Microsoft Office 365 offers a range of productivity and collaboration benefits for information workers. When managed correctly the Office 365 platform also helps reduce IT department expenses and capital expenses (CAPEX) The service does present a number of security challenges, however. With the right security practices, Office 365 user data, as well as corporate data, can be protected by the system’s built-in countermeasures. This article reviews top 5 Office 365 security features.
Office 365 Security Risks
Security and compliance concerns loom large when it comes to cloud adoption. IT managers may worry that the cloud will leave their data vulnerable. Add in the risk of sensitive data being carried on mobile apps and today’s perimeter less environments can look quite risky.
The reality is a bit more nuanced. Cloud services usually provide better infrastructure and network security than most IT departments can manage on-premises. The challenge is the split responsibility model. The customer (that would be you) is responsible for securing its users, applications and data on the platform.
365 security has its own distinctive profile, too. Because it combines email with file storage and collaboration, an unauthorized user can potentially access a huge range of confidential information. Once inside, a hacker could tap into files stored in SharePoint and OneDrive. For some companies, these online collaboration tools contain some of the most sensitive corporate information. For this reason, managing access is a critical control objective for Office 365, as is data security.
Top 5 Office 365 Security Features
If you’re an IT pro, it’s up you to make your environment secure. This may feel daunting, but it need not be. The following 5 security features will help you with this goal in Office 365:
Multi Factor Authentication
Multi Factor Authentication (MFA) is a technique for controlling access to Office 365 that involves requiring a user to provide more than one way of authenticating himself before being granted access. A simple username and password combination is usually not adequate to verify that a user is who he says he is. The log in credentials could be stolen, for example. Instead, with MFA, access is only given when the user supplies an additional factor, such as a PIN or one-time code sent by text message to the user’s mobile device.
Advanced Threat Protection
All Office 365 email users are vulnerable to malware sent as links and attachments in messages. Advanced Threat Protection is a countermeasure that stops such malicious links and attachments before they reach users’ inboxes.
Encrypted Email and Data Loss Prevention
Encrypted email prevents eavesdropping. Protecting against such unauthorized listening is one of the pillars of information security. With encryption as a form of data protection, only the intended recipient is able to open and read emails sent in encrypted form. Regulatory schemes like HIPAA and PCI require companies to encrypted email in certain contexts. (They also require encrypting personal customer data and sensitive information like credit card numbers.) Data Loss Prevention (DLP) is a related practice. DLP monitors your environment for sensitive data and prevents users from sending that information outside your organization. DLP may also involve encrypting data at rest.
Mobile Device Management
Mobile Device Management (MDM) controls access to your company’s data via mobile devices. It is an essential control for Office 365 companies. Your employees are likely accessing company data with their phones and tablets. In this use case, each device becomes an endpoint that’s potentially exposed to malicious behavior. They can get lost, stolen or hacked. MDM mitigates risk to corporate data from compromised mobile devices.
Azure Identity Protection
Microsoft Azure, which is the foundation of Office 365, employs advanced analytics and machine learning to detect anomalous activity that might suggest an attack is under way. For instance, if a user suddenly logs in from a foreign country, that could signal a threat. Azure Identity Protection searches for such unusual activities and flags them for investigation.
Microsoft has included a range of high-grade protections for your data in Office 365. They’re also customizable. This is important because there is no “one size fits all” approach to cloud security. IT professionals are able toggle security on or off, depending on organizational needs and security policies. These capabilities and more show how Office 365 makes the cloud a safe place for an organization’s data.