Microsoft OneDrive Security Best Practices

Over half of corporate data in the world is in the cloud. Different types of cloud storage platforms are used by organizations to store backup as well as production data, including private cloud, file storage, and object storage platforms. Microsoft OneDrive is a popular cloud file storage platform in Microsoft environments, providing easy synchronization and sharing.

OneDrive also has some data protection features, which mitigate cyber threats, minimize data loss, and improve control over your data. Learn how you can protect data in Microsoft OneDrive with different native features and discover the best practices for ensuring OneDrive security.

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Is OneDrive Safe?

Generally speaking, Microsoft OneDrive is as safe as any other cloud storage platform. The platform provides encryption for data shared and stored on it. However, OneDrive is exposed to the same security risks that threaten other cloud applications with similar capabilities. These security concerns can result in data corruption, loss or theft. Below are some of the common mistakes that can compromise an organization’s cloud security and leave it vulnerable to data breaches.

Weak credential management

One of the most common threats to OneDrive security is a direct consequence of human error. Using a simple or widely-used password, such as password or 654321, makes it easier for attackers to break into your Office 365 account and gain access to OneDrive. Moreover, passwords kept on a piece of paper and in plain text in unsecured or public locations are prone to theft, which compromises your account.

Improper access control

Another risk is not restricting the permissions for users within or outside your organization. Sharing files with the wrong accounts can also jeopardize their contents since someone can easily delete data, write unwanted changes to the files or even infect the document with malware.

Outdated operating systems and applications

Failing to quickly update or install the latest security patches on an operating system or application can lead to vulnerabilities. Attackers can exploit such gaps to infiltrate your system and gain control of your machines. This threatens OneDrive security and affects other Microsoft Office 365 applications, Windows and web browsers.

Poor firewall configuration

The firewall monitors activity on a network and controls incoming and outgoing traffic based on a set of predetermined rules. If you haven’t configured your firewall properly, cybercriminals can find an open port that they can use to infect your system. Keep that in mind when using public Wi-Fi networks, especially if logging in to your Office 365 account.

Delayed threat detection and response

Numerous threats to OneDrive security go by undetected or are left unattended for an extended period of time. This delayed response allows room for the problem to evolve. For example, a malware attack can infect several files or computers instead of just one. In this case, the loss of data becomes substantial when it could have been limited if the breach had been dealt with earlier.

OneDrive Security Features

The vast majority of OneDrive security risks are directly related to human error. In fact, 85% of all data breaches are caused by a mistake on the part of an employee. With that in mind, OneDrive offers several features that decrease the risk of security breaches and reduce the threat of data loss.

Threat monitoring

Several built-in Microsoft tools are available to continuously scan and monitor your environment for incoming threats.

  • Ransomware detection: OneDrive alerts Microsoft 365 subscribers when a ransomware or malicious attack is detected.
  • Suspicious activity monitoring: OneDrive security features continuously monitor accounts to prevent unauthorized access. Suspicious sign-in attempts are blocked and you receive a notification in case an unusual activity is detected on your account.
  • Virus scanning on downloads for known threats: You can configure anti-spam and anti-malware engines in Windows Defender so they scan documents once you download them to find content matching an antivirus signature.

Breach prevention

You can use some of the native Microsoft features to prevent unauthorized access and lower the chance of cyber breaches.

  • OneDrive encryption: OneDrive applies robust encryption technology to data at rest and in transit. Disk-level encryption is used at rest and each file is encrypted using a unique AES256 key. These keys are encrypted with a set of master keys stored in Azure Key Vault. In transit, OneDrive encryption protects network communications between users and data centers using transport layer security (TLS) encryption.
  • Access control: Files and folders can be shared with specific users and you can define the role of each user.
  • Password-protected files: If you are a Microsoft 365 subscriber, you can keep your files secured by requiring a password to access them.
  • Expiring links: In addition to protecting files with passwords, you can set an expiration date on the links you share with other users.
  • OneDrive Personal Vault: Personal Vault is a protected area within your OneDrive that you can only access using additional authentication methods such as two-factor verification. Files stored in Personal Vault are locked and kept safe even if someone gains access to your device or OneDrive account. Personal Vault also includes additional OneDrive security features like automatic locking, BitLocker encryption and direct scan.

Data recovery

OneDrive provides built-in tools that help you recover data in case it is lost. Keep in mind though that these features have their limitations and you need a third-party backup solution to guarantee data recoverability.

  • Mass file deletion notification and recovery: You will receive an alert with recovery instructions if you delete a large number of files from your OneDrive.
  • Version history for all file types: You can restore a previous version of a file if you happen to delete it or write unwanted changes to it.
  • Ransomware recovery: When using OneDrive for Business, you can recover individual files or restore your entire OneDrive for up to 30 days following a ransomware attack. Keep in mind that this is not guaranteed, which is why you need a third-party backup solution.

OneDrive Security Recommendations

There are some suggestions that you can implement to minimize the risk of cyber threats and breaches. These practices work hand in hand with OneDrive security tools to ensure optimal data protection.

Use a strong password

First and foremost, you should make sure you create a complex password. It should be at least eight (8) characters long and contain lowercase and uppercase letters in addition to special characters. Furthermore, do not use the same password for different accounts. It is also recommended to password protect your OneDrive folder so make sure you pick a strong password.

Use two-factor authentication (2FA)

This practice adds a second authentication method when logging in to your account. You can use an extra security code that you receive via phone call, SMS or a third-party application.

Enable encryption on mobile devices

Enabling encryption on your iOS or Android device is necessary if you use the OneDrive application. This way your files stay protected in case you lose your device or someone gains access to it.

Train your organization’s employees

Social engineering schemes and cyberattacks are getting more sophisticated by the day. Recurrent training keeps your employees in the loop on the latest security threats and teaches them to safeguard their credentials. They should also refrain from clicking on random links or opening attachments from unknown sources.

Install security patches and updates

Avoid OneDrive security gaps and software vulnerabilities with timely updates of operating systems and applications. Consider enabling the auto-update feature for Windows for all security patches and updates to be installed automatically.

Control access permissions and privileges

Make sure you assign adequate permissions for different users and regularly check access logs. Avoid storing passwords, payment data and other critical files on OneDrive, especially in shared folders. It is also a good idea to limit access to confidential data by granting the necessary permissions only for specific tasks. Moreover, administrators should use regular accounts when sending emails, editing documents or sharing files on OneDrive rather than their admin accounts.

Prioritize network security

You need to properly configure your firewall since it can be your first line of defense against cyberattacks. Close unused ports and allow connections only from trusted IP addresses. An antivirus also provides network protection by detecting and deleting malicious files before they infect your system.

Use automation tools

Security administrators can access the Office 365 admin center to manage the Office 365 and configure OneDrive security settings. Once done, issues and vulnerabilities are automatically detected and in some cases resolved with limited to no manual intervention.

Install a third-party backup solution

The built-in OneDrive security tools do not provide comprehensive protection and do not guarantee recoverability. Make sure you install a third-party solution to back up your data and safely restore it in case of a disaster or breach.


Microsoft OneDrive is a powerful cloud storage and collaboration platform thanks to its synchronization service, high availability and user-friendly interface. However, individual users and organizations tend to choose OneDrive since it is one of the most secure and reliable platforms on the market. In transit and at rest encryption, Personal Vault and ransomware detection are just a few examples of the built-in OneDrive security features.

However, these tools are not enough to guarantee optimal data protection. Installing a modern solution like NAKIVO Backup & Replication safeguards your environment and minimizes the risk of data loss. Get the Free Edition today to benefit from advanced features for virtual, cloud, physical as well as SaaS environments.

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