Demo Request
Take a personalized product tour with a member of our team to see how we can help make your existing security teams and tools more effective within minutes.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Microsoft 365 Security Best Practices for 2024: Essential Guide

Gal Nakash
May 20, 2024
5 mins

Key Pillars of Microsoft 365’s Security Infrastructure

In today's fast-changing digital world, Microsoft 365 provides essential security features designed to protect businesses from various cyber threats. This platform combines powerful tools for productivity and collaboration with strong security measures. These measures are built to keep company data safe across different devices and applications. 

The security framework of Microsoft 365 is based on several key pillars, each focused on addressing specific security challenges and ensuring safe, efficient operations. Understanding these pillars helps CISOs, IT teams, and SaaS administrators develop a strong defense strategy that adapts to new threats while maintaining compliance with industry standards.

Security and Risk Management

Security and risk management within Microsoft 365 is a comprehensive approach aimed at protecting data and ensuring business continuity. This involves proactive risk assessment tools and strategies to detect vulnerabilities before they become threats. Microsoft 365 uses advanced analytics and machine learning to monitor and analyze security data, enabling rapid response to potential security incidents. This system is critical in helping organizations understand and mitigate risks associated with their digital operations.

Information Protection

Information protection in Microsoft 365 is centered around protecting sensitive data from unauthorized access and leaks. With features like Data Loss Prevention (DLP), Microsoft 365 classifies and protects critical information based on defined policies. These policies ensure that sensitive data such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, or health records are handled securely across emails, documents, and chats.

Administrators can also employ Information Rights Management (IRM) tools within Microsoft 365 to control who can access information and what they can do with it. This capability is crucial in preventing accidental sharing or intentional data leaks.

Threat Protection

Threat protection in Microsoft 365 is designed to defend against malware, ransomware, phishing, and other cyber threats. Microsoft Defender for Office 365 is a key component of this pillar, providing comprehensive protection for email, collaboration tools, and links. Defender uses multi-factor authentication and sophisticated scanning algorithms to block malicious content and activities in real-time.

Additionally, Microsoft 365’s threat protection capabilities are enhanced by its ability to conduct automated investigation and response. This process uses AI to analyze threat data and automate remediation processes, significantly reducing the time and resources required to address security incidents.

Identity and Access Management

Identity and Access Management (IAM) within Microsoft 365 ensures that only authorized users have access to your environments and data. This pillar includes using Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) to manage user accounts and implement conditional access policies that provide dynamic, risk-based access controls.

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a critical strategy under this pillar. MFA adds a layer of security by requiring additional verification of a user’s identity via phone call, text message, or app notification, reducing the risk of unauthorized access. Additionally, implementing least privilege access ensures that users have only the permissions they need to perform their tasks, minimizing the potential impact of a compromised account.

Mobile Device Management

Mobile Device Management (MDM) is an essential aspect of Microsoft 365’s security, ensuring that mobile devices accessing corporate data do so securely. MDM policies help control and secure mobile data, enforce security settings, and even remotely wipe devices if they are lost or stolen. This ensures that critical corporate data remains protected, even on personal or mobile devices.

Best Practices for Securing Microsoft 365

By understanding and successfully implementing the aforementioned key pillars of Microsoft 365’s security infrastructure, organizations can enhance their security posture and protect their resources from the evolving landscape of cyber threats. Below are some of the most effective key strategies to secure your Microsoft 365 environment:

1. Security Defaults

Activating security defaults is essential for securing your Microsoft 365 environment. This foundational measure automatically configures key security settings, such as requiring multi-factor authentication for all users, significantly bolstering your system against unauthorized access.

2. Zero Trust and the Principle of Least Privilege

Implement a Zero Trust security model that verifies every access request as if it originates from an untrusted network, regardless of location. This approach, combined with the principle of least privilege, ensures that users access only the resources necessary for their duties, minimizing potential breaches.

3. Enabling Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Enable multi-factor authentication to add a critical layer of security. MFA requires users to provide multiple credentials to confirm their identity, protecting against identity theft and enhancing the security of user logins and transactions.

4. Using Secure Password Policies

Establish robust password policies to strengthen your security defaults. Mandate complex passwords that include a mix of characters, numbers, and symbols, and enforce regular password changes to limit the risk of compromise.

5. Configuring Conditional Access Policies

Set up conditional access policies to provide fine-grained control over how and when users can access Microsoft 365 services. These policies assess the risk of a login based on factors like location, device security status, and user behavior, adjusting access permissions dynamically.

6. Safeguarding Against Phishing Attacks

Reduce the risk of phishing by implementing advanced threat protections like Microsoft Defender. Train employees to recognize phishing attempts and use Defender’s capabilities to detect and block malicious emails and links, thereby protecting critical data.

