Strategy is Key

Although there is not a single definitive right answer on how to leverage Microsoft’s solutions to support your cybersecurity strategy, there is much to be learned from how certain challenges are typically overcome by others. To cover all different aspects in writing, would almost require a book. But for those interested in learning how to build an effective and efficient security strategy with Microsoft’s solutions, don’t forget to attend my session at TEC, where I cover most of Microsoft’s security and compliance solutions, why and how they are relevant in your strategy, and what gaps still exist that would require you to look elsewhere for solutions.

One of the foremost challenges in crafting a cybersecurity strategy is the constantly evolving nature of cyber threats. Attackers are continuously innovating and devising new tactics, making it challenging to predict and defend against their next moves. Staying ahead of these evolving threats requires a dynamic and adaptable strategy that can respond in real-time to emerging risks, all whilst not forgetting about ‘the basics’.

Resource constraints also pose a significant challenge for many organizations. Cybersecurity measures often require substantial investments in technology, personnel, and training. Smaller businesses, in particular, may struggle to allocate sufficient resources to build robust defenses. Prioritization and cost-effective solutions become crucial in such cases to ensure that critical vulnerabilities are addressed even with limited resources. However, how do you decide what to focus on and which solutions are most appropriate?

Helpful Frameworks

To overcome these and other challenges and create an effective cybersecurity strategy, organizations should consider several key steps. To help them structure the efforts, one can turn to the use of cybersecurity frameworks, like the NIST Cybersecurity Framework. However, many other frameworks exist and typically focus on the same steps and activities:

  • Perform a Risk Assessment: Start with a comprehensive assessment of your organization’s specific cybersecurity risks. Identify critical assets, potential vulnerabilities relevant to your environment, and the impact of these vulnerabilities and threats. This assessment will serve as the foundation for your strategy.
  • Define Clear Objectives: Define and understand what you are trying to achieve. Determine what you want to achieve in terms of data protection, incident response, compliance, and overall security posture. One organization’s objectives aren’t necessarily the same as another’s. For example, a financial institution like a bank may have very different criteria and regulations to uphold than a retailer.
  • Adaptability: Repeat your security strategy regularly to adapt to the changing landscape and deal with emerging threats.

Protect, Detect, Respond, Recover

Based on your risk assessment, the time has come to focus on turning your objectives into reality by taking appropriate steps to mitigate, lower, or otherwise deter the risks you have defined. Remember that there are several ways in which you can do so. Not all solutions are technical in nature, and not all risk mitigation strategies include preventing risks! To keep things familiar, consider these four phases of the NIST Cybersecurity framework: protect, detect, respond, and recover.

  • Protect: Keeping your objectives, but also your constraints and requirements in line, protecting from risks is probably the most important aspect of a cybersecurity strategy. However, keep in mind that although some elements of protecting your environment against threats are considered ‘industry standard’, other elements may not be. Always challenge why you are implementing a protective measure: Is it in line with your objectives and budget? Does it advance your security posture? Are you able to manage the product after implementation, etc.? A good example here would be the implementation of an EDR solution. Although it would be unthinkable to not deploy such a solution organization-wide, you must consider the ramifications of doing so.  An EDR fails to deliver its true potential without someone to follow up on alerts and relevant information returned by the solution. As such, implementing an EDR is – typically – only part of the solution to mitigate a risk…
  • Detect: There is no single protective measure that can fully protect you from threats. Anti-malware solutions can be bypassed, and firewalls are subject to occasional vulnerabilities too, creating opportunities for attackers to bypass defenses. When they do so, or they attempt to, you should be able to detect such activities enabling you to (quickly) respond before threats can materialize and do some real damage.
  • Respond: Have a plan in place on how you will respond to alerts and incidents. This includes both written procedures as well as (automated) responses that are executed whenever a threat is identified. A well-defined response considers the assessment of a threat, the prevention of further damage (if any) as well as the steps to remediate the threat.
  • Recover: Like insurance, one hopes to never need it, but the ability to restore operations and data after an incident is as important, if not more important than all the previous steps. One should always consider that previous steps fail and that you must have some sort of backup (or procedures) allowing you to restore operations in due time.

Of course, as part of a broader security strategy other elements such as employee training, compliance, data security, testing of defenses and procedures, and more must be taken into account as well.

Filling in the Gaps

Microsoft, as a large security vendor, has plenty of solutions (and services) to solve most of an organization’s cybersecurity challenges, especially those who already use Microsoft’s products and solutions within their environment. Some risks can be mitigated in more than one way and using more than a single solution from Microsoft. Despite the many products and features Microsoft offers, there are still gaps which need to be addressed differently, for example using third-party or bespoke solutions and applications.

In today’s digital landscape, a strong and well-thought-out security strategy is paramount. The importance of such a strategy should not be underestimated; it is the cornerstone for protecting information, maintaining business continuity, and – ultimately – safeguarding your organization’s reputation. This being said, developing and implementing an effective and efficient cybersecurity strategy comes with its fair share of challenges, not in the least because of the complexity many environments entail, budgetary constraints, resources, a plethora of solutions and services, and a continuously changing playing field.

The Microsoft 365 Kill Chain and Attack Path Management

An effective cybersecurity strategy requires a clear and comprehensive understanding of how attacks unfold. Read this whitepaper to get the expert insight you need to defend your organization!

Michael Van Horenbeeck is an expert in Cloud Security, Compliance, and Identity Management, holding both the Microsoft Certified Solutions Master (MCSM) certification and the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional for Security (MVP) award simultaneously. As CEO and Sr. Architect at The Collective, he leads their security practice, delivering specialized services such as a managed detection and response (MDR) service. He has assisted customers of all sizes globally in designing, implementing, securing, and managing solutions based on Microsoft 365 and Azure. He is an active community member, author and inspirer of the Microsoft 365 Security for IT Pros e-book, and frequently speaks at events around the world. Follow his insights on Twitter @vanhybrid, or on his websites, and


  1. Alekya E

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