Securing Your Startup with Microsoft Endpoint Security

Neglecting your endpoint security could end your startup journey before it even begun. Just imagine: your CEO’s Notebook is stolen by an interested third party. It contained all the concepts and details of your business idea. It’s like leaving your business secrets out in the open, in plain sight for potential adversaries. The kicker? All of this could have been avoided had you taken just a few simple precautions.

Now, considering startups often struggle with limited resources, it is understandable that investing into a good security posture may sound costly. But worry not, you can easily bolster your endpoint security using Microsoft Endpoint Protection in a very resource-friendly way. Here’s how!

But when is the right time to implement it, and what are the benefits? Let’s break it down.

  1. At Inception: While your startup is still in its infancy, laying the foundation for robust security is crucial. Implementing security measures from the start sets the tone for a secure culture within your organization.
  2. As You Scale: As your startup grows, so do the potential risks. Expanding your user base and data assets makes you a more attractive target for cybercriminals. Scaling should be accompanied by scaling up your security measures.
  3. When Data Sensitivity Increases: If your startup deals with sensitive customer information or proprietary data, it’s vital to implement Microsoft Endpoint Security. Protecting data privacy and integrity is a non-negotiable aspect of trust and compliance.
  4. Prior to Compliance Deadlines: If your business falls under specific regulatory compliance requirements (e.g., GDPR, HIPAA), ensure that you implement security measures before compliance deadlines to avoid penalties and legal complications.
  5. When Security Gaps Are Identified: If your startup identifies security gaps, vulnerabilities, or recurring threats, it’s a clear sign that it’s time to enhance your security infrastructure. Microsoft Endpoint Security can help address these weaknesses effectively.
  6. Cost-Effective: Investing in security may seem like an expense, but consider the potential cost of a security breach. The financial and reputational damage can be significantly higher. It’s a proactive measure that saves you money in the long run.

Implementing Microsoft Endpoint Security in your startup is not just a matter of “if,” but “when.” As the saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry, and in the digital age, security is paramount for the success of any startup.

Here’s a story of one of the most complex and sophisticated cyberattacks in history – the SolarWinds Hack.

SolarWinds Hack (2020-2021)

The SolarWinds Hack unfolded between 2020 and 2021. It had a profound impact on many organizations, leading to the exposure of sensitive data and source code. During this cyberattack, malevolent actors inserted a malicious code into the software updates of SolarWinds, a company specializing in network and IT management solutions. This malicious code served as a backdoor, giving the attackers unauthorized access to the systems of SolarWinds’ customers who had downloaded the compromised updates. Some of these customers utilized Windows accounts on their personal computers, which the hackers exploited to expand their access and control. They used a technique known as “Golden SAML” to create fake authentication tokens, allowing them to impersonate any Windows account they desired. If you want to know more about this case, read this article: The SolarWinds Cyber-Attack: What You Need to Know (

Why Microsoft Endpoint Security?

Microsoft Endpoint Security can be a valuable tool for startups for several reasons:

  1. Holistic Security Solution: Microsoft Endpoint Security provides a comprehensive security solution that includes risk-based vulnerability management and assessment, attack surface reduction, behavioral-based and cloud-powered next-generation protection, endpoint detection and response (EDR), and automatic investigation.
  2. Remote work: Security is especially important for startups, who may not have a physical office or a centralized IT infrastructure. Startups often rely on remote workers who use their own devices to access the company’s data and applications. This poses a number of challenges, such as ensuring that the devices are protected from malware and cyberattacks, that the data is encrypted and backed up, and that the communication channels are secure and compliant. Remote work security requires a comprehensive approach that covers both the technical and the human aspects of protecting the company’s assets.
  3. Threat Mitigation: The platform helps you identify at-risk devices, remediate those devices, and restore them to a compliant or more secure state. This is particularly important for startups that may not have a large dedicated IT security team.
  4. Cost-Effective: For startups operating on tight budgets, Microsoft Endpoint Security offers a cost-effective solution to manage cybersecurity risks. It’s designed to rapidly stop attacks, scale security resources, and evolve defenses across operating systems and network devices.
  5. Integration with Other Microsoft Products: If your startup uses other Microsoft products, Microsoft Endpoint Security can seamlessly integrate with them, providing a streamlined experience.

Remember, no matter the size of your startup, cybersecurity should never be an afterthought. It’s an essential part of your business strategy right from the start to make sure you can reach your cybersecurity goals without any sunk costs.

