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Cyber Threats – Using Microsoft 365 to Help Protect Your Organisation

In a week, when it was announced that more than 30,000 Microsoft Exchange Servers had been breached, it might be the time to revisit the question of if your business should migrate to Microsoft 365.

What Happened?

The Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) has announced it identified a Chinese state-sponsored actor who used sophisticated techniques to breach over 30,000 Microsoft Exchange Servers.

The actor (named Hafnium) gains entry to the Exchange Server by disguising itself as a permitted user or by using stolen passwords. Once inside, it creates a web shell that allows it to take control of the compromised server remotely from leased virtual private servers.

Microsoft has said that historically, Hafnium has targeted a selection of industries, including defence contractors, higher education and law firms but has recently started to target on-premise Exchange Server software.

Security updates were released swiftly, and Microsoft has urged customers to apply them as soon as possible. In the past year, Microsoft has publicly announced eight instances of state-sponsored attacks such as this, highlighting the increasing need for organisations to protect themselves.

Ensuring your organisation’s security is entirely up to date is essential, which is why it’s worth considering moving to Microsoft 365.

What Is A Microsoft Exchange Server?

Exchange is Microsoft’s email and calendar offering. It’s software that sits on a server and manages the organisation’s emails’ movement and storage.

Traditionally, organisations would have this software on-site, but increasingly it has sat in the cloud with the advent of cloud-based products like Microsoft 365.

What is Microsoft 365?

Microsoft 365 is a productivity suite that combines Windows 10 with Office 365, allowing organisations to work more securely and collaboratively. You will find all the classic apps such as Word, Excel and Powerpoint alongside some additional features like OneDrive, SharePoint and Microsoft Teams.

It’s a subscription service that allows organisations to pay a monthly fee for each user to access all of its apps and services. This monthly licence model is useful because it means organisations aren’t paying for more than they need, and there are no big upgrade costs further down the line.

An added benefit is that people in an organisation can access the software and data anywhere and on any device. As you can imagine, this has been especially useful over the past 12 months during the pandemic.

Because Microsoft 365 is cloud-based, no software or servers are required on-premise. The software exists in the cloud and is maintained remotely on Microsoft’s servers which is where the most significant benefit becomes apparent with regards to security.

Is Microsoft 365 Secure?

Let’s address the elephant in the room. You’re wondering just how secure your data is in the cloud? We all imagine our private data flying around up there with nothing to stop it from getting stolen!

It’s an understandable fear to have, but it’s also somewhat unfounded. Cloud storage is exceptionally secure. Office 365 is used at all levels by over a million organisations globally. There is too much at stake for it not to be safe.

Cloud-based providers understand that the biggest threat to their business is a security breach and so do everything possible to prevent one. They go to extraordinary lengths from firewalls at many levels, intrusion detection, encrypted data, distributed file systems and backups to dedicated specialist security teams, multi-factor authentication and auto-patching. The security employed is usually way more than you might ever consider being able to afford to have on-premise.

Microsoft 365 is no different and offers several world-class security features. As part of Office 365 there is Advanced Threat Protection (ATP). ATP filters emails and protects against malware and ransomware, harmful links and attachments, which we know is one of the weakest and main entry-points for network and desktop compromise. Without ATP, you are 100% dependent on desktop Anti-Virus systems being up-to-date (and capable) and on your users, making good choices when presented with, for example, a phishing email loaded with potential malware or scam-tactics.

Multi-factor authentication is available whereby users must verify themselves multiple times to gain access to sensitive data, usually via a code. Windows Defender is there in the background protecting against viruses, spyware and more.

Data protection is also looked after in several ways. Office 365 Message Encryption only shows email content to intended recipients. Exchange Online Archiving can archive data and emails based on your preferences or requirements.

Device management is also in hand with controlling what users can do on an enrolled device. If you lose a device or it is stolen, you can remotely wipe the data. In addition, you can use Window Exploit Guard on devices to protect against malware.

In addition to all of this, Microsoft 365 has one significant advantage over local Microsoft Exchange Servers. Because the software is cloud-based and is maintained by Microsoft, it is always up to date. Every security update and all patches are automatically applied, so you always use the most secure version.

When Microsoft faces a new threat and responds to it with a security update, you’re instantly protected. If you were running Microsoft Exchange Server on-premise, although Microsoft will offer the update, it’s down to you or your internal/external IT team to action it.

Should I Move To Microsoft 365?

There are obvious benefits in doing so. Having the latest software version and security updates without having to lift a finger is the obvious one. It can even reduce the amount of IT resources your organisation needs.

Then, when you factor in that you can access your software from anywhere, the benefits keep on coming. The way we work has changed significantly over the years. Working hours might be more flexible, home working has become more necessary, and business has become increasingly global.

Having a solution that allows this kind of flexibility whilst still being incredibly secure seems like a winning combination. Factor in that cyberattacks are becoming more frequent and sophisticated, and you can see why it’s an attractive proposition to let Microsoft and their partners do all the leg work in keeping your organisation, its data and its users safe.

Microsoft 365 offers a robust yet straightforward business solution that suits most types and styles of businesses and organisations.

Eventura is a Microsoft Gold Partner. We’re well equipped to discuss whether Microsoft 365 is right for you. Being email security experts and managed IT service and support providers means we are also ideally placed to help you make the transition and provide ongoing support if required.

If you would like to speak to a Microsoft 365 or security team member, please request a free callback here.

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