Tag Archives: Office 365

Choose a password that’s harder for people to guess

When you’ve implemented Self Service Password Reset and a cloud user (i.e. an account that only lives in the Microsoft cloud, not an on-premises Active Directory account) wants to change his password, there’s a chance the user will see the following error message:
“Choose a password that’s harder for people to guess”

The odd thing is, when the user changes his password in the SSPR it even says the user is using a strong password as shown in the following screenshot:


Note. I tried this with several combinations, like Pass1word, P@ssW0rd and Spring2018.

A similar error message can be “Unfortunately, your password contains a word, phrase or pattern that makes it easily guessable. Please try again with a different password.” as shown in the following screenshot:


The ‘problem’ here is that the user is hitting the ‘banned password list’ in Azure Active Directory. This banned password list is a list of over 1,000 passwords that can easily be guessed, and as such vulnerable for password spray attacks. These passwords are simple words like spring, summer, autumn, winter, football, company name, qwerty, 123456, welcome, zaq1zaq1 etc etc etc. There’s a list of most common passwords on WikiPedia. Of course there are several variations of passwords, password, Pass1word, Pass!word, Passw0rd, you name it, but Microsoft is using normalization techniques to filter out all replaced characters and thus block these passwords.

Banned passwords are part of the Azure AD Password Protection feature, a feature that’s still in preview at the time of writing (October 2018). When you logon to the Azure Portal (https://portal.azure.com) and navigate to Azure Active Directory | Authentication Methods (in the security section) you’ll see the Azure AD Password Protection feature:


The banned password list is enforced by default, there’s no way to disable it. If you have an Azure AD Premium license, you can also use a custom banned password list and maintain you own list of words or phrases that you don’t want to be used as a password.


If your users run into the Choose a password that’s harder for people to guess error message when changing their password in Azure AD or Office 365, they are hitting the banned password list as part of the Azure AD Password protect feature. A feature that’s enforced by default, and implemented by Microsoft as a means to improve security.
This feature is available for cloud users only by default, but if you have implemented self service password reset (SSPR) with password writeback it also works. The nice thing is, it can also be extended to on-premises Active Directory for password changes on-premises. Nice topic for an upcoming blog.

Microsoft Secure Score – Improve security of your tenant

During Ignite 2018 in Orlando there was a lot of focus on security in Office 365 and Azure Active Directory. That makes sense, a cloud solution is accessible for everyone. Not only your own internal users, but also the bad guys that are out for your data, accounts or money. And not only your user accounts are at risk, your admin accounts even more, and when losing your admin accounts, you are pretty much out of business.

It was shocking to hear that there are 6,000 compromised admin accounts each month, and only 4% of all admin accounts have MFA enabled. And the number of compromised admin accounts decreases with 99,9% with MFA enabled. Go figure!

Other issues that impact security negatively is weak passwords. Everybody knows about brute force attacks, but ever heard of password spray attacks? Based on user lists and (default) weak passwords all combinations of usernames and passwords are tried, without you as an admin even knowing what’s going on.

The list with security issues is impressive…. Weak (legacy) authentication, no password changes, phishing attacks, spoofing, auto-forwarding, too many global admins, permissions and roles, unmanaged devices, etc. etc.

Continue reading Microsoft Secure Score – Improve security of your tenant

Exchange 2010 and TLS 1.2

In a previous blogpost I discussed an issue I had with Outlook 2010 and TLS 1.2. At the same time this reminded me that Microsoft will remove support for TLS 1.0 and TLS 1.1 in Office 365 on October 31, 2018 as communicated in https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/4057306/preparing-for-tls-1-2-in-office-365. This means that when you have communication issues with Office 365 because of an older and weaker protocol, you won’t get any support. Time to do some research….

Existing Exchange 2010 environment

As you may have seen on this side, I still am a big fan of Exchange 2010 and also have an pure Exchange 2010 hybrid environment up-and-running and it looks like this:


MX records is pointing to my Exchange 2010 Edge Transport Server (running on Windows 2008 R2), webmail and Autodiscover are routed via an F5 LTM load balancer to an Exchange 2010 CAS/HUB/Mailbox server (also running on Windows 2008 R2), and hybrid is configured directly on Exchange 2010 (for hybrid mail flow I’m using a separate FQDN, o365mail.inframan.nl) without any Exchange 2013 or Exchange 2016 server.

