4 Key Strategies for Protecting Your Microsoft 365 Data

JULY 14TH, 2020

Microsoft 365 is the current leader in the ultra-competitive SaaS business application marketplace. Outpacing even Google’s G Suite, Microsoft 365 for business has more than 200 million active monthly users. 

But 365 isn’t just popular with business users. Microsoft 365’s widespread implementation makes it an attractive target for cybercriminals, especially in the wake of COVID-19. 

During times of turmoil, malicious actors take advantage of people’s fear and uncertainty, knowing they are distracted by world events and may be less diligent with internet security. As a result, the pandemic has spawned an increase in cyberattacks, especially phishing and other social engineering threats that rely on a user’s action to deploy the malware.

COVID-19 also exposed new security vulnerabilities when millions of businesses had to rapidly stand up remote work environments without proper security infrastructure in place. With employees accessing sensitive company resources from outside the firewall—often through a VPN, many using non-company devices—the attack surface became exponentially larger almost overnight.

As the dust begins to settle and businesses are looking for the best way forward, one of the first places to start is tightening up your Microsoft 365 data security. Navigating the new business normal is challenging enough without throwing a data breach or ransomware attack into the mix. 

As the leader in business application services, Microsoft 365 is great at taking care of infrastructure, but protecting your data is up to you. Microsoft offers 365 backup under a shared responsibility model, meaning they maintain platform uptime, but it is the user’s responsibility to prevent data loss.

If you feel like your current data protection plan is insufficient to combat today’s increased levels of cyberthreats, it’s a good time to reassess your process. Consider the following four critical areas when creating a Microsoft 365 data protection strategy.

1. Invest in a Long-Term Retention Solution

Long-term data retention is crucial in the event of a major system outage, but Microsoft 365 isn’t designed with this capability.

For example, 365 only retains items in the recycle bin for 90 days. If the recycle bin is emptied, the items cannot be recovered. Microsoft 365 also does not support point-in-time recovery, which further complicates restoring data. Without point-in-time recovery capabilities, your data will only be as current as the last backup. 

Investing in a long-term data retention solution that offers granular recovery from any point and rapid restore back to Microsoft 365 will give you peace of mind that your data won’t be lost forever if your system goes down. 


2. Use Third-Party Data Protection

Microsoft’s shared responsibility model puts the onus of 365 data protection on the user. To protect critical assets from a range of threats, such as ransomware and phishing as well as intentional file deletion, human error, and software bugs, you need a third-party data protection solution.

When considering a 365 data protection solution, be sure it offers the latest security technology, such as AI-powered cyber protection and an off-site or cloud backup for disaster recovery.

Select a 365 data protection tool that includes comprehensive protection for all Microsoft 365 services, including Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and OneDrive for Business, as well as all of your other physical, virtual, and cloud workloads.

3. Mitigate Legal Risk and Maintain Compliance

No one wants to be on the wrong side of a compliance audit. Data loss and user data exposure can cost businesses an exorbitant amount of money in fines and legal fees—not to mention loss of reputation and trust, which can hit company revenue hard. 

Microsoft 365 Litigation Hold can be used to preserve data for a period of time for e-discovery, but it doesn’t offer protection against the potential legal consequences of lost or missing data. 

Litigation Hold should never be considered a replacement for backing up data. Your third-party data protection solution needs to be your main line of defense to maintain compliance and protect data against breaches that could lead to fines or settlements.

Look for a data protection solution that offers built-in audit and compliance capabilities such as AES encryption and robust identity and access management capabilities (more on that below).

4. Make Access Control a Priority

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency recently published a list of recommendations for securing Microsoft 365 against cyberattacks. 

According to the report, access management is critical to maintaining a secure 365 environment. Some of the most common access-related vulnerabilities include over-privileged users who have access to sensitive data that they shouldn’t have access to and unsecured admin accounts that create weak spots for hackers.

It only takes one poorly secured account or accidental click on a malicious link for an attacker to get in and move laterally through the system. Once they find an unprotected privileged account, the attacker can move vertically to the business-critical applications, and your organization is almost guaranteed to be negatively affected.

Implementing a 365 data protection solution that provides a unified management console and role-based access control and administration will add a layer of protection between your sensitive digital assets and potential security threats.

Protect Microsoft 365 from Data Loss and Downtime

Microsoft 365 has emerged as a leading business SaaS solution. With hundreds of millions of users, it’s no wonder 365 has become a prime target for malicious actors. Protecting your 365 infrastructure needs to be a top priority to prevent data loss and expensive recovery operations.

Enlisting help from a solutions provider with decades of experience and a focus on Microsoft 365 data protection will elevate security and minimize your company’s attack surface. A trusted provider will ensure you are confident that your data loss prevention and disaster recovery initiatives are fully engaged.