Manage mailbox auditing

Mailbox audit logging is turned on by default in all organizations. This means that certain actions performed by mailbox owners, delegates, and admins are automatically logged. The corresponding mailbox audit records are available for admins to search in the mailbox audit log.

Some benefits of mailbox auditing on by default are:

  • Auditing is automatically turned on when you create a new mailbox. You don't need to manually enable mailbox auditing for new users.
  • You don't need to manage the mailbox actions that are audited. A predefined set of mailbox actions are audited by default for each sign-in type (Admin, Delegate, and Owner).
  • When Microsoft releases a new mailbox action, the action might be added automatically to the list of mailbox actions that are audited by default (subject to the user having the appropriate license). This result means you don't need to add new actions on mailboxes as they're released.
  • You have a consistent mailbox auditing policy across your organization (because you're auditing the same actions for all mailboxes).

Note

By default, only mailbox audit events for users with licenses that include Microsoft Purview Audit (Premium) are available in audit log searches in the Microsoft Purview compliance portal or via the Office 365 Management Activity API. These licenses are described here. For brevity, this article will collectively refer to licenses that include Audit (Premium) as E5/A5/G5 licenses.

Tip

If you're not an E5 customer, use the 90-day Microsoft Purview solutions trial to explore how additional Purview capabilities can help your organization manage data security and compliance needs. Start now at the Microsoft Purview compliance portal trials hub. Learn details about signing up and trial terms.

Verify mailbox auditing on by default is turned on

To verify that mailbox auditing on by default is turned on for your organization, run the following command in Exchange Online PowerShell:

Get-OrganizationConfig | Format-List AuditDisabled

The value False indicates that mailbox auditing on by default is turned on for the organization. Mailbox auditing on by default in the organization overrides the mailbox auditing settings on individual mailboxes. For example, if mailbox auditing is turned off for a mailbox (the AuditEnabled property on the mailbox is False), the default mailbox actions are still audited for the mailbox, because mailbox auditing on by default is turned on for the organization.

To keep mailbox auditing disabled for specific mailboxes, you configure mailbox auditing bypass for the mailbox owner and other users with delegated access to the mailbox. For more information, see the Bypass mailbox audit logging section later in this article.

Note

When mailbox auditing on by default is turned on for the organization, the AuditEnabled property for affected mailboxes won't be changed from False to True. In other words, mailbox auditing on by default ignores the AuditEnabled property on mailboxes.

Supported mailbox types

Mailbox types that are supported by mailbox auditing on by default are described in the following table:

Mailbox type Supported
User mailboxes
Shared mailboxes
Microsoft 365 Group mailboxes
Resource mailboxes
Public folder mailboxes

Sign-in types and mailbox actions

Sign-in types classify who's responsible for the audited actions on the mailbox. The following list describes the sign-in types that are used in mailbox audit logging:

  • Owner: The mailbox owner (the account that's associated with the mailbox).
  • Delegate:
    • A user who's been assigned the SendAs, SendOnBehalf, or FullAccess permission to another mailbox.
    • An admin who's been assigned the FullAccess permission to a user's mailbox.
  • Admin:
    • The mailbox is searched with one of the following Microsoft eDiscovery tools:
      • Content Search in the compliance portal.
      • eDiscovery or eDiscovery (Premium) in the compliance portal.
      • In-Place eDiscovery in Exchange Online.
    • The mailbox is accessed by using the Microsoft Exchange Server MAPI Editor.
    • The mailbox is accessed by an account impersonating another user. This occurs when the ApplicationImpersonation role is assigned to an account, such as an application, which is now actively accessing the data. For more information, see Configure impersonation.

Mailbox actions for user mailboxes and shared mailboxes

The following table describes the mailbox actions that are available in mailbox audit logging for user mailboxes and shared mailboxes.

