securing-your-data-in-microsoft-teams

Securing Your Data in

Microsoft Teams

Securing Your Data in Microsoft Teams

Your organization’s survival and growth hinges upon the ability to connect people across borders, create cross-functional teams, and spur innovation. In other words, collaboration is crucial in today’s digital environment, and it’s hard to do without going digital. A complete collaboration strategy requires several components, such as cloud services, additional devices in the workplace, the right apps and services, and a fundamental cultural shift. Most of all, a shift to a cloud-enabled approach to collaboration requires intensive data protection.

Although cloud-based services like Microsoft Teams are highly capable, providing the tools that are needed to connect, share, and innovate, they make cloud management more complex. The most glaring pitfall of this additional complexity is the sizeable burden that collaborative cloud services put onto security. With many different devices accessing your network from different areas of the world, endpoint security and data vulnerability are considerable concerns.

In today’s multi-threat environment, problems can arise from both within and outside the “circle of trust” of an organization – and data being stored in a cloud only increases that attack surface. If not properly handled, poor security can turn your collaboration platform into a hub for threats and vulnerabilities.

Microsoft’s Unified Communications and collaboration service, better known as Microsoft Teams, combines several elements to enhance everything from workplace chat to application integration. Such applications include – but are not limited to – other collaborative Microsoft products like SharePoint, Skype for Business, and OneNote. This way, you can store data in several locations throughout the Microsoft cloud. If you are already raising your eyebrows with concern over data protection and security, read on for how you can best secure your data in Microsoft Teams.

What About Microsoft Teams Security?

As collaboration software goes, Microsoft Teams is one of the top choices for organizations who want a full-scale, integrated product. It currently outranks Slack in terms of daily users and boasts a half a million organizational sign-ups for the service. It’s no wonder why – Microsoft Teams is the tool that brings together all of the most-loved Microsoft apps and services to create a central hub that brings people and their work together while encouraging teamwork and accelerating innovation.

Microsoft Teams has proven to be extremely popular, earning top ratings for performance and accolades for its security. In addition to this, Teams has the quality, resilience, longevity, and great support that Microsoft users have come to expect.

But even with a blue-chip name behind it, Teams shouldn’t be exempt from your scrutiny if you are in the market for a unified communications platform. Across the board, in every vertical, leaders understandably have security concerns about investing in such tools – even those that come with top ratings for cyber-security. Naturally, these concerns extend to the collaboration platforms that have a tendency to expose vulnerabilities, such as company assets, customer data, or private communications.

So, how does Teams stack up? Here is what Microsoft builds into its collaboration platform offering:

Microsoft Teams is Built on the Office 365 Cloud

Teams is a part of Office 365, which means it has met certain compliance commitments. There are four levels of security standards within Office 365 - Tier A, B, C, and D which all have different controls for enabling and disabling services. Teams is a Tier D-compliant product, which means it has stringent compliance measures enabled by default. This is an essential security precaution for a tool that is typically installed at the team or departmental level without the intervention of an IT department. Sometimes, Teams is installed at the individual level, such as on personal mobile devices or computers.

Speaking of devices, Microsoft has also built mobile app management into Teams via settings in the Office 365 Security and Compliance Center. There, managers can use Microsoft Intune for advanced data configuration on devices used by employees and partners.

Once again, data can be stored in several locations when in Teams, so another important data protection measure includes two-factor authentication for everyone in the organization from within Active Directory – another benefit of Team’s status as a member of the Office 365 family. Data is encrypted at rest and in transit, and stays in the region where your headquarters are located or, more precisely, where your Office 365 tenant is registered. There are region-specific data storage services for a number of countries and regions, detailed here on the Microsoft website.

One default security measure that comes enabled by default is limited access to guest users. Within this context, a guest user is someone who does not have an email address that’s hosted with your company (name@yourcompany.com). And even if someone wants to enable guest access, only an administrator can do this.

Despite all this, you still need to secure data that’s spread out in many different areas of the cloud, and accessed by many different classes of users – which is an undertaking on its own.

What is Your Role in Securing Teams Data?

Teams can stretch across a handful of Microsoft products and pull data from multiple locations, which allows users to share and collaborate on documents from multiple apps. That enables a wonderful level of collaboration, but it also means your company’s data is stored in disparate applications across your entire network – not just within the Teams application. This means you have to be on top of network and data security in order to make sure information is being stored and transmitted safely and securely.

Microsoft has determined a few firm recommendations for organizations that want to secure their deployment of Microsoft Teams and other Microsoft 365 applications. These utilize “retention labels,” which are ways to classify the data’s security requirements on SharePoint sites, as well as Data Loss Prevention (DLP) policies that warn or prevent users from sharing information outside of the organization.

  • Baseline Protection – Public Team: Some teams within Microsoft Teams don’t require stringent security – and public teams, which allow open collaboration with all members of the organization require the least amount of security. Employees that share information in public teams should only share non-critical information, and all information on SharePoint should be available to the entire organization.
  • Sensitive Protection: Sensitive protection is designed for private teams that may occasionally share internal information with each other. Users are usually warned if they try to share or send these files outside of the organization. Internal users need to be vetted and approved before they are allowed to enter the Team chat.
  • Highly Confidential: If your team is working with sensitive data or top-secret documents, it’s best to create highly confidential Teams. These teams cannot send information shared in these conversations outside of the organization, and most communication in these channels are encrypted and heavily safeguarded.

Securing that data requires a combination of administrator controls, user awareness of best practices, and channel permission configurations. These security protocols are set within the organization - not by Microsoft. It’s necessary to designate a Microsoft Teams Service Administrator who will not only set up your deployment but also perform ongoing duties related to managing the Teams environment.

How a Solution Can Help

In your Teams adoption journey, as you plan, deliver, and manage your deployment, there are tools and services that can help you maintain a secure network from end to end. However, the complexity of deploying and optimizing these communications means that many organizations rely on outside help for data security. Also, Although Microsoft does provides backup and recovery features, most of them will not be extensive enough to meet your business standards and if you are using could applications, then you have to raise the question about ownership and responsibility!

BackupSimple is your answer to a holistic backup solution for Office 365 and beyond, available for on-premises to hybrid and cloud environments. With BackupSimple supporting various cloud providers such as AWS or Azure (and based on your preferred deployment options) you can easily and flexibly store any of your backups wherever you like.

If you are just beginning your journey to create your future workplace or whether you are looking to accelerate your adoption and enjoy all the benefits that Teams has to offer, then you should consider our offering 365Simple. We understand that getting every colleague on board with such significant changes can be difficult, so we first focus on people through change management advisory services. Next, we work on internal and external collaboration before bringing in the third element of best in class technology.

With the right tools and services, your organization can configure Microsoft Teams to your specific industry and company-wide security obligations and standards – protecting you from breaches, data loss, and other unfortunate events and taking your collaboration to new heights.

Keep Your Data Safe and Secure in Microsoft Teams

These days, where more and more people work from home with Microsoft Teams, it is key to look best after data protection and security. With the right tools and services, you can set up specific industry and company-wide security obligations and standards.

  • Managed Backup, Managed Security, User Productivity
  • 365Simple, Microsoft, Teams, Security, Data, BackupSimple

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Author

Bala Sathunathan

Bala Sethunathan

Director, Security Practice & CISO

Cybersecurity

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