Strategies for Securing Microsoft SharePoint

By CIOReview | Friday, September 9, 2016
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The SharePoint products from Microsoft are workforce collaboration and information sharing tools that can take businesses to the next level. According to Gartner, SharePoint is Microsoft’s fastest growing product positioned in the Leaders Quadrant in Enterprise Content Management. While SharePoint is gaining popularity among organizations, hackers are trying to compromise the security to peep into the organizational data within SharePoint.

Security Loopholes

With growing technological evolution, cyber threats are getting sophisticated and increasing at a rapid pace. Recent reports about the cyber attacks on renowned organizational websites and even at the 2016 Olympic Games are both alarming and astonishing, forcing organizations to ponper over their security features.

Microsoft recently introduced a security patch, tightening the SharePoint security. SharePoint security issues commonly arise when some malicious data enters inside it or during a virus outbreak resulting in data and informational theft. With the number of users increasing, everyday multitude of sensitive and intellectual data is being added into SharePoint, increasing serious security issues. Listed below are some of the prominent causes of security concerns in SharePoint.

• Lack of awareness or education about SharePoint and its security
• Unlimited or Improper user privileges
• Improper file auditing
• Platform security issues
• Malware Intrusions
• Uncontrolled data migration
• Improper backup or irregular data backup
• Unencrypted Traffic
Improper Antivirus protection

Securing SharePoint

One of the major problems in securing Microsoft SharePoint is its customizable and abstract nature in design.  However, it is important to keep the files confidential and safe. These are some of the aspects that can be considered for better information security while adopting SharePoint.

1. Application Wide Security Procedure

The SharePoint comes predefined with an option to enable the policies for web applications. This page available in the “Policy for Web Application,” allows administrators to describe and set user access policies. Enabling the Web Application Policies will override other individual configurations.

2. Traffic Encryption

Secure access has to be enabled by using traffic encryption that can protect the information transmitted within the webpage. Any unencrypted transmission request can be redirected to a domain that further secures the page with Secure Socket Line (SSL) encryption. Utilize the recent company update consisting new features to white list and blacklist domains for external sharing. Microsoft also claims that they will introduce a new system that allows companies to use and manage their own cipher keys to encrypt the data stored in SharePoint.

3. Permission Levels

User permission levels should be defined depending on the company policies. Authorizing all users with complete online permissions will be an open door invite to cyber criminals. Keeping the Administrator privileges and passwords confidential within the SharePoint administrative team is another best practice.

4. Application Server Role Security

As part of the best practices, the server’s security hardening should be given priority since these are prime components in every network. Server data encryption with three dimensional password protections can save them from cyber attacks to a better level. 

5. Security Policies

Implementing collaboration software means revising the security policies. Once the security policies are audited, review or create corporate access control and security policies. Another important part is to support SharePoint permissions with corporate directory services.

6. Secure Server Snapshot

Always maintain a secure server snapshot once the server is configured initially, to trace out any intrusions in the network. These can be documented and reviewed in case of an emergency situation to track attacks on the server.

7. Controlled Data Migration

Data migration is one place where hackers can have a good chance of intrusion, as users are generally not well aware about such a security threat. Using the file activity monitoring to locate stale data can be an efficient method to avoid any risk. Any Malware infected data moved into the SharePoint platform can also be infectious.

8. Antivirus Protection

To optimize the security and maintain a safer environment, an updated Antivirus with intrusion detection and prevention system is inevitable. The ESET’s security Antivirus for SharePoint offers security for authorized users while blocking and blacklisting the unauthorized access, data leakage, and virus infections. The renowned antivirus from Intel, McAfee also offers specialized security for SharePoint that comes integrated with anti-malware technology allowing simplified management options.

9. Secure IIS Site

Since the SharePoint site is developed on an Internet Information Services (IIS) Web site, the standard methods for securing such web pages can also provide visible security improvements. 

10. Regular Backups

Since ‘Nothing can be made 100 percent secure in the world of Internet,’ regular data backup is highly recommended to avoid data losses in case of a cyber security incident. These backups can be stored in a secure location and can be useful when some data is lost or stolen.

Conclusion

Initiating security measures at the starting stage is the best choice for organizations, alongside maintaining secure passwords and login credentials while deploying SharePoint. The use of five separate accounts is advisable during the deployment of SharePoint, since a protected and preserved foundation can ensure a secure installation.

As more and more organizations opt for SharePoint to improve enhance their business productivity they need to concentrate on investing in organizing, managing and protecting these valuable assets. By implementing few lines of defense, firms will be able to overcome operational challenges and protect their SharePoint deployments against both internal and external threats.