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 259

FAQ podcasts are shorter and more focused on a particular topic. In this episode I speak about some automation options that are available in the Microsoft Cloud.

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.


FAQ 20


Use security baselines to configure Windows 10 devices in Intune

Preset security policies in EOP and Microsoft Defender for Office 365

CIAOPS Patron Community

Integrate Office 365 with Microsoft Defender for Endpoint

One of the benefits of using security solutions in the Microsoft Cloud is that they integrate together, quickly and easily. If you are using Microsoft Defender for Endpoint then signals from this can be shared with the Microsoft 365 Threat environment.


To enable this integration navigate to the Office 365 Security & Compliance portal. Expand the Threat Management option from the menu on the left. Then select Explorer from the options that appear. Finally, in the right hand pane scroll to the right until you locate the WDATP Settings hyperlink as shown above, and select it.


Ensure the Connect to Windows ATP is set to On, typically it is off by default.


In the Microsoft Defender Security center navigate to Settings. Select the Advanced features option from the menu on the left. Ensure the Office 365 Threat Intelligence connection is set to On.

Once done, your systems are integrated and will now share information between them. This will make identifying threats much easier because now:

  • You will be able to view device details and Microsoft Defender for Endpoint alerts from the Threat Explorer.

  • Microsoft Defender for Endpoint will be able to query Microsoft 365 for email data in your organization and show links back to filtered views in the Threat Explorer.

Disabling basic authentication in Microsoft 365 admin console

I’ve previously spoken about why it is important to:

Disable basic auth to improve Office 365 security

PowerShell is generally the easiest manner in which that can be done. However it is possible via the Microsoft admin portal.


Navigate to:


and select Settings from the options on the left. Then select Org settings and then Modern authentication on the right as shown above.


You should then see a dialog box appear like that shown above. At the bottom you will find the capability to enable or disable basic authentication.


If you want to disable basic authentication for the protocols listed simply unselect that option as shown above where it has been done for IMAP4 and POP3.

Before you go and disable things it is a good idea to have and see what maybe using basic authentication. You can do that by following the steps I outlined in this article:

Determining legacy authentication usage

Disabling basic authentication is a major way to improve the security of your tenant and is strongly recommended for all environments.

Need to Know podcast–Episode 258

Apart from all the latest Microsoft Cloud news, I speak with David Bjurman-Birr who is a security architect, especially focused on the SMB space. David shares plenty of great tips when it comes to ensuring your Microsoft 365 tenant. Listen along to stay safe.

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.


David Bjurman-Birr


CIAOPS Patron Community


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SMB Tech community

New Exchange Policy Configuration analyzer


If you have a look in your Threat Management policies in Security and Compliance you’ll see a new tile called Configuration Analyzer as shown above. The direct URL is:



When you select this tile you’ll see a screen like that shown above which compares your current policy settings to Microsoft best practices.


If you expand any of the headings you’ll the settings in question and what the recommendation is on the right. You’ll also see a link that allows you to easily Adopt this setting.


If you do select the Adopt link, you’ll be presented with the above warning asking you whether you wish to proceed and Confirm or Cancel the change.


You will also see a Configuration drift analysis and history option as shown above. This allows you to compare changes in configuration over time and their effect. Basically, whether changes made improve email security or not.

If you want to learn more about Microsoft’s best practice configurations I suggest you take a look at my previous article:

New templated email policies

I see this as a further step towards what I spoke about here:

The changing security environment wit Microsoft 365

and how Ai will soon do all this automatically.