How to Enforce Password Complexity in Office 365?

Microsoft 365/ Office 365 admins have an important responsibility of setting appropriate password policies for users in their organizations. The task of enforcing these policies can be both complex and challenging depending on the requirements of the organization. The password policy in Office 365/ Microsoft 365 is admittedly stricter and more secure than an on-premises setup. The advantage of the built-in settings in Office 365/ Microsoft 365 is that it centralizes the control for its implementation, unlike on-premises solutions that could require different methods for multiple users. Let us understand how to enforce password complexity in Office 365 sufficient for your organization’s security posture.

What Are Microsoft Recommended Office 365 Password Policy Practices?

Microsoft recommends some best practices for setting Office 365/ Microsoft password policies based on specific scenarios.

  • The most important factor to protect users is to set up policies that can prevent common attacks. This includes simple measures such as using the right length and uniqueness of a password. Additionally, users should be encouraged to access Office 365 / Microsoft 365 applications using only trusted devices with dependable malware detection capabilities.
  • Even if an attack was successful, the policy should ensure that the exposure is limited, and the damage is contained. The theft of a certain set of credentials should not trigger a vicious chain of events that could result in the loss of other sensitive information such as business data or financial liabilities.
  • Lastly, human nature should be taken into consideration while setting up policies. Typically, the more rigid the rules become, the lower is the password quality. This could make it easier for attackers to hack into accounts.

What Are Some Guidelines for Strong Password Policies in Office 365?

Microsoft 365/ Office 365 password policies should be flexible enough to encourage greater diversity in password choices to minimize the chances of guessing the correct one. Here are some broad guidelines that admins can use while defining password policies.

  • Ban repetitive use of the same password along with the most used passwords.
  • Ensure that the Office 365/ Microsoft 365 password is at least 8 characters long.
  • Avoid suggesting character compositions and requiring frequent password changes.
  • Discourage users from setting up the same password for Microsoft 365/ Office 365 and their private accounts.
  • Enforce Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)/ risk-based MFA wherever possible.

What Should Be Avoided While Enforcing Policies Involving Office 365 Password Complexity?

When you frame complex rules to enforce password complexity in Microsoft 365/ Office 365, it could do more harm than good. Here are some negative impacts of which admins should be mindful.

  • If you set policies that require passwords to be reset very frequently, users might unwittingly choose characters that occur in predictable sequences.
  • Similarly, if passwords have to be very long (typically over 15 characters), users might resort to other unsafe practices because it could become more difficult to remember.
  • Forcing users to use different character sets, i.e. uppercase, lowercase, and alphanumeric characters could push them to come up with less secure combinations.

Apps4Rent Can Help with Office 365/ Microsoft 365 Security

While weak passwords could invite brute force attacks, complex passwords do no guarantee protection against phishing or keylogging. So, creating policies for enforcing password complexity is only the first step to protect users. Thankfully, Office 365/ Microsoft 365 provides additional security measures such as single sign-on (SSO) and MFA. These are, however, restricted only select plans. As a Tier 1 Microsoft CSP, Apps4Rent implements and customizes Microsoft solutions such as Microsoft 365/ Office 365 to cater to unique business requirements. Contact our migration experts, available 24/7 via phone, chat, and email for the best plans today.

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