Microsoft is introducing a new security layer to Office 365 with advanced threat protection for Exchange for Office 365 government and business users.

Now in testing, Microsoft expects it to be generally available later this summer.

While Microsoft has made much about the security of Office 365, it's a constant challenge to stay ahead of spammers and other malware producers.

Getting It Right

With Microsoft making such a big play for enterprise business, getting the security right is critical. In a video associated with last night’s announcement, Shobhit Sahay, technical product manager for the Office 365 team, cited the evolving threat landscape.

Attackers around the globe are getting smarter, forcing companies like Microsoft to provide better proactive defenses, he said.

The new Advanced Threat Protection service filters email and provides additional protection against specific advanced threats. The cost is $2 per user per month for commercial users, $1.75 per user per month for government users.

There are three target areas:

1. Unknown Threat Protection

Exchange Online Protect (EOP) already offers anti-virus protection, but the new service will also offer secure attachment to protect against known and unknown threats, along with zero-day safeguards across the entire messaging system. 

2. Malicious URLs

Again, EOP already scans messages that are running through Office 365 and blocks malicious hyperlinks. However, attackers often use safe links to redirect users to malicious websites. ATP’s Safe Links feature carries out an analysis of links to determine if they are directing users in the direction of malicious sites.

3. Rich reporting

ATP will also be able to track who has been targeting organizations and provide insights into where email, attachments and URL’s are coming from. These lists can be added to Mycroft’s existing list of 1.7 million IP addresses that have been identified as senders of malicious email.

Added Advantage

Spam will also be targeted, he explained, adding:

Spam attacks you might get through on the first attack, but once we know that you are a spammer we can provide enhanced bulk mail protection against you. We don’t just block your email address, we block you at the IP address level."

At launch, Exchange Online ATP will only be available to Office 365 commercial and multi-tenant Government customers. 

However, with security still one of the major hurdles for many companies thinking about cloud computing, this extended security layer will be a significant marketing tool for Microsoft. So it would not be surprising if it extends this across all commercial plans, including those targeting mid-sized businesses.