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How to Improve Remote Worker Security with Microsoft Office 365

COVID-19 has radically changed how businesses operate. Gone are the days when working from home was limited to freelancers and authors. Remote work has now become the new norm and reality for companies that don’t rely upon brick-and-mortar locations.

Remote work has proven to be beneficial for both businesses and employees. For instance, it reduces business expenses; according to the Global Workplace Analytics Telework Savings Calculator, for every remote worker who telecommutes 50% of the time, a single company can save $11,000 per year.

Remote work can also improve employees’ productivity and retention.  However, this new working style, where employees are no longer working from their secured office environments, has also raised more challenges in terms of cybersecurity.

The Importance of Remote Worker Security

With cybercrimes now becoming more common and sophisticated than ever, businesses of all sizes are in need of reliable IT solutions that can help them effectively unlock the benefits of remote work without compromising their security.

Remote worker security is about enabling employees to execute their required tasks, collaborate, and communicate in a secure way. One that doesn’t expose the company’s sensitive data or jeopardize its privacy.

One of the best IT solutions to ensure remote worker security is the Microsoft office 365 suite. It offers a variety of productivity tools and apps. These tools are designed to facilitate remote collaboration and ensure security at the same time.

Security Features of Office365 and Teams

Remote collaboration and communication (either through video, audio, or chat) need to be secure and private all the time. Microsoft Office 365 offers a productivity and collaboration suite that comes with advanced security features.

These features enable remote employees to stay organized, connected, productive, and collaborate on projects both effectively and securely. 

Microsoft Teams, for instance, provides managing capabilities for meetings, collaboration, calling, messaging, and apps in one place with features that ensure privacy, security, and compliance. These features include but are not limited to:

Meeting Options

This feature allows meeting organizers to decide who gets into their meeting directly and who needs to wait for someone to let them in. It also allows meeting organizers to remove participants during a meeting.

Recording Access

Microsoft Teams allows users to record meetings and group calls to capture video, audio, and screen sharing activity. Unless the meeting organizer authorizes otherwise, only people on the call, or those invited to the meeting, can access the recording.

All recordings happen in the cloud and are saved to Microsoft Stream.

Encryption

Teams data is encrypted both at rest and in transit in Microsoft datacenters. Instant messages are encrypted using TLS and MTLS whilst media traffic is encrypted using Secure Real-time Transport Protocol (SRTP).

Notes are stored in OneNote and are backed by OneNote encryption. Files are stored in SharePoint and are backed by SharePoint encryption.

Multi-Factor Authentication

According to Microsoft, Multi-Factor authentication can block over 99.9 percent of account compromise attacks. Microsoft Azure AD Multi-Factor authentication requires users to provide more than a password in order to prove their identity. This helps protect their account in case of password theft.

The Multi-Factor authentication process includes two or more of the following authentication methods:

Conditional Access

Conditional access is a feature of Azure Active Directory (AD) that adds more granular controls and restricts how Microsoft Teams is accessed by employees. It allows organizations to define specific applications or events that require Multi-Factor authentication.

Setting conditional access policies allows regular sign-in events when employees are on the organization’s corporate network or a registered device, but requires additional verification factors when employees are working remotely or using a personal device.

Conditional access is the engine that drives the Zero Trust networking model. It blocks legacy authentication and adds an additional layer of security.

Conditional Access policies can help with common access concerns such as:

The most restrictive decision is to block access. Other less restrictive decisions include requiring multi-factor authentication, requiring devices to be marked as compliant, requiring an approved client app, etc.

Advanced Threat Protection

Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) for SharePoint, OneDrive, and Microsoft Teams protects users from malicious threats posed by links (URLs), email messages, and collaboration tools.

ATP uses smart heuristics and file activity signals like activities from guest users, company-wide or explicit sharing, and anonymous to identify files that may contain malicious content.

Cloud App Security

Working in the cloud provides more flexibility. However, it also adds new challenges in terms of organizational security.

Microsoft Cloud App Security is a Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) that operates on multiple clouds. It Identifies and mitigates suspicious or malicious activities like the addition of unauthorized users. It also provides control over data travel, rich visibility, and advanced analytics to detect and prevent cyber threats across all cloud services.

Secure Guest Access

Teams allow employees and organization members to collaborate with individuals outside the organization while still controlling their access to organizational data.

Guests can be suppliers, consultants, partners, or vendors that don’t have a school or work account with the organization. Guests, however, need to have an Azure Active Directory account or consumer email account.

The list of security and privacy features in Microsoft Teams goes on.

Secure Cloud Storage, File-Syncing and Sharing

For group tasks, remote teams usually need to have simultaneous access to the same data, and see all edits and change the moment they’re made. Microsoft OneDrive makes it possible for remote workers to collaborate with real-time co-authoring. It allows users to securely store and share files from anywhere and across a range of desktop and mobile devices, and that’s by providing a “sync folder” and syncing everything placed in that folder with the user’s cloud storage.

This makes collaboration easier and more effective and also saves time and money. Microsoft OneDrive also gives the possibility to wipe a device remotely in case it was lost or stolen.

Conclusion:

For any organization, security is paramount and should always be top of mind. By implementing IT solutions like Microsoft Office 365 that help to safeguard access to data and applications while maintaining simplicity for users, companies can ensure that their remote employees are secure, productive, and organized. This, in turn, helps to protect the company’s security and privacy and maintain the same desired results, even when its employees are operating remotely. 

 

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