Many companies are allowing staff to work from home indefinitely, raising questions about how they can protect work data on personal or uncontrolled devices.

Because we can lose company data in a variety of ways across different devices, we need to apply a variety of protection measures. Let’s take a look at the features in Microsoft 365 that can allow companies to protect their data while users are working remotely.

Use Mobile Application Management

Despite the name, mobile application management doesn’t just apply to mobile devices, it can also protect Windows 10 devices. Mobile Application Management policies can protect company data on both managed and unmanaged devices.

It works by applying protections to the apps your teams use to access company data, like Outlook, Teams, OneDrive and SharePoint.

You can enforce restrictions on these apps to prevent data being saved, cut, copied or pasted.

Mobile Application Management Prevent Copy Paste

You can also require a PIN when the app starts or block the app from running on a jailbroken phone or tablet.

Mobile Application Management Pin Code

This feature can be used to selectively wipe company data from a users device, without affecting their personal files. This is handy for organisations where staff use their personal computers and mobile devices to access company information.

Mobile Application Management Wipe Device

Set up conditional access policies

We can use Conditional Access to enforce restrictions on non-compliant or unmanaged devices. Such as blocking access entirely, or preventing particular actions like stopping users from saving attachments in Outlook on the web or syncing files to OneDrive

We can apply these protections in other ways to apps like OneDrive and SharePoint. Preventing users from syncing data to their personal devices by either blocking access or only allowing limited web only access

SharePoint Prevent Access From Unmanaged Device

Use Cloud App Security to protect data on third-party apps

These protections don’t just relate to Microsoft 365 apps like OneDrive, SharePoint and Outlook; we can use Microsoft Cloud App Security to apply additional protections to apps like Dropbox Business too. Applying protection to a third-party app like Dropbox Business can prevent users from downloading your company data to unmanaged devices.

Control Dropbox Access Unmanaged Device

Apps like Dropbox Business also provide their own security measures, allowing you to block access and wipe company data when a device next comes online.Wipe Dropbox Device Remotely

Configure idle session time outs

To lessen the likelihood of the wrong people accessing company information on a shared device, we can configure idle session time outs. These will sign users out after a period of inactivity, just like your bank does.

Enable SharePoint Idle Session Timeout

Get alerts on suspicious activities

Cloud App Security includes built-in alerts that trigger on potentially suspicious activities. We can use these to get notified about things like mass deletions, mass downloads and unusual volumes of external sharing

Enable Cloud App Security Alerts

Protect sensitive data with Data Loss Prevention

We can use data loss prevention to restrict or impose conditions on the sharing of sensitive information. These policies can trigger on certain keywords like project names or sensitive information types like credit card numbers, driver’s license details or tax file information. Once a file containing this info is detected, it can display a warning, be blocked from being sent or have encryption applied.

Use Data Loss Prevention

Using Cloud App Security, we can apply additional data loss prevention measures to third party apps like Box and Dropbox Business

Use Sensitivity Labels

But what happens if this all fails, and someone downloads company data to a personal, unmanaged device. To protect against this, we can apply sensitivity labels. These labels define how sensitive a particular piece of content is and in turn can enforce protections on our data. What’s more, these protections apply no matter where it ends up. These baked-in protections can limit who can access the file and what they can do with it. Preventing the wrong people from opening, copying, saving, forwarding or printing sensitive documents or emails.

Protect Data With Sensitivity Labels

In many cases, these protections can be applied automatically by scanning for those same keywords and sensitive information types that data loss prevention uses.

Automatically Classify Content With Sensitivity Labels

As you can probably tell by now, there’s a lot you can do to protect your sensitive data when people are working from home. If you need help with any of this, reach out to us below.

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While most organisations take measures to prevent and protect against external cyber-attacks, many don’t protect themselves against accidental leaks by their internal staff.

Accidental disclosure is the unintentional release or sharing of sensitive information. In Australia, human error was the cause of 32% of reported data breaches in the last half of 2019.

Causes of Australian Data Breaches December 2019

Sending private information to the wrong person can put an organisation’s reputation on the line and have a dramatic effect on the disclosed party. Under Australia’s Privacy Laws, businesses need to have security measures in place to protect personal data from being leaked unintentionally.

