If you want to improve Office 365 phishing protection, you need to implement layered defenses that will protect against known and unknown malware threats, identify malicious links in emails, and implement a solution capable of detecting zero-minute phishing threats. The threat landscape is constantly changing, and cyber threat actors are coming up with increasingly inventive ways of compromising business networks and test their campaigns against Office 365 phishing protections to make sure their threats are delivered. Since most businesses use Office 365, such an approach can pay dividends.
Office 365 phishing protection is first and foremost provided by an email filtering service. These cybersecurity solutions scan all inbound emails and look for the signatures of spam and phishing and filter out these malicious messages. While email security solutions with advanced capabilities will block the majority of malicious messages, the best practice for improving Office 365 phishing protection is to also incorporate other cybersecurity solutions and provide comprehensive security awareness training to the workforce.
In this post we will suggest a strategy for improving phishing protection for Office 365 that tackles phishing from multiple angles. It involves adopting a defense-in-depth approach and will ensure that if a phishing threat bypasses one element of your defenses, other measures will be in place to ensure that threat is still blocked.
Office 365 Phishing Protection from Microsoft
If you have a license for Microsoft 365 that includes Exchange Online, you will have a degree of Office 365 phishing protection through Exchange Online Protection (EOP), which is provided by default with all Microsoft 365 business plans. Inbound and outbound emails are subject to EOP checks, which include connection filtering, anti-malware, protection, policy-based filtering, and content filtering.
Connection filtering involves checks on the reputation of the senders’ IP addresses, against a blacklist of known malicious IP addresses. Basic anti-malware capabilities are provided, allowing attachments to be blocked by extension, such as executable files. Rules are then applied, such as flagging messages that have come from outside the organization. Content filters then check the messages for known signatures of spam, phishing, and spoofing, and a confidence score is applied, and actions are then then taken based on those scores – reject, quarantine, deliver.
EOP will block spam and many phishing threats, but it is not particularly effective at blocking the malicious links in emails that direct users to websites that phish for credentials and other sensitive information. More advanced protection is required against malware, instead of just blocking by attachment type. These more advanced capabilities are provided through Microsoft’s Advanced Threat Protection (APT) offering, which is only provided with certain licenses – Office 365 Enterprise E5 and Microsoft 365 Business Premium plans – and needs to be paid for as an add-on service with other Office 365 plans.
The additional cost is a good investment as APT will improve protection against phishing and other malicious emails, but there are lower cost alternatives that can provide even better Office 365 phishing protection. Independent tests of these Microsoft protective mechanisms have shown that even with APT, you are only getting a mid-market level of protection.
How to Improve Office 365 Phishing Protection and Block More Threats
Improving Office 365 phishing protection involves layering an advanced third-party anti-phishing solution on top of the security measures provided by Microsoft, as this will ensure more threats are prevented from being delivered to inboxes. SpamTitan Email Security provides advanced protection against phishing to better protect Office 365 environments.
SpamTitan incorporates extensive front end checks of emails, but also uses greylisting to improve the detection of mass phishing campaigns. Advanced threat protection incorporates heuristics and Bayesian analysis, and machine learning techniques that allow new phishing threats to be predicted, thus blocking zero-minute phishing attacks.
SpamTitan has advanced anti-malware capabilities. In addition to blocking attachments by file type, each is scanned by dual anti-virus engines, and a Bitdefender-powered sandbox is used for conducting in-depth analyses of files to detect malicious behavior, rather than relying on signature-based protection. SpamTitan incorporates anti-email-impersonation measures including SPF, DKIM and DMARC to identify and block phishing threats that spoof well known brands. By providing these additional checks, protection against all types of phishing attack is greatly improved
Improve Protection Against Malicious Links with a Web Filter
Phishing attacks seeking login credentials redirect users to malicious websites hosting phishing kits, and those websites are designed to look exactly the same as the brands they impersonate. These malicious sites can be difficult for users to identify as malicious, as they are often virtually carbon copies of the legitimate websites they spoof. Email security solutions often check these links against blacklists of known malicious IP addresses, but new malicious sites are constantly being created and these malicious URLs are often only used for short periods before being dropped.
Office 365 phishing protection should be augmented with a solution that provides better protection against malicious links in emails – a web filter. A web filter will block by IP address through URL filtering, but new website content is scanned and checked for signs of phishing, which allows new malicious URLs to be identified well before the URLs are added to blacklists. Web filters can be used to block the downloading of files with specific file extensions over the Internet, and can block Internet content by category, preventing access to risky types of websites.
Develop a Human Firewall Through Workforce Training
Technical defenses against phishing are required for blocking attacks, but it is also important to provide security awareness training to the workforce, as phishing threats will still be encountered by employees. You need to make sure that the workforce is trained to be alert to the possibility of phishing, and to look for the signs of phishing in their inboxes. Even large enterprises with extensive cybersecurity solutions can suffer data breaches due to phishing. A Proofpoint survey revealed the average cost of dealing with phishing attacks for large organizations was $15 million a year in 2021.
Security awareness training adds another layer of phishing protection for Office 365 and is used to create a human firewall. Employees should be trained how to recognize phishing attempts and instructed to report suspicious emails to their security team. If a suspicious email is encountered, security awareness can be the difference between that threat being recognized and avoided and credentials being harvested and an attacker gaining access to the office 365 environment, and from there the entire network.
Speak to TitanHQ About Improving Your Phishing Defenses
TitanHQ offers an advanced Office 365 phishing protection package that includes multi-award-winning email security, web security, and security awareness training solutions through:
- SpamTitan Email Security
- WebTitan DNS Filter
- SafeTitan Security Awareness Training
These solutions work seamlessly with each other and integrate fully with Microsoft 365 to improve organizations’ defenses against phishing attacks, with the total protection provided greater than the sum of each part. With TitanHQ providing the core elements of anti-phishing protections, you can implement an effective anti-phishing strategy and ensure that phishing and other email and web-based threats do not succeed.