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Category Archives: Office 365

Guest post by Conor Magee, Solutions Consultant, Ergo

Hackers and cybercriminals are launching increasingly sophisticated and damaging attacks, including the “WannaCry” ransomware that is currently causing widespread problems for businesses across the globe. To counter this, Microsoft have recently released additional security and advanced threat protection options for Office 365 that provide an additional layer of protection against new threats. Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) provides a way to protect users from malicious links in emails, zero-day attacks and unknown malware and viruses. It includes features such as:

  • Safe Links which provides comprehensive detection and deactivation of malicious links before the mail is delivered to any device.
  • Safe Attachments which opens email attachments in a special, protected hypervisor environment and watches to see if there is suspicious activity.

 

For organisations that have Office 365 Enterprise E5 licensing in place, these Advanced Threat Protection services are already included as part of the licensing package and just need to be configured and enabled.

For organisations that have Exchange Online, Enterprise E1 or E3 licensing, Advanced Threat Protection can be added as a standalone license, adding an additional layer of security to existing email services.

If this something that you would be interested in learning a bit more about, and would like to speak to a Micromail expert please click on the link below:

Contact Micromail today to discuss your IT security requirements

Guest post by Conor Magee, Solutions Consultant, Ergo

The rising popularity of cloud service platforms presents a unique challenge for IT security. These platforms can hold user identity and organisational data, but because of their separation from the corporate network, tend to be outside the reach of traditional on-premises security analytics software. This gives rise to a blind-spot in terms of security for IT administrators that can be difficult to resolve.

On the user side, it is often not possible to see centrally if third party applications are granted access to cloud data by users, for example unauthorised email or calendar tools. These applications can provide legitimate services to users but if there are flaws in their design, critical or sensitive data may be left exposed and become a target for hackers.

This issue is made more difficult with the widespread use of unmanaged personal smartphones, computers and tablet devices for business use, potentially leading to privileged information being accessed through third-party applications on devices with an unknown security or patching status.

Microsoft’s is a large cloud service provider and their Office 365 suite of applications run on encrypted servers within their world-leading datacentres. These datacentres are protected with layers of advanced security and certified by leading certification providers including: ISO 27001, HIPAA, UK G-Cloud and EU-US Privacy Shield. While this highly secure infrastructure ensures that information is stored in an environment that is as safe as it can be, user identity is left as the path of least resistance for malicious access to gain access to organisation data. This can be achieved in a number of ways including: weak user passwords, users continuing to use previously compromised passwords or “brute-force” password attacks where huge numbers of passwords are tried against each account and made easier if users are using weak passwords or the same password across a number of services.

Office 365 Advanced Security Management

To help secure against these type of threats, Office 365 Advanced Security Management monitors 70+ different metrics for each user account within Office 365. This allows alerts to be automatically generated when policies are triggered and manual or automatic actions to be taken to prevent security breaches.

Advanced Security Management policies are created and customised to monitor for specific user account activity with the aim of identifying suspicious behaviour. Each one can be set to look for specific actions and thresholds; for example, downloading large amounts of data in a short space of time or repeated login failures from an unexpected location. Once an alert is generated, administrators have the option to take an action on the users account right from the alert page or, if it’s a particularly serious scenario, have the account suspended automatically on detection pending further investigation.

General behavioural analytics are also performed on this stream of data, learning what normal activity looks like for each user and a “Risk Score” is generated based on the full range of parameters. The score is based on how unusual or risky the behaviour is; this can be logging in at an unusual time, making administrative changes from an unexpected location or many other metrics. The risk score is attached to each alert to assist IT administrators in deciding what further action to take.

Advanced Security Management also includes an “App Discovery” dashboard within the Office 365 control panel. This service can analyse logs uploaded from firewalls and proxies and produce reports on cloud application activity within the organisation across a large range of non-Microsoft cloud platforms. This can give a view of how many potentially unapproved cloud services are in use by users across the organisation and how much data they are uploading to them.

For organisations that have Office 365 Enterprise E5 licensing in place, these Advanced Security Management services are already included as part of the licensing package and just need to be configured and enabled. For organisations that have any other Office 365 licensing, Advanced Security Management can be added as an add-on license to enable these features.