7. Using Microsoft Defender

Use Microsoft Defender for comprehensive threat protection in Microsoft 365. Defender provides real-time threat detection, automated investigation, and response capabilities that help secure email communications, identify and prevent malware infections, and manage security threats efficiently. You can dive further into how Microsoft Copilot for Security enhances these capabilities in our detailed guide.

8. Enabling Safe Links and Safe Attachments

Safe links and safe attachments in Microsoft 365 play a crucial role in protecting against sophisticated phishing and malware attacks. These features scan and verify links and attachments in emails in real-time, blocking harmful content before it reaches the user. By activating these protections, you secure your organization from malicious threats hidden in seemingly benign documents and URLs.

9. Enabling and Configuring Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Policies

Data Loss Prevention (DLP) policies are essential for protecting sensitive information from accidental or intentional leakage. DLP in Microsoft 365 can identify, monitor, and automatically protect critical data across your organization. By configuring these policies, you can ensure compliance with regulatory requirements and protect your critical business data from exposure.

10. Implementing Information Rights Management (IRM)

Implementing Information Rights Management (IRM) helps prevent unauthorized access to documents and emails. This technology can control who can access specific information and what actions they can perform with it, such as viewing, editing, printing, or forwarding. IRM is particularly useful for protecting confidential and business-critical information wherever it travels.

11. Managing Mobile Devices and Apps

Effective management of mobile devices and apps is vital as workforces become increasingly mobile. Microsoft 365 integrates with tools that enforce security policies on mobile devices, ensuring that corporate data accessed via smartphones and tablets remains secure. These policies can include device encryption, app management, and secure data storage.

12. Using Mobile Device Management (MDM)

Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions are crucial for controlling and securing the mobile devices that access corporate data. MDM policies help protect and manage mobile devices across your organization through features like remote wipe, password enforcement, and device encryption. Implementing MDM effectively minimizes the risks associated with lost or stolen devices.

13. Enforcing Guardrails in Self-Service Environments

Enforcing guardrails in self-service environments is essential to maintaining security while allowing users flexibility. These guardrails include setting boundaries on user actions, such as limiting the ability to access or share certain data types. By implementing these controls, organizations can empower their employees while ensuring that security is not compromised.

14. Ensuring Secure Communication via Encryption

Ensuring secure communication via encryption is fundamental in protecting data in transit. Microsoft 365 offers various encryption options, including Transport Layer Security (TLS) for emails and file encryption for documents stored in SharePoint and OneDrive. These encryption measures prevent unauthorized interception of data as it moves within and outside of your organization.

15. Implementing Regular Security Awareness Training

Implementing regular security awareness training is key to empowering your employees to recognize and respond appropriately to security threats. Regular training sessions help keep security at the forefront of employee awareness and reduce the risk of breaches caused by human error. This proactive approach ensures that all team members understand the latest SaaS security practices and phishing tactics.

16. Regularly Reviewing Audit Logs

Regularly reviewing audit logs allows you to monitor and track user activities within your Microsoft 365 environment. Audit logs provide valuable insights into security-related events, such as login attempts and file access, which can be critical for detecting potential security incidents early and initiating timely responses.

17. Regularly Conducting Risk Assessments

Regularly conducting risk assessments is crucial for identifying vulnerabilities in your Microsoft 365 setup. These assessments help prioritize the risks that pose the greatest threat to your organization's security and ensure that appropriate mitigation strategies are in place to address these vulnerabilities effectively.

18. Applying Compliance Policies and Sensitivity Labels

Applying compliance policies and sensitivity labels helps manage and protect your data according to its level of sensitivity. These labels and policies ensure that critical information is handled appropriately, reducing the risk of data leaks and ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements.

19. Regular Backup and Restore Testing

Regular backup and restore testing is essential to ensure that your data can be quickly recovered in the event of a cyberattack or system failure. Testing your backup procedures ensures that they are effective and that data can be restored accurately and promptly, minimizing downtime and data loss.

20. Keeping Up with Software Updates

Keeping up with software updates is critical for securing your Microsoft 365 environment. Regular updates often include patches for newly discovered vulnerabilities, which are vital for protecting against the latest cyber threats. Ensuring that all software components are up-to-date not only maintains their functionality but also strengthens your security posture. For a deeper understanding of protecting your SaaS applications, explore these SaaS security best practices.

21. Integrating with Microsoft Secure Score

Integrating with Microsoft Secure Score provides a benchmark to measure your organization’s security posture against best practices. Secure Score offers recommendations for improving your score and, by extension, your security measures. Following these recommendations can significantly enhance your defenses and reduce your overall risk profile.

Microsoft 365’s Compliance with Global Industry Standards

Microsoft 365 is not only a comprehensive suite for productivity and collaboration but also a leader in compliance and security within the SaaS market. This platform is designed to meet the rigorous demands of global industry standards, ensuring that organizations can rely on it for both performance and compliance.

