How To Reduce Microsoft Teams Data Security Risk

How To Reduce Microsoft Teams Data Security Risk

Improving Microsoft Teams data security isn’t difficult when you have a process. If you don’t follow a process, this application will continue to be a source of risk. It could be the loose end that causes all manner of chaos and security incidents. Use this three-step plan to keep your confidential data in Microsoft Teams safe from unauthorized users and disclosure.

Step 1: Identify Microsoft Teams Data Security Settings and Issues

Begin your data security improvement effort directly in the application. First, recognize the fact that Microsoft Teams gathers data from multiple data sources such as OneDrive for Business, Exchange, Stream, Groups and SharePoint. Therefore, all of these assets and systems require regular review. To minimize your legal risk, request e-discovery capability to all Microsoft Teams-related assets. There is some good news here! If your organization has been using Exchange, SharePoint and other Microsoft systems for years, then you may already have robust security controls in place for those tools.

Reviewing and controlling Microsoft Teams channels is your next move. For example, you may want to separate discussions based on sensitivity. In that case, a “finance and accounting” channel might be a good place for the finance team to have conversations about next year’s budget. Such a channel would be restricted to people in that function. To mitigate the risk of lost data, set a reminder to regularly review all open channels once per month, and recommend closing any that are inactive.

The final Microsoft Teams application-specific improvement relates to the user account. To maximize collaboration, the product makes it easy to add new users, including guest users. This is a great feature when you bring in consultants and other people to help you out with a project. After that project is completed, those user accounts pose a risk. Therefore, we suggest you have two lines of review on user accounts. First, ask each manager to review the user accounts for their department’s channels every month. Second, ask the IT security department to review user accounts quarterly to detect any inactive user accounts that have fallen through the cracks.

Resource: Microsoft regularly publishes updates and security notices about Microsoft Teams and related products. Sign up to receive these updates from Microsoft so you can keep up with changes to the product. Also, refresh your knowledge by reviewing the company’s official overview of security and compliance.

Step 2: Train Staff on Effective Microsoft Teams Data Security Practices

Fine-tuning the security and account settings in Microsoft Teams is an excellent start. Your next move is to guide your employees on the best ways to use the product. The extent and nature of the training you need to provide will depend on a few factors. Check your existing data security training to see if Microsoft Teams is covered in detail. If there is limited coverage for Microsoft Teams, you will need to offer more training.

To inform your data security best practices development, use the following principles as a starting point.

●  Collaboration vs. Confidentiality. Remind staff that Microsoft Teams is designed to encourage fast communication. As a result, it is easy to lose track of the importance of security. 

●  When In Data Security Doubt… If staff are unsure whether it is safe to share specific sensitive data (e.g., a draft financial results release) through Microsoft Teams, advise them to err on the side of caution and not release the information.

●  The “Overheard” Factor. In Microsoft Teams, it is sometimes difficult to know who else is on a given channel. As a result, private data might be “overheard” by somebody who was not authorized to access it. Keep this factor in mind

●  Use Links For Highly Sensitive Information. If you need to share confidential data, consider sharing links to documents on SharePoint or another system when you can apply healthy access controls.

●  Request Management Approval for Third-party Apps. There are many different third-party apps like Zoom, RingCentral and Service Now that you can connect to Microsoft Teams. However, these third-party apps may negatively impact the company’s data security profile. Therefore, guide staff to send access requests for these apps to your central IT security department for review.

Step 3: Enhance Microsoft Teams Data Security With Sound Enterprise Practices

In the previous steps, you made substantial progress in strengthening your Microsoft Teams data security situation. However, it would be a mistake to stop there. Ultimately, your usage of Microsoft Teams exists in a broader IT context. That’s why you need to assess and improve your supporting IT security processes regularly. Fortunately, there are tools and techniques that make this easy to do.

●  Support Information Security Oversight

What happens if your Microsoft Teams data security settings are not quite perfect? If your company has overall robust oversight processes for access management, you can minimize the data. Use the Compliance Auditor tool to keep spotless records of your identity and access management changes. 

●  Leverage Data Security Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) To Find Problems Early 

Removing a weed when it is small is easy. The same concept applies to IT security problems. For inspiration on how to use KPIs to detect security problems, check out our post: The Must-Have IT Security Maintenance KPIs

●  Equip Employees With Fast and Simple Password Resets 

The humble password remains one of the most critical elements in a modern IT security program. If you require employees to use strong passwords like using special characters and a mix of upper and lower case letters, the resulting passwords will be more reliable. On the other hand, employees are less likely to keep those passwords memorized. Therefore, you need to make painless to get new passwords fast. An IT security chatbot is one of the best tools to enable password resets on a 24/7 basis.

One More Way To Cut Your Data Security Risk This Year

Now that you have optimized your approach to Microsoft Teams security, take a moment to celebrate your success. Next, revisit your employee training and make sure you are offering relevant password training!

Written by Nelson Cicchitto