Contact Micromail today to discuss your IT security requirements

Guest post by Conor Magee, Solutions Consultant, Ergo

Email remains top of the list for hackers and cybercriminals looking to gain access to restricted systems or data. Traditionally this has comprised of emails infected with malware and viruses, sent either out to databases of random addresses or targeted to a specific organisation or individual. The standard defence against this type of attack is using email filtering solutions that scan against a continuously updated list of known threats.

With the constantly increasing number of viruses and malware, this type of protection is as important as ever. On top of this, there are a new set of challenges that need to be addressed – unique threats hidden within email attachments, including rapidly changing malware and zero day attacks, and malicious URLs in the body of emails. These are designed to avoid standard protection by behaving in a way that does not flag them as a threat and once delivered to the user, have a high chance of successfully infecting the target network.

Microsoft Office 365 offers inbuilt, robust protection against traditional email threats through “Exchange Online Protection”, which is enabled on all existing Exchange Online mailboxes by default. This email filtering service uses multiple scanning engines and the latest virus definitions on each email to effectively defend against these infections.

Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection

Defending against threats that have not been seen before requires a proactive approach to email scanning. Office 365 “Advanced Threat Protection” provides in depth scanning services for attachments and URLs using technologies called Safe Attachments and Safe Links.

Safe Attachments takes incoming email attachments and opens them within a special environment to monitor their activity. This service simulates a number of different operating systems to maximise the chance that novel viruses and malware are identified and blocked before they get anywhere near your network. Suspicious attachments are then blocked and stripped out of the email before it is sent on to the destination mailbox for delivery.

Safe Links follows all web links within an email to their final destination to determine if they lead to any malicious sites or content. This provides security against links that first go to a legitimate site but are automatically redirected to a malicious site thereafter. Any dangerous links are disabled within the email before it is delivered to the end user, allowing the content to be safely viewed. Included with Safe Links is the ability to generate a report containing the users that have attempted to follow the disabled links. This allows organisations to identify users that are potentially vulnerable to malicious emails and to provide information on how to recognise these emails in future.

For organisations that have Office 365 Enterprise E5 licensing in place, these Advanced Threat Protection services are already included as part of the licensing package and just need to be configured and enabled. For organisations that have Exchange Online, Enterprise E1 or E3 licensing, Advanced Threat Protection can be added as a standalone license, adding an additional layer of security to existing email services.

Contact Micromail today to discuss your email security requirements

Office 365 in Education, and Recent Changes

Microsoft have been very generous to educational customers looking to subscribe to their Office 365 services. They have been less generous however when it comes to explaining exactly what services are on offer, and of informing customers when changes to these offerings occur. There is a lot of information ‘out there’ but in our experience this seems to have caused more confusion than clarity.

So what is on offer, who qualifies and how do eligible customers access these service offerings?

To begin, a short history of the Office 365 family and the different suites available to education. The majority of my discussions around Office 365 start by explaining that Office 365 is a family of products, rather than the ‘latest version of Office’. A lot of customers (educational and otherwise) believe that ‘Office 365’ was the natural successor to the Office 2013 suites (Office Standard and Pro Plus). This, as we know, is not the full story: ‘Office 365’ is essentially a suite of products, largely cloud based, which chiefly consists of Exchange, Skype for Business, SharePoint and Office 365 Pro Plus. As cloud based services Microsoft provision and manage Exchange, SharePoint, Skype and Office 365 Pro Plus from their datacentre infrastructure (cloud I/F). Office 365 Pro Plus here is what people typically associate with ‘Office 365’, that is the familiar applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint. Rather than these products being the ‘latest version’, they represent a new licensing model, namely a change to ‘per user/per year’. So if you want to use Office Pro Plus 2016 you can still purchase it outright as a perpetual license if you please, or via a 365 per user/per year subscription. In essence the product’s functionality is the same, however the move to ‘per user’ and a Microsoft managed update cycle bring some major benefits and challenges.

