Malicious Links: The Impact on Office 365

Malicious links can look all too convincing. That’s because cyberattackers go to great lengths to make their scams look realistic. When these attacks are successful, organizations lose access to their email, their networks and sometimes their entire data sets.

That’s why it’s critical to protect an organization against spam, and to ensure data is backed up to a secure location. This includes Office 365 data, which the majority of organizations use for email, collaboration and data creation.

To help understand the risks related to clicking malicious links, we put together a real-life case study of how one business was compromised by a phishing scam.

One Business’ Experience with Malicious Links

Case Example: Malicious Links and Emails Can Look Too Real

During a regular business day, a client’s employee received an email from Microsoft. The email explained that the employee’s password had expired. The employee followed the directions in the email, and clicked the link to update their password.

The employee provided the requested information, including their username, email address, current password and new password. The employee submitted the update and proceeded with their day.

The Fall-Out from Email Spoofing

The next time the employee attempted to use autocomplete in Outlook to find an email address …they found nothing.

Not a single address showed up in the address book.

Normally, the address book contained the addresses for all employees, clients and suppliers. All the addresses had disappeared.

That’s when the employee started thinking. When was the last time they had access to the address book?

With a little thought, they realized it was just before they’d ‘updated their email address’ with Microsoft.

After some googling, the employee started to think they’d fallen for a very convincing, very realistic spoof.

Office 365 Backup: Protection from Malicious Deletion

By the time the employee realized what had happened, the email had been deleted for just over two weeks. That meant the 14-day retention period native to Office 365 had ended. The archived trash items had been permanently deleted, so the company couldn’t validate if the email was truly the source of the problem.

The biggest problem was the disappearance of the address book. The company hadn’t made a backup copy. The address book and all related data were unrecoverable. The company lost thousands of business contacts and user data points. It took them almost ten years to collect this data.

The loss of this critical data represented a big obstacle to business growth. Without access to user data, sales and customer service people needed to take the time to rebuild their address books. The data loss stalled business productivity and compromised normal business operations. Now, they needed to recover their user data without damaging their reputation or losing sales.

Had a backup copy of Office 365 been available, the loss of the address book would have been a temporary obstacle.

Malicious Links: They’re Meant to be Convincing

In this case, the employee thought they were taking proactive steps. They were unaware of the risks associated with phishing scams, including email address spoofing and fake links designed to steal information. The organization didn’t have an anti-spam solution in place, so the unsuspecting employee was able to click through and follow the links in the email.

Most employees are doing their best to respond to their email in a timely fashion. They are taking reactive steps to complete their daily tasks. Employees aren’t thinking about phishing scams and link spoofing. They’re thinking about getting their work done.

That’s why its imperative to protect Office 365 data with anti-spam tools and cloud-based backup. When an employee makes an error, it can impact the productivity of the entire organization. Regularly backing up Exchange Online and Office 365 data to the cloud ensures a copy of the data is always available, no matter what happens.

Office 365 User Education

Office 365 offers limited backup and recovery capabilities.  However, these capabilities are limited. The data backup policy secures data for 14 days. This period can be extended to 30 days, but only when the setting is updated manually.

After this retention period passes, data is permanently expunged from the cloud. That’s right: no data in Office 365 is backed up beyond 30 days.

Any organization relying on the native backup and recovery will be exposed to data loss after 30 days.

In its SLA, Microsoft goes so far as to recommend that users backup their data with third-party backup and recovery tools. Microsoft does not take responsibility for data lost outside of this period.

Backup and Recovery Tools to Support Office 365

An Office 365 Backup and Recovery solution will ensure that data, including contacts, are recoverable – no matter how or when they were deleted.

Ensuring organizational and user data is recoverable is vital to business continuity. Reliable Office 365 backup solutions ensure companies never permanently lose data to email spoofing or malicious links.

Best practices indicate an Office 365 Backup solution should:

  • Retrieve Office 365 Exchange Online mailbox items, including email, calendar and contacts from a cloud-based repository.
  • Offer ‘search and recovery’ of individual mailbox items, including Office 365 content or Exchange backups.
  • Enable discovery for O365, including Exchange Online, archives.
  • Offer data roll-back to a desired point in time. This ensures file recovery at the critical moment of loss.
  • Backup and restore Sharepoint and OneDrive data. This ensures that in the case of permanent malicious or accidental deletions the data can restored.

Protecting Office 365 from Malicious Links

Office 365 Backup is critical for any organization that relies on office 365 for email, collaboration and productivity.

A viable, best in class solution ensures that data is safe from security threats and quickly restores individual Office 365 emails and files.

HostedBizz offers a 100% Canadian Office 365 backup and recovery solution that requires no additional hardware or staff training. In fact, our backup and recovery solutions can be activated quickly, and with no interruption to your organization’s workflow. That’s quite a contrast to the interruption your organization might face after a cyberattack based on email spoofing or malicious links!

To learn more about HostedBizz Anti-Spam or Cloud backup, contact our Account Management team today.

About Shannon Peck

Hello! I'm Shannon. Nice to meet you. If you're already a HostedBizz partner, we've likely worked together creating custom collateral, or building lead generation campaigns.

I have been working in the tech marketing industry for well over 15 years, and love helping small and medium businesses reach their full sales potential.

To learn more about how I can help you grow your cloud-based offerings, sign on as a HostedBizz partner, and ask to speak with me! If you're already a partner, feel free to reach out. I'm looking forward to chatting!

- Shannon