Friday, October 2, 2015

What does the new 'Phishing scam' button in Outlook on the web do?

The website formerly known as OWA

In case you misses it, Microsoft recently rebranded Outlook Web App (OWA) to Outlook on the web. I'm sure the marketing people had very good reasons to do so, but the OWA acronym has become a household name since it was introduced in Exchange 5.0. So technically speaking we should use the term Outlook on the web when discussing OWA on Exchange 2016 or in Exchange Online however I will use OWA a lot for probably a very long time. Enough about branding, let's discuss the actual topic.

The new Outlook on the web

Over the past couple of months Microsoft rolled out an updated version of OWA/Outlook on the web to all Office 365 tenants. The new features include Pin, Sweep and the Undo button:cropped and highlighted-New features coming to Outlook on the web 1

One feature that was added recently, in fact it's even absent from the above screenshot Microsoft used in their announcement, is the new Phishing scam action. This can be found in the actions drop-down list next to Reply all in the reading pane and under Junk in the top actions bar:

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The question of course is what exactly happens when you apply this action to your message. At the time of writing there was no public documentation for Exchange or Exchange Online that describes the behavior of this action. However, the button was implemented in the consumer service Outlook.com earlier and is mentioned in the article Email and web scams: How to help protect yourself.

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So the Phishing scam action deletes the item and marks the sender as unsafe, just as the Junk action, but it reports the message to Microsoft too. They then use the reported phishing scam emails to improve their filtering techniques to prevent them from arriving in your user's Inbox.

Should I use it?

Definitely encourage your users to use the Phishing scam action on phishing emails, this helps Microsoft fight these scams and make your user's Inbox a safer place. Technology can certainly help here, but in the end user education is the most important and effective way to reduce the risks of being scammed.

Just Office 365?

Interestingly enough the new feature is not in the on-premises Exchange 2016 which was just released this week. From an architectural perspective I see no reason why Microsoft shouldn’t implement the feature in the on-premises product too. After all this feature is nothing more than a slightly adapted version of the Junk feature that is already on-premises Exchange.

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My expectation is that we see the Phishing scam action appear in one of the next Cumulative Updates for Exchange 2016. The same applies to Outlook 2006, I expect the same feature to be added in an upcoming update too.

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