A simplified protection model


As much as third party cyber security protection models are handy (i.e NIST Cybersecurity Framework), I personally find them far too complicated for my liking. Complicated generally translates to poorly or not full implemented. That translates into lower levels of security, especially in the SMB space. I think that good security is all about keeping things as simple as possible.

With that in mind, I’ve started to try and nut out my own model. My thoughts so far centre on the above diagram. In the centre is your data. Data is moved and changed via four basic connectors:

1. Email

2. Connections (i.e. to removeable storage, network connections, Internet, etc)

3. Applications

4. Browser

The Data is normally protected by a Device, being a workstation, server or mobile. However, typically it is a workstation as hopefully most people aren’t browsing on servers. The aim also here is to focus on cloud deployments here without on-premises infra-structure.

For the Connectors to interact with Data they must do so across the Device boundary. In the security context, this means that these Connectors also need access to not only the Data but also the Device. Thus, attacks are going to be targeted at either the Data or the Device via the Connectors as I see it.

If we consider that most Data doesn’t include it’s own defensive capabilities because, typically, it is the container in which the data lives that has the defensive capabilities, then we need to look at the defensive capabilities of the Device I believe. It is also worth noting that data on it’s own generally isn’t a threat, it is only when action is taken with Data that risk arises. For example, a phishing email sitting in an inbox unopened is not an active threat. It only becomes active when it is read and the link inside is clicked allowing a process to take place, typically, on the device. In short, Data typically isn’t the source of active threats, it is actions taken with that data that generates active threats. These are typically activated on the device.

That means the major security focus should be on the defensive capabilities of the Device. It also means that the major threats are going to come from the four connectors; email, browser, connections and applications. Of these four, I would suggest that the most likely source of introduced threats is going to be from email and the browser.

Reducing the risks from both email and the browser start at the source of these two connectors. For email that means appropriately configuring things like DNS, then mail filtering policies to provide protection even before the connection passes onto the device. Likewise for the browser, this means content filtering before results are returned to the browser. However, setting those items aside for the moment and let’s just focus on what threats the device faces from the email and browser connections.

The threat from email is going to be a message that either:

1. delivers a malicious attachment that when opened by the user and takes action

2. delivers a message that contains a malicious link that is clicked by the user and takes action

3. delivers a message that convinces the user to take some risky action

The threat from the browser is going to be either:

1. navigating to a web site that contains malicious content that is downloaded and takes action

2. navigating to a web site that harvests credentials

The interesting thing with all of these is that it requires some sort of user interaction. As I said, a phishing email isn’t a major threat until a user click on a link it contains.

So what’s kind of missing from my model so far is the person or identity. let me go away and think about this some more but I appreciate sharing my thoughts with you and if you have any feedback on this model I’m trying to develop, please let me know.

Introduction to MCAS course from CIAOPS

I am happy to announce that I have released a new online course:

Introduction to Microsoft Cloud App Security (MCAS)

This course is designed for those who have never used MCAS and want to understand what it is and how it can make their Microsoft 365 tenant more secure. The course includes over 90 minutes of video lessons plus additional resources to allow you to extend you understanding of MCAS.

Microsoft Cloud Best practices


I get asked quite regularly about best practices for the Microsoft Cloud so what I have done is start a new file in my GitHub repository here:


where you’ll find links to articles from Microsoft and others (i.e. NIST, CIS, etc) around best practices for the Microsoft Cloud.

Let me know if you have any more and I’ll add them.

Need to Know podcast–Episode 260

We welcome back Brenton Johnson to speak about his success with Intune and how he’s using it to manage devices for his customers. Brenton shares his journey as well as some handy best practices during our chat.

Of course, there is also all the Microsoft Cloud news to get through, so sit back and enjoy this bumper episode.

This episode was recorded using Microsoft Teams and produced with Camtasia 2020

Take a listen and let us know what you think – feedback@needtoknow.cloud

You can listen directly to this episode at:


Subscribe via iTunes at:


The podcast is also available on Stitcher at:


Don’t forget to give the show a rating as well as send us any feedback or suggestions you may have for the show.




