Microsoft

Microsoft TechCommunity Top Posts January 2022, Week 4

Here’s my selection of TechCommunity posts for this week. My plan was to pick 5ish, but there’s a heck of a lot of content to go through, read, then decide if it’s worthy:

Mainframe Data Modernization to Azure

If you like visuals, you’ll like this post. The exponentially increased amount of data we have to work with becomes more difficult to manage on-premises, and this article covers some of the considerations around this and methods to move your data to the cloud. Nice for some future planning considerations.

Windows Server End of Support: Key Dates

Don’t forget those end of support dates! Windows Server 2022 is out, 2008 + R2 is on extended security updates, and 2012 + R2 has a bit under 2 years left before standard support ends (unless of course it gets extended). If you have 2008 or 2012 servers in your environment, just remember how old those are already. Upgrade sooner rather than later, instead of getting caught out by a project where something needs your domain forest level at 2019, and all your DC’s aren’t even on that version of Windows Server…

Users get intermittent credential prompt on client browser when using IIS Windows Authentication

January 2022 wasn’t a good month for Microsoft patches, one of many problems was this “After installing this update on domain controllers (DCs), affected versions of Windows Servers might restart unexpectedly.” Nice. Spend some time understanding the state of patches right now and make sure you’re not experiencing any of the several issues we’ve seen, including this.

Achieve better patch compliance with Update Connectivity data

A nice report in Intune shows the ‘Update connectivity’ stats of devices – the idea behind this is to see if devices aren’t online long enough to get updates. This data doesn’t really give you solutions to the problem, but does give you an idea on the risk in your environment if devices aren’t getting patched regularly, and how many devices have this as an issue. Everyone loves a donut graph, especially Microsoft.

Microsoft Teams users can now chat with any Teams user outside their organization

Pretty big news for work based Teams talking to external people via their Microsoft personal (consumer) account, or phone number. Note that this doesn’t create a SMS conversation, it requires a Microsoft account and will invite someone to sign up if they don’t already have one. This can be a good way for staff to talk to external people live, but still in a regulated/logged way, and the same way they’d talk to internal staff. External people also don’t need to install software (back in the day everyone wanted Skype installed to talk to that 1 external person) which is another plus. Lots of details on this post showing how it works and how to make sure it’s enabled in your tenant.

Sending From Email Aliases – Public Preview

I like this one. You can turn on the setting ‘SendFromAliasEnabled‘ in your tenant which lets users pick from a list aliases to send from – across Outlook for the Web and Outlook for iOS and Android. There are known issues so be very careful about enabling this in your tenant, but for people who need to send from different aliases for different reasons, this looks like a very useful new feature in Exchange Online.

Announcing general availability of vulnerability management support for Android and iOS

That other device that every employee has is often deemed as too hard to do much about, so it’s good to see something actually happening in the iOS and Android space for Defender – although there’s not too much it can do yet (especially for iOS). Still, this is worth looking into and is probably one of those things that if something bad did happen, you’d be happy you proactively rolled it out.

Onboarding Devices in the Microsoft 365 Apps Admin Center

Lots of content in this one. I don’t see too much content around the Microsoft 365 Apps Admin Center (and maybe that’s because when I see the name, my brain drops out the word ‘Apps’ and I’m thinking of the wrong portal). It’s https://config.office.com/ and the feature list here is continually growing. Looking through the reports will give you a better insight into what’s happening in your environment, and probably raise some questions :)

That’s it for this week, as always you can see the entire feed of TechCommunity posts at https://twitter.com/MSITTechNews and you can see my previous TechCommunnity picks here https://www.adamfowlerit.com/tag/techcommunity/

Hornetsecurity Overview – 365 Total Protection


The Microsoft 365 Suite contains a lot of different solutions; and varying levels of security on those solutions, depending which tier of licensing you have. Microsoft’s security answers have varying levels of user experience, technical requirements, and administrative burdens.

