Fireside Chat, Part II: Before You Make the Move to Office 365

In Part I of this two-part blog series, we looked at concerns about loss of control and alternatives to all-or-nothing implementations discussed at our recent webinar, “Fireside Chat: Moving to Office 365 with Security in Mind.” In Part II, we address the question: “Can I trust Microsoft with my security?” Once again, security consultant and long-standing Microsoft MVP Tony Bradley and Intel Security Product Manager Nate Fitzgerald offer pointers on evaluating the best possible security options for your Office 365 migration.

Get an Early Start on Security

Both Bradley and Fitzgerald emphasize the criticality of exploring your third-party security options before you go ahead with your move to Microsoft Office 365. “Security should be considered early and often,” says Bradley—for a number of reasons. If you do all your research upfront and obtain budget before you initiate migration, you’ll have fewer headaches later. Security as an afterthought is always more costly and complicated. Plus, it’s much easier and wiser to ask for funding at the outset rather than to have to go back and ask for more later on.  

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Is Microsoft Office 365 Security Really World-Class?

At a high level, Bradley points out, Microsoft appears to satisfy request-for-proposal (RFP) check boxes, but if you dig deeper, you’ll find that there are significant shortfalls. Let’s take a look at some key considerations:

  • URL filtering: This technology provides your email security product with an awareness of user exposure to suspicious URLs and the associated malware that are typical of spear phishing campaigns. Some dedicated security companies even provide advanced click-time protection that can roam with users, on PCs, laptops, and mobile devices. The word on the street is that Microsoft, which has never had a meaningful web security product, will be releasing its own, is beta testing its own version of URL filtering to fill in the gap. Fitzgerald advises that whatever you decide, make sure you check to see what is under the hood of your URL filtering options. Is the product built on a solid foundation of proven, reliable web protection technology or makeshifted using an OEM antivirus or Open Source proxy?
  • Really real time: Microsoft states that it offers “real-time” protection, but even its own TechNet site belies that claim. In a laudable show of transparency, the company admits that its “real-time” protection can take up to two hours to propagate throughout your network, and policy updates can take up to an hour. In today’s threat environment, speed counts. Everyone in IT security is aware that, the moment a threat is discovered, corrective action needs to be taken within the “golden hour” to prevent further compromise and the possibility of a breach. Dedicated security vendors understand the importance of operational performance. Your chosen security solution for Office 365 should respond, remediate, and update policy in minutes, not hours.
  • Looking toward a secure tomorrow: With constant shifts in the cyberthreat landscape, will today’s security protect your Office Outlook 365 deployment in the future? As Fitzgerald notes, single-solution vendors may provide adequate remedies for your immediate concerns, which is well and good for now, but vision is what distinguishes an adequate vendor from a great vendor. Forward-thinking third-party security vendors with a broad portfolio and longevity in the industry, for example, will focus on communication of threat intelligence culled from various sources across an integrated security ecosystem—from email protection to enterprise firewalls to security information and event management (SIEM) and more. Advanced security vendors that tie in email protection with your other network presence points offer a holistic, flexible approach that will better serve you over the long haul.

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Choose the Best for Your Organization

If you ask any IT security professional about whether they want advanced security for their organization, the answer will be a resounding “Yes!” All IT leaders want the best protection they can buy, regardless of the size of the company.

Bradley and Fitzgerald note that smaller businesses with 250 employees or less are mainly concerned about blocking malware and getting on with their day. They want to place their trust in a reliable security vendor with a business-grade solution and be able to view to review reports and logs on a weekly basis. Enterprises, on the other hand, want to use advanced threat intelligence to actively go on the hunt for threats and use new technologies like automated active response solutions to launch specific actions when indicators of attack (IoAs) are detected. Larger organizations also want to use threat intelligence for forensic investigation and analysis to find out about the attackers and their motives and techniques so that they can proactively prevent breaches or takedowns in the future.

Secure Your Office 365 Deployment

We hope this blog gave you some food for thought. There’s more to come. In future blogs, we’ll discuss more security “gotchas” and other Office 365-related topics. In the meantime, check out these resources as you prepare for the great migration:

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