Over the course of the past few years, there has been a significant rise in the number of cyber-attacks carried out against businesses of all sizes, as the technology that criminals use to conduct their illicit online activities grows more sophisticated and ubiquitous.
A report published by Software Advice in January 2022 shows that UK-based small-to-medium-sized enterprises [SMEs] have experienced a 62% increase in cyber threats since 2020, with 57% of incidents involving scam messages.
With small companies more exposed than ever to the threat of cyber-attacks, it is necessary for business leaders to ensure that every effort is made to keep their organisation and employees safe online.
In recognition of the growing danger posed by cybercriminals, Microsoft has recently introduced new features to its 365 offering, specifically designed to help small businesses operating online stay as safe a s possible.
The most significant new security feature of Microsoft 365 is the addition of Microsoft Defender for Business. This all-new, enterprise-grade technology is custom made with the protection of small businesses in mind, and is now available for Microsoft 365 Business Premium users, with the standalone offering due to be made generally available later this year.
Microsoft Defender for Business adds cross-platform endpoint protection and sophisticated ransomware defences, with technologies such as endpoint detection and response [EDR], to the comprehensive security and productivity stack that is already present within Microsoft 365 Business Premium.
It is hoped that this software will make the Microsoft 365 offering even more compelling and complete for small and medium-sized firms, and that a greater number of businesses will switch to using 365 as a result.
Microsoft 365 Lighthouse
However, Microsoft has acknowledged that it is not merely enough to secure customers, and that genuine value needs to be delivered to businesses using its services.
Recognising that many SMEs rely on outsourcing the management of their IT operations to trusted partners – as most small businesses do not have the time or resources to oversee IT management themselves – Microsoft has also rolled out Microsoft 365 Lighthouse for general availability.
This portal aims to offer a complete experience to businesses by supporting their IT partners in swiftly identifying and acting on potential threats, anomalous sign-ins, and device compliance alerts. In this way, partners can feel empowered to provide a better, more proactive security solution to clients, while small businesses can have greater peace of mind that their systems are receiving the best possible defence against attacks.
Microsoft Information Protection
In addition to Defender for Business and Lighthouse, Microsoft has also recently unveiled its new Microsoft Information Protection [MIP] functionality as part of its 365 offering.
The solution gives firms the freedom to implement and customise capabilities that will help them to discover, classify, and protect sensitive information stored and transferred online.
MIP capabilities are included with Microsoft 365 Compliance and give businesses the tools that they need to understand and protect their data, as well as prevent data from being lost.
For example, MIP assists companies in understanding their data by identifying sensitive data using a variety of means, including the use of built-in or custom regular expressions, or a graphical identification of items that have a sensitivity label, a retention label, or have been classified.
Through the various functions that MIP affords organisations, business leaders can ensure that all sensitive information that is used and shared online can only be accessed by those who have the necessary authorisation, making it considerably harder for cybercriminals to get their hands on classified or potentially damaging data.
Keep Information Safe
It is clear that the threat and regularity of cyberattacks is continuing to rise all the time – especially as more and more businesses embrace flexible working practices and move their operations online.
Therefore, it is crucial for small firms to do everything that they can to keep their information safe.
Of course, the danger that cybercriminals present can never be completely eradicated, given the constant advancements made to the technology that they use to conduct their activities. However, there is no question that the solutions that have been introduced into Microsoft 365 provide the most complete security package for small businesses, and it is hoped that they will give even more organisations the confidence to move their data and operations online.