With many employees working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more organizations than ever are moving to Office 365. Attackers have matched this trend, directing more of their exploits at Office 365 than ever before.

The default security features in Office 365 alone are alarmingly insufficient in protecting Office 365 email users against credential phishing, account takeovers and other advanced exploits. According to Osterman Research, despite existing protection, an astounding 40% of Office 365 customers have experienced credential theft nevertheless.

Defense-in-depth is essential in remaining safe and successful in this dangerous time. The FBI has issued multiple warnings regarding sophisticated COVID-19 related business email compromise (BEC) scams targeting cloud email users, and strongly urges businesses to take immediate action and implement critical additional layers of email protection in Office 365. Consistent with the FBI’s findings, Guardian Digital has identified and blocked more malicious emails targeting Office 365 users in April of 2020 than in any other month in the company's twenty-year history.

What Are My Risks Using Office 365?

During this uncertain, fearful time, it is critical that remote workers fully understand the digital threats they face on a daily basis. These threats include:

  • Phishing: Cyber criminals are taking advantage of remote employees’ increased dependence on email, along with the curiosity and fear that are characteristic of the current environment, and are launching sophisticated coronavirus-related phishing campaigns. These scams employ highly deceptive tactics which include impersonating government agencies, advertising fraudulent test kits and asking for donations. According to the US Department of Homeland Security, there has been “an increase in phishing attacks under the guise of coronavirus-themed emails containing attachments”.
  • Malware: Threat actors are exploiting the uncertainty and urgency surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic to spread dangerous malware designed to infect and destroy users’ computers by wiping files or rewriting a computer's master boot record (MBR). These coronavirus-themed malware variants are geared towards destruction, rather than financial gain.
  • Insecure networks: During the COVID-19 crisis, incidents involving insecure configurations of services and firewalls have increased, as administrators are taking shortcuts to enable remote access. From dealing with insufficient bandwidth, undersized VPN infrastructure and limited availability of managed devices for employees to take home, many businesses are unprepared for the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought - and network security has suffered.
  • Office 365 vulnerabilities: Microsoft Exchange Online Protection (EOP) - the default security provided in Office 365 - is glaringly inadequate, leaving remote employees vulnerable to credential phishing, account takeovers and other advanced exploits. According to the FBI, “Thirty percent of phishing attacks make it through existing systems and are opened by target users.”

We want to help you safely navigate Office 365 in this heightened threat environment. Here are a few tips and best practices to keep you and your business secure:

  • Implement a comprehensive, fully-managed email security solution that seamlessly complements Microsoft Exchange Online Protection (EOP), providing the critical additional layers of security that Office 365 lacks.
  • Choose a strong password and enable multi-factor authentication.
  • Ensure that Azure AD password sync is configured correctly.
  • Enable mailbox auditing and unified audit logging in the Security and Compliance Center.
  • Disable legacy email protocols (if not required).

We recognize that properly setting up and securely navigating Office 365 while working remotely may seem challenging and overwhelming. The harsh reality is that organizations cannot rely on administrators to configure their cloud email service to be 100 percent secure. Implementing a remotely-managed cloud email security solution that seamlessly complements Office 365 default protection with critical additional layers of defenses is the most effective way to fortify cloud email against today’s advanced exploits.

Want to learn more about how to prevent attacks in Office 365? If so, be sure to check out our free Office 365 protection guide. For more advice on how to stay safe online in this frightening time, subscribe to our weekly Behind the Shield newsletter. Have additional questions on how to safely navigate Office 365? Please do not hesitate to reach out to us - we are eager to help!

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