The cyber-world remains under fire by sophisticated parties that attempt to gain unauthorized access to sensitive information. Recent events such as SolarWinds and the Colonial Pipeline attack prove that cybercriminals continue to exploit the slightest vulnerabilities within a system. Similar attacks that affect the private sector can also occur within the public sector.
Many organizations within the public sector use Office 365 applications, which leverage the convenience of the cloud. Although the suite of programs — including widely used applications such as OneDrive and Outlook — makes it easy for teams to connect and collaborate seamlessly, they present inherent vulnerabilities.
Specifically, access and passwords have become popular attack vectors for malicious parties. A compromised public user account may have devastating consequences for the entire network. Therefore, it is necessary to identify the common risks involved in Office 365 applications and set up the essential guardrails against unauthorized activities.
Common Microsoft Office 365 Cybersecurity Threats
Microsoft 365 remains widely used across the public sector. However, its popularity has gradually attracted malicious actors who constantly attempt to infiltrate its defenses with novel methods. You should always stay informed on the latest attacks trending in the IT world to safeguard yourself and your co-workers from a data breach.
Phishing attacks are some of the most common hacking attempts on O365 user accounts. These usually involve social engineering tactics where cybercriminals impersonate co-workers or reputable parties to gain their trust and acquire sensitive information such as login credentials. Some phishing emails may appear to come directly from the Microsoft team with official company logos.
Malicious actors may conduct phishing attacks with hyperlinks or macros attached to Microsoft Word documents or via links in Outlook emails. At times, hackers may request user activities such as updating billing information or passwords with spoofed Microsoft sign-in pages. Typically, attackers target high-level O365 admin accounts that provide far-reaching access across the organization.
Notable phishing example: An ongoing Office 365 phishing attack that began in December 2020 targets financial departments and C-level executives. These malicious attacks apply sophisticated phishing kits that distribute false messages regarding important security changes and updates paired with malicious attachments that mimic the user sign-in process.
Ransomware attacks subvert the purpose of encryption — converting files into unreadable ciphertext until a user submits the proper decryption key. Some malicious parties who infiltrate Microsoft Office 365 accounts may deploy ransomware. This renders critical organizational files inaccessible until users pay a ransomed fee, often via cryptocurrency back channels that are difficult to track.
Like in standard phishing attacks, attackers distribute ransomware via email links (Office 365 emails/Outlook). By infecting the first machine, malicious parties may gain valuable information that enables them to exploit on-premises data, leading to lateral movement attacks.
Notable phishing example: Cerber ransomware is an example of a current cyber-attack strategy called RaaS (ransomware as a service), where attackers recruit affiliates by splitting the profits of their ransoms. Advanced versions of Cerber ransomware have bypassed the standard built-in security of Office 365 accounts. In 2016, malicious parties mass-encrypted the files of Office 365 users via email attachments.
Sharepoint and OneDrive Attacks
Microsoft’s SharePoint and OneDrive remain widely used across the public sector. As such, these platforms have accrued trust over the years, with many officials and teams using them for file-sharing, project management, and collaborations of all sizes. However, with large-scale cloud migration comes the unprecedented risks of attacks from opportunistic parties.
Typically, SharePoint and OneDrive attacks take on a similar trajectory. Attackers will first launch a breach on an account. Once the account is compromised, attackers will deploy malicious files — renamed to appear legitimate — made public and shared to the rest of the network. The attack eventually creates a vicious cycle with compromised accounts unknowingly disseminating the malicious files.
Notable O365 cloud attack example: Malicious actors exploited the SharePoint CVE-2019-0604 vulnerability, resulting in a breach of two municipality networks. One of the targeted municipality networks experienced a compromised Active Directory database and administrative credentials.
Tego, Your Trusted Partner in Microsoft O365 Data Protection
Cybersecurity threats are more persistent than ever, and your organization needs the proper defense and backup in place to mitigate the effects of an insidious attack. While the federal government has recently ramped up overall cybersecurity control with President Joe Biden’s executive order, your govtech requires consistent and meticulous care on the granular level. There should be no guesswork in securing your organizational assets against shifting cybercriminal threats.
A cybersecurity expert like Tego provides the expertise and tools to supplement standard Microsoft Office 365 security features. You’ll need extra measures to safeguard against the varied attacks that target account vulnerabilities. Additionally, in case of a cyberattack, you’ll require a reliable backup system to restore your most precious files and credentials.
We have resolved various IT challenges over the years, working closely with government agencies through combining advanced cybersecurity strategies and engineering acumen. We will minimize your organization’s downtime and keep O365-supported networks progressing through the most unexpected crises.
Connect with our team and discover how we can engineer your Office 365 backup and security processes for uncompromised data protection. Let’s prevent future threats with the vigilance of today.