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Schooling A Sea of Phish Part 3: Intra-Org Email Link Scanning and Detonation of Phish Lures

We conclude our phish blog series by announcing some exciting capabilities that further enhance the anti-phish stack in Office 365.  In our previous blogs, we announced enhanced anti-impersonation capabilities and anti-spoofing capabilities which help stop sophisticated spear phishing and email spoofing campaigns.  Today, we’re excited to announce new capabilities augmenting our protection against content based phish lures. Additionally, today we’re announcing roll out of “Internal Safe Links’ which protects users from the industry wide concern of phishing occurring when hackers gain access to an internal enterprise account and leverage the internal account to launch a phishing campaign on internal users.  Users are far more likely to trust, open, and execute actions in an email sent from another user in their organization than from an external source.  Phishing with compromised internal accounts is a powerful technique used by hackers to move laterally across an organization and gain a stronger foothold into the enterprise.  Hackers can penetrate deeper into an organization, harvesting more user credentials, personally identifiable information (PII), and perhaps enterprise intellectual property.  Our customers often ask for a solution to help mitigate intra-org phishing campaigns so we are especially excited to deliver this new feature. 

 

GA of ‘Internal Safe Links’

To help customers eliminate impact from phishing campaigns launched via compromised accounts, we’re excited to launch ‘Internal Safe Links’, which enables the Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) Safe Links policy to protect intra-org emails.  With Safe Links now protecting intra-org emails, Office 365 ATP helps greatly reduce if not eliminate this lethal and widespread phishing technique.  Also, Office 365 ATP is the only threat protection service that can provide intra-org email scanning without routing emails outside the compliance boundary of Office 365.

 

 

office365_boundary.pngFigure 1. Internal Safe Links is unique to Office ATP by enabling direct routing and ensuring emails remain within the compliance boundaries of Office 365

 

 

This provides Office 365 ATP customers a critical advantage since their emails will always remain within the Office 365 Compliance Boundary which is especially important as compliance requirements are increasingly scrutinized with the launch of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).  Other solutions offering intra-org email link scanning must route emails outside the Office 365 Compliance Boundary. Solutions using this approach create a gap in maintaining the compliance standards guaranteed by Office 365.   Office 365 ATP’s Internal Safe Links will protect users from internal phishing campaigns and is the only solution that ensures emails always meet the necessary compliance standards set in Office 365.   Other solutions also add unnecessary complexity to email routing since they must leave the Office 365 boundary to scan links for intra-org emails. Complex email routing can lead to unforeseen impact on enterprise mail flow, potentially causing email delivery delays, incorrect setup of mail flow, and even undelivered email.  Internal Safe Links follows the Office ATP ethos of making setup as easy as possible.  The feature can be turned on or off by pushing the corresponding radio button in the Safe Links policy.  The feature will be ‘off’ by default.

 

 Internal_Safe_links_button.pngFigure 2. Easy setup with a on/off button to execute the feature capability

 

 Continued Enhancements in Link Content Detonation of Phish Lures

            As we alluded to in the first blog of this series, emails contain many types of phish lures which can lead to malicious websites.  These lures can come in various forms but are usually associated with a link to a malicious website. 

 

 

basic_email.pngFigure 3. Generic email with several phish lures in the email

 

Office 365 applies several algorithms and heuristics to determine when a link should be detonated during mail flow to detect various attacks such as:

 

  • Pages that have a link that downloads malware
  • Pages that automatically download malware
  • Phishing pages

 

These techniques are not limited to the email body.  Office 365 ATP also detonates phish lures within email attachments, helping ensure protection across all components of an email.

 

 

Link_following.pngFigure 4. Real Example of Office 365 ATP following suspicious link to the destination a URL points to and scanning that page for potential malware or phish

 

 

Send Us Your Feedback 

Below are some other helpful articles on Office 365 and Office 365 ATP anti-phish, anti-spoof, and holistic phish protection capabilities: 

 

 

Once you experience the new Internal Safe Links and phish lure detonation capabilities for Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection, provide us your feedback so we can continue improving and adding features that will allow Office ATP to be the premiere advanced security service for Office 365.  If you have not tried Office 365 ATP for your organization yet, you should begin a free Office 365 E5 trial today and start securing your organization from the modern threat landscape.  

 

1 Comment
Contributor

Thank you for your information.

I done turn on the option - "Apply safe links to messages sent within the organization" in "Security & Compliance" - "Threat management" - "Policy" - "Safe links" - "Policy".