365 data breachMicrosoft Office 365 is used by thousands of organizations and individuals through its Consumer, Small Business and Enterprise versions, and cyber criminals have taken notice of this. Consequently, just as these hackers have attempted data breaches through other cloud services, they’ve done the same with Office 365 products. One example of this is the fact that in 2020 one of the most popular areas for attacks was within the infrastructure that supports Office 365 apps. What does this mean for your business? Let’s take a look.

How Microsoft Office 365 Can Leave You Vulnerable

First and foremost, the weakest point in your organization’s office 365 data and network infrastructure is most likely your staff. Verizon recently showed just how common it is by analyzing 5,258 data breaches that had occurred throughout 2020. Of this number, 85% involved a human failure at some point along the security chain. 61% specifically involved compromised credentials, usually accessed by hackers through social engineering or phishing attacks.

For attackers, Microsoft Office 365 offers a nearly ideal opportunity for these kinds of social engineering or other data breaches that involve compromised credentials. If a cybercriminal can gain access to even a few Office 365 accounts inside an organization, it opens the door to other parts of the same business or on to other companies that share information with the initially-affected business.

Previously disclosed vulnerabilities include one that allowed attackers to do something as simple as sending a malicious GIF image file to a Microsoft Teams enterprise user, who would then open the GIF and become compromised, allowing the attacker to impersonate them, send more malicious GIFs to other users and steal their authentication tokens as they move through an organizations network of user accounts.

The bottom line here is that cybercriminals can be extremely creative when it comes to penetrating any cloud service in constantly evolving ways.

Crucial Security Steps to Prevent Office 365 Vulnerabilities

Fully protecting your Office 365 account and your IT infrastructure in general can be a difficult and time consuming process when handled in-house by your staff in between their other responsibilities. This applies especially to smaller businesses without the budget that’s usually necessary for their own dedicated internal staff of security people and solutions.

With that said, the basics are often the best starting point for data protection against having your business’s Microsoft 365 account hacked. These should apply to all of your data security, cloud accounts and other sensitive infrastructure or accounts at all levels:

Establish multifactor authentication: Set up two-step verification for all of your user accounts inside your Office 365 Enterprise or Small Business suite. These can be put together under Security Options and by default work with an authenticator app from Microsoft that users download to their phones. It’s also possible to arrange for SMS-based two-factor authentication, but this does leave you vulnerable to having an attacker clone and swap a user’s SIM card.

Use unique passwords for all of your staff: Don’t set up group passwords to access important networked accounts on Microsoft Office 365. Instead, set up unique and difficult access passes for each staffer, and manage them using password manager software in case there are too many different passwords to keep track of.

Help your staff avoid phishing attacks: Teach your staff about the importance of recognizing false emails or other messages that ask for sensitive information, and never clicking a link from an unknown source. You can also have a qualified professional IT security service monitor your network 24/7 for phishing attacks behind the scenes.

Seeking Outside Help When Needed

Two of the worst aspects to having your Microsoft Office 365 account penetrated, or of having any of your data storage and other cloud attacks hacked, are the potential loss of data and the potential breach of sensitive customer or internal information. You can avoid both of these with professional external Microsoft Office 365 spanning backup solutions that deliver a robust package of monitoring, email recovery, data recovery and HIPAA-compliant backup services that are kept on alert 24 hours per day, all 365 days a year.

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