For example, if you’ve used Microsoft native solutions to look at mailflow regularly compared to third-party solutions, you’d probably agree that Microsoft do not provide a quick and easy experience in troubleshooting why an email didn’t arrive. If you have to go back more than 2 days, then you’ll potentially have to wait a few hours just to get the results of the mailflow steps.

Third-party solutions must compete with Microsoft in their own space for security solutions, which means they need to be adding value somehow; cheaper, easier to use, more features, and/or quicker.

Hornetsecurity’s answer to this is their 365 Total Protection solution. I’m fairly experienced with Microsoft’s first party offerings, and a few other third-party mail security solutions, so was interested to see how this stacked up and where it might fit.

Hornetsecurity shows the 3 different tiers of licensing, and an option to start a free trial:

The above pricing based on the feature set seems quite reasonable to me, and from the page you can click on each feature and see more information including a screenshot.

The free trial process is well documented – the first page lays out what you’re in for which will unsurprisingly require tenant admin access to approve tenant permissions for Hornetsecurity.

Once you accept the permission request, a synchronisation will start. As I’m doing this in my own tenant of 1 user, it took about 20 seconds to perform. You’ll then need to update MX records so mail flows through the Hornetsecurity service, so it can do many of the services listed.

Not all services rely on mail flow, there is also an Outlook add-in. For older versions of Outlook it can be downloaded and installed like a traditional add-in, or there’s the much nicer modern method that’s controlled from inside Microsoft 365 admin center to deploy and show for users (I wish more vendors did this!).

Either way, the Outlook add-in provides several functions such as being able to report emails, block/allow emails, and view archived emails.

Some other notable features of the 365 Total Protection solution:

  • Email Archiving – something Microsoft can do, but don’t do a great job of exposing the archived emails. 10 years of email retention should be more than enough for most companies, and even if you have archiving enabled in your tenant natively, this gives you a backup of all your emails.
  • Email Live Tracking – a real time view of mail flow that works quickly and doesn’t require reports to be generated after 2 days that are CSV files.
  • Individual User Signatures – Centralised signatures that are also monitored for people who decide to change them away from the company standard. Different groups can get their own style of signature too. Microsoft still has nothing in this space natively and is still in the early days of having a signature saved to someone’s profile.
  • eDiscovery – Being able to search quickly across all emails in the company for keywords is a handy thing. Another one that Microsoft can do, but it’s clunky and far from quick.
  • Email Continuity Service – If Microsoft’s mail services go down, you can keep going until they’re back – delivering and sending emails directly through Hornetsecurity, then syncing up what happened after the event.
  • Automated backups for mailboxes, Teams, OneDrive and Sharepoint – this is really where all your Microsoft 365 data will live. Again, it gives you somewhere this data can be backed up and restored outside of Microsoft’s ecosystem.

There is of course a lot of security aspects to the solution such as Forensic Analyses, URL Malware Control and Realtime Threat Reports, but I quite like the Malware ex-post alert and Malware ex-post deletion. Malicious emails that get through on any system (and I’ve seen this with other third-party solutions as well as Microsoft) need to be detected and cleaned up, as well as investigated on whether anyone clicked the link. This ties into URL Malware control, which will do URL rewriting. Microsoft do this natively, but I’ve found the cleanup aspect can take a little while to perform and isn’t a seamless process from detection to cleanup.

One last point – it is good to see that they have a data centre in Australia as I see many of these companies ignore our region, which makes it hard when you need to keep your data in-country.

I look forward to playing around with Hornetsecurity further. If you’re curious too, then check out their free trial here.