  • A check mark (✔) indicates the mailbox action can be logged for the sign-in type (not all actions are available for all sign-in types).
  • An asterisk ( * ) after the check mark indicates the mailbox action is logged by default for the sign-in type.
  • Remember, an admin with Full Access permission to a mailbox is considered a delegate.
Mailbox action Description Admin Delegate Owner
AddFolderPermissions Although this value is accepted as a mailbox action, it's already included in the UpdateFolderPermissions action and isn't audited separately. In other words, don't use this value.
ApplyRecord An item is labeled as a record. * * *
Copy A message was copied to another folder.
Create An item was created in the Calendar, Contacts, Draft, Notes, or Tasks folder in the mailbox (for example, a new meeting request is created). Creating, sending, or receiving a message isn't audited. Also, creating a mailbox folder isn't audited. * *
FolderBind A mailbox folder was accessed. This action is also logged when the admin or delegate opens the mailbox.

Note: Audit records for folder bind actions performed by delegates are consolidated. One audit record is generated for individual folder access within a 24-hour period.
HardDelete A message was purged from the Recoverable Items folder. * * *
MailboxLogin The user signed into their mailbox.
MailItemsAccessed Note: This value is available only for users with E5/A5/G5 licenses. For more information, see Set up Microsoft Purview Audit (Premium).

Occurs when mail data is accessed by mail protocols and clients.
* * *
MessageBind Note: This value is available only for users without E5/A5/G5 licenses.

A message was viewed in the preview pane or opened by an admin.
ModifyFolderPermissions Although this value is accepted as a mailbox action, it's already included in the UpdateFolderPermissions action and isn't audited separately. In other words, don't use this value.
Move A message was moved to another folder.
MoveToDeletedItems A message was deleted and moved to the Deleted Items folder. * * *
RecordDelete An item that's labeled as a record was soft-deleted (moved to the Recoverable Items folder). Items labeled as records can't be permanently deleted (purged from the Recoverable Items folder).
RemoveFolderPermissions Although this value is accepted as a mailbox action, it's already included in the UpdateFolderPermissions action and isn't audited separately. In other words, don't use this value.
SearchQueryInitiated Note: This value is available only for users with E5/A5/G5 licenses. For more information, see Set up Microsoft Purview Audit (Premium).

A person uses Outlook (Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, or Outlook on the web) or the Mail app for Windows 10 to search for items in a mailbox.
Send Note: This value is available only for users with E5/A5/G5 licenses. For more information, see Set up Microsoft Purview Audit (Premium).

The user sends an email message, replies to an email message, or forwards an email message.
* *
SendAs A message was sent using the SendAs permission. This permission allows another user to send the message as though it came from the mailbox owner. * *
SendOnBehalf A message was sent using the SendOnBehalf permission. This permission allows another user to send the message on behalf of the mailbox owner. The message indicates to the recipient who the message was sent on behalf of and who actually sent the message. * *
SoftDelete A message was permanently deleted or deleted from the Deleted Items folder. Soft-deleted items are moved to the Recoverable Items folder. * * *
Update A message or any of its properties was changed. * * *
UpdateCalendarDelegation A calendar delegation was assigned to a mailbox. Calendar delegation gives someone else in the same organization permissions to manage the mailbox owner's calendar. * *
UpdateFolderPermissions A folder permission was changed. Folder permissions control which users in your organization can access folders in a mailbox and the messages located in those folders. * * *
UpdateInboxRules An inbox rule was added, removed, or changed. Inbox rules process messages in the user's Inbox based on conditions. Actions specify what to do to messages that match the conditions of the rule. For example, move the message to a specified folder or delete the message. * * *

Important

If you customized the mailbox actions to audit before mailbox auditing on by default was turned on in your organization, the customized mailbox auditing settings are preserved on the mailbox and aren't overwritten by the default mailbox actions as described in this section. To revert the audit mailbox actions to their default values (which you can do at any time), see the Restore the default mailbox actions section later in this article.

Mailbox actions for Microsoft 365 Group mailboxes

Mailbox auditing on by default brings mailbox audit logging to Microsoft 365 Group mailboxes, but you can't customize what's being logged (you can't add or remove mailbox actions that are logged for any sign-in type).

The following table describes the mailbox actions that are logged by default on Microsoft 365 Group mailboxes for each sign-in type.

Remember, an admin with Full Access permission to a Microsoft 365 Group mailbox is considered a delegate.

