Set up Safe Attachments policies in Microsoft Defender for Office 365

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Applies to

Important

This article is intended for business customers who have Microsoft Defender for Office 365. If you're a home user looking for information about attachment scanning in Outlook, see Advanced Outlook.com security.

Safe Attachments is a feature in Microsoft Defender for Office 365 that uses a virtual environment to check attachments in inbound email messages after they've been scanned by anti-malware protection in Exchange Online Protection (EOP), but before delivery to recipients. For more information, see Safe Attachments in Microsoft Defender for Office 365.

Although there's no default Safe Attachments policy, the Built-in protection preset security policy provides Safe Attachments protection to all recipients (users who aren't defined in custom Safe Attachments policies). For more information, see Preset security policies in EOP and Microsoft Defender for Office 365. You can also use the procedures in this article to create Safe Attachments policies that apply to specific users, group, or domains.

You can configure Safe Attachments policies in the Microsoft 365 Defender portal or in PowerShell (Exchange Online PowerShell for eligible Microsoft 365 organizations with mailboxes in Exchange Online; standalone EOP PowerShell for organizations without Exchange Online mailboxes, but with Defender for Office 365 add-on subscriptions).

The basic elements of a Safe Attachments policy are:

  • The safe attachment policy: Specifies the actions for unknown malware detections, whether to send messages with malware attachments to a specified email address, and whether to deliver messages if Safe Attachments scanning can't complete.
  • The safe attachment rule: Specifies the priority and recipient filters (who the policy applies to).

The difference between these two elements isn't obvious when you manage Safe Attachments policies in the Microsoft 365 Defender portal:

  • When you create a Safe Attachments policy, you're actually creating a safe attachment rule and the associated safe attachment policy at the same time using the same name for both.
  • When you modify a Safe Attachments policy, settings related to the name, priority, enabled or disabled, and recipient filters modify the safe attachment rule. All other settings modify the associated safe attachment policy.
  • When you remove a Safe Attachments policy, the safe attachment rule and the associated safe attachment policy are removed.

In Exchange Online PowerShell or standalone EOP PowerShell, you manage the policy and the rule separately. For more information, see the Use Exchange Online PowerShell or standalone EOP PowerShell to configure Safe Attachments policies section later in this article.

Note

In the global settings area of Safe Attachments settings, you configure features that are not dependent on Safe Attachments policies. For instructions see Turn on Safe Attachments for SharePoint, OneDrive, and Microsoft Teams and Safe Documents in Microsoft 365 E5.

What do you need to know before you begin?

  • You open the Microsoft 365 Defender portal at https://security.microsoft.com. To go directly to the Safe Attachments page, use https://security.microsoft.com/safeattachmentv2.

  • To connect to Exchange Online PowerShell, see Connect to Exchange Online PowerShell. To connect to standalone EOP PowerShell, see Connect to Exchange Online Protection PowerShell.

  • You need permissions before you can do the procedures in this article:

    • To create, modify, and delete Safe Attachments policies, you need to be a member of the Organization Management or Security Administrator role groups in the Microsoft 365 Defender portal and a member of the Organization Management role group in Exchange Online.
    • For read-only access to Safe Attachments policies, you need to be a member of the Global Reader or Security Reader role groups in the Microsoft 365 Defender portal.

    For more information, see Permissions in the Microsoft 365 Defender portal and Permissions in Exchange Online.

    Notes:

    • Adding users to the corresponding Azure Active Directory role in the Microsoft 365 admin center gives users the required permissions in the Microsoft 365 Defender portal and permissions for other features in Microsoft 365. For more information, see About admin roles.
    • The View-Only Organization Management role group in Exchange Online also gives read-only access to the feature.
  • For our recommended settings for Safe Attachments policies, see Safe Attachments settings.

  • Allow up to 30 minutes for a new or updated policy to be applied.

Use the Microsoft 365 Defender portal to create Safe Attachments policies

Creating a custom Safe Attachments policy in the Microsoft 365 Defender portal creates the safe attachment rule and the associated safe attachment policy at the same time using the same name for both.

  1. In the Microsoft 365 Defender portal at https://security.microsoft.com, go to Email & Collaboration > Policies & Rules > Threat policies > Safe Attachments in the Policies section. To go directly to the Safe Attachments page, use https://security.microsoft.com/safeattachmentv2.

  2. On the Safe Attachments page, click Create icon. Create.

  3. The policy wizard opens. On the Name your policy page, configure the following settings:

    • Name: Enter a unique, descriptive name for the policy.
    • Description: Enter an optional description for the policy.

