There have been many online security threats throughout the years, but few have been as frightening as ransomware.

Ransomware does more than spy on your web surfing or read your emails – it encrypts the files on your computer, locking you out of your data and putting your entire business at risk.

The threat posed by ransomware is growing rapidly, and it has already snagged some high profile targets.

The entire city of Atlanta was plunged into the digital dark ages when its servers were hit with a ransomware attack, and Atlanta is not the first municipality to have fallen victim to this new type of crime.

Where Is the Threat Coming From?

Every Office 365 user should be aware of the threat posed by ransomware, along with the various ways an attack can be initiated. Ransomware attacks are growing in sophistication, and businesses need to constantly be on guard.

Infected emails are still a frequent source of ransomware attacks and recently, Office 365 users have been targeted. When unknowing users click on an infected email, ransomware quickly spreads throughout the network, targeting unprotected desktops, laptops, servers and mobile devices.

Other ransomware attacks take the form of highly targeted emails seeking out company executives through seemingly legitimate messages. But no matter what form it takes or who it targets, ransomware is a serious threat to businesses of all sizes.

Microsoft Office 365 and Ransomware Protection

As a result of the targeted attack and massive threat that ransomware poses to businesses, Microsoft has taken action by building ransomware defenses into their products.

If you’re already using Microsoft Office 365 in your business, you should begin to see this ransomware protection soon. If you are not an Office 365 customer, the new ransomware protection is one more reason to make the switch.

The Next Level of Security in Office 365

These new advanced security features break down into four categories, each designed to coincide with one another.

  1. Advanced link checking: Since so many ransomware attacks begin with infected attachments, it makes sense that Microsoft would address this threat first. As part of its ransomware protection, Office 365 will now include sophisticated link checking for all Word, Excel and PowerPoint files.
  2. Password protection for forwarded links: This new feature allows users to specify a password for the links they share, preventing unauthorized access even if the file is later forwarded to the wrong recipient.
  3. Email encryption: Email continues to be a weak spot in many cyber security platforms, so Office 365 is addressing that vulnerability. The new email encryption feature allows users send and receive encrypted Outlook messages via a secure connection, enhancing security and making unauthorized access more difficult.
  4. Forwarding prevention: Erroneous forwarding of confidential files and proprietary information is a real threat to businesses, but a new Office 365 feature aims to reduce this risk. This new feature allows users to restrict forwarding of emailed files, preventing unauthorized access and unintentional disclosure. Most importantly, the protection remains in place even when the file has been downloaded and saved.

When Will These Features Become Available?

Some new Office 365 features, like advanced link checking, are already available, while others are still rolling out. All of the enhanced security features, from forwarding protection to email encryption, should be available to users by the second half of 2018.

Security is a constant challenge for businesses, with hackers growing in sophistication and software providers struggling to keep up. With the addition of these new security features, Microsoft has demonstrated its commitment to ransomware protection, so you have one less thing to worry about.

If you’re currently an Office 365 user, it is important to understand exactly how these new features work in order to utilize them effectively. While the new ransomware protection is a step in the right direction, it is no substitute for user training.

Whether you’re a current Microsoft Office 365 customer or you want to learn more about the new security enhancements, our cybersecurity experts are standing by to support your efforts to secure and stabilize your network. We invite you to give our support team a call today at 262-522-8560 or contact us online.

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