Microsoft Pushes Removal of Basic Authentication from Exchange Online to Mid-2021

Covid-19 dealt a blow to Microsoft’s plans to remove basic authentication from 5 connection protocols for Exchange Online and forced them to postpone the removal from October 13, 2020 to sometime in the second quarter of 2021. The news is disappointing because basic authentication is a weakness exploited by many hackers. But you can’t plan for a pandemic and Office 365 tenants need more time to be ready for the deprecation.

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Why Basic Authentication for Exchange Online is So Bad

Some doubt that Exchange Online will disable basic authentication for five email connection protocols in October 2020. The refrain is that it will be too hard for customers. Well, it might be hard to prepare to eliminate basic authentication, but if you don’t, your Office 365 tenant will be increasingly threatened by attacks that exploit known weaknesses.

Time Running Out for Exchange Online Basic Authentication

Microsoft plans to disable basic authentication for five Exchange Online connection protocols on October 13, 2020. They’ve been clear on this point for several months and are now moving to deliver tools and provide guidance about what people should do about clients that use basic auth connections with Exchange Web Services, Exchange ActiveSync, IMAP4, POP3, and Remote PowerShell. Work is needed to make sure that clients are prepared for the switchover to modern authentication.

Basic Authentication Dead for Exchange Online Connections

Microsoft has announced that basic authentication for multiple email connection protocols won’t be supported after October 13, 2020. You won’t be able to connect with EWS, EAS, IMAP4, POP3, or Remote PowerShell unless you use modern authentication. There’s just over a year to prepare, but there’s some work to be done.

Handling Calendar Appointments for IMAP4 Clients

Despite the age of the protocols, you can cheerfully connect a wide range of IMAP4 and POP3 clients to Exchange Online. If you do, you might need to consider how to handle calendar appointments, and if you want to use iCAL, you’ll need to make some adjustments with PowerShell.

Eliminating Basic Auth for Exchange Online with AAD Conditional Access Policies

Exchange Online protocol authentication policies control what protocols a user can connect to mailboxes with, but it would be much better if we didn’t have to worry about some old and insecure protocols. Azure Active Directory gives Office 365 tenants the chance to clamp down on IMAP4 and POP3 connections and close off some of the holes that attackers try to exploit. Microsoft says that this can lead to a 67% reduction in account compromises, so that’s a good thing.