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February 1, 2024
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5
 min read

How Secure is SharePoint Online for Your Data?

Learn the truth behind SharePoint online security and compliance. Discover the practices for infrastructure, user, and content security.

How Secure is SharePoint Online for Your Data?
Calendar Icon White
February 1, 2024
Clock Icon
5
 min read

How Secure is SharePoint Online for Your Data?

Learn the truth behind SharePoint online security and compliance. Discover the practices for infrastructure, user, and content security.

TL;DR

  • SharePoint, used for collaboration, storage, organization, and data sharing, has basic security features that may not suffice for advanced threats.
  • Due to the increasing shift to cloud-based operations, it is crucial to understand how secure SharePoint Online is and manage its security.
  • Its comprehensive security strategy includes physical data center security, data encryption, secure network infrastructure, and robust user controls.
  • Strac makes up for SharePoint's basic security features, providing overall endpoint and cloud protection through machine learning, automatic redaction, and more.

SharePoint Online, a prominent service offered by Microsoft, provides a secure data storage, collaboration, and management environment. It integrates seamlessly with various Microsoft tools, offering a unified and safe workspace. As businesses increasingly migrate to cloud environments, understanding SharePoint Online security and compliance becomes paramount. 

Despite the robust security features, SharePoint Online is not immune to cyber threats. In June 2023, a ransomware attack successfully infiltrated SharePoint Online through a Microsoft Global SaaS admin account, bypassing traditional endpoint security measures. This blog post focuses on how secure Sharepoint Online is, highlighting its strengths