Microsoft 365 Business Boosts SMB Security With Ransomware Protection

By: Pedro Hernandez

Following in the footsteps of its upmarket cousin, the Microsoft 365 Business suite now has new security enhancements meant to keep small and midsize business (SMB) users and the data they’re entrusted with safe.

Earlier this month, while the IT security community was gathered at the RSA Conference in San Francisco (April 16-20), Microsoft added some new tools to its Microsoft 365 software suite for enterprises, which includes Windows 10, Office 365 and Enterprise Mobility + Security. Two such tools, the Secure Score and Attack Simulator

enable administrators to see how well their Microsoft software environments stand up to attempts at stealing data.

Now, Microsoft is focusing its security efforts on smaller organizations that may lack the technical know-how and financial resources to mount a defense against determined attackers.

 Over the coming weeks, the software maker is rolling out new threat and information protection features to existing Microsoft 365 Business accounts for SMBs, the software giant announced on April 30. Microsoft 365 Business includes Office 365 with added security and device management capabilities. New customers get the new features the moment they sign up.

New to the product are safeguards against some of the most prevalent threats to organizations today: ransomware and phishing.

IBM Security’s recent 2018 X-Force Threat Intelligence Index was a classic case of good news, bad news. In 2017, there were 25 percent fewer publicly disclosed data breaches than in 2016—2.9 billion versus 4 billion customer records affected—Big Blue’s security researchers found. However, that number doesn’t include records impacted by ransomware attacks. Since companies aren’t required to report ransomware attacks, and therefore can’t be reliably tracked, IBM warns that the total number of incidents is likely to be higher than in previous years.

Since ransomware and phishing often go hand-in-hand, Microsoft has added new attachment-scanning capabilities that use artificial intelligence (AI) to automatically examine and discard messages meant to scam users. Microsoft 365 Business can also scan messages to determine whether they are part of a phishing scheme and enable device-hardening features that block interactions with ransomware and websites that serve up this and other types of malware.

In terms of data privacy, Microsoft is introducing data loss prevention (DLP) functionality, typically used by large enterprises to keep a lid on sensitive or private information. More than half (53 percent) of all SMBs handle Social Security numbers, and more than a quarter (29 percent) handle bank account details, noted the company, citing a survey of 1,001 SMB owners and decision makers from Microsoft and YouGov.

Outlook gains information protection features that restrict how sensitive data can be used in email. For example, SMBs can now set encryption policies that prevent users from copying sensitive data into other apps, according to Microsoft.

Expanding on the encryption theme, Microsoft 365 Business customers can now enforce BitLocker for device-wide protection. BitLocker is full disk encryption technology used by Windows desktop operating systems. Lastly, users can now set policies that properly archive and preserve emails for compliance and data protection purposes.