    When you're finished, click Next.

  4. On the Users and domains page that appears, identify the internal recipients that the policy applies to (recipient conditions):

    • Users: The specified mailboxes, mail users, or mail contacts.
    • Groups:
      • Members of the specified distribution groups or mail-enabled security groups.
      • The specified Microsoft 365 Groups.
    • Domains: All recipients in the specified accepted domains in your organization.

    Click in the appropriate box, start typing a value, and select the value that you want from the results. Repeat this process as many times as necessary. To remove an existing value, click remove Remove icon. next to the value.

    For users or groups, you can use most identifiers (name, display name, alias, email address, account name, etc.), but the corresponding display name is shown in the results. For users, enter an asterisk (*) by itself to see all available values.

    Multiple values in the same condition use OR logic (for example, <recipient1> or <recipient2>). Different conditions use AND logic (for example, <recipient1> and <member of group 1>).

    • Exclude these users, groups, and domains: To add exceptions for the internal recipients that the policy applies to (recipient exceptions), select this option and configure the exceptions. The settings and behavior are exactly like the conditions.

    Important

    Multiple different conditions or exceptions are not additive; they're inclusive. The policy is applied only to those recipients that match all of the specified recipient filters. For example, you configure a recipient filter condition in the policy with the following values:

    • The recipient is: romain@contoso.com
    • The recipient is a member of: Executives

    The policy is applied to romain@contoso.com only if he's also a member of the Executives groups. If he's not a member of the group, then the policy is not applied to him.

    Likewise, if you use the same recipient filter as an exception to the policy, the policy is not applied to romain@contoso.com only if he's also a member of the Executives groups. If he's not a member of the group, then the policy still applies to him.

    When you're finished, click Next.

  5. On the Settings page, configure the following settings:

    • Safe Attachments unknown malware response: Select one of the following values:

      • Off: Typically, we don't recommend this value.
      • Monitor
      • Block: This is the default value, and the recommended value in Standard and Strict preset security policies.
      • Replace
      • Dynamic Delivery (Preview feature)

      These values are explained in Safe Attachments policy settings.

    • Quarantine policy: Select the quarantine policy that applies to messages that are quarantined by Safe Attachments (Block, Replace, or Dynamic Delivery). Quarantine policies define what users are able to do to quarantined messages, and whether users receive quarantine notifications. For more information, see Quarantine policies.

      A blank value means the default quarantine policy is used (AdminOnlyAccessPolicy for email detections by Safe Attachments). When you later edit the Safe Attachments policy or view the settings, the default quarantine policy name is shown.

    • Redirect messages with detected attachments: If you select Enable redirect, you can specify an email address in the Send messages that contain blocked, monitored, or replaced attachments to the specified email address box to send messages that contain malware attachments for analysis and investigation.

      The recommendation for Standard and Strict policy settings is to enable redirection. For more information, see Safe Attachments settings.

    • Apply the Safe Attachments detection response if scanning can't complete (timeout or errors): The action specified by Safe Attachments unknown malware response is taken on messages even when Safe Attachments scanning can't complete. If you selected this option, always select Enable redirect and specify an email address to send messages that contain malware attachments. Otherwise, messages might be lost.

    When you're finished, click Next.

  6. On the Review page that appears, review your settings. You can select Edit in each section to modify the settings within the section. Or you can click Back or select the specific page in the wizard.

    When you're finished, click Submit.

  7. On the confirmation page that appears, click Done.

Use the Microsoft 365 Defender portal to view Safe Attachments policies

  1. In the Microsoft 365 Defender portal at https://security.microsoft.com, go to Email & Collaboration > Policies & Rules > Threat policies > Safe Attachments in the Policies section. To go directly to the Safe Attachments page, use https://security.microsoft.com/safeattachmentv2.

  2. On the Safe Attachments page, the following properties are displayed in the list of policies:

    • Name
    • Status
    • Priority
  3. When you select a policy by clicking on the name, the policy settings are displayed in a flyout.

Use the Microsoft 365 Defender portal to modify Safe Attachments policies

  1. IIn the Microsoft 365 Defender portal at https://security.microsoft.com, go to Email & Collaboration > Policies & Rules > Threat policies > Safe Attachments in the Policies section. To go directly to the Safe Attachments page, use https://security.microsoft.com/safeattachmentv2.

  2. On the Safe Attachments page, select a policy from the list by clicking on the name.

  3. In the policy details flyout that appears, select Edit in each section to modify the settings within the section. For more information about the settings, see the Use the Microsoft 365 Defender portal to create Safe Attachments policies section earlier in this article.

