Microsoft 365: How can you protect your email from spear phishing?

by Rebeca
Microsoft 365

What is spear phishing?

Spear phishing is a targeted e-mail attack technique aimed specifically at individuals. It’s an attack that stems from phishing, a ubiquitous threat to businesses. Cybercriminals take advantage of this to use it against essential communication solutions such as Microsoft 365, which are present in organizations on a daily basis. The aim of hackers using spear phishing is to steal account credentials or spread increasingly sophisticated malware. Learning to recognize a phishing e-mail can prevent a potential catastrophe for your company.

What’s the difference between phishing and spear phishing?

As mentioned above, spear phishing is the result of phishing. In other words, both attacks are based on the same principle: identity theft. Phishing is a mass attack, sent to a large number of victims without any specific targeting. Spear phishing, on the other hand, targets a very specific person, with previously researched information, with the aim of deceiving this victim by being as credible as possible via email. This usually takes the form of urgent requests, unexpected transfers or surprise gifts.

Here are the most common phishing attacks:

  • Classic phishing,
  • Sophisticated phishing,
  • Spear phishing,
  • APT attacks,
  • Social engineering.

How to identify a targeted phishing attack?

To recognize a phishing or spear phishing email:

  • Check the sender’s address: hackers tend to use unusual domain names, which resemble those of legitimate sources, but with slight modifications or typos. For example, a domain such as “” could be forged as “”.
  • Analyze the content of the email: For most spear phishing attacks, requests appear urgent or alarming, prompting victims to act quickly without thinking. Be wary of emails urging you to act immediately, especially if they contain grammatical errors, sensitive information and suspicious links and attachments.
  • Check message consistency: Spear phishing attacks can be highly personalized, but mistakes can happen. Beware of emails that appear to know some of your personal details, but are slightly inaccurate or use this information in a clumsy way.
  • Raise awareness and train your staff: Regular security awareness and training can go a long way towards identifying spear phishing attempts. Companies that organize training sessions to teach employees how to recognize and react to suspicious e-mails are less likely to fall into online traps.

A few examples

Identifying a spear phishing attack requires constant vigilance and a critical approach to every email received, especially when it contains requests for sensitive information or urgent actions. By applying these strategies, both individually and organizationally, you can significantly reduce the risk of compromise by spear phishing attacks.

Exemple E-mail de Spear Phishing usurpant Microsoft 365   Exemple e-mail phishing gendarmerie

Why are cybercriminals impersonating the Microsoft 365 team?

Today, Microsoft is the company most targeted by hackers. In fact, Microsoft Office 365 is used by over a million businesses. M365 users therefore represent a particularly attractive target for cybercriminals in search of sensitive data and files. This is problematic for businesses, especially those with insufficient resources to invest in cybersecurity teams or software. Email remains the main vector for cyberattacks against Microsoft Office 365.

What are the main threats to Microsoft 365?

According to an IBM study, phishing attacks are the second most common cause of sensitive data breaches, yet Microsoft’s solution is unable to counter them. Spear-phishing (BEC) attacks, meanwhile, cost businesses an average of $4.89 million in 2021, making them the second most expensive type of cyber attack worldwide.

There are several spear phishing techniques:

  • Social engineering
  • Whaling, pretexting
  • Urgent requests
  • Sending e-mails via cell phones, etc.

These attacks have real consequences for companies, in terms of data loss, financial loss, but above all in terms of loss of reputation. Despite its progress, M365 anti-spam has its limits. It is not always capable of detecting all these types of spear phishing. What’s more, its basic anti-spam filtering is called EOP (Exchange Online Protection). For even better filtering, you need to subscribe to the ATP (Advance Thread Protection) package.

How can you secure your email against the various types of spear phishing?

Altospam is 100% compatible with Microsoft 365. That’s why combining these two solutions strengthens your messaging and ensures robust security for your employees, Office 365 users.

Indeed, defense against spear phishing starts with basic security measures, such as enabling multi-factor authentication and implementing strict security policies. However, for complete protection, companies need to go further and adopt specialized solutions.

Moreover, as Altospam’s Technical Director points out: “With us, once an IT manager is a Mailsafe customer, he or she will have access to the full range of filtering techniques. We only offer one level of protection for all our customers, all-inclusive.”

Altospam and Microsoft 365

Combining Altospam solutions (Mailsafe and Mailout) with Microsoft 365 allows your company to guarantee:

  • Improved threat detection
  • Reduced false positives
  • Protection against spear phishing
  • Protection against zero-day malware with anti-malware
  • Protection against DDoS attacks
  • Protection against emerging threats
  • Disaster Recovery Plan( DRP ) included
  • Reports and statistics accessible via the Altospam interface

Finally, spear phishing attacks are on the rise. To prevent your company from falling victim to these attacks, you need to focus on 3 key points: raising team awareness, implementing an effective IT security strategy, and investing in new, more effective hardware and solutions. The future of phishing attacks presents challenges, but with a combination of phishing awareness and advanced technologies like Altospam’s Mailsafe(anti-phishing, anti-spear phishing, anti-malware and anti-ransomware), companies can strengthen their security and guard against emerging threats.

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