Endpoint Protection Basics

Microsoft Endpoint Security is a unified platform that combines the power of Microsoft Intune, a cloud-based service for managing mobile devices, with Configuration Manager for on-premises system management. It equips you to:

  1. Enroll and Manage Devices: Whether your team uses Windows, iOS, Android, macOS, or Linux, you can efficiently enroll and manage all devices from a single interface.
  2. Application and Policy Management: Easily deploy and update applications, policies, and settings across your devices, ensuring they remain up-to-date and compliant.
  3. Security Features: Protect your devices and data with robust security features like encryption, conditional access, compliance policies, and threat protection.
  4. Performance Monitoring: Gain insights into the performance, health, and usage of your devices and applications for informed decision-making.
  5. Integration: Seamlessly integrate with other Microsoft services, such as Azure Active Directory and Windows Autopilot.

Key Components of Microsoft Endpoint Security

Here are some of the critical aspects of Microsoft Endpoint Security tailored to your startups needs:

  1. Antivirus Policy: Configure robust antivirus settings to protect your devices from malware and other threats. Options include scan schedules, real-time protection, cloud-delivered protection, tamper protection, exclusions, and user notifications.

To set up the Antivirus Policy in Microsoft Endpoint, you can follow these steps:

  • Sign in to the Microsoft Intune admin center.
  • Go to Endpoint Security -> Antivirus.
  • Create a new Antivirus policy profile.
  • Configure the Antivirus settings with the correct state.

Before you do so, here are some factors you should take into account:

  • Device Requirements: To support the Antivirus profiles, devices must run Windows 10, Windows 11, or macOS. For Intune to manage antivirus settings on a device, Microsoft Defender for Endpoint must be installed on that device.
  • Supported Platforms and Profiles: Antivirus policies can help security admins focus on managing the discrete group of antivirus settings for managed devices. Antivirus policy includes several profiles. Each profile contains only the settings that are relevant for Microsoft Defender for Endpoint antivirus for macOS and Windows devices, or for the user experience in the Windows Security app on Windows devices.
  • Prerequisites for tamper protection: Tamper protection is available for devices that are running one of the following operating systems: macOS (any supported version), Windows 10, Windows 11.

  1. Firewall Policy: Secure your network by defining firewall rules, profiles, and states for different network profiles, allowing or blocking specific connections based on your requirements.

To set up the Firewall policy in Microsoft Endpoint, you can follow these steps:

  • Sign in to the Microsoft Intune admin center.
  • Go to Endpoint Security -> Firewall.
  • Create a new Firewall policy profile.
  • Configure the Firewall settings with the correct state.

Before you do so, here are some factors you should take into account:

  • Supported Platforms and Profiles:
    • macOS: macOS firewall – Enable and configure settings for the built-in firewall on macOS.
    • Platform: Windows 10, Windows 11, and Windows Server:

For information about configuring settings in the following profiles, see the Firewall configuration service provider (CSP).

  • Microsoft Defender Firewall – Configure settings for Windows Defender Firewall with Advanced Security.
  • Microsoft Defender Firewall rules: Define granular Firewall rules, including specific ports, protocols, applications and networks, and to allow or block network traffic.

  1. Disk Encryption: Protect sensitive data with disk encryption policies, supporting BitLocker for Windows and FileVault for macOS devices. Manage encryption methods, recovery options, and compliance reporting.

To set up the Disk Encryption policy in Microsoft Endpoint, you can follow these steps:

  • Sign in to the Microsoft Intune admin center.
  • Go to Endpoint Security -> Disk Encryption.
  • Create a new Disk Encryption policy profile.
  • Configure the Disk Encryption settings with the correct state.

Before you do so, here are some factors you should take into account:

  • Device Requirements: To support the Disk Encryption profiles, devices must run Windows 10 or Windows 11.
    • Supported Platforms and Profiles:
      macOS: Profile: FileVault;
    • Windows 10 and later: Profile: BitLocker.
  • FileVault Encryption: Enable FileVault. > Not configured (default) or Yes which Enable Full Disk Encryption using XTS-AES 128 with FileVault on devices that run macOS 10.13 and later.
  • BitLocker: There are many configuration settings for BitLocker that can affect its performance, security, and usability.

    Some of the most important ones are:
    • Drive encryption method and cipher strength: This setting determines the encryption algorithm and key length that BitLocker uses to encrypt the data on the drive. The higher the cipher strength, the more secure the encryption, but also the more impact on the system performance. You can choose different encryption methods for OS drives, fixed data drives, and removable data drives. For Windows 10 or later devices, the default encryption method is XTS-AES 128-bit.
    • Require additional authentication at startup: This setting requires users to provide additional authentication factors, such as a PIN, a password, or a startup key on a USB flash drive, when they start or resume the device. This setting enhances the security of BitLocker by preventing unauthorized access to the encrypted drive even if someone has physical access to the device or its TPM.

  1. Attack Surface Reduction: Minimize potential attack vectors by controlling application and script actions on your devices, bolstered by the power of Microsoft Defender for Endpoint.

