What You Should Know About Microsoft Office 365 Account Takeovers

IA blue tinted image showing a person's hands typing in a username and password on a laptop. f someone stole your Microsoft credentials, how many different apps and how much private data could they access? If you’re like many workers who rely on the supplier’s cloud-based productivity suite, that kind of compromise would expose all your info in Outlook, Teams, OneDrive and other vital business applications.

Given the sheer amount of data available via these types of accounts, it’s no surprise that they’re popular targets in the world of cybercrime. A recent Vectra AI survey of IT security decision-makers responsible for safeguarding Microsoft Office 365 deployments with over 1,000 employees found that 71 percent of those deployments had suffered malicious account takeovers during the past year, according to a press release.

On top of that, the survey data showed that organizations that reported account takeovers had experienced them seven times on average. Additionally, only one out of three of the security professionals said they’d be able to spot and squash a takeover right away.

It’s clear that account takeovers are a common and serious cybersecurity threat for businesses, particularly as many companies have increased their reliance on cloud applications to meet the needs of remote workers. If your company utilizes Office 365 or Microsoft 365, here’s some vital info about how these attacks occur, what you can do to prevent account takeovers, and how you can catch and stop them as fast as possible if they get past your defenses.

Note: Microsoft rebranded some but not all Office 365 plans last year as Microsoft 365. For details, check out this blog entry: “Microsoft 365 vs. Office 365: Everything Business Leaders Should Know.”

1. How do hackers usually take over Microsoft Office 365 accounts?

To successfully execute account takeovers, cybercriminals often trick end users into disclosing their login credentials with phishing messages, according to the blog entry “Stopping Office 365 Account Takeover Attacks in Their Tracks” from Symantec. Other tactics include installing malware on users’ devices and carrying out brute force attacks in which hackers repeatedly try to guess the right password.

2. What can I do to prevent account takeovers?

As we’ve discussed in a previous blog entry, the Office 365 suite does have built-in security features – such as the next-gen threat hunting and AI-driven detection capabilities offered by Microsoft Defender for Office 365. However, you can’t rely on the suite’s native defenses alone to effectively combat evolving IT security threats.

To minimize your chances of experiencing data breaches caused by account takeovers and other types of attacks, you must implement a comprehensive and multi-layered approach to cybersecurity that involves the following elements:

    • Carefully thought out internal processes concerning information security. An MSSP can also provide expert guidance and assist with the establishment of these procedures.

3. How can I identify and stop Microsoft Office 365 account takeovers as quickly as possible?

In addition to leveraging network and endpoint managed detection and response (MDR), you’ll also want to have a security team proactively monitoring your IT environment to catch account takeovers as quickly as possible. If a breach occurs, an MSSP that offers incident response services can rapidly contain and eliminate the threat, minimizing the fallout for your organization.

At the end of the day, it’s imperative to prepare for these types of attacks, given how common they are and how devastating they can potentially be for your business. If you have any questions about the best ways to prevent and respond to Microsoft Office 365 account takeovers, our team of security analysts is available to assist you and discuss solutions such as MDR, SOCaaS, awareness training and more.

For details, feel free to give us a call at 877-599-3999 or email sales@stratospherenetworks.com.

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