To enable or disable a policy or set the policy priority order, see the following sections.

Enable or disable Safe Attachments policies

  1. In the Microsoft 365 Defender portal at https://security.microsoft.com, go to Email & Collaboration > Policies & Rules > Threat policies > Safe Attachments in the Policies section. To go directly to the Safe Attachments page, use https://security.microsoft.com/safeattachmentv2.

  2. On the Safe Attachments page, select a policy from the list by clicking on the name.

  3. At the top of the policy details flyout that appears, you'll see one of the following values:

    • Policy off: To turn on the policy, click Turn on icon. Turn on .
    • Policy on: To turn off the policy, click Turn off icon. Turn off.
  4. In the confirmation dialog that appears, click Turn on or Turn off.

  5. Click Close in the policy details flyout.

Back on the main policy page, the Status value of the policy will be On or Off.

Set the priority of Safe Attachments policies

By default, Safe Attachments policies are given a priority that's based on the order they were created in (newer policies are lower priority than older policies). A lower priority number indicates a higher priority for the policy (0 is the highest), and policies are processed in priority order (higher priority policies are processed before lower priority policies). No two policies can have the same priority, and policy processing stops after the first policy is applied.

For more information about the order of precedence and how multiple policies are evaluated and applied, see Order and precedence of email protection.

Safe Attachments policies are displayed in the order they're processed (the first policy has the Priority value 0).

Note: In the Microsoft 365 Defender portal, you can only change the priority of the Safe Attachments policy after you create it. In PowerShell, you can override the default priority when you create the safe attachment rule (which can affect the priority of existing rules).

To change the priority of a policy, you click Increase priority or Decrease priority in the properties of the policy (you can't directly modify the Priority number in the Microsoft 365 Defender portal). Changing the priority of a policy only makes sense if you have multiple policies.

  1. In the Microsoft 365 Defender portal, go to Email & Collaboration > Policies & Rules > Threat policies > Safe Attachments in the Policies section.

  2. On the Safe Attachments page, select a policy from the list by clicking on the name.

  3. At the top of the policy details flyout that appears, you'll see Increase priority or Decrease priority based on the current priority value and the number of policies:

    • The policy with the Priority value 0 has only the Decrease priority option available.
    • The policy with the lowest Priority value (for example, 3) has only the Increase priority option available.
    • If you have three or more policies, the policies between the highest and lowest priority values have both the Increase priority and Decrease priority options available.

    Click Increase priority icon. Increase priority or Decrease priority icon Decrease priority to change the Priority value.

  4. When you're finished, click Close in the policy details flyout.

Use the Microsoft 365 Defender portal to remove Safe Attachments policies

  1. In the Microsoft 365 Defender portal at https://security.microsoft.com, go to Email & Collaboration > Policies & Rules > Threat policies > Safe Attachments in the Policies section. To go directly to the Safe Attachments page, use https://security.microsoft.com/safeattachmentv2.

  2. On the Safe Attachments page, select a custom policy from the list by clicking on the name of the policy.

  3. At the top of the policy details flyout that appears, click More actions icon. More actions > Delete policy icon Delete policy.

  4. In the confirmation dialog that appears, click Yes.

Use Exchange Online PowerShell or standalone EOP PowerShell to configure Safe Attachments policies

As previously described, a Safe Attachments policy consists of a safe attachment policy and a safe attachment rule.

In PowerShell, the difference between safe attachment policies and safe attachment rules is apparent. You manage safe attachment policies by using the *-SafeAttachmentPolicy cmdlets, and you manage safe attachment rules by using the *-SafeAttachmentRule cmdlets.

  • In PowerShell, you create the safe attachment policy first, then you create the safe attachment rule that identifies the policy that the rule applies to.
  • In PowerShell, you modify the settings in the safe attachment policy and the safe attachment rule separately.
  • When you remove a safe attachment policy from PowerShell, the corresponding safe attachment rule isn't automatically removed, and vice versa.

Use PowerShell to create Safe Attachments policies

Creating a Safe Attachments policy in PowerShell is a two-step process:

  1. Create the safe attachment policy.
  2. Create the safe attachment rule that specifies the safe attachment policy that the rule applies to.

Notes:

  • You can create a new safe attachment rule and assign an existing, unassociated safe attachment policy to it. A safe attachment rule can't be associated with more than one safe attachment policy.

