Microsoft blocked 1,000 malicious emails every second in 2021

Close up of a person touching an email icon.
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Microsoft’s cybersecurity solutions blocked 1,000 malicious emails for every second of 2021 - approximately 31.5 million seconds, the company has revealed.

In its inaugural Cyber Signals quarterly cybersecurity report, the company used data from its Microsoft Defender antivirus as well as Azure Active Directory to understand today’s threat landscape, and where brute force, phishing, as well as other malicious e-mail activities, such as malware distribution, stand. 

These two sources aside, Microsoft also said it pulled in data from the 24 trillion daily security signals it gets across the cloud, endpoints, and intelligent edge. As it turns out, Microsoft Defender for Office 365 blocked more than 35.7 billion phishing and other malicious emails that targeted both enterprises and consumers, during 2021. 

Blocking nation-state attacks 

What’s more, Defender for Endpoint blocked more than 9.6 billion malware attacks against enterprise and consumer endpoints, while Azure Active Directory managed to detect, and block, more than 25.6 billion attempts at hijacking enterprise customer accounts via brute force. 

Many of these attacks, the report suggests, come from nation-state attackers. The attacks coming from these groups are on the rise, it claims, saying that they usually deploy simple but effective tactics, such as spear-phishing, social engineering attacks, and large-scale password spray.

As long as corporations, but consumers as well, continue managing their credentials poorly, and continue leaving their digital identities without crucial safeguards such as multi-factor authentication (MFA), nation-states won’t need to change their tactics. 

The need for MFA, the report concludes, “cannot be overstated”. The simplicity and low cost of identity-focused attacks make them convenient and effective for threat actors. However, MFA is not the only identity and access management tool organizations should use, Microsoft continues, hinting at antivirus solutions, zero-trust network access, and firewalls. 

Still, it considers MFA “a powerful deterrent to attacks.”

Sead is a seasoned freelance journalist based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He writes about IT (cloud, IoT, 5G, VPN) and cybersecurity (ransomware, data breaches, laws and regulations). In his career, spanning more than a decade, he’s written for numerous media outlets, including Al Jazeera Balkans. He’s also held several modules on content writing for Represent Communications.