Uptake Digital

Power Apps Community plan

Meet the Microsoft Pluton processor – The security chip designed for the future of Windows PCs

The Microsoft Cloud App Security (MCAS) Ninja Training is Here!

Extend data loss prevention to your devices with Microsoft Endpoint Data Loss Prevention, now generally available

It’s Time to Hang Up on Phone Transports for Authentication

See how to easily keep tabs on your Azure Sentinel ingestion costs

What’s new: Microsoft 365 Defender connector now in Public Preview for Azure Sentinel

Microsoft’s Cloud PC: Leak reveals new details on upcoming Azure-powered remote desktop

What’s New in Microsoft Teams | October 2020

The definitive guide to Productivity Score

Show ASR settings for device with PowerShell


I have just released a new script in my GitHub repository that will report on the local device Attack Surface Reduction settings (ASR) as shown above. You’ll find it here:


There no pre-requisites. Just run it on your Windows 10 devices to report.

If you are looking to change the ASR settings for your environment, I suggest you have a read of my previous article:

Attack surface reduction for Windows 10

I’d strongly encourage you to enable ASR across your Windows 10 fleet to reduce risks of attack.

Current Windows Defender configuration using PowerShell


I’ve uploaded a new script:


to my Github repository.

What this script will do is report back on Windows Defender versions and settings on a Windows 10 device as shown above.

The interesting thing is that to find the latest version of the released signatures from Microsoft I need to scrape the details from the page:


which turns out to be somewhat imperfect because many times my local signature is more current than what is reported on the Microsoft page. Even more interesting is that it doesn’t appear that Microsoft has an API that will report these details! I find that really strange, as one would think it something simple to provide and a common request. Seems not, as I can’t find one anywhere and have to resort to this unreliable scraping method. If you know of a better way to get the latest version and signature information via PowerShell, I’d love to hear.

The idea with the script is that you can run it on your Windows 10 devices to check that everything is update to date and configured correctly. I’ll keep improving it over time, so feel free to let me know any suggestion you may have on how to improve it.

Handy Azure Sentinel workbook


If you have a look at the available workbooks in Azure Sentinel, you should find a Data collection health monitoring workbook under Templates as shown above. It is easy to Save this to your environment (in the lower right after selecting the workbook).


If you View the workbook. You’ll need to select the Subscription and Workspace at the top of the page. Once you have done this you should start seeing the values for your environment as shown above.

If you have a look in the Overview section and then the Is billable field as shown above. That is something that is handy to know as not all services ingested into Azure Sentinel incur a cost.


Pricing can be found here:


If you scroll down to the bottom of the screen you see the above:

What data can be ingested at no cost with Azure Sentinel?

Azure Activity Logs, Office 365 Audit Logs (all SharePoint activity and Exchange admin activity) and alerts from Microsoft Defender products (Azure Defender, Microsoft 365 Defender, Microsoft Defender for Office 365, Microsoft Defender for Identity, Microsoft Defender for Endpoint), Azure Security Center, Microsoft Cloud App Security, and Azure Information Protection can be ingested at no additional cost into both Azure Sentinel, and Azure Monitor Log Analytics.

Please Note: Azure Active Directory (AAD) audit data is not free and is billed for ingestion into both Azure Sentinel, and Azure Monitor Log Analytics.


What other charges should I be aware of when using Azure Sentinel?

Any Azure services that you use in addition to Azure Sentinel are charged per their applicable pricing. For example – Log Analytics, Logic Apps, Machine Learning, etc.

For a good introduction to Sentinel have a look at my previous article:

Another great security add on for Microsoft 365

and an online course I created:

Getting started with Azure Sentinel

Using the Data collection health monitoring workbook now makes it easy to see what you are exactly you are being billed for. All you need to do is just add it to your own workbooks. Here is great video overview: