How to secure your RIA firm’s Microsoft 365 environment

November 10th, 2021
How to secure your RIA firm’s Microsoft 365 environment

RIAs are highly entrusted and work with sensitive and personal client information on a daily basis, so it’s crucial that they use secure solutions to process and store this data. Fortunately, most RIA firms already use Microsoft 365, a complete, intelligent business solution that comes with top-of-the-line productivity tools as well as extensive security, data protection, and user controls.

But while Microsoft 365 is designed to address rigorous security and privacy demands, RIA firms must ensure that everything in their Microsoft 365 environment is implemented and configured correctly to make the most of its security advantages.

If you’re not sure if your Microsoft 365 environment is set up correctly, you can easily find out by checking your Microsoft Secure Score. To learn more about what that is, you can check out our blog Check Your RIA’s Cloud Security Score, or go to the Microsoft 365 Security Center to check it now.

This guide will help your RIA firm stay ahead of cyberthreats and protect your Microsoft 365 environment, users, devices, applications, and data.

How can RIAs secure Microsoft 365?

Microsoft recommends these best practices to increase the security of your RIA firm’s Microsoft 365 environment.

1. Set up multifactor authentication

Using multifactor authentication (MFA) is one of the easiest and most effective ways to boost the security of your RIAs’ email accounts and Office 365 access. By setting up MFA, you are adding an extra layer of security to the sign-in process, as this requires RIAs to type a unique code generated by an authenticator app or one sent via text message. This can prevent hackers from taking over your RIAs’ accounts even if they manage to get hold of the latter’s passwords.

Related reading: Why your RIA should use multifactor authentication tools from Microsoft

2. Use Message Encryption

Office 365 Message Encryption is already set up with Microsoft 365, and it allows RIAs to send and receive encrypted email messages from clients, colleagues, and other people outside your firm. Message Encryption helps ensure that only the intended recipients can view the contents of an email, which is especially useful if the email contains proprietary or confidential information. This feature works with Outlook.com, Yahoo!, Gmail, and other email services.

Related video: How to send an encrypted email

3. Disable email auto-forwarding

Automatic email forwarding is a feature that comes in handy at times, but it can also pose a serious threat to your firm’s data. If a hacker gains access to an RIA’s account, they can steal personal or corporate information by auto-forwarding email messages to a different account. An IT administrator can disable this feature in the Microsoft 365 admin center.

4. Protect against harmful attachments and files with Safe Attachments

It can be difficult to tell whether an email attachment is safe or malicious just by looking at the message it came with or the sender's email address. This is where Microsoft Defender for Office 365’s Safe Attachments feature proves useful, as it uses a virtual environment to check email attachments for malware before they’re delivered to recipients.

If nothing malicious is found, the attachment will be sent as normal; otherwise, the attachment will be removed and the email body will be delivered along with a notification that the malicious attachment has been removed.

Safe Attachments is not turned on by default, so an IT administrator must configure this feature. But even if you have this security measure in place, it pays to always be cautious of suspicious and unsolicited email attachments.

Related reading: Advanced threat protection features ideal for email security at RIAs

5. Protect against phishing attacks with Safe Links

Safe Links is another useful feature in Microsoft Defender for Office 365. This scans inbound email messages for malicious hyperlinks and URLs, especially those that are commonly used in phishing and other attacks.

If a link is identified as suspicious or malicious, users might be blocked from opening the link when it’s clicked. Or instead of being directed to the indicated URL, users might see a warning page. In any case, it’s prudent to avoid clicking on any links within suspicious or unsolicited email messages in the first place.

6. Check your Secure Score

Secure Score uses machine learning to determine how well-aligned your current security configurations are with Microsoft’s security best practices. Based on this measurement, your IT staff or partner can take specific recommended actions to protect your RIA firm from a variety of threats.

Related reading: Check your RIA’s Cloud Security Score

7. Train your users

The simplest way to secure your Microsoft 365 environment and keep threats at bay is through user education. It’s crucial to establish a strong culture of security awareness within your firm. This involves training RIAs to identify phishing and other social engineering attacks and teaching them how to secure devices and email communications, among other things.

While Microsoft 365 comes with enterprise-level security features, these are often misconfigured or underutilized. It takes expertise, knowledge, and experience to ensure that your Microsoft 365 environment is configured securely — all of which we at RIA WorkSpace have in abundance. Contact us today to learn more!