So, how do you test which TLS version is used by your Exchange 2010 server? In Exchange 2010 this should be done using the protocol logfiles. Message headers in Exchange 2010 do not contain enough information for showing this TLS information. So, you must enable protocol logging for the appropriate Receive Connectors and Send Connectors. In my environment this means the Default Receive Connector on the Exchange 2010 Edge Transport server (for O365 traffic from other tenants), the Default-First-Site-Name to Internet Send Connector, and both connectors between the Exchange 2010 server and Office 365 for hybrid. Analyzing the protocol logfiles can best be done in Excel (import as CSV files). When analyzing, look for a string like TLS protocol SP_PROT_TLS1_0_SERVER (when receiving) or TLS protocol SP_PROT-TLS1_0_CLIENT (when sending). When TLS 1.2 is used, look for a string like TLS protocol SP_PROT_TLS1_2_SERVER and TLS protocol SP_PROT-TLS1_2_CLIENT.

Continue reading Exchange 2010 and TLS 1.2

Ignite 2018 – The conference starts

I’ve been at the Microsoft Ignite conference in Orlando from Sunday September 23 until Friday September 28. It’s been some time since I’ve visited a Microsoft conference, I think the Microsoft Exchange Conference in Austin, TX in early 2013. Also I did some TechEd events, both as speaker as well as attendee but that’s also a long time ago. And what’s the best way to get up-to-speed with Microsoft vision, strategy and new products? Yes, Ignite…. So off to Orlando 😊

Ignite is an annual event held in the US, and it’s big. This year approx. 30,000 attendees from 5,000 organizations worldwide. That’s a reasonable sized city walking around in a conference center, and it’s pretty impressive to see all this.


Ignite starts with keynote sessions. The opening keynote is also a vision keynote, delivered by Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. It should not be a surprise, but it’s all about the cloud at such a keynote, “intelligent cloud”  and “intelligent edge”, how the various applications and services can use this, for the benefit of the user. Data in the cloud, software in the cloud, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), all services, organization and users benefit from this.

AI and ML sound scary, especially if you are a fan of science fiction movies where computers take over, but there are better solution. For example, in Exchange Online Protection Microsoft is receiving billion and billion of messages. Al these servers send out all kinds of monitoring information, and this is analyzed using AI and ML. Based on this, it is possible to predict certain actions, and take pro-active measures. The same happens in Azure Active Directory. It is now possible to check where logins are coming from, what kind of attacks are happening or if an attack is going to happen. You can use this yourself, and by doing so create a safer environment for you Azure and Office usage.

That’s what you see in a lot of sessions here at Ignite, security, security and security. Oh, did I already mention security? And be honest, Microsoft has to, don’t they? If Office 365 or Azure is massively compromised, it will take out customers’ trust and potentially lose business….

Another area where you can see the influence of the cloud is in desktop application. Microsoft Search is completely rewritten, and will now deliver a consistent search and search result throughout all application, where you are working in Outlook on the Web, PowerPoint, Windows 10 or Outlook, it will all give consistent results. Related to this in Microsoft Office is ‘ideas’. When working in PowerPoint on a presentation, you can use ‘ideas’ to enhance your presentation. A demo was given in PowerPoint with a list of bullets with several countries. Using ‘ideas’ it is possible to add information regarding these countries, and this information is retrieved from Microsoft Search. Also information regarding people in Outlook, where additional information can be retrieved from LinkedIn. Very useful usage of cloud technology in day to day applications.

Technical keynotes are more like what the various applications and services are doing and how these can take advantage of the cloud. I’m more in the Workplace and Microsoft 365 arena, so two keynotes about transforming your workplace to Microsoft 365 and transforming collaboration and communications with Microsoft 365. Amazing to see how Microsoft Teams is taking a big role these days. In the Microsoft cloud, Microsoft Teams will take over from Skype for Business Online. Starting October 1st, new smaller tenants will not get Skype for Business Online, but only Microsoft Teams. Skype for Business Online will continue to be available for existing tenants, but customers are encouraged to move from Skype for Business Online to Microsoft Teams.

You might have seen the following PowerPoint slide before, it’s about the Microsoft teamwork vision, the Inner Loop with people you work with often and the Outer Look with people you with cross organizations.


For the Outlook Loop Yammer is still being used, and I’m a bit surprised with that. Personally I expected Yammer to go away now that Microsoft Teams is around. And there’s still development going on, there’s a Yammer tab in Teams, and also integration of various Office 365 services like Planner or Streams or getting into Yammer.