Microsoft TechCommunity Top Posts January 2022, Week 2

Here’s my weekly picks on the subjectively best blog posts from TechCommunity:

Released: January 2022 Exchange Server Security Updates

Security updates for Exchange 2013, 2016 and 2019 are out, and as always, there’s exploits these mitigate. Note that https://aka.ms/ExchangeUpdateWizard will ask what you’re upgrading from and to, and talk you through the process – although it does expect you’ve done this before with some high level ‘Update your AD schema with this switch’ instructions that require you to go work out how to do that – which does involve downloading the latest ISO for Exchange, mounting it, then running the setup.exe with some switches. It also notes that these patches don’t fix the January 2022 transport queue buildup issue (Y2K22). Get patching!

Create a resume website – no coding experience required!

This one’s a really neat idea – use GitHub Pages for free, to have a static online resume. No fees, no special hosting stuff – it’s what I run msportals.io off of. Good practise in doing something fairly simple on GitHub Pages. A workshop is available to work through it all.

SQl Injection: example of SQL Injections and Recommendations to avoid it

I’m not someone who dabbles in SQL too often, but this is a nice clear post demonstrating simply how SQL Injection can work by searching with the string ‘ or 1=1 or 1=’ – then how to avoid it in code, and how Microsoft Defender for Cloud can detect and notify on those sort of attacks.

New to Microsoft Certification exams? We have something you need to try

Really good idea from Microsoft here – an exam sandbox so you can get a feel for how the exams work (without actual exam questions) which can help people be prepared for what they’ll experience doing their first real Microsoft exam. I’ve added this to https://msportals.io too :)

Continuous Access Evaluation in Azure AD is now generally available!

This is a great addition to the security Azure AD provides. Instead of just assessing risk at the time of login, Azure AD will now continually assess risk, and force re-auth if something changes that it decides has increased the risk of the account such as location change or password change. It’s auto-enabled so you don’t have to do anything, but good to be aware of.

Getting Started with a Windows 365 POC

I personally haven’t even looked at Windows 365 yet – so if I was going to get started, this is the perfect sort of blog post to get things going. It looks pretty easy without too many steps, so check this out if you want to have a play.

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint Plan 1 Now Included in M365 E3/A3 Licenses

Defender for Endpoint P1 is now in M365 E3/A3 licenses. If you’re wondering what P1 is, the article has a comparison table. That means if you have Defender for Endpoint already, it’s probably now P2. Microsoft Defender for Endpoint P1 is looking pretty cheap at $3US per user per month if you don’t already have E3/A3. This still goes to show that Microsoft licensing is hard and confusing, with so many factors to consider.

That’s it for this week, as always you can see the entire feed of TechCommunity posts at https://twitter.com/MSITTechNews

Microsoft TechCommunity Top Posts January 2022, Week 1

This year, I’m going to pick the most interesting TechCommunity Blog Posts on a weekly basis, and talk about them. There’s so much good content that gets posted and can be missed. This is of course from my point of view and the things I care about, but I hope it’ll help others pick up on some things they might have otherwise missed.

I also have a dedicated Twitter feed that posts all TechCommunity and Azure Blog Posts at https://twitter.com/MSITTechNews if you’d rather see everything.

Here’s my picks:

Email Stuck in Exchange On-premises Transport Queues

Yikes, not a great way to start the year off – referred to as the Y2K22 bug, Exchange On-Premises servers (including ones for hybrid) were getting stuck in transport queues and eventually rejecting emails due to a date issue in malware scanning – it didn’t like the year 2022. Amusingly, the fix sets the date on the signature file as December 33rd, 2021 to get around it. The latest CU11 for Exchange 2019 doesn’t fix it, so unlikely other CUs for other versions of Exchange fix it either.

How to Remote Assist Autopilot Deployments with Quick Assist

This is about using Quick Assist to remote onto someone’s computer as part of Autopilot. It’s interesting we don’t have a nice native way of remoting into a computer we control still without requiring user input – but it does make sense if the machine is still being configured. It’d be better if one of the first things Autopilot did was allow remote controlling by an administrator without having to talk the user through opening command prompt with key combos and typing in commands.

