Assessing Your Protection Against Email Cyber Threats
To be online is to be at risk–there’s just no way around it. Of course, companies have no choice but to be online, so they need to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and their customers.
Today, that is a complicated proposition: Threats are not predictable, simple or static, and distribution can vary greatly–from a cast-net style malware campaign to targeted advanced attacks. And they are constantly evolving, growing more sophisticated to stay ahead of security professionals. In addition, cyber crooks don’t discriminate between large and small companies, public and private, for-profits and charities. To a hacker’s eye, they all represent opportunities to make a buck or make a point.
As this is happening, a second trend is emerging: the mass migration from in-house email servers to cloud-based solutions–most prominently, Office 365. With user counts expected to surpass the 100-million mark this year, there is a vast amount of data being shared and stored on that platform.
What all this means is that a lot of businesses have put all their eggs in one security “basket”: Office 365. For its part, Microsoft has made some strong strides toward improving the native security on the platform.
For example, Advanced Threat Protection (ATP), an Office 365 add-on, gives you additional security against email and web threats. ATP will protect your email against malware and links to malicious sites and attachments, as well as allow you to safely view attachments without compromising the network.
Certainly it’s a good sign that Microsoft recognizes the seriousness of the threat. But is that enough? Should you bet your business or your customers’ businesses on the native Office 365 security features?
Common sense and repeated experience suggest not. The fact is, there is no single security solution that can truly protect you against all the threats all the time, regardless of what platform you’re using.
The best defense is a layered approach, consisting of comprehensive policies and training, cloud-based filtering and encryption services, and locally-installed security software and hardware, depending on your organization’s size. These layers, when combined effectively, dramatically reduce the risk of an attack.
Here are five reasons why this approach is better than relying solely on Office 365’s built-in and add-on features:
- Office 365’s ATP requires advanced setup to properly make its reporting and features work properly. Out of the box, it’s designed as a fairly lightweight filter, and only provides advanced threat protection with advanced knowledge of how to enable its settings.
- With ATP–or any filter–you are limited to a one-dimensional approach to spam and virus filtering. This means that the speeds and feeds the filters pull from aren’t compared/verified against another source to be sure that the latest threats are not missed.
- ATP’s URL rewriting service protects a user from hijacked links, but that’s as far as it goes. It does not protect users’ web browsing.
- While large organizations can receive lower per-user pricing using appliance-based filtering, most small and midsize businesses are better off choosing cloud- and system-based filtering tools. In this arena, ATP runs at a much higher price compared with more feature-rich alternatives.
- The need for ATP itself is an acknowledgment that Microsoft’s standard filter isn’t up to date with today’s threats. You have to pay extra for Microsoft to include that.
Businesses can’t afford to roll the dice with security. Though ATP does offer more security than the basic Office 365 package, it makes more sense to build more effective layers of protection provided by companies that specialize in security. These layers exist outside the Microsoft cloud and aren’t vulnerable to systemwide failures.
Guest blogs such as this one are published monthly and are part of the Talkin’ Cloud annual platinum sponsorship.