SMTP AUTH Exception Smoothens Path to Removal of Basic Auth in Exchange Online

Last week’s announcement that Exchange Online will block basic authentication for multiple protocols on October 1, 2022, got some attention. Now the hard choices of what to do with clients and applications need to be made. To smoothen the path to remove basic authentication, Microsoft is making an exception for SMTP AUTH. Your scripts and multi-function devices will keep working after October 2022, but the writing is on the wall and eventually even SMTP AUTH will stop working.

Basic Authentication for All Exchange Online Tenants Stops in October 2022

October 1, 2022 will be a big day for Exchange Online tenants because that’s when Microsoft starts to disable basic authentication for connectivity protocols whether or not tenants want this to happen. This is a huge and fundamental change that’s being driven by the need to increase the overall security of Exchange Online and individual tenants, while also blocking common attacks seeking to compromise user accounts. With only a year to go, it’s time to start work on preparing everything that needs to be in place for the great October 1 switchoff.

Inactive Mailboxes Turn Up in Microsoft 365 Compliance Center

Inactive mailboxes have been available in Exchange Online since 2015. A new inactive mailboxes listing is available in the Microsoft 365 compliance center. The GUI isn’t very functional, but perhaps it’s a starting point for some enhanced management capabilities for inactive mailboxes. We’ve only been waiting six years…

How to Allow People in Your Office 365 Tenant to See Details of Each Other’s Calendar

By default, Exchange Online allows other users in your tenant to see limited details of your availability when scheduling meetings. More information can be displayed by updating the calendar permissions for mailboxes. This is easy to do with PowerShell, but needs to be done on an ongoing basis because Exchange Online doesn’t have an organization or mailbox plan setting to assign the value to new mailboxes.

Why Search-Mailbox is Still Valuable When You Need to Remove Mailbox Items

Microsoft wants to eliminate the Search-Mailbox cmdlet, but it’s still very valuable when the time comes to remove mailbox items because of a spam attack or similar reasons. The suggested replacement is Core eDiscovery searches and associated content search purge actions, but these are slower and less effective than Search-Mailbox. To prove the point, we’ve put together a demonstration script to show how to compose a search query and run it against a set of mailboxes.

Microsoft Applies the Viva Brand to MyAnalytics

Microsoft is applying their Viva brand to the features currently known as MyAnalytics. Viva Insights will span a monthly email digest, the Outlook insights add-on, and the Insights dashboard. If you don’t want users to access these features, you can disable the features individually or remove the service plan from user licenses. The rebranding is happening now and due to complete in November.

Inconsistencies Using Reserved Email Aliases with Groups in Microsoft 365

Azure AD administrators should be able to assign a reserved alias to a new group. At least, that’s what the documentation says. As it turns out, this isn’t strictly true as there are places where administrative interfaces (GUI and PowerShell) block any attempt to use reserved aliases. Does this matter? Probably not, unless you like consistency… which we do!

Exchange Online to Introduce Legacy SMTP Endpoint in 2022

Microsoft hopes to accelerate the removal of TLS 1.0 and 1.2 connections from Exchange Online by disabling connectivity in 2022 and forcing organizations which need to use the older protocols to connect to a new “legacy smtp” endpoint. It’s not a bad plan because it transfers responsibility for choosing to use obsolete connections to customers. Most organizations will go with the flow (no pun intended) and use TLS 1.2, but those who need some time to update applications and devices know what they have to do.

How to Create a Report of Distribution Lists and their Owners

In this post, we explore how to use PowerShell to create a report about distribution lists and their owners. The script is quick and dirty, but it works, and the code will run on both Exchange Online and Exchange Server and generates both HTML and CSV outputs. We also look at whether it’s possible to speed things up by using Microsoft Graph API calls. As it turns out, because we’re interested in owner information, it’s no faster to retrieve distribution lists using the Graph. However, as shown in a second script, the Graph is great at retrieving membership information.

How to Move Distribution List Membership from One Mailbox to Another

A reader asked how to move membership of multiple distribution lists from one mailbox to another. We use PowerShell to do the job. Only a few lines are needed to switch the memberships, but we add a few more lines to make the script work better. We don’t handle dynamic distribution lists. This is possible for precanned (simple) filters, but given the number of dynamic distribution lists usually involved, it’s probably best to update directory settings manually.

New Sender-Recipient Limits for Exchange Online Coming in September 2021

Exchange Online already imposes limits on the number of messages a mailbox can receive per hour. New limits will restrict the number of messages individual senders can send to a third of the overall limit. The restriction doesn’t apply to senders with an Exchange Online mailbox in the same tenant. And if a mailbox runs into a limit, it features on the splendidly named Hot Recipients report. What’s not to like about that.

Microsoft Sends Moca Boards to the OWA Calendar

Project Moca is no longer a separate OWA component. Boards created in Moca are now available through the OWA calendar, just like other boards created there. The question is how Microsoft will bring the board view to Outlook desktop. I figure it’s a candidate for OCX and WebView2, just like the Room Finder. Time will tell.