How does an accidental data breach occur?

It’s often a staff member sending an email to the wrong person or inadvertently attaching a document that contains sensitive information. It could also be sending Personally Identifiable Information like Tax File Numbers, Credit Card numbers or Medical information over insecure channels.

What steps can I take to prevent accidental data leakage?

It may be obvious, but it starts with user education.

Document your best-practices and train users on what types of information they can share outside of the organisation.

But what can we configure to make sure we detect and catch any mistakes before they go out?

Microsoft has tools that can prevent sensitive information from being sent unintentionally. Here is a brief list of each tool and what they can do:

Communication Compliance

Communication Compliance Alerts On Sensitive Info Types

Communication Compliance is the latest addition to Microsoft’s insider-risk toolset. Communication Compliance helps you detect, capture and take remediation actions when your team sends inappropriate messages.

So what’s an inappropriate message? It can be something that goes against HR policies, like the sending of harassment, inappropriate or offensive language. It can also detect adult, racy or gory images. You can use pre-configured templates to identify sensitive information types or create a custom policy that can detect references to confidential internal projects.

Once a message is detected, communication compliance triggers an alert for investigation and remediation.

Data Loss Prevention

Data Loss Prevention Policies To Stop External Sharing Of Sensitive Info

While communication compliance can monitor messages for inappropriate or sensitive information, data loss prevention policies can prevent them from being sent. Data-loss Prevention policies allow you to block, or impose conditions on the sharing of sensitive information.

With DLP, you can specify types of content that cannot leave your organisation. Sensitive info types include credit card information, tax file numbers, drivers license information and more. Microsoft 365 scans the content of your email, attachments and shared files and can either notify you or prevent it from being sent.

Office 365 message encryption

Office 365 Message Encryption

You can encrypt email and attachments to ensure that only the intended recipients can view their contents. You can also prevent recipients from forwarding, saving, copying or printing your email and attachments. Encryption can be applied by default to all messages, enabled manually by users, or automatically based on the type of information you’re sharing.

Sensitivity labels

Label Files And Emails With Sensitivity Labels In Microsoft 365

Your files can be labelled according to their sensitivity level, and policies can be applied relating to these levels. By appropriately labelling files and emails, you can ensure that your most sensitive information is only accessible by trusted recipients no matter where it ends up.

Use Auto-Labeling In Microsoft 365 Based On Sensitive Info Types

You don’t have to rely on a user labelling content based on an arbitrary choice. Automated file labelling scans the content of your file and applies a sensitivity label based on its content.

Use built-in external sharing alerts

Configure External Sharing Alerts in Microsoft 365

Configure built-in alerts for external sharing. Alerts in Microsoft 365 can notify you each time a user shares information externally, or when an unusual volume of external sharing occurs.

Microsoft Cloud App Security

Configure Microsoft Cloud App Security

Cloud App Security can detect suspicious activities across Microsoft 365 and third-party cloud apps. For example, it can let you know if someone performs a mass delete or download of your information from SharePoint, OneDrive, Dropbox Business, Google Drive or Box.

External Sharing Insights in Cloud App Security

Cloud App Security also provides detailed reports and insights into how your information is shared externally.

Share files via cloud storage

Share Files Via Cloud Storage To Prevent Accidental Leaks

A better way to share data is via cloud storage rather than email attachments. Using cloud storage, you can create links to files, set access control and timed expiry – as well as revoke access. You can also view audit logs of file access to understand who is viewing your information. Sending files as attachments is a less secure way of sharing data – if you have to use it, you should ensure your encrypting messages with file attachments or using sensitive labels to protect them.

Need help protecting your sensitive data?

Naturally, there is significant consideration and configuration to apply these settings and privacy controls for your organisation. At GCITS, we have experience in cloud environments with complex security requirements. We have developed a typical security profile based on the Australian businesses that we most often service.

We can deploy these security solutions with minimal disruption. Your team can work with unimpeded access to clients, suppliers and teammates knowing that automated safety nets are in place.

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