Microsoft 365 is currently the most popular cloud email platform for organizations globally. And it’s easy to see why; it’s a powerful tool for collaboration, productivity, and communication.
Unfortunately, because the tool so widely used, this makes it a prime channel for cybercriminals to target users with email threats such as phishing, malware and ransomware.
To prevent this, Microsoft offers an email security solution designed to work natively with Microsoft 365: Exchange Online Protection (EOP). EOP is a cloud-based email filtering service that’s designed to protect users against spam, malware and other known email threats. This solution is included as standard in all Microsoft 365 organizations using Exchange Online mailboxes.
EOP filters all incoming email messages to look for malware and checking against pre-set policy filtering rules. EOP also enables content filtering, looking for signs of spam, phishing or spoofing, and moving suspicious emails into a quarantine or junk folder.
While EOP provides a good basic level of protection against known malware attacks, where it falls short is on protecting against sophisticated zero-day malware delivered via email, or sophisticated social engineering attempts that exploit the email channel to trick users. For these threats, many organizations will wish to look for an alternative email security solution to secure Microsoft 365 users.
In this guide, we’ll look at the top ten alternatives to Microsoft Exchange Online Protection, based on features, reporting, and admin controls. We’ll cover a range of solutions, including secure email gateways, cloud email security solutions and outbound email security solutions.
What Is Microsoft Exchange Online Protection?
Exchange Online Protection (EOP) is a cloud-based email filtering service included by default in all Microsoft 365 organizations with Exchange Online mailboxes. It protects mail accounts against spam, malware, and other email threats.
How Does Microsoft Exchange Online Protection Work?
When a message enters EOP, it passes through connection filtering, which checks the reputation of the sender. This stops the majority of spam. Then, the message is checked for malware. If malware is detected, the message will be quarantined. Then the message is checked against policies set up by the organization, which can block messages according to your organizations rules.
Finally, the content of the message itself is checked for indicators of phishing or spam. Admins can determine if the email message will be delivered, quarantined, or sent to junk based on this verdict. Once an email has passed through these filters, it will be delivered to the recipient.
How Does Email Security For Microsoft 365 Work?
Alongside EOP, there are three common ways that organizations look to improve email security for Microsoft 365.
The first approach involves utilizing Microsoft’s enhanced internal protection service, known as Microsoft Defender for Office 365. This service offers advanced protection against zero-day malware, phishing attacks, and business email compromises. By placing warning banners on email content and automatically removing harmful messages, it strengthens the security measures.
The second approach is to deploy a secure email gateway, either physical or cloud-based. These gateways monitor incoming and outgoing email traffic, ensuring the removal of spam and malware. Through rule-based controls, they prevent the delivery of harmful email content. To implement this, mail exchange (MX records) are redirected to direct emails to the security service, which filters them before delivery.
The third method of email security for Microsoft 365 involves “integrated cloud email security” (ICES) solutions. These services are cloud-native and integrate with the Microsoft 365 environment through API connections. They enable real-time scanning of internal email content to detect compromised email accounts, phishing threats, malicious links, and attachments.