  • You can configure the following settings on new safe attachment policies in PowerShell that aren't available in the Microsoft 365 Defender portal until after you create the policy:

    • Create the new policy as disabled (Enabled $false on the New-SafeAttachmentRule cmdlet).
    • Set the priority of the policy during creation (Priority <Number>) on the New-SafeAttachmentRule cmdlet).
  • A new safe attachment policy that you create in PowerShell isn't visible in the Microsoft 365 Defender portal until you assign the policy to a safe attachment rule.

Step 1: Use PowerShell to create a safe attachment policy

To create a safe attachment policy, use this syntax:

New-SafeAttachmentPolicy -Name "<PolicyName>" -Enable $true [-AdminDisplayName "<Comments>"] [-Action <Allow | Block | Replace | DynamicDelivery>] [-Redirect <$true | $false>] [-RedirectAddress <SMTPEmailAddress>] [-ActionOnError <$true | $false>] [-QuarantineTag <QuarantinePolicyName>]

This example creates a safe attachment policy named Contoso All with the following values:

  • Block messages that are found to contain malware by Safe Documents scanning (we aren't using the Action parameter, and the default value is Block).
  • The default quarantine policy is used (AdminOnlyAccessPolicy), because we aren't using the QuarantineTag parameter.
  • Redirection is enabled, and messages that are found to contain malware are sent to sec-ops@contoso.com for analysis and investigation.
  • If Safe Attachments scanning isn't available or encounters errors, don't deliver the message (we aren't using the ActionOnError parameter, and the default value is $true).
New-SafeAttachmentPolicy -Name "Contoso All" -Enable $true -Redirect $true -RedirectAddress sec-ops@contoso.com

For detailed syntax and parameter information, see New-SafeAttachmentPolicy.

Note

For detailed instructions to specify the quarantine policy to use in a safe attachment policy, see Use PowerShell to specify the quarantine policy in Safe Attachments policies.

Step 2: Use PowerShell to create a safe attachment rule

To create a safe attachment rule, use this syntax:

New-SafeAttachmentRule -Name "<RuleName>" -SafeAttachmentPolicy "<PolicyName>" <Recipient filters> [<Recipient filter exceptions>] [-Comments "<OptionalComments>"] [-Enabled <$true | $false>]

This example creates a safe attachment rule named Contoso All with the following conditions:

  • The rule is associated with the safe attachment policy named Contoso All.
  • The rule applies to all recipients in the contoso.com domain.
  • Because we aren't using the Priority parameter, the default priority is used.
  • The rule is enabled (we aren't using the Enabled parameter, and the default value is $true).
New-SafeAttachmentRule -Name "Contoso All" -SafeAttachmentPolicy "Contoso All" -RecipientDomainIs contoso.com

For detailed syntax and parameter information, see New-SafeAttachmentRule.

Use PowerShell to view safe attachment policies

To view existing safe attachment policies, use the following syntax:

Get-SafeAttachmentPolicy [-Identity "<PolicyIdentity>"] [| <Format-Table | Format-List> <Property1,Property2,...>]

This example returns a summary list of all safe attachment policies.

Get-SafeAttachmentPolicy

This example returns detailed information for the safe attachment policy named Contoso Executives.

Get-SafeAttachmentPolicy -Identity "Contoso Executives" | Format-List

For detailed syntax and parameter information, see Get-SafeAttachmentPolicy.

Use PowerShell to view safe attachment rules

To view existing safe attachment rules, use the following syntax:

Get-SafeAttachmentRule [-Identity "<RuleIdentity>"] [-State <Enabled | Disabled>] [| <Format-Table | Format-List> <Property1,Property2,...>]

This example returns a summary list of all safe attachment rules.

Get-SafeAttachmentRule

To filter the list by enabled or disabled rules, run the following commands:

Get-SafeAttachmentRule -State Disabled
Get-SafeAttachmentRule -State Enabled

This example returns detailed information for the safe attachment rule named Contoso Executives.

Get-SafeAttachmentRule -Identity "Contoso Executives" | Format-List

For detailed syntax and parameter information, see Get-SafeAttachmentRule.

Use PowerShell to modify safe attachment policies

You can't rename a safe attachment policy in PowerShell (the Set-SafeAttachmentPolicy cmdlet has no Name parameter). When you rename a Safe Attachments policy in the Microsoft 365 Defender portal, you're only renaming the safe attachment rule.

Otherwise, the same settings are available when you create a safe attachment policy as described in the Step 1: Use PowerShell to create a safe attachment policy section earlier in this article.

