Blog Post February 8, 2024

An Overview of Microsoft 365 Security Best Practices

By: Brittany Holmes, Corporate Communications Manager 

As organizations rely on cloud-based technologies for their operations, Microsoft 365 (M365) has become popular for its integrated suite of productivity and collaboration tools. M365 offers built-in security features that aim to protect organizations from various cybersecurity threats. However, in today’s complex threat landscape, relying only on the built-in security of M365 may not be enough. 

Managed Detection and Response (MDR) providers specialize in offering advanced security services that can integrate seamlessly with M365 to provide an additional layer of protection. MDR providers employ a range of technologies and techniques, such as AI-driven threat detection, real-time monitoring, and incident response, to actively identify and contain threats before they can cause significant harm within the M365 environment. 

This blog details the importance of expanding M365’s security by covering the best practices MDR providers should offer.  

M365 Data Security Best Practices   

Train Employees on Phishing Attempts 

Phishing attacks are a top method for cybercriminals to infiltrate systems, posing a significant risk to organizations using M365. These attacks have evolved in sophistication, making it harder for users to discern legitimate messages from malicious ones. As M365 is widely used for email communication, cybercriminals exploit this platform, disguising their phishing attempts as genuine correspondence. This tactic aims to trick users into exposing sensitive information or unknowingly downloading malware, posing grave security threats to organizations relying on M365 for their day-to-day operations.  

By training employees in email security through a Security Training Program, you can help them understand the risks and how to identify suspicious emails. This can include training employees to spot phishing signs, such as unexpected attachments or unusual email addresses, and avoiding clicking on suspicious links.  

Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) for Admin Accounts 

MFA is a crucial security measure that adds an extra layer of protection to user accounts. While it is commonly known that employees should be required to enable MFA, it is equally important for administrators. Admin accounts, particularly those with high-level privileges such as Global Administrators, are prime targets for attackers due to their access and control level. By compromising an admin account, an attacker can gain unauthorized control over an organization’s systems and data, wreaking havoc and causing significant damage. 

However, it is important to note that while MFA is a powerful security measure, it is not foolproof. Cybercriminals have found ways to bypass MFA and gain unauthorized account access. For example, they may use sophisticated phishing techniques to trick users into providing their password credentials on a fraudulent website that will bypass the MFA. 

Integrate Logs with Existing MDR Solution 

Integrating your M365 logs into your existing MDR solution is crucial for achieving complete visibility into your environment. By doing so, you can ensure that all logs and events from M365 are analyzed and correlated with other security data from various sources. This helps you identify and respond to threats quickly.  

Firstly, it allows you to monitor and analyze user activities, such as logins, file access, and email actions, within the M365 environment. This visibility is essential for detecting anomalous behavior which may indicate a security breach. Secondly, integrating M365 logs with your MDR solution enables better correlation and analysis of events across your entire infrastructure. You can gain valuable context and a broader perspective on potential threats by aggregating and correlating M365 logs with logs from other systems, such as firewalls, endpoints, and cloud services.  

This holistic approach to monitoring identifies complex attack patterns and helps your security team make informed decisions on incident response. MDR solutions often provide specific integrations for M365, making the process of integrating logs seamless and efficient. These integrations typically include connectors or APIs facilitating the ingestion and analysis of M365 logs within the Security Operations Platform.  

Investigating Alerts for Suspicious M365 Activity 

Investigating alerts for suspicious M365 activity is critical for maintaining the security and integrity of your environment. According to Microsoft, these activities can include looking for unusual activities related to external user file activity, external file sharing, volume of file deletion, and more. 

However, configuring and managing alerts can be a lot to handle for IT teams, especially in large and complex environments. MDR solutions can alleviate the heavy load on IT teams by sifting through and prioritizing the alerts generated by the M365 integration. These solutions can analyze the context of alerts, correlate multiple events, and provide real-time insights into the severity and priority of each alert. 

One common scenario where MDR solutions provide immense value is detecting “impossible travel” from the M365 integration. Cybercriminals often attempt to log in from multiple locations across different geographical regions within a short period of time, which is humanly impossible.  

User Entity & Behavior Analytics (UEBA) is a critical tool that allows MDR teams to effectively track and analyze employee behavior patterns within the M365 environment. With UEBA, organizations can identify anomalies and suspicious activities, including unauthorized logons from different locations, as cybercriminals may possess employee credentials. By leveraging UEBA, companies can establish a proactive approach to securing compromised accounts, preventing further unauthorized access, and taking immediate action. The presence of a dedicated MDR team provides organizations with extended visibility beyond their boundaries, ensuring enhanced security measures. 

Strengthening Cybersecurity with MDR Providers 

While M365 offers built-in security features, the evolving threat landscape requires additional layers of protection to safeguard organizations. MDR providers fill this gap by integrating seamlessly with M365 and leveraging advanced threat detection technologies, real-time monitoring, and incident response capabilities.   

MDR solutions not only help manage the overwhelming number of alerts generated by M365 but also provide expertise and insights to prioritize and address these threats effectively. By partnering with MDR providers and implementing best practices within your cybersecurity strategy, organizations can enhance their security posture and mitigate the risks associated with using M365. Typically, this integration is an additional cost, but Adlumin offers it at no additional cost. 

Learn more about Adlumin’s integrations and gain complete visibility across your entire enterprise. Our vendor–agnostic approach means you get the most out of your current security investments. 

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