Windows Defender Security Center (Microsoft Defender for Business) Uncovered

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Cyber Security is the top concern for CIOs and other IT decision-makers at any business today.

According to a report by Daily Host News, 67% of small to midsized businesses (SMBs) are more concerned about IT security in 2022-23. The top three cyber security concerns of SMBs at this time are ransomware (81%), phishing (69%), and malware (38%). 60% of SMBs experienced at least one cyberattack in 2021, and 18% experienced six or more.

Because most of these cyberattacks are perpetrated against network endpoints—the laptops, smartphones, tablets, and other internet-connected devices we use at work every day—it is crucial for businesses to provide endpoint protection. That's why so many IT leaders are considering endpoint detection and response systems to protect against ransomware and other sophisticated cyber threats.

Endpoint protection is available in the form of Microsoft Defender for Business for those businesses invested in the Microsoft ecosystem. In this blog post, we will trace the history of this cyber security solution, outline its benefits, and help you determine if Microsoft Defender for Business is right for you.

Understanding Windows Defender Security Center for Business (Now Called Microsoft Defender)

Microsoft Defender Security Center was the portal where users could access Microsoft Defender for Endpoint capabilities, such as monitoring and responding to Windows Defender Security Center warning alerts, managing device security configurations, and taking whatever Windows Defender Security Center actions recommended at the time. It was built-in to Windows and included an antivirus program called Microsoft Defender Antivirus.

In early versions of Windows 10, Windows Security was called Windows Defender Security Center.

However, as Microsoft expanded its security offerings to cover more domains and scenarios, such as email, collaboration, identity, cloud, and apps, it became clear that a unified and integrated approach was needed to provide comprehensive protection, detection, investigation, and response across the entire Microsoft 365 environment. That's why Microsoft Security Center was rebranded as Microsoft Defender for Cloud.

Microsoft Defender for Business is a cyber security solution to help small and medium-sized businesses (up to 300 employees) keep their devices and servers secure from online threats such as ransomware and malware. It offers comprehensive device and server security with endpoint detection and response, antivirus/antimalware features, automated cyber attack investigation and remediation, and the ability to track and fix common software vulnerabilities. It is a cost-effective, easy-to-use solution that provides enterprise-grade protection for your laptops, desktops, and mobile devices.

Defender for Business is available in two Microsoft licensing options:

  1. As a standalone subscription service
  2. As the key cyber security component of Microsoft 365 Business Premium

Both options provide IT teams with accurate, streamlined, and actionable recommendations for the cyber security of your endpoints. One of the key value propositions of Microsoft Defender for Business is that lean IT teams in the SMB space do not require specialized knowledge in cyber security. That's because Defender for Business has a wizard-driven configuration scheme with proven default security policies designed to help protect a company's devices against increasingly advanced threats.

How Microsoft Defender for Business Can Help SMBs Secure Their Devices and Data

How Microsoft Defender for Business Can Help SMBs Secure Their Devices and Data

Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) face many challenges in today's digital world. They must protect their devices and data from cyberattacks, such as ransomware, malware, phishing, and other threats. They must also comply with various regulations and standards, such as GDPR, PCI DSS, HIPAA, and others. However, they often lack the resources, expertise, and budget to implement and manage complex security solutions.

That's why Microsoft Defender for Business is ideal for SMBs who want to achieve enterprise-grade security with an easy-to-use and cost-effective solution. It leverages the power of Microsoft's security cloud to provide comprehensive protection, detection, investigation, and response capabilities across your Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android devices.

With Microsoft Defender for Business, you can:

  • Identify vulnerabilities and misconfigurations in your devices and apps with threat and vulnerability management. You can also prioritize and remediate them with built-in or custom workflows.
  • Protect your devices from online threats with next-generation antivirus protection. You can also configure various settings and policies to enhance your devices’ security posture.
  • Detect and respond to advanced attacks with endpoint detection and response. You can also use automated investigation and response to reduce manual tasks and remediate threats faster.
  • Recover from incidents with device isolation, file recovery, and device wipe capabilities. You can also use evaluation and tutorials to learn how to use Microsoft Defender for Business features and capabilities.