Mailbox action Description Admin Delegate Owner
Create Creation of a calendar Item. Creating, sending, or receiving a message isn't audited. * *
HardDelete A message was purged from the Recoverable Items folder. * * *
MoveToDeletedItems A message was deleted and moved to the Deleted Items folder. * * *
SendAs A message was sent using the SendAs permission. * *
SendOnBehalf A message was sent using the SendOnBehalf permission. * *
SoftDelete A message was permanently deleted or deleted from the Deleted Items folder. Soft-deleted items are moved to the Recoverable Items folder. * * *
Update A message or any of its properties was changed. * * *

Verify that default mailbox actions are being logged for each sign-in type

Mailbox auditing on by default adds a new DefaultAuditSet property to all mailboxes. The value of this property indicates whether the default mailbox actions (managed by Microsoft) are being audited on the mailbox.

To display the value on user mailboxes or shared mailboxes, replace <MailboxIdentity> with the name, alias, email address, or user principal name (username) of the mailbox and run the following command in Exchange Online PowerShell:

Get-Mailbox -Identity <MailboxIdentity> | Format-List DefaultAuditSet

To display the value on Microsoft 365 group mailboxes, replace <MailboxIdentity> with the name, alias, or email address of the shared mailbox and run the following command in Exchange Online PowerShell:

Get-Mailbox -Identity <MailboxIdentity> -GroupMailbox | Format-List DefaultAuditSet

The value Admin, Delegate, Owner indicates:

  • The default mailbox actions for all three sign-in types are being audited. This value is the only value you see on Microsoft 365 Group mailboxes.
  • An admin hasn't changed the audited mailbox actions for any sign-in type on a user mailbox or a shared mailbox.

If an admin has ever changed the mailbox actions that are audited for a sign-in type (by using the AuditAdmin, AuditDelegate, or AuditOwner parameters on the Set-Mailbox cmdlet), the property value is different.

For example, the value Owner for the DefaultAuditSet property on a user mailbox or shared mailbox indicates:

  • The default mailbox actions for the mailbox owner are being audited.
  • The audited mailbox actions for the Delegate and Admin sign-in types have been changed from the default actions.

A blank value for the DefaultAuditSet property indicates the mailbox actions for all three sign-in types have been changed on the user mailbox or a shared mailbox.

For more information, see the Change or restore mailbox actions logged by default section in this article

Display the mailbox actions that are being logged on mailboxes

To see the mailbox actions that are currently being logged on user mailboxes or shared mailboxes, replace <MailboxIdentity> with the name, alias, email address, or user principal name (username) of the mailbox, and run one or more of the following commands in Exchange Online PowerShell.

Note

Although you can add the -GroupMailbox switch to the following Get-Mailbox commands for Microsoft 365 Group mailboxes, don't believe the values that are returned. The default and static mailbox actions that are audited for Microsoft 365 Group mailboxes are described in the Mailbox actions for Microsoft 365 Group mailboxes section earlier in this article.

Owner actions

Get-Mailbox -Identity <MailboxIdentity> | Select-Object -ExpandProperty AuditOwner

Delegate actions

Get-Mailbox -Identity <MailboxIdentity> | Select-Object -ExpandProperty AuditDelegate

Admin actions

Get-Mailbox -Identity <MailboxIdentity> | Select-Object -ExpandProperty AuditAdmin

Change or restore mailbox actions logged by default

As previously explained, one of the key benefits of having mailbox auditing on by default is: you don't need to manage the mailboxes actions that are audited. Microsoft manages the actions for you, and we automatically add new mailbox actions to be audited by default as they're released.

However, your organization might be required to audit a different set of mailbox actions for user mailboxes and shared mailboxes. The procedures in this section show you how to change the mailbox actions that are audited for each sign-in type, and how to revert back to the Microsoft-managed default actions.

Important

If you use the following procedures to customize the mailbox actions that are logged on user mailboxes or shared mailboxes, any new default mailbox actions released by Microsoft will not be automatically audited on those mailboxes. You'll need to manually add any new mailbox actions to your customized list of actions.

Change the mailbox actions to audit

You can use the AuditAdmin, AuditDelegate, or AuditOwner parameters on the Set-Mailbox cmdlet to change the mailbox actions that are audited for user mailboxes and shared mailboxes (audited actions for Microsoft 365 group mailboxes can't be customized).

