Microsoft Defender for Microsoft 365 vs. Microsoft Defender for Endpoint: What Is the Difference?

Microsoft Defender for Microsoft 365 vs. Microsoft Defender for Endpoint: What Is the Difference?

Microsoft’s security stack is constantly evolving to allow organizations to remain agile and competitive while keeping their data, tools and resources accessible to employees. While these new tools are helping organizations regain control of their cyber defense in today’s ever-evolving threat landscape, the breadth of options coupled with the frequency in which new capabilities are introduced has made it difficult to know what tools to use and when to use them.

To complicate matters even more, there are currently multiple Microsoft products that offer threat protection. Two of these products are referred to as Microsoft Defender for Office 365 and Microsoft Defender for Endpoint. In an effort to help clear up some of the confusion, take a closer look at what they have to offer and when to use them.

Overview of These Threat Protection Options

Microsoft Defender for Office 365 and Microsoft Defender for Endpoint are advanced options for protecting businesses against threats. While both offer threat protection, they cater to different areas of your business. Microsoft Defender for Office 365 is a cloud-based product offering protection against email threats and safeguarding files stored in the cloud. Microsoft Defender for Endpoint provides cybersecurity against malware, spyware and other malicious software. It also includes everything from preventive protection to response capabilities. 

Knowing the differences and capabilities of each option gives you the insight necessary to make informed decisions about the protection you choose for your business.

What Is Microsoft Defender for Office 365?

Microsoft Defender for Office 365, previously known as Office 365 ATP, protects organizations against threats posed by email messages, web addresses and other collaboration tools. It checks to see if email attachments are malicious and triggers various actions to protect the organization if needed. 

This level of protection can be extended to SharePoint, OneDrive and Teams by detecting and blocking files identified as malicious in sites and document libraries. Microsoft Defender for Office 365 also provides time-of-click verification of web addresses in email messages and Office documents. This feature detects malicious URLs in real time as users click them, preventing access to untrustworthy sites.

Here are more details about this product and its features:

  • Prevention: It helps prevent cyberattacks like business email compromise and advanced malware. 
  • Detection: This software automatically detects malicious and suspicious content like links and files over email and Teams.
  • Investigation and hunting: It detects and responds to cyberattacks with unified investigation and hunting capabilities.
  • Response and remediation: The security system has built-in automation to reverse malicious activities.
  • Awareness and training: It allows for simulated attacks to identify knowledge gaps and train users.
  • Secure posture: Recommended templates and configuration insights help you stay secure. 

Businesses seeking to add this security to their operations may choose to do so with their Microsoft enterprise subscription. Microsoft 365 E5 provides security included with Microsoft productivity apps.

When to Use Microsoft Defender for Office 365

If you already use Microsoft 365 for email, SharePoint and OneDrive, then we recommend using Microsoft Defender for Microsoft 365 to protect against malicious attachments and URLs. Not only does it seamlessly integrate with other Microsoft products you use every day, but it is already included in your Microsoft 365 subscription. This means you can use Microsoft Defender for Microsoft 365 to replace other redundant services, such as ProofPoint, Mimecast and similar services for additional cost savings.

What Is Microsoft Defender for Endpoint?

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint, previously known as Windows Defender ATP, is designed to protect clients and servers with a “next-gen” antivirus platform — advanced threat detection and post-breach detection and response capabilities. The platform leverages mechanisms built into Windows 10 that collect data to help networks prevent, detect, investigate and respond to threats. 

Once the data is collected, it is analyzed for threats within a private Microsoft Defender for Endpoint instance in the Microsoft cloud using big data analytics, machine learning and threat intelligence provided by advanced security teams.

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint offers protection with these features:

  • AI enablement: Move faster to stop cyberattacks and ransomware for a stronger security posture.
  • Global threat intelligence: Discover your cyberattack surface and adversaries, working to minimize threats.
  • End-to-end security: Defend your Internet of Things and multiplatform devices with industry-leading detection and response.

Get basic endpoint protection with Microsoft 365 E3. This enterprise plan gives you access to Microsoft Defender for Endpoint P1 with foundational capabilities. Help improve your security with Microsoft 365 E5. This plan gives you access to Microsoft Defender for Endpoint P2, which has additional security features.

When to Use Microsoft Defender for Endpoint?

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint can work on its own, but it is most effective when combined with other features in the Windows 10 operating system. For instance, it can be used to update Microsoft Defender, which is already built into Windows 10. Thanks to Microsoft’s use of big data and machine learning, adding Microsoft Defender for Endpoint to your cybersecurity defense enables you to identify attacks that make it past the pre-breach defense.

The Bottom Line

Microsoft Defender for Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Defender for Endpoint offer distinct capabilities. We recommend using them together to help provide additional layers of protection. Microsoft Defender for Microsoft 365 monitors emails, along with everyday collaboration tools such as SharePoint, One Drive and Teams. Microsoft Defender for Endpoint protects devices associated with endpoints and equips you to identify attacks that make it past the pre-breach defense.

Work With BDO Digital

With Microsoft Defender for Microsoft 365, Microsoft Defender for Endpoint and many other security systems on the market, you may seek assistance determining what works best for your organization. BDO Digital offers security compliance consulting to evaluate your current security practices and recommend opportunities for growth. We bring skills in cybersecurity and a collaborative mindset to prepare your organization to address security threats.

Interested in learning more about how your security posture stacks up with today’s most advanced security products? BDO Digital can help you identify your strengths and uncover hidden security gaps, as well as provide you with the resources you need to plan the next steps. Contact us to learn more.

Originally published April 15, 2019. Updated January 23, 2024.