365 offers built-in auditing capabilities that enable you to track user activity within specific applications, providing a record of who accessed what and when. While not as comprehensive as SIEM tools, native auditing can be a valuable resource for organizations with limited security resources. SIEM tools act as a central command center, aggregating data from various sources, including user activity logs from O365, to provide a consolidated view of security events across your entire IT infrastructure. These tools can be configured to generate alerts based on predefined rules that identify suspicious activity patterns.

Regular Data Backups

Regular data backups are a critical safety net. In the event of a cyberattack or accidental data loss, backups ensure you can restore your data quickly and minimize disruption.

The frequency of your backups depends on the criticality of your data and your organization’s tolerance for data loss. For instance, highly sensitive data that changes frequently may require daily backups, while less critical data might be backed up on a weekly or monthly basis. Finding the right balance between data protection and storage requirements is essential. It is crucial to store your backups in a separate location from your primary O365 data. This ensures that even in the event of a catastrophic event that wipes out your O365 environment, your backups remain secure and accessible.

PremCom: Your Partner in O365 Security

Securing your O365 environment requires a multi-layered approach. PremCom is prepared to help you navigate the cyber security landscape. We provide a wide variety of network security solutions to help your business stay safe.

  • Managed Security Services

  • Managed Antivirus

  • Penetration Testing 

  • Unified Threat Management

  • Dark WEB Monitoring

  • Employee Education

  • Security Breach Remediation

By partnering with PremCom, you gain peace of mind knowing your valuable data in O365 is protected. Contact us today to discuss your O365 security needs.


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