You can use two different methods to specify the mailbox actions:

  • Replace (overwrite) the existing mailbox actions by using this syntax: action1,action2,...actionN.
  • Add or remove mailbox actions without affecting other existing values by using this syntax: @{Add="action1","action2",..."actionN"} or @{Remove="action1","action2",..."actionN"}.

This example changes the admin mailbox actions for the mailbox named "Gabriela Laureano" by overwriting the default actions with SoftDelete and HardDelete.

Set-Mailbox -Identity "Gabriela Laureano" -AuditAdmin HardDelete,SoftDelete

This example adds the MailboxLogin owner action to the mailbox laura@contoso.onmicrosoft.com.

Set-Mailbox -Identity laura@contoso.onmicrosoft.com -AuditOwner @{Add="MailboxLogin"}

This example removes the MoveToDeletedItems delegate action for the Team Discussion mailbox.

Set-Mailbox -Identity "Team Discussion" -AuditDelegate @{Remove="MoveToDeletedItems"}

Regardless of the method you use, customizing the audited mailbox actions on user mailboxes or shared mailboxes has the following results:

  • For the sign-in type that you customized, the audited mailbox actions are no longer managed by Microsoft.
  • The sign-in type that you customized is no longer displayed in the DefaultAuditSet property value for the mailbox as previously described.

Restore the default mailbox actions

Note

The following procedures don't apply to Microsoft 365 Group mailboxes (they're limited to the default actions as described here).

If you customized the mailbox actions that are audited on a user mailbox or a shared mailbox, you can restore the default mailbox actions for one or all sign-in types by using this syntax:

Set-Mailbox -Identity <MailboxIdentity> -DefaultAuditSet <Admin | Delegate | Owner>

You can specify multiple DefaultAuditSet values separated by commas

This example restores the default audited mailbox actions for all sign-in types on the mailbox mark@contoso.onmicrosoft.com.

Set-Mailbox -Identity mark@contoso.onmicrosoft.com -DefaultAuditSet Admin,Delegate,Owner

This example restores the default audited mailbox actions for the Admin sign-in type on the mailbox chris@contoso.onmicrosoft.com, but leaves the customized audited mailbox actions for the Delegate and Owner sign-in types.

Set-Mailbox -Identity chris@contoso.onmicrosoft.com -DefaultAuditSet Admin

Restoring the default audited mailbox actions for a sign-in type has the following results:

  • The current list of mailbox actions is replaced with the default mailbox actions for the sign-in type.
  • Any new mailbox actions that are released by Microsoft are automatically added to the list of audited actions for the sign-in type.
  • The DefaultAuditSet property value for the mailbox is updated to include the restored sign-in type.

Turn off mailbox auditing on by default for your organization

You can turn off mailbox auditing on by default for your entire organization by running the following command in Exchange Online PowerShell:

Set-OrganizationConfig -AuditDisabled $true

Turning off mailbox auditing on by default has the following results:

  • Mailbox auditing is turned off for your organization.
  • From the time you turn off mailbox auditing on by default, no mailbox actions are audited, even if mailbox auditing is enabled on a mailbox (the AuditEnabled property on the mailbox is True).
  • Mailbox auditing isn't turned on for new mailboxes and setting the AuditEnabled property on a new or existing mailbox to True is ignored.
  • Any mailbox audit bypass association settings (configured by using the Set-MailboxAuditBypassAssociation cmdlet) are ignored.
  • Existing mailbox audit records are retained until the audit log age limit for the record expires.

Turn on mailbox auditing on by default

To turn mailbox auditing back on for your organization, run the following command in Exchange Online PowerShell:

Set-OrganizationConfig -AuditDisabled $false

Bypass mailbox audit logging

Currently, you can't disable mailbox auditing for specific mailboxes when mailbox auditing on by default is turned on in your organization. For example, setting the AuditEnabled mailbox property to False is ignored.

However, you can still use the Set-MailboxAuditBypassAssociation cmdlet in Exchange Online PowerShell to prevent any and all mailbox actions by the specified users from being logged, regardless where the actions occur. For example:

  • Mailbox owner actions performed by the bypassed users aren't logged.
  • Delegate actions performed by the bypassed users on other users' mailboxes (including shared mailboxes) aren't logged.
  • Admin actions performed by the bypassed users aren't logged.

