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How Microsoft Teams Keeps Your Data Secure

Mike Hanks
July 10, 2020

When dealing with the cloud, there are plenty of good reasons to be concerned about security. What’s happening to your data when you can’t see it? Who else is seeing, and possibly even using, your data, and what is it being used for? Even amid all the uncertainty that comes from cloud systems, Microsoft Teams is among the most secure of them all. With the right setup and governance, your data will stay safe in transit and at rest.

Main Security Concerns in Microsoft Teams

With Teams and other solutions like it, the way that people work is changing fundamentally. One thing that doesn’t change, however, is the need for the system to remain secure. There are three major concerns when it comes to Teams’ security. Fortunately, Microsoft has an answer for each one.

Data Protection and Life-cycle Management in Microsoft Teams

Data may not be a visible, tangible thing, but it’s important to every individual and organization that collects it. It’s invisibility and intangibility make it a focal point of concern, as do stories about what data is generally used for. Google and Facebook collect data to funnel their far-reaching online advertisement machines, meaning breaches can be result in data unintentionally being made available to the public. Your data needs to be carefully managed in order to prevent breeches and leaks. Ideally, you’ll also want to be sure you’re aware of where that data goes and what happens to it.

Microsoft’s applications are made with the protection of your data in mind. They have built-in compliance with standards such as HIPAA, meaning Microsoft Teams takes data integrity very seriously. Authentication protocols, such as organization-wide two-factor authentication or single sign-ons through Active Directory, make it increasingly difficult for unauthorized, external users to enter the system.

Where Microsoft truly excels is in data encryption. Data sent by Teams users is encrypted end-to-end, in transit, and at rest. Microsoft doesn’t manage this encryption through Teams, leaving that instead to Microsoft’s security applications Azure and Active Directory. This means IT teams can have a greater amount of control over the data being processed and encrypted, and that Microsoft will never see it.

Teams is designed to give its users control over their own data. It comes with a wide range of control settings to allow users with the proper permissions to vet content and access. This means you won’t have any reason to worry about your data when it’s in the cloud.

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eDiscovery in Microsoft Teams

With the ever-present risk of high penalty legal proceedings requiring access to Electronically Stored Information (ESI), eDiscovery is a prime concern for most organizations using platforms like Microsoft Teams. With so many chats and channels, ESI is abundant in Teams. Professional and casual chatter alike fills the system and can be difficult to sort through in the event of a legal proceeding.

To facilitate proper eDiscovery, Teams has features such as Legal Hold, Audit Log, and Content Search that can allow users to keep all their data organized and efficiently manage eDiscovery cases. These cases can be made for any kind of legal investigation, combining with Teams’ content search tool to make the process streamlined and effective.

ESI in Teams can also be placed under a Legal Hold. The two types of Holds offered, In-Place and Litigation, allow users to hold a subset of a user mailbox or site, or the box/site in its entirety. This will allow access to any given data even if the user who made it deletes it.

Guest Access & External Users in Microsoft Teams

There will be times when you’ll need to let guests into your network to collaborate on various projects. As useful as guests often are, they can sometimes make managing channels in Teams just a bit difficult. Teams channels being easy to create is often touted as a selling point for Teams, but some might see the potential for this to become a cluttered mess, especially when high numbers of users and guests are involved.

Luckily, Teams has features that can help manage channel creation and guest access. Teams differentiates between guests and external users, as well as members and admins. Each of these roles comes with its own set of privileges and can help keep external users in check and manage Teams channel creation.

External users, or users from a domain different from the one associated with Teams, only have access to calls and chat. The ability for external users to join Teams is enabled by default, but domains can be blocked to prevent unwanted visitors. Guests, by contrast, have more privileges than an external user, including meetings, messaging, and file sharing. Their guest account will be added to the Active Directory that the native users use, but their access to the data in Teams will remain at the mercy of an admin.

With these provisions in place, your data will remain secure even as guests and external users access your server.

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Best Practices for Microsoft Teams Security

In Microsoft Teams, security issues are often governance issues. The following security best practices will help improve governance and tighten up security in Teams.

Global Teams Management

Effective global Teams management can help keep your platform secure and prevent an overcrowding of channels. Teams’ global settings will allow you to determine the privileges of certain users throughout your entire organization, including the ability to create new teams.

With these global settings, you can also configure which users can communicate with individuals outside of the organization, which users have access to file sharing and cloud storage capabilities, and what authentication factors are required for meetings.

 

Information Protection Architecture in Microsoft Teams

Information Protection Architecture is crucial to prevent data leakage and preserving evidence in accordance with litigation requirements. This includes a variety of features that help facilitate eDiscovery like content search, along with others that will help protect your data.

You can use data retention policies to determine which data to keep and which to remove in accordance with litigation. You can also enable Advanced Threat Protection to ward off malicious content, and Data Loss Prevention policies to keep users from sharing sensitive data when you don’t want them to.

Microsoft Teams' User Activity Audit

With Microsoft 365 usage analytics, you can audit user activity to monitor chats and channels on Teams. Teams’ built-in analytics features can generate a user report reflecting a period of about 24 hours. This report charts data across all users regarding 1:1 call data, channel messages, meeting attendance, chat messages, audio time, video time, and more.

This report will help give you ready access to user information to prevent exfiltration and remain aware of what your users are doing.

Getting Started with Microsoft Teams

With proper governance, Teams’ security is among the best. It boasts all the features it needs to enable your users, internal and external, to communicate with one another without needing to worry about cyber threats or legal problems.

At Continuant, we understand how complicated a Teams deployment can get. With 25 years of history in Legacy Voice, AV and Managed Services we are among Microsoft’s top-tiered partners, helping companies across the globe on their journey to Microsoft Teams.

As an extension of your team we can design, deploy and manage your future Microsoft Teams solution. To take the first step, schedule a 30-minute technology assessment today to discover what that process could look like for your organization.

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