Microsoft 365 Secure Score: What it is and how to use it

Online and cloud security are some of the top concerns of organizations today, given the steady increase in cybercrimes over the last few years. Organizations spend a ton of money and resources on security because attacks and breaches impact the data and reputation of an organization, not to mention the huge losses that come with it. Cybercrime Magazine estimates that the cost of security breaches will reach $6 trillion in 2021, and it affects organizations of all sizes. The big question here is — what can you do to reduce the chances of an attack? Honestly, a lot of different strategies and tools must be combined to protect your resources from unauthorized access, and one such tool is Microsoft 365 Secure Score.

What is Microsoft 365 Secure Score?

Microsoft 365 Secure Score is a security analytics tool that measures an organization’s security measures and computes a score accordingly. A higher score indicates that the organization has many security practices in place, while a lower score shows that an organization is more vulnerable to attacks.

This is not an absolute score. Rather it is a relative score computed based on the security practices in your organization. Also, it gives a broad guideline and reduces the chances of an attack, though it is impossible to eliminate these attacks.

You can see this score in Microsoft 365 Defender portal. It is always a percentage value, and ideally, this score should be above 80 percent. If it’s lower, you have to look into the existing security policies and beef them to prevent attacks.

microisoft secure score

On the dashboard, you will see the current score and a graph that maps the historical score over a period. Further, the score is broken down into different categories, such as identity and apps, so you know which aspects are more secure than others.

Besides the score, Microsoft also gives a bunch of recommendations to improve this number and, in the process, boost your organization’s security.

Why use Microsoft 365 Secure Score?

Microsoft 365 Secure Score is a useful security analysis tool for an organization. Specifically, it provides the following benefits.

  • Offers a snapshot of the organization’s current security standing.
  • Provides the required visibility, guidance, and control to beef up their security.
  • Helps to establish Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
  • Compares the existing state with historical benchmarks to help organizations understand the impact of their security tools and policies.
  • Provides appropriate recommendations that can help an organization to move forward in the right direction.
  • Offers visual representation of trends for easy understanding.
  • Helps to comply with security guidelines and legislation.
  • Integrates with other Microsoft products for a streamlined experience.
  • Allows you to export the score and actions to a PDF or CSV.

Thus, you gain the above benefits when you use Microsoft 365 Secure Score.

Moving on, let’s talk about how to use it.

How to use Microsoft 365 Secure Score?

When you open Microsoft 365 Secure Score for the first time, it takes a few minutes to calculate your score and presents the same on the Microsoft 365 Defender portal dashboard.

Your score reflects the state of your current security, and a lower score means you will have a lot of work to do.

You can also see a bunch of recommendations to follow. As you implement each of these recommendations, your points will increase. Note that some actions are eligible for points on partial completion while others award points only on full completion. Some actions carry no points at all!

microsoft secure score

This score is updated in real-time to reflect changes in your security practices. Further, it also syncs data from your systems daily to verify if some changes are implemented.

Let’s now talk in-depth about how improvement scores are calculated.

Calculating improvement score

When you work on every improvement/suggestion, Microsoft 365 Secure Score adds certain points to your tally. The value of each recommendation is given, so this can help prioritize the actions that carry more value. It evaluates most suggestions in a binary way, so it is 10 points when you complete fully and 0 points for partial completion.

That said, a few improvement actions carry partial scoring. A good example is multifactor authentication. If only 20 percent of your users have multifactor authentication, you get 2 points instead of 10. As you increase coverage, the points add up automatically.

Another important aspect is that Microsoft 365 Secure Score calculates the current state of security only for some applications and makes recommendations for these applications only.

Product coverage

The products covered by the Microsoft 365 Secure Score are:

  • Azure Active Directory
  • Microsoft Office 365
  • Teams
  • Microsoft Defender for both Endpoint and Identity
  • Defender for Cloud Apps

More products are coming soon, according to Microsoft.

Next, you may wonder who can see the Microsoft 365 Secure Score.

Access and permissions

The global admin, security admin, Exchange admin, and SharePoint admin have both read and write roles for Microsoft 365 Secure Score. These accounts can interact with the scores, make updates to the score, and more.

The other user accounts have read-only permissions, so you can’t update the security actions taken. Users with read access can, however, view the score and recommendations. These read-only roles include user and helpdesk administrators, security and global readers, and the security operator.

Other than these roles, no one else can access the Microsoft 365 Secure Score.

Overall, the Microsoft 365 Secure Score helps to constantly check the security of your Microsoft products and improve it.

Final thoughts on Microsoft Secure Score

Microsoft 365 Secure Score is a good baseline score for understanding the current state of security within your organization and act on the recommendations to improve your security and, in the process, reduce the chances of an attack.

However, this tool comes with its limitations. It applies only to certain Microsoft products, though the company claims that it will cover more Microsoft products soon. Further, it does not monitor non-Microsoft products, and no recommendations are provided for them.

What do these limitations mean?

It simply means Microsoft 365 Secure Score is a handy tool for gauging the security of your Microsoft products and improving them. This tool is a good choice if you work mostly with Exchange 365, Azure Directory, and other Microsoft cloud products.

In all other cases, you will have to invest in other tools that work alongside Microsoft 365 Secure Score to get a comprehensive idea of your security and enhance it to protect your assets.

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