To bypass mailbox audit logging for a specific user, replace <MailboxIdentity> with the name, email address, alias, or user principal name (username) of the user and run the following command:

Set-MailboxAuditBypassAssociation -Identity <MailboxIdentity> -AuditByPassEnabled $true

To verify that auditing is bypassed for the specified user, run the following command:

Get-MailboxAuditBypassAssociation -Identity <MailboxIdentity> | Format-List AuditByPassEnabled

The value True indicates that mailbox audit logging is bypassed for the user.

More information

  • As previously mentioned, although mailbox audit logging on by default is turned on for all organizations, only users with licenses that include Audit (Premium) (collectively referred to in this article as E5/A5/G5 licenses) return mailbox audit log events in audit log searches in the Microsoft Purview compliance portal or via the Office 365 Management Activity API by default.

    To retrieve mailbox audit log entries for users without E5/A5/G5 licenses, you can use any of the following workarounds:

    • Manually turn on mailbox auditing on individual mailboxes (run the command, Set-Mailbox -Identity <MailboxIdentity> -AuditEnabled $true). After you run the command, you can use audit log searches in the Microsoft Purview compliance portal or via the Office 365 Management Activity API.

      Note

      If mailbox auditing already appears to be enabled on the mailbox, but your searches return no results, change the value of the AuditEnabled parameter to $false and then back to $true.

    • Use the following cmdlets in Exchange Online PowerShell:

    • Use the Exchange admin center (EAC) in Exchange Online to do the following actions:

  • By default, mailbox audit log records are retained for 90 days before they're deleted. You can change the age limit for audit log records by using the AuditLogAgeLimit parameter on the Set-Mailbox cmdlet in Exchange Online PowerShell. However, increasing this value doesn't allow you to search for events that are older than 90 days in the audit log.

    If you increase the age limit, you need to use the Search-MailboxAuditLog cmdlet in Exchange Online PowerShell to search the user's mailbox audit log for records that are older than 90 days.

  • If you've changed the AuditLogAgeLimit property for a mailbox prior to mailbox auditing on by default being turned on for organization, the mailbox's existing audit log age limit isn't changed. In other words, mailbox auditing on by default doesn't affect the current age limit for mailbox audit records.

  • To change the AuditLogAgeLimit value on a Microsoft 365 Group mailbox, you need to include the -GroupMailbox switch in the Set-Mailbox command.

  • Mailbox audit log records are stored in a subfolder (named Audits) in the Recoverable Items folder in each user's mailbox. Keep the following things in mind about mailbox audit records and the Recoverable Items folder:

    • Mailbox audit records count against the storage quota of the Recoverable Items folder, which is 30 GB by default (the warning quota is 20 GB). The storage quota is automatically increased to 100 GB (with a 90-GB warning quota) when:

      • A hold is placed on a mailbox.
      • The mailbox is assigned to a retention policy in the compliance portal.
    • Mailbox audit records also count against the folder limit for the Recoverable Items folder. A maximum of 3 million items (audit records) can be stored in the Audits subfolder.

      Note

      It's unlikely that mailbox auditing on by default will impact the storage quota or the folder limit for the Recoverable Items folder.

      • You can run the following command in Exchange Online PowerShell to display the size and number of items in the Audits subfolder in the Recoverable Items folder:

        Get-MailboxFolderStatistics -Identity <MailboxIdentity> -FolderScope RecoverableItems | Where-Object {$_.Name -eq 'Audits'} | Format-List FolderPath,FolderSize,ItemsInFolder
        
      • You can't directly access an audit log record in the Recoverable Items folder; instead, you use the Search-MailboxAuditLog cmdlet or search the audit log to find and view mailbox audit records.

  • If a mailbox is placed on hold or assigned to a retention policy in the compliance portal, audit log records are still retained for the duration that's defined by the mailbox's AuditLogAgeLimit property (90 days by default). To retain audit log records longer for mailboxes on hold, you need to increase mailbox's AuditLogAgeLimit value.

  • In a multi-geo environment, cross-geo mailbox auditing isn't supported. For example, if a user is assigned permissions to access a shared mailbox in a different geo location, mailbox actions performed by that user aren't logged in the mailbox audit log of the shared mailbox. Exchange admin audit events are available for all locations via Microsoft Purview and the Search-UnifiedAuditLog cmdlet.