How to protect your Microsoft 365 environment

Microsoft 365 is one of the most reliable cloud platforms available for businesses today. It offers best-in-class productivity and communication tools while protecting your company’s data with multiple layers of security. Microsoft heavily fortifies its cloud platform with advanced threat protection systems, firewalls, physical security measures, and regular data backups. 

However, despite these protections, you and your staff must also take precautions to keep your valuable assets safe. Here are five best practices for securing your Microsoft 365 environment:

1. Implement multifactor authentication 

Multifactor authentication (MFA) is a security process in which users must provide more than just their passwords to prove their identity. This could be a one-time passcode generated by an authentication app, a USB security key, or a biometric scan. With MFA, you can prevent access to your company’s data even if cybercriminals somehow manage to get a hold of your passwords.

To enable MFA on Microsoft 365, you need to sign in to your company’s Azure Active Directory admin center. Then, go to Properties > Manage Security defaults, click Yes next to the enable security defaults option, and then press Save. The next time users try to log in to their accounts, they’ll be prompted to set up their secondary authentication method. For a more streamlined and secure login process, we highly recommend using the Microsoft Authenticator app to generate temporary passcodes on company-registered mobile devices. 

2. Limit access privileges

Not all employees need to have access to your entire Microsoft 365 environment. Graphic designers, for example, don’t need to see your company’s financial records and system administrator settings. In fact, giving users complete access to your Microsoft 365 environment increases your company’s risk exposure if cybercriminals manage to compromise just one account.   

To mitigate this risk, you must set access restrictions according to the user’s role in the company. With Microsoft 365 Admin center, you can appoint roles to different teams and determine what type of content they’re permitted to access. And with Microsoft Intune, you can limit access privileges based on a user’s location and device. 

You should also create dedicated admin accounts that are equipped with MFA and the highest levels of security. This ensures that only a select few IT administrators have the permission to access and configure Microsoft 365 settings. 

3. Enable email security features

Microsoft 365 comes with several email security features that prevent various types of phishing attacks. For starters, you can enable anti-phishing policies that block untrustworthy email domains, especially those impersonating a legitimate email address. Microsoft 365 Defender also features Safe Links, a feature that traces the real destination of URL links embedded in emails and documents. If you click on a suspected malicious link, Safe Links will redirect you to a harmless webpage warning you of the potential threat. 

What’s more, Microsoft 365 Defender offers Safe Attachments, which can detect and filter emails with malware-laced attachments. This security feature analyzes email attachments in isolated virtual environments to see how they behave without harming the user’s system. When Safe Attachments detects behaviors indicative of malware (e.g., unusually high traffic volume or ransomware encryption), it instantly blocks those inbound emails from reaching company inboxes. 

To enable these email security features, simply sign in as an admin to the Microsoft 365 Defender portal and go to Email & collaboration > Policies & Rules > Threat policies

4. Establish data loss prevention policies

Microsoft 365 prevents users from sharing classified information to anyone outside the organization using data loss prevention (DLP) policies. By enabling DLP policies, Microsoft 365 instantly scours your systems for sensitive content like financial records, proprietary documents, and Social Security numbers. From there, you can decide the protective action Microsoft 365 will take. For example, you can completely block outbound sharing of personal data or encrypt the data when it’s sent to the recipient. These significantly reduce the likelihood of internal leaks and data breaches in your company.    

5. Train users to develop good security habits

While technical solutions are important in safeguarding your Microsoft 365 environment, you shouldn’t overlook the human factor of cybersecurity. No matter how strong your defenses are, reckless employees can easily undermine your efforts by setting weak passwords or falling for phishing scams. This is why you need to regularly train your employees on security best practices. 

You can start by teaching employees to take precautions with every website, email, and link they see online. If an unsolicited email is urging employees to click on links, download attachments, or share sensitive information, they should immediately flag it as a phishing scam and report it to the IT department. It’s also important to teach employees the importance of setting strong and unique passwords as well as avoiding public Wi-Fi networks. Building these habits require quarterly training seminars, practical exercises, and impromptu phishing simulations to test everyone’s security awareness. 

If you need expert assistance with securing your Microsoft 365 environment, NetWize is the solution. Our consultants can help you customize your system to safeguard it from even the most prolific cybercriminals. Call us today at 801-747-3200.

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