To set up the Attack Surface Reduction (ASR) policy in Microsoft Endpoint, you can follow these steps:

  • Sign in to the Microsoft Intune admin center.
  • Go to Endpoint Security -> Attack Surface Reduction.
  • Create a new Attack Surface Reduction Rules profile (for cloud infrastructure use Windows 10 or later platform).
  • Configure the ASR rules with the correct state (Off, Block, Audit, Warn).

Before you do so, here are some factors you should take into account:

  • Some important rules for ASR to set up in Endpoint security Microsoft are:
    • Block executable content from email client and webmail: This rule prevents malicious code from running when users open email attachments or download files from webmail sites. This rule can help protect against phishing and malware attacks.
    • Block execution of potentially obfuscated scripts: This rule blocks scripts that have been obfuscated or encoded to hide their malicious intent. This rule can help prevent attackers from bypassing security measures and executing malicious code on the device.
    • Use advanced protection against ransomware: This rule enables additional features that can help detect and stop ransomware attacks, such as folder protection, controlled folder access, network protection, and exploit protection.
    • Block credential stealing from the Windows local security authority subsystem (lsass.exe): This rule prevents unauthorized access to the lsass.exe process, which stores user credentials and security tokens. This rule can help prevent attackers from stealing sensitive information or impersonating other users.
    • Block process creations originating from PSExec and WMI commands: This rule blocks processes that are created by using PSExec or WMI commands, which are often used by attackers to remotely execute commands or run malicious code on the device.

  • Device Requirements: To support the ASR profiles, devices must run Windows 10 or Windows 11.
  • Defender Antivirus: Defender antivirus must be the primary antivirus on the device.
  • Security Management for Microsoft Defender for Endpoint: When you use Security Management for Microsoft Defender for Endpoint to support managed by Defender that aren’t enrolled with Intune, ASR applies to devices that run Windows 10, Windows 11, and Windows Server.

  1. Account Protection: Safeguard user identities and manage device group memberships, working hand in hand with Microsoft Defender for Endpoint.

To set up Account Protection in Microsoft Endpoint, you can follow these steps:

  • Sign in to the Microsoft Intune admin center.
  • Select Devices > Configuration profiles > Create Profile.
  • Enter the following properties:
    • Platform: Choose Windows 10 and later.
    • Profile: Select Templates > Endpoint protection.
    • Select Create.

Before you do so, here are some factors you should take into account:

  • Device Requirements: To support the Account protection (preview) profile, devices must run Windows 10 or Windows 11.
  • Focus: Account protection profiles are focused on settings for Windows Hello and Credential Guard, which is part of Windows identity and access management.
  • Windows Hello for Business: This replaces passwords with strong two-factor authentication on PCs and mobile devices. It’s a key feature to set up.
  • Credential Guard: This helps protect credentials and secrets that you use with your devices. It’s another crucial feature to enable.

  1. Device Compliance: Policies are a way to ensure that the devices you manage with Intune meet some requirements, such as having a minimum OS version or using disk encryption. These policies can help you protect your organization’s data and resources by blocking access to non-compliant devices or taking actions to remediate them.

To set up Device Compliance policies, you need to do the following steps:

  • Sign in to the Microsoft Intune admin center.
  • Go to Endpoint security > Device compliance > Compliance policy settings.
  • Configure the tenant-wide settings that determine how Intune treats devices that haven’t been assigned a device compliance policy. You can choose to mark them as compliant or non-compliant by default.
  • Go to Endpoint security > Device compliance > Policies.
  • Create a device compliance policy for each platform you want to manage, such as Windows 10/11, Android, iOS, macOS, or Linux. You can specify the rules and settings that devices must meet, such as requiring a password, BitLocker encryption, antivirus software, etc.
  • Assign the device compliance policy to the groups of users or devices you want to target. You can also exclude some groups if needed.
  • Monitor the compliance status of your devices and take actions for non-compliance, such as sending notifications, wiping data, or blocking access.
  • Optionally, you can integrate your device compliance policies with Conditional Access policies, which can use the compliance status of your devices to grant or deny access to your organization’s resources.

In a nutshell, these components offer both startup founders and IT administrators the means to fortify their business devices and data from a wide range of cyber threats. The Microsoft Endpoint Security solution is designed to be intuitive, efficient, and adaptable to the dynamic needs of emerging businesses like yours.

Incorporating these features into your startup’s cybersecurity strategy can provide the peace of mind you need to focus on growth and innovation. Microsoft Endpoint Security ensures your devices remain protected, allowing you to pursue your entrepreneurial vision with confidence.

In case you want to deal with none of that and focus on your business, we can help you jump straight ahead to having secure devices and protected data. Interested? Let’s chat about how we can make this happen for you book an appointment.

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