Teams Private Channels Gain Support for Retention Processing

It is now possible to apply Microsoft 365 retention policies to Teams private channel messages. The messages are in user mailboxes and discoverable due to their properties. All the retention policy must do is find the messages and apply the policy settings, and if an item is expired, remove it from the mailbox. Easy… or is it?

Microsoft Security Report Points to Basic Authentication as Root of BEC Attacks

The need to remove basic authentication from Exchange Online is underlined by a June 14 report from the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center pointing to how attackers compromise mailboxes using antiquated protocols like POP3 and IMAP4 to connect to accounts which don’t use MFA. After accounts are penetrated, the attackers plant inbox rules to forward copies of interesting messages and use the information received to plan and execute business email compromise attacks. Tenant administrators still have some work to do to secure Exchange Online and Azure AD…

Teams Introduces New Attendance Reporting Dashboard

Now rolling out to Office 365 tenants, Teams meeting organizers can review the attendance data for meetings and webinars in a new dashboard. The same data can be downloaded to a CSV file for analysis. Teams stores the attendance report data in the Exchange Online mailbox of the meeting organizer. It’s a good example of the Microsoft 365 substrate in use.

Microsoft’s Collaborative Work Model Ignores Practical Realities

Microsoft’s Collaborative Work Model (CWM) tries to paint a picture of how Microsoft 365 apps help people to organize tasks and get things done more efficiently. CWM isn’t a bad thing, as far as it goes, but it’s just not practical because it ignores the critical role played by email as the glue connecting Microsoft 365 apps together. Or more correctly, email and the substrate. Oh well, it’s only a marketing message…

Microsoft Stops Set-User Updating Phone Numbers for Azure AD Accounts

Without warning (for security reasons), Microsoft stopped the Exchange Online Set-User cmdlet being able to update the work and mobile numbers for Azure AD accounts. We don’t know what kind of security concerns caused Microsoft to take this action, but it might be associated with administrative roles. In any case, this disappointing example of how to communicate with customers might end up with people having to update some PowerShell scripts – and no one likes unexpected work.

Why Messages in Your Exchange Online Inbox Are So Large

Exchange Online assigns large mailbox quotas to users. These quotas are needed to cope with the volume and size of modern email. What used to take 2 KB in 1996 now consumes 60 times more. And while email is more graphical and prettier to look at, you’d wonder if the value of the actual content has changed much, if at all.

OWA’s New Calendar Board View Is a Version of Project Moca

Microsoft is rolling out a new calendar board view for OWA. The new board looks very similar to a Project Moca board, which isn’t surprising because it’s a customized Moca board tailored to focus on the calendar. There’s no news yet when Project Moca might exit its current preview status, but maybe the new view will help by convincing people about the worth of configurable boards.

Microsoft Brings the Top Senders and Recipients Report Back from the Dead

For whatever reason, Microsoft decided to cancel plans to remove the Top Senders and Recipients report from the SCC, citing customer feedback as the reason. The thing is that the SCC report and its underlying cmdlet use an old data source. The Microsoft Graph Reports API is the modern approach and an adequate replacement usage reports is available in the Microsoft 365 admin center. I really can’t understand why anyone would want to keep the old report as it’s not very good at all.

Q&A: How to Send Email Using Proxy Addresses with Exchange Online

Exchange Online supports the ability to send email using any SMTP proxy address assigned to a mailbox. Following the announcement of the feature, users had many questions including what clients can be used. Here are some common questions and answers about the feature, including some PowerShell to report the set of proxy addresses assigned to user mailboxes.

How to Customize Responses to Calendar Meeting Requests for Conference Rooms

Exchange Online’s calendar assistant is good at responding to meeting requests for rooms. It can be even better with just a little customized text to remind those who book the rooms about meeting etiquette. Even though we might never get back to physical meetings in conference rooms, some face to face gathering will happen in the future, so now’s the time to prepare for bookings to be handled in a nicer fashion.

How to Control Updates for User Photos in Microsoft 365 Apps

Organizations can choose to control updates of user photos by policy in their Office 365 tenants or allow users to go ahead and use any image they like. In this article, we explore the value of having a user photo for every Office 365 account (and Teams and Groups too) and the choices organizations must make when they decide whether to control user-driven updates.

New Invoice Payment Phishing Attack

A new phishing attack is circulating from an Office 365 tenant. The attack attempts to lure recipients into clicking a link to download a document. The phishing email is not quite as crude as other attempts and might lure users into doing the wrong thing, especially as the message is delivered to inboxes.

Exchange Online Block for BCC Messages Sent to Distribution Lists

You can configure Exchange Online distribution lists so that they reject messages sent to them as BCC recipients. I’m not sure how much use this feature will get, but it’s nice to have it anyway. PowerShell is the only management tool to configure distribution lists for the new block until Microsoft gets around to updating the Exchange Admin Center.