Zero-touch onboarding of Microsoft Defender for Endpoint on iOS now in public preview

Using Microsoft Endpoint Manager to deploy Defender to iOS devices without any user input – I love the idea, but this one needs careful planning, testing and communication. What does Defender on iOS actually do? Check out the capabilities such as Web Protection, Threat and Vulnerability Management, and Jailbreak Detection.

Cannot enable Advanced Threat Protection on Managed Instance server

A simple post showing an error when trying to enable Advanced Threat Protection (we’re still apparently calling it that because it’s a pain to update everything with constant name changes!) and workaround. I’ve posted there suggesting they have a readable screenshot of the actual error, and put it there in plain text too so it’s searchable.

How to Manage Microsoft Teams Meeting Recording Auto-Expiration

“New recordings will automatically expire 60 days after they are recorded if no action is taken, except for A1 users who will receive a max 30-day default setting. The 60-day default was chosen because, on average across all tenants, 99%+ of meeting recordings are never watched again after 60 days. However, this setting can be modified if a different expiration timeline is desire”

I’ve gone and turned off the auto-expiring of meeting recordings. Why would I want that? Microsoft’s argument quoted is that people don’t watch them after 60 days 99%+ of the time – except what about the < 1% when you do need it? I only need to lose one meeting to be angry that this setting was ever there. There’s also a slight error in the post:

“To change the default auto-expiration setting for your tenant, go to admin.teams.microsoft.com, navigate to Meetings > Meeting Policies > Add in the left navigation panel”

Add isn’t in the left navigation panel, and we probably shouldn’t be adding a new policy, but instead adjusting the Global (Org-wide default). Creating a new policy that’s not applied to anyone won’t do much :)

I’ve posted the above there and hopefully will get updated.

That’s it for week 1!

My Windows 11 List Of Demands

Windows 11 is a nice visual refresh to the Windows line of Operating Systems. However, there has been a simplifying and removal of many useful functions; usually these are just hidden behind more clicks, which leaves are more frustrating experience when we’ve become used to a certain way of doing things.

In no particular order, here’s the bug bears I’ve found so far in using Windows 11, and if I’ve found a fix/workaround/setting change:

Start button Location Moved to Middle

The Start Button is in the centre of the screen by default – breaking what we’ve been doing constantly since Windows 95. This change seems unnecessary and even on my 44″ Ultrawide monitor, I’d rather it in the bottom left. I tried leaving it in the middle but gave up after a week.

You can change this back to the left side by:
Click ‘Start’ > ‘Settings’ (if you don’t see it, type it)
Click ‘Personalisation’ > Taskbar (not Start, where you’d expect it!)
Click ‘Taskbar behaviours’ to expand it.
Under Taskbar alignment, change the dropdown from ‘Center’ to ‘Left’

Task Manager missing from right click on taskbar

Task Manager has grown into a much more useful tool since Windows 10, beyond just killing off programs; it provides a bunch more visibility into what your computer is actually doing. For some reason, being able to access it via a right click on the taskbar has been removed.

Ctrl + Shift + Esc will still bring up Task Manager, but it’s one of the more awkward key combos. Right clicking on the Start button itself will bring up a very useful menu (as it does on Windows 10), with one of the options still brining up Task Manager.

The new way I’ll probably try to teach myself to bring up Task Manager is, Winkey + X > T.

‘Edit’ option missing from File Explorer right click (and others)

If you have a look at the right click menu against a file in File Explorer, it will be a much shorter list than what you’re used to. Several common functions (cut, copy, rename, share, delete) are icons at the top, but everything else that didn’t make the ‘cut’ is in the ‘Show more options’ menu, which takes you back to the classic looking right click menu.

