Configuring external email forwarding in Office 365

External forwarding is controlled by the outbound anti-spam policy and scoped to users based on the configured setting. Currently 3 settings are supported:

  • Automatic – In this mode the system is responsible for deciding if a forwarded message is allowed or not. This is the default mode and in this mode the system will block automatic external forwarding.

  • On – Automatic external forwarding is allowed and not restricted.

  • Off – Automatic external forwarding is disabled and will result in a Non-delivery report (NDR) to the end user.

See Configure outbound spam filtering in EOP for more information on how to configure these settings.

Controlling external email forwarding

As an admin of an organization you may have company requirements to restrict or control who is able to automatically forward emails using inbox rules, or SMTP forwarding, outside of the organization. Email forwarding can be a useful feature, but can also pose a risk through the potential disclosure of information, even by providing information to attackers that can be leveraged to attack the organization or its partners.

Office 365 doesn't allow automatic external forwarding by either Inbox rules or mail box configuration, which provides a secure default policy. However, the admin can modify these settings for all, or some, users in the organization. Forwarding messages between internal users isn't affected by such a modification.


Disabling automatic forwarding to external addresses in Office 365 is being rolled out in phases with details communicated via Message Center posts. To help administrators prepare for these changes have them modify policies ahead of time to ensure there is no disruption to their users.

More information about users that are using automatic forwarding (inbox rules or SMTP forwarding) in your organization can be found in the auto-forwarded messages report.

The blocked email forwarding message

When a message is detected as automatically forwarded and the organizational policy blocks that activity a Non-delivery report (NDR) will be generated back to the end user. The report will indicate the message was not delivered. The NDR will have the following format:

5.7.520 Access Denied – Your administrator has disabled external forwarding – AS(XXXX)