Also the new Virtual Desktop was showed, where a Windows 10 desktop is hosted in Microsoft Azure, available anytime and for any device, and deployed in a couple of minutes. Oh, and autopilot, where a desktop is automatically installed with Windows 10 from Microsoft 365, Office Click-2-Run and your (personal) data in OneDrive for Business. Very impressive and you’ll see more of this popping up in (larger) organizations the upcoming years.

More information regarding the technical sessions are to follow soon. After all, I’m a technical consultant and hope to get a lot of technical information here at Ignite. Stay tuned….

Outlook 2010 disconnected with TLS 1.2

When my normal laptop died last week I had to use an older laptop, and this laptop had Windows 7 and Outlook 2010 installed, one of my personal favorite Outlook clients.

However, Outlook 2010 did work correctly with Mailboxen in Exchange Online, but Outlook refused to work with Mailboxen on my on-premises Exchange 2016 server. The only thing I saw in the lower right corner was “Disconnected” and every now and then Outlook tried to connect, but no luck.


When checking the Connection Status in Outlook I could see that the directory connection was established, but the Exchange Connections disconnected. The Exchange sever and mailbox were ok since I was able to connect using OWA and my Outlook for iPhone client.


The Test Email AutoConfiguration option in Outlook wasn’t very helpful either, it just showed that it was unable to determine the settings and none of the Autodiscover options worked.



Using the Internet Explorer browser I tried to access my Autodiscover.exchangelabs.nl site, and after a logon prompt I got the famous ErrorCode 600. This is good, so I know my Autodiscover is at least listening properly.


The Exchange Remote Connectivity Analyzer (http://aka.ms/exrca) showed that there was an issue with my SSL certificate:


The SSL certificate however is a valid Digicert UC certificate and there’s nothing wrong with this certificate. IE does use it, and the Digicert help utility doesn’t show anything strange either.


Oh, and my Outlook 2016 running on another computer did work correctly, so there should be a configuration error impacting Outlook 2010 only.

Then I realized that a week before I accidentally ruined the Virtual Service on my Kemp Load Balancer and I quickly created a new Virtual Service using the correct template. As a security measure I only selected TLS 1.2 on the SSL properties of the Virtual Service.


After enabling TLS 1.0 on the Virtual Service, Outlook 2010 started to work correctly again and (to my surprise) so did the Remote Connectivity Analyzer.



So, obviously TLS 1.0 was the culprit here and by enabling TLS 1.0 Outlook 2010 started to work again.

When checking my laptop using the SSLLABS website (https://www.ssllabs.com/ssltest/viewMyClient.html), all looks fine and TLS 1.2 is fully supported by my Windows 7 client:


It must be something with Outlook 2010 and TLS1.2. I found an interesting article on Technet regarding enabling of TLS 1.1 and TLS 1.2. Create a DWORD value DefaultSecureProtocols in the registry under the following keys:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings\WinHttp

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings\WinHttp

Its value should be one of the following:

For only TLS 1.1 and 1.2: A00 (hexadecimal)

For TLS 1.0, 1.1, and 1.2: A80 (hexadecimal)


Also, create the following DWORD values DisabledByDefault in the following locations and assign it the value of ‘0’:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SecurityProviders\SCHANNEL\Protocols\TLS 1.1\Client

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SecurityProviders\SCHANNEL\Protocols\TLS 1.2\Client


When needed create the necessary subkeys under the \Protocols key.

Now your Windows 7 and Outlook 2010 will support a TLS 1.2 environment only (this is also true for Windows 8 BTW).


Outlook 2010 does not support TLS 1.2 out of the box. This can be an issue if you or your network department starts implementing a TLS 1.2 environment only. You have to enable TLS 1.2 on the workstation by setting a registry key. After this it works fine.

Next October Microsoft will stop support for TLS 1.0 and TLS 1.1. This means that if you run into an issue caused by TLS 1.0 or TLS 1.1 it won’t be fixed. Please note that Microsoft will continue to accept TLS 1.0 and TLS 1.1 connection from clients, it just won’t be supported anymore.

Microsoft is working on a plan to disable TLS 1.0 and TLS 1.1 but that won’t happen anytime soon. When this is going to happen, Microsoft will give notification 6 months in advance of disabling TLS 1.0 and TLS 1.1.

More information





Last edited on October 26, 2018.