Microsoft Defender for Business is available as a standalone subscription or as part of Microsoft 365 Business Premium, a unified solution that brings together best-in-class Microsoft Office productivity apps, powerful cloud services, and comprehensive security. You can also integrate Microsoft Defender for Business with certain third-party security solutions and services through partners and application programming interfaces (APIs).

Microsoft Defender for Business is designed to help you achieve more with less complexity and effort. It simplifies your security operations by providing a single pane of glass for all your endpoint security needs. It also empowers you to proactively defend against threats by leveraging the intelligence and automation of Microsoft's security cloud.

How Microsoft Defender for Business Is an Endpoint Security Solution

Consider this: everything from the rack-mounted router locked away in a room at your office to the smartphone you're holding in your hand is connected to the internet. Each of those network "endpoints" are a potential attack surface from which malicious hackers can launch their cyberattacks. Endpoint protection for an organization requires IT to deploy hardware and software to lessen those cyberattack surfaces.

Microsoft Defender for Business has endpoint security features, such as anti-malware capabilities that act as a digital firewall against outside hack attacks. In addition, Microsoft Defender for Business provides centralized management for IT administrators to view and control the data flow, updates, authentication, and policies of endpoints on a corporate network. This visibility and control extend the ability to control what applications can be installed on both corporate-owned endpoints (e.g., workstations and laptops paid for and provided to employees) and endpoints protected under a bring your own device (BYOD) policy such as an employee-owned smartphone that accesses work emails and documents stored in the cloud. Microsoft Defender for Endpoint can apply enterprise-grade encryption on data at rest and in transit to and from endpoints to prevent data loss.

While no endpoint security solution can provide an organization with 100% protection, the endpoint security in Defender for Business leverages the power of Microsoft's over $1 billion annual investment in cyber security research and development.

Delivered from Microsoft's secure cloud infrastructure and enhanced by artificial intelligence, the endpoint security features in Microsoft Defender for Business can automatically detect and respond to many cyber security threats almost instantly.

This automation reduces some of the burden on smaller IT organizations.

Comparing Microsoft Defender for Business and Defender for Endpoint

Some IT leaders will notice that Microsoft appears to have two distinct "Defender" products—one of them is called "Defender for Endpoint." Even more confusingly, the Defender for Endpoint offer is split into two separate "P1" and "P2" subsets, each with their own features and benefits. The difference between Microsoft Defender for Business and Microsoft Defender for Endpoint is that they are designed for different types of organizations and offer different levels of capabilities and features.

While Microsoft Defender for Business is made specifically for SMBs with 300 employees or fewer, Microsoft Defender for Endpoint is an enterprise endpoint security platform that helps organizations prevent, detect, investigate, and respond to advanced threats across their devices and network. It leverages the power of Microsoft's security cloud to provide comprehensive protection, detection, investigation, and response capabilities across Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and Linux devices. Like its Defender for Business sibling, Defender for Endpoint also leverages the power of Microsoft's globally-spanning cloud infrastructure, artificial intelligence, and machine learning features to deliver automated and coordinated defenses against sophisticated cyberattacks.

Microsoft Defender for Business and Defender for Endpoint P2 share many capabilities, but they have some differences. Differences between Microsoft Defender for Business and Defender for Endpoint P2 include:

  • Defender for Business does not include the advanced hunting feature of Endpoint P2. The advanced hunting feature of Endpoint P2 provides IT admins with a query-based threat-hunting tool that enables forensic cyber security analysis of up to 30 days of raw data captured on a corporate network. The Business license includes no threat-hunting capabilities at all, which in some cases, could potentially push a security-minded IT leader to choose the Endpoint P2 if that's a business-critical feature.
  • Configuring the Endpoint agent on devices is simplified in Defender for Business. The advantage of this simplified configuration results in greatly reduced time for smaller IT organizations to effectively deploy cyber security protection to employee endpoints. However, IT leaders lose the granularity of deployment options available to the enterprise-focused Endpoint P2 version.
  • Defender for Endpoint supports Linux devices often used in enterprise IT. Of course, Linux is also used in the SMB IT space, but Defender for Business only supports Microsoft Windows, Apple macOS/iOS, and Google Android devices.
  • Defender for Endpoint can deliver more vulnerability management capabilities with the Microsoft Defender Vulnerability Management add-on. Targeted at the enterprise IT organization, the vulnerability management features available in Endpoint P2 are often a must-have for companies that are highly regulated and closely watched by full-time compliance employees. Unfortunately, vulnerability management extensions are not an option for Defender for Business license holders.
  • Defender for Endpoint provides many features and options for integration with third-party security solutions and services through partners and APIs compared to the Business license.

Choosing between Microsoft Defender for Business or Defender for Endpoint P2 depends on if your organization needs a highly-customized solution at scale.

If you have 300 or fewer employees, a lean IT organization, and are in the market for an endpoint security solution, then you most likely will find that Microsoft Defender for Business meets and exceeds your needs. If you have 300 or fewer employees but have a full-time IT security staff that needs deep granularity and complete control over every aspect of their endpoint deployments, then you will probably want to consider Endpoint P2 instead.

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Key Features of Microsoft Defender for Business

Key Features of Microsoft Defender for Business

For IT decision-makers at most SMBs, a modern antivirus solution with malware protection is table stakes. Microsoft Defender for Business raises any organization's cyber security game by adding a couple of key features:

  1. Next-generation protection from an endpoint detection and response (EDR) system. Using a homegrown Microsoft endpoint protection platform that can be installed on Windows 10 and Windows 11 devices, the EDR system captures "signals" from deep inside the operating system, the hardware it runs on, and network traffic over time to build a behavioral profile of users on a corporate network. The EDR system can use behavior monitoring to automatically find and remediate cyber security threats by storing and correlating this data.

    The power of behavioral monitoring to help block and contain in Microsoft Defender—even when the threat has started execution of their nefarious attack—is nothing new. Credit card companies have used behavioral blocking and containment for years. For example, say you traveled unexpectedly to a city you have never visited that is thousands of miles from your home because your mother was on vacation and broke her ankle while on vacation. You buy medicine and comfort food for your mother using your credit card from a convenience store you have never visited. Your credit card company will immediately call or text you to ask if the medicine and comfort food charge is legitimate. Why? Because their systems are designed with behavioral monitoring. To their systems, your behavior of buying items in a faraway city was outside of all observable norms.

    The behavioral monitoring capabilities of Microsoft Defender's EDR work in a similar way, coordinating with multiple components and features on your network to stop attacks immediately and prevent attacks from progressing. The EDR feature detects not only suspicious behavior but the injection of malicious code, fileless and in-memory attacks, and more on a device used by criminal hackers to take control of employee endpoints. So, if a sales employee living in Seattle who only logs onto the corporate network between 8 AM and 6 PM Pacific Time suddenly logs into the financial team's SharePoint site from an IP address in Madagascar, the EDR will flag that as odd behavior, and stop it immediately.

  2. Simplified client configuration, with devices configured in a few simple steps with recommended security policies activated immediately. For IT organizations with limited time and resources, the ability to quickly deploy Microsoft Defender to all clients in an efficient and consistent way is extremely valuable.