The Education offerings and recent changes

Microsoft have for some time made a suite of the 365 products available to education for free. Exchange, Skype for Business and SharePoint were originally made available to education for free as part of the O365 Education A2 Plan. This plan lacked some ‘enterprise’ features available in the higher plans but was intended to bridge the gap for customers who up to this point largely viewed Enterprise class email as beyond the means of school IT budgets. The paid for O365 Education A3 Plan enabled access to all enterprise features, as well as the Office 365 Pro Plus per user subscription. There was some reshuffling of the suites in early 2015, when A2 became E1 and A3 became E3. For all intents and purposes, the offerings remained the same – E1 gave you hosted Exchange, SfB and SharePoint, while E3 added the Office 365 Pro Plus product etc. Microsoft announced some significant changes to the line-up at their worldwide partner conference in Orlando in July 2015, where they announced and have been rolling out a rebranded ‘Office 365 Education’ which replaces the E1 offering. Just another name change, right? Well, no, not in this case. The launch of Office 365 Education (still free!) saw Microsoft opening up ‘enterprise’ features of Exchange, SfB and SharePoint under this free subscription offering. For a comprehensive breakdown of what is offered, see the following live pivot.

What about the Office suite of products?

Well, Office 365 Pro Plus remains a paid for product – unless your organisation has a qualifying annualised agreement in place. What does this mean? Well a typical scenario would look like this – a school licenses their on premise desktops and laptops etc. via the Open Value Subscription Education Solution Agreement (OVS ES). This allows schools to pay an annual fee based on staff count, which covers them to deploy their chosen software site-wide on all school owned computers and laptops. If that set of software includes Office, the school typically qualifies for free Office 365 Pro Plus for students and staff.

Finally, a word on Office 365 Education Plus

This suite was rolled out directly to qualifying customers’ tenants by Microsoft. It combines the feature set of Office 365 Education and Office 365 Pro Plus. This is important as it halves the work for both the customer and partner when it comes to assigning seats and aligning renewal cycles. Furthermore, unlike the Office 365 Pro Plus subscription, the subscription is auto-renewing. Customers already using O365 Education and Office Pro Plus should simply assign these licenses instead.

Feel free to drop me a line…

Clear? Well, hopefully you’re a bit clearer on the Office 365 offerings in education now, but feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions.

For more information on Office 365 in Education please contact
sean@micromail.ie
or
phone 021 4515590

Regards,

Seán Deasy

 

Over the past few years the student offering for Microsoft Office has undergone numerous modifications. From product configuration to pricing, updates were frequent and hard to keep up with. Now Microsoft have now announced another major change which should hopefully standardise this offering and bring some much needed clarity, becoming available from the 1st December.

The good news? Office for students will be FREE!

The catch? It is available only to students whose academic organisation covers 100% of their organization’s faculty and staff with either Office Professional Plus or Office 365 Pro Plus.

In fairness this isn’t much of a catch, with most sites running Microsoft Office having such an arrangement in place. The product will be an annual subscription to Office 365 Pro Plus.

So what next? The qualifying organisation will need to contact their Microsoft reseller  in order to activate the offering. Once this is complete you will of course need to consider the practical implications of deployment etc. Microsoft will make deployment guides available (to the best of our knowledge) and there should be some level of direct support.

So if you want to get up and running, ask your organisation to contact their reseller/LSP to get the ball rolling! Oh …and did I mention, it is FREE

Seán Deasy – Microsoft education licensing specialist.

Our Office 365 service upgrade finally happened, and its been a real pleasure to the disparate elements of the service coming together at last. The deeper integration of SharePoint into the service and the common UI theme brings usability to a higher level.

There is one change however that took us a few minutes to resolve – how to send Office 365 trial invitations in the new portal. As an Office 365 cloud partner we send out trial invitations and offer delegated administration, but the old partner link was gone. Turns out it has been moved for non admin accounts. If you previously had the ability to send trial invitations, you can continue to do by accessing “Office 365 settings” link under the gear icon. This enables the Partner link in your top navigation bar again….seems like there is more usability work to do!

Step 1. Access Office 365 Settings

Step 1. Access Office 365 Settings

Step 2. Click on Partner link

Step 2. Click on Partner link