As Nathan McNulty pointed out, this can be restored to the old ways via a reg setting (run in PowerShell):

New-Item -Path "HKCU:\Software\Classes\CLSID\{86ca1aa0-34aa-4e8b-a509-50c905bae2a2}\InprocServer32" -Value "" -Force

or via Command Prompt:

reg.exe add "HKCU\Software\Classes\CLSID\{86ca1aa0-34aa-4e8b-a509-50c905bae2a2}\InprocServer32" /f /ve

File Explorer Command Bar Simplified

File Explorer had a bunch of useful options in the top Command Bar. They’ve mostly been removed (seeing a trend here?) to simplify and show only a few options. The idea of tabbed menus is completely gone. Some options like ‘Map network drive’ are in an ellipsis menu

PowerShell:

New-Item -Path "HKCU:\Software\Classes\CLSID\{d93ed569-3b3e-4bff-8355-3c44f6a52bb5}\InprocServer32" -Value "" -Force 

Command Prompt:

reg.exe add "HKCU\Software\Classes\CLSID\{d93ed569-3b3e-4bff-8355-3c44f6a52bb5}\InprocServer32" /f /ve

Show all icons in Notification Area

Those little icons in the bottom right side of the taskbar – that’s the notification area. I like seeing them all, rather than having them hidden in a submenu. Windows 10 has an option to ‘Always show all icons in the notification area’. In Windows 11, this option isn’t available. I did learn that rather than mucking around with settings, you can just drag an icon out of the menu and pop them straight onto the notification area – but you shouldn’t have to do this for each icon.

Programs in Task Bar don’t expand out

In Windows 10, I’m used to having a reasonable sized bar for each program I have open. It shows the Icon and a bit of text to help identify what the program is (or in the case of Microsft Edge, which profile/web page for those untabbed). It’s great, it uses up all that task bar space. The second monitor does have a consolidated view, but I drive which program I want by clicking in the primary task bar.

Windows 11’s design is to remove that, and have all taskbar programs just show the icon. For pinned programs, you’ll need to look for a blue line/dot below the icon, to indicate a window is open. Multiple windows of File Explorer open? They’re consolidated into the one icon, you’ll need to hover over that and pick the one you want.

This one isn’t possible to restore natively, and there’s a lot of feedback about people wanting it.

Widgets

Widgets are back again (I actually liked them in Vista) except this time, Widgets is a popout menu triggered by a button in the Task Bar (although checking an Insider’s build, this looks like it will change to a weather button in the bottom left). The Widgets popout menu then contains a bunch of sections around news, weather, stocks, eSports, Traffic and so on.

It’s abilit to remember what I actually like or don’t like seems non existent. I’ve removed ‘NBA’ that many times – and yes, I am signing into Widgets with the same account, and on Windows 10 the News and Interests button works the same way). It’s a very US centric service – and only has configuration around 3 Australian Cities (Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne). There’s a web search function, which of course only uses Bing. Although I like seeing the temperature, if you want to turn off Widgets:

Click ‘Start’ > ‘Settings’ (if you don’t see it, type it)
Click ‘Personalisation’ > Taskbar
Under ‘Taskbar items’ turn the switch ‘off’ for Widgets.


I’m sure there are a bunch of other frustrations in the simplification of Windows 11, as I’m sure the idea is that there’s too many buttons and options for a ‘regular’ user, so the idea is to clean it all up. The problem is that for many people used to these options, it feels like a step back.

Maybe the approach Microsoft should take is to have Windows 11 ‘Basic Mode’ and ‘Advanced Mode’ to try and keep everyone happy?

There are some good features in Windows 11 too, such as Snap Layouts / Snap Groups, where you can pick the size of the window to fill in your sceen – handy on an ultrawide, where you want to move a window to the right third of the screen. There’s also the whole Android app support that’s coming…

Anyway, it’s early days for Windows 11 – and although there’s plenty of criticism from Insiders on recommendations that were not taken up, I expect we’ll see the continual improvement and evolution of the platform; mostly for the better ( News and Interests is one of the reasons I say ‘mostly’ ).