Cloud Computing – Securing your Workplace
In our previous article we explored Cloud computing and the considerations you need to make to be sure your transition is a prosperous one. In this article we will explore cyber security in the Cloud, the ways that threats may target you, and how to combat those threats to keep your system safe.
We don’t need to go into detail about how essential cyber security is because you already know this, but what most don’t know is the methods cyber criminals use to attack your systems.
Ransomware is designed with the intention of removing your access to your data. It does this by encrypting your files behind a secure ‘key.’ The cyber criminal responsible for the attack is aiming to hold the key to your system, then after having got the ‘keys’ they ransom your files back to you – demanding money in exchange for returning your files.
Phishing scams involve an individual impersonating a known and trusted organisation. The message they send to their target will convey a sense of urgency in an attempt to panic the victim into disclosing sensitive information. The email may contain a message prompting you to act quickly to an ’unauthorised breach’ or a link with a message like ‘please click the link to be redirected, your account will be closed in 5 minutes’. The messages will be accompanied by a link that redirects you to a login portal that is designed to look authentic, but has the sole intention of hijacking your data.
It is important that your team know their role in the defence of your system – they must understand the potential dangers of their activities online and they must trust their gut instinct and be vigilant.
There are technical measures that can be introduced to help your team protect your data when online. If you choose the Microsoft suite of tools as your Cloud platform, for example, they take security very seriously. So, what technical measures can you purchase to better secure your Microsoft environment?
There are two key areas to address to reduce the risk of data breach and best secure Microsoft 365 in the Cloud:
- Technical controls, policies, filters, and defences.
- Policy changes for how users access and use 365.
Technical defences exist within Microsoft 365 to overcome different security threats, including the prevention of:
- The interception or viewing of email content or attachments by unauthorised parties.
- Your domain from becoming a victim of a ‘spoofing’ attack, with cyber criminals purporting to be your business.
- Phishing attacks being received or having their links clicked upon within an email.
- Malware, Ransomware, and other malicious file attachments being received or downloaded from emails.
Your users – as we touched on previously – have an especially important role to play in the defence of your systems: they are your last line of defence, but, unfortunately, for all their responsibility, they can actually end up being the cause of a breach. Your system is very fragile; all it takes is a click on a malicious link and your entire organisation could come tumbling down.
There are a number of risks posed by the way users can access and interact with Microsoft 365 that depend upon:
- The complexity of their password and whether this password is unique to 365 or used as a general password across other services.
- The ability to share files and documents, and with whom.
- The ability to share potentially sensitive information within email messages.
- The level of system access and permissions assigned.
Let’s take a look at the security options in Microsoft.
Microsoft designed by default a secure password policy that is intended to direct the user to use a complex password. A complex password is exactly that – it needs to be hard to guess a collection of random letters and numbers, which is long, and includes special characters. Traditionally, managers would direct their team to change their passwords on a time cycle, with instruction for those passwords to get longer and more complex when changed.
We now realise that this system doesn’t improve security levels at all, as enforcing longer passwords with a regular password renewal policy on a cycle simply forces users to use their old passwords repeatedly because they know they won’t forget it.
Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) / 2-Factor Authentication (2FA) is the better, modern approach.
MFA is a second authentication step that takes place after a user has entered their password. They ask you to input a code that is randomly generated on a cycle (usually every few seconds or a couple of minutes apart) that authorises your identity, therefore further improving security. The code is received on a personal mobile device (usually through a text message), but also can be accessed through an authentication app or sometimes via email; this means that only the person with access to that device, app, or email account can see the code. So, with MFA, even if someone has your password, they still may not be able to gain entry. Security is all about layering, and MFA is a great example of that, because they would first need to find out your password and then they need to get hold of your personal device to find out the MFA, and they still need to get past a well-educated team familiar with the threats to the system.
You can enforce MFA, along with other login security best practices, for your tenancy through Microsoft 365 security defaults.
The Microsoft 365 security defaults
You can activate security defaults that enforce a number of policies automatically by defining security parameters that apply to all of your users.
Security defaults come at no extra cost, as long as your organisation purchases any of the Microsoft 365 tools at minimum, the Azure Active Directory service is a free tier.
Security defaults include:
- Blocking legacy forms of authentication.
- Requiring users to perform MFA procedures upon certain actions.
- Requiring all system administrators to follow MFA.
- Requiring all users to register for MFA.
How do you implement security defaults on Microsoft 365?
- Visit your Azure Portal (https://portal.azure.com).
- From the main menu scroll to ‘Properties.’
- Click ‘Manage security defaults’.
- Move the slider across to click ‘Yes’.
Once having done this, your users will be forced to activate MFA on their accounts – they can’t ‘put it off until later’ like most would.
Now that you know more about the Cloud and how to secure your organisation when working in it, you can be sure that your team are equipped with not only technical tools that are secure and capable but also the education around using those tools and navigating cyber space safely. We hope this article has helped you regarding the considerations you need to bear in mind before making the change to the newest most revolutionary way of working there is.
Founded in 1984, Horizon started off as a custom software company doing work for Snap-on Tools. We rapidly added helpdesk and network support to the business and have continued expanding our capabilities ever since – all while also successfully transitioning to a second generation of owners.
Our team has over a hundred years of combined experience in virtually every field of IT. We are trusted by clients of every size, from ‘mom ‘n’ pop’ local businesses all the way to multinational corporations who have heavy security and inter-connectivity requirements. Our employees deliver a truly customer-focused direction in everything we do.
After more than thirty years in business, Horizon continues to grow both our client base and our knowledge. We look forward to working with you to help your business enjoy that same success. Contact us now and see what we can do for you.