To modify a safe attachment policy, use this syntax:

Set-SafeAttachmentPolicy -Identity "<PolicyName>" <Settings>

For detailed syntax and parameter information, see Set-SafeAttachmentPolicy.

Note

For detailed instructions to specify the quarantine policy to use in a safe attachment policy, see Use PowerShell to specify the quarantine policy in Safe Attachments policies.

Use PowerShell to modify safe attachment rules

The only setting that's not available when you modify a safe attachment rule in PowerShell is the Enabled parameter that allows you to create a disabled rule. To enable or disable existing safe attachment rules, see the next section.

Otherwise, the same settings are available when you create a rule as described in the Step 2: Use PowerShell to create a safe attachment rule section earlier in this article.

To modify a safe attachment rule, use this syntax:

Set-SafeAttachmentRule -Identity "<RuleName>" <Settings>

For detailed syntax and parameter information, see Set-SafeAttachmentRule.

Use PowerShell to enable or disable safe attachment rules

Enabling or disabling a safe attachment rule in PowerShell enables or disables the whole Safe Attachments policy (the safe attachment rule and the assigned safe attachment policy).

To enable or disable a safe attachment rule in PowerShell, use this syntax:

<Enable-SafeAttachmentRule | Disable-SafeAttachmentRule> -Identity "<RuleName>"

This example disables the safe attachment rule named Marketing Department.

Disable-SafeAttachmentRule -Identity "Marketing Department"

This example enables same rule.

Enable-SafeAttachmentRule -Identity "Marketing Department"

For detailed syntax and parameter information, see Enable-SafeAttachmentRule and Disable-SafeAttachmentRule.

Use PowerShell to set the priority of safe attachment rules

The highest priority value you can set on a rule is 0. The lowest value you can set depends on the number of rules. For example, if you have five rules, you can use the priority values 0 through 4. Changing the priority of an existing rule can have a cascading effect on other rules. For example, if you have five custom rules (priorities 0 through 4), and you change the priority of a rule to 2, the existing rule with priority 2 is changed to priority 3, and the rule with priority 3 is changed to priority 4.

To set the priority of a safe attachment rule in PowerShell, use the following syntax:

Set-SafeAttachmentRule -Identity "<RuleName>" -Priority <Number>

This example sets the priority of the rule named Marketing Department to 2. All existing rules that have a priority less than or equal to 2 are decreased by 1 (their priority numbers are increased by 1).

Set-SafeAttachmentRule -Identity "Marketing Department" -Priority 2

Note: To set the priority of a new rule when you create it, use the Priority parameter on the New-SafeAttachmentRule cmdlet instead.

For detailed syntax and parameter information, see Set-SafeAttachmentRule.

Use PowerShell to remove safe attachment policies

When you use PowerShell to remove a safe attachment policy, the corresponding safe attachment rule isn't removed.

To remove a safe attachment policy in PowerShell, use this syntax:

Remove-SafeAttachmentPolicy -Identity "<PolicyName>"

This example removes the safe attachment policy named Marketing Department.

Remove-SafeAttachmentPolicy -Identity "Marketing Department"

For detailed syntax and parameter information, see Remove-SafeAttachmentPolicy.

Use PowerShell to remove safe attachment rules

When you use PowerShell to remove a safe attachment rule, the corresponding safe attachment policy isn't removed.

To remove a safe attachment rule in PowerShell, use this syntax:

Remove-SafeAttachmentRule -Identity "<PolicyName>"

This example removes the safe attachment rule named Marketing Department.

Remove-SafeAttachmentRule -Identity "Marketing Department"

For detailed syntax and parameter information, see Remove-SafeAttachmentRule.

How do you know these procedures worked?

To verify that you've successfully created, modified, or removed Safe Attachments policies, do any of the following steps:

  • On the Safe Attachments page in the Microsoft 365 Defender portal at https://security.microsoft.com/safeattachmentv2, verify the list of policies, their Status values, and their Priority values. To view more details, select the policy from the list by clicking on the name, and view the details in the fly out.

  • In Exchange Online PowerShell or Exchange Online Protection PowerShell, replace <Name> with the name of the policy or rule, run the following command, and verify the settings:

    Get-SafeAttachmentPolicy -Identity "<Name>" | Format-List
    
    Get-SafeAttachmentRule -Identity "<Name>" | Format-List
    

To verify that Safe Attachments is scanning messages, check the available Defender for Office 365 reports. For more information, see View reports for Defender for Office 365 and Use Explorer in the Microsoft 365 Defender portal.