Teams Desktop and Browser Clients Can Update User Out of Office Notification Settings

Microsoft has released the public preview of the ability to set the Exchange out of office (OOF) auto-reply from the Teams desktop and browser clients. OOFs set in Teams are synchronized back to Exchange using EWS so that the new auto-reply configuration is picked up by clients like Outlook and OWA. It’s a small but useful update.

Exchange Online Clamps Down on High-Volume Mailboxes

From April 2021, Exchange Online will apply hard limits for the number of messages a mailbox can receive per hour. The limit remains the same (3,600), but now Exchange will block the mailbox receiving any more email for an hour. The new version of the Exchange Admin Center (EAC) promises to highlight problem mailboxes so that admins can ask owners why their mailboxes receive so much email.

Exchange Online Adjusts Schedule for Removal of Basic Authentication

Microsoft wants to remove basic authentication from Exchange Online connection protocols. But pressures have forced Microsoft into a new strategy and away from the mid-2021 date for deprecation of basic authentication for five protocols. Instead, Microsoft will disable basic authentication for protocols where it’s not used, include four addition protocols in its target set, and pause action for tenants where basic authentication is in active use. When they restart, Microsoft will give tenants 12 months’ notice that basic authentication will be blocked for a protocol. You can argue that Microsoft should have pressed ahead with their original plan, but would widespread disruption of service be worth the benefit gained from blocking vulnerable protocols? Balancing risk versus reward is often not easy.

How to Rebuild Delegate Access for a Calendar with PowerShell

Sometimes delegate access for an Exchange Online calendar goes awry due to corrupted items in the mailbox. To help sort out problems, Microsoft has upgraded the Remove-MailboxFolderPermission cmdlet to do the work that used to be done by a multi-phase fix performed using the MFCMAPI or EWS editor utilities. The nice thing is that this method is quick, simple, and works well.

How to Create Exchange Dynamic Distribution Lists with Custom Recipient Filters

Exchange dynamic distribution lists allow messages to be sent to sets of recipients determined by a query against the directory. A custom filter is a powerful way to find the right set of recipients. In this case, we want to find mailboxes with certain job titles whose Azure AD accounts are not blocked for sign-in. Here’s how to create the filter, make sure it works, and create the DDL.

Why New TLS Requirement Stops PowerShell Scripts Sending Email

Exchange Online now insists on TLS 1.2 connections between email clients and servers. PowerShell scripts using the Send-MailMessage cmdlet will fail. The problem is easily solved by forcing PowerShell to use TLS 1.2 to connect, but it does mean that some work is needed to check scripts (before they fail).

Hitting the Million Messages Limit in an Aggregate Group Mailbox

A curious problem happened when a mailbox reported hitting a folder item limit (one million items). The mailbox was an aggregate group mailbox, a system mailbox used to make it easier to search Microsoft 365 Groups. Microsoft now uses a different method to search group mailboxes and will remove these arbitration mailboxes by the end of 2021. If you meet the problem, use a mail flow rule to stop messages being delivered to the mailbox.

Teams Tailors Compliance Records for eDiscovery

The format of the Teams compliance records generated for personal and group chats and stored in Exchange Online mailboxes is changing. Microsoft is removing a bunch of unnecessary attributes from the records to reduce the processing load on the service to retrieve the attributes from Azure AD. The change is unlikely to affect most tenants. Compliance records for older chats are not affected.

Why Exchange Online Dehydrates an Organization Configuration

Exchange Online has the Enable-OrganizationCustomization cmdlet to “hydrate” the settings in an organization. Most Exchange Online organizations use common configurations, which saves the Office 365 infrastructure some directory space and CPU cycles to deal with custom settings. A hydrated organization has customized settings. The one-time cmdlet switches organizations from a dehydrated state to a hydrated state. Forcing administrators to run the cmdlet is just a little odd.

How to Use PowerShell to Remove Calendar Items from Exchange Online

Microsoft wants to retire the Search-Mailbox cmdlet from Exchange Online. But while the cmdlet available, it does a great job of removing mailbox items. If you get the search query right! In this example, we explain how to write a script to clear out calendar items from the mailboxes of multiple users.

Understanding Partially Indexed Exchange Online Messages and Attachments

Exchange Online indexes the items stored in mailboxes. Some of the items are partially indexed, meaning that not all of their content is indexable. Microsoft has a PowerShell script to analyze the number of partially indexed items found in mailboxes. The output is kind of esoteric, so we worked it over to create something more understandable.

How to Enable the First Contact Safety Tip for Exchange Online Protection

Exchange Online Protection (EOP) and Microsoft Defender for Office 365 support anti-phishing policies which generate safety tips for users. The first contact safety tip warns users when they receive email from someone they don’t usually get messages from. It’s a way to put the recipient on their guard, just in case it’s someone trying to impersonate someone else whom the recipient actually knows.

The Power of Exchange Online Dynamic Distribution Lists

Exchange Online Dynamic Distribution Lists are a powerful way to address changeable groups of recipients. The query against the directory is the big thing to get right, but you’ve also got to make sure that the directory data is accurate and reliable. Once you’ve got a good directory, it’s easy to create dynamic distribution lists which are easy to use and never go out of date.