Comprehensive Compliance Coverage

Microsoft 365 adheres to a wide range of international compliance standards, including GDPR, HIPAA, and SOC 2. These standards ensure that organizations can trust Microsoft 365 to handle sensitive information responsibly and securely. Microsoft Purview, for example, is crucial in helping organizations meet compliance requirements by providing tools for data governance, risk assessment, and compliance management.

Shared Responsibility Model

The Microsoft 365 shared responsibility model clarifies that while Microsoft secures the infrastructure and applications, customers are responsible for protecting their data, endpoints, and identities. This model emphasizes the importance of collaboration between Microsoft and its users in achieving and maintaining compliance and security.

Security and Compliance Centers

Microsoft 365's security is managed through the Microsoft Defender Portal, while compliance is overseen via the Microsoft Purview Compliance Portal. These specialized portals allow for detailed management of security policies and compliance measures, tailored to the diverse needs of various business sectors.

Advanced Compliance Tools

Tools like Advanced Data Governance and Compliance Manager within Microsoft Purview enable organizations to manage data lifecycle, apply sensitivity labels, and conduct audits to ensure data protection and regulatory compliance. These tools are integrated with analytics to help assess compliance risks and implement necessary controls effectively.

Data Protection and Risk Management

Microsoft 365's robust security features, including threat protection, data loss prevention, and advanced information protection, provide multiple layers of security. These features not only protect against external threats but also help manage and mitigate internal risks, which is crucial for maintaining compliance in a complex regulatory environment.

Regular Updates and Best Practices

Microsoft continuously updates its compliance offerings to reflect changing regulations and new security threats. Regular updates, combined with the best practices recommended by Microsoft, help organizations stay ahead of potential compliance issues and ensure that their data handling practices are up to date.

Microsoft 365 Activities You Should Monitor

Monitoring certain activities within Microsoft 365 is very important for maintaining security and ensuring compliance. Below is a data table that outlines key activities organizations should keep an eye on, along with a brief description of why each is essential:

Activity Type Description
User Access Monitor logins and access patterns to detect unauthorized access or unusual activity. This includes tracking both successful and failed login attempts.
Administrator Actions Keep a detailed log of actions taken by administrators, as these users have high-level privileges that can affect the entire system.
Permissions Changes Track changes to permissions to ensure they are appropriate and authorized, preventing potential security breaches due to excessive or inappropriate access rights.
Changes to Microsoft 365 Policies Monitor any adjustments to security policies or configurations to ensure they align with organizational security requirements and compliance regulations.
Activities with Known Malicious Actors Keep an eye on any interaction or access attempt associated with known malicious IP addresses, email addresses, or domains to prevent cyber threats.

Why Monitoring is Essential

Monitoring these activities allows you to maintain control over your Microsoft 365 environment by ensuring that any potential security or compliance issues are detected and addressed promptly. This proactive approach is vital for:

  • Detecting potential security incidents early: By keeping track of unusual access patterns or unauthorized permission changes, you can identify and mitigate potential threats before they result in data loss or other damages.
  • Ensuring compliance: Regularly reviewing administrator actions and policy changes helps ensure that your Microsoft 365 setup remains in compliance with relevant laws and regulations.
  • Maintaining operational integrity: Monitoring helps maintain the integrity of your Microsoft 365 environment by ensuring that all changes and activities are legitimate and authorized.


This article has carefully covered the critical layers of securing Microsoft 365, emphasizing a harmonious blend of strong protection measures, sharp monitoring, and strict agreement to global compliance standards. As organizations navigate the complexities of cybersecurity, the insights shared here serve as a roadmap for harnessing the full potential of Microsoft 365, ensuring it is a secure and resilient platform that supports business operations while protecting valuable data. By meticulously applying these practices, businesses not only shield themselves from current threats but also strengthen their defenses for future challenges, ensuring a secure digital environment for growth and innovation.


Gal Nakash

Gal is the Cofounder & CPO of Reco. Gal is a former Lieutenant Colonel in the Israeli Prime Minister's Office. He is a tech enthusiast, with a background of Security Researcher and Hacker. Gal has led teams in multiple cybersecurity areas with an expertise in the human element.

Technical Review by:
Gal Nakash
Technical Review by:
Gal Nakash

Gal is the Cofounder & CPO of Reco. Gal is a former Lieutenant Colonel in the Israeli Prime Minister's Office. He is a tech enthusiast, with a background of Security Researcher and Hacker. Gal has led teams in multiple cybersecurity areas with an expertise in the human element.

Table of Contents
Get the Latest SaaS Security Insights
Subscribe to receive updates on the latest cyber security attacks and trends in SaaS Security.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.