Securing your business in the Cloud

September 28, 2016 rachel.browne

In the space of just a few years, remote working has gone from being a perk for senior executives, to a mission-critical function. A distributed, mobile workforce is just as reliant on data as their deskbound colleagues – and it’s down to the CTO to deliver that connectivity.

Traditionally, RAS, VPNs, firewall ports and account permissions were the main security measures. They were the best technologies available at the time and provided a good degree of control over who could (and couldn’t) access corporate resources. Nevertheless, they added significantly to the administrative burden of the IT team.

The Cloud – simplifying resource access
More recently, Cloud services have helped to greatly simplify access to corporate applications and data for remote workers. But ease-of-deployment comes at the cost of a loss of control. When using Office 365, security is in the hands of Microsoft.

This loss of control isn’t as scary as it sounds however – once you realise what Microsoft has in place to protect your data and users.

Encryption
Aside from mistakes made by unknowing users, hacking and malware present the biggest risk to your data. In the unlikely event that cybercriminals do make it through Microsoft’s perimeter defences, you need to be sure that data cannot be used by thieves.

For this reason Office 365 offers encryption of data in transit and at rest. So if data is intercepted between your user and the Cloud, it is encrypted using TLS or IPSec. And if they do break into Microsoft’s systems, cybercriminals will be unable to access data because it has been protected with volume-level and file-level encryption.

Advanced Threat Protection
By joining your internal network – and remote devices – to the Cloud, there is always a risk that these hosted systems become a channel by which malware attacks your in-house systems. Replacing the in-house email server with hosted Outlook 365 means giving up control of your malware and anti-spam filtering capabilities – at the server level anyway.

Microsoft employs Advanced Threat Protection technologies to eliminate threats as they pass through the Cloud. As you would expect, Office 365 provides robust protection against known email-borne malware and previously unidentified, emerging threats. Every Microsoft Cloud platform is configured to identify and block suspicious network activity automatically, before it can access your data or your corporate network.

Access controls
Although Microsoft Office 365 provides the security mechanisms, you are still responsible for managing access rights and permissions. The Azure Active Directory (AAD) is a Cloud-based equivalent to your in-house Active Directory (AD) – it even functions according to the same principles with which you are familiar.

More importantly still, you can replicate your existing AD set-up to the Cloud. This greatly reduces the time to deployment and ensures your existing security provisions are maintained, no matter where data is physically located. Recreating your existing security infrastructure in Office 365 also means that your security team will be up to speed immediately because they already understand the permissions and access controls hierarchy in place.

Multi-factor authentication
To add further peace of mind, Office 365 also includes multi-factor authentication as standard. So even if your remote worker does accidentally divulge their logon details (or has them stolen), the account still cannot be accessed without the second authentication factor.

Office 365 supports several secondary authentication methods, so you can deploy the method that is most suited to your business – and individual members of staff. SMS, voice call or mobile app can all be used to increase security beyond the basic user account.

Boosting your overall security provisions
Ultimately Office 365 introduces new security provisions that enhance your own. So you benefit from ease of access, particularly for remote workers, and boosted protection for your data.

Takeaways

  • Office 365 provides multiple layers of encryption to prevent your data being exposed
  • Azure Active Directory easily replicates existing security controls in the Cloud
  • ATP scanning protects your resources inside and outside the Microsoft data centre
  • Multi-factor authentication strengthens your perimeter security.

 

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