Setup and Configuration of Microsoft Defender for Business

Speaking of deploying, to set up and configure Microsoft Defender for Business, you can follow these steps:

  1. Add users and assign Defender for Business licenses. You can do this in the Microsoft 365 admin center. Note that only global administrators can perform this task. See Add users and assign licenses in Microsoft Defender for Business for more information.
  2. Visit the Microsoft 365 Defender portal. This is where you will manage your security capabilities, view alerts, and take any needed actions on detected threats. You will also see the setup wizard that will guide you through the next steps.
  3. Use the setup wizard or complete the setup process manually. The setup wizard helps grant access to your security team, set up email notifications, onboard your company's Windows 10 and 11 devices, and then automatically apply the default security settings to those devices. Using the setup wizard is recommended, but you can always complete the setup and configuration process independently. See Set up and configure Microsoft Defender for Business for more details.

The Pros and Cons of Microsoft Defender for Business Setup Options

An automated setup wizard isn't always the best choice for an IT professional compared to the granular features available in a manual setup option. Here are the pros and cons of automated versus manual setup in Microsoft Defender for Business:

Setup option



Setup wizard

Saves time and effort

Can only be used once

Manual setup

Allows more customization

Requires more effort and steps

Microsoft Defender Standalone Versus Defender in Microsoft 365 Business Premium

Microsoft Defender Standalone Versus Defender in Microsoft 365 Business Premium

As previously stated, Microsoft Defender for Business is available as either a standalone plan or as part of Microsoft 365 Business Premium. Microsoft 365 Business Premium is a bundle of productivity and security features that includes Microsoft Defender for Business and other capabilities such as identity management, information protection, device management, and cloud app security.

The following table summarizes the main differences between Microsoft Defender for Business standalone and Microsoft Defender provided in a Microsoft 365 Business Premium subscription:

Feature or Capability

Microsoft Defender for Business standalone

Microsoft Defender provided in a Microsoft 365 Business Premium subscription

Next-generation protection (combining antimalware protection on devices with cloud app protection)



Endpoint detection and response (enabling both automated behavior-based detection and manual response actions)



Threat & vulnerability management (identify and fix vulnerabilities on devices)



Attack surface reduction (rule-based network protection, firewalls, etc.)



Web content filtering (tracks and blocks employee access to websites based on content categories)



Mobile threat defense (OS-level threat and vulnerability management, web protection, and app security for iOS and Android devices)



Identity management (using either Azure Entra ID Free or Premium Plan 1)



Information protection (encrypt, label, and protect sensitive data)



Device management (Intune for device configuration, app deployment, and compliance policies)



Cloud app security (discover and block employee use of unsanctioned cloud-based apps)



As you can see, Microsoft Defender for Business standalone provides advanced security protection for your devices, while the Microsoft Defender solution provided in a Microsoft 365 Business Premium subscription provides more cyber security and productivity capabilities.

Why You Should Partner With Amaxra for Your Microsoft Defender for Business Solution

Amaxra is a Gold-level Microsoft Partner with a thriving cyber security practice. We have the expertise, experience, and resources to help you deploy, configure, and manage Microsoft Defender for Business for your SMB.

Here are some benefits of choosing Amaxra as your partner for Microsoft Defender for Business:

  • We offer a free consultation to assess your current security posture and recommend the best plan for your business. We can help you choose between the standalone version of Microsoft Defender for Business or the integrated version that comes with Microsoft 365 Business Premium. We can also help you compare the features and pricing of different plans and options.
  • We deliver ongoing management and support services that include monitoring your security dashboards, responding to alerts, investigating and remediating incidents, updating policies and settings, providing reports and insights, and answering any questions or issues that may arise. We use cloud-based tools that enable us to manage your security remotely and efficiently.
  • We offer additional cyber-security services that complement Microsoft Defender for Business, such as identity management, information protection, device management, cloud app security, web content filtering, mobile threat defense, and more. We can help you create a comprehensive and holistic security strategy that covers all aspects of your IT environment.

With Amaxra as your partner, you can rest assured that the best-in-class security solution protects your SMB from Microsoft. You can focus on your core business objectives while we care for your cyber-security needs.

If you are interested in learning more about Microsoft Defender for Business and how Amaxra can help you deploy it for your SMB, please contact us today. We would love to hear from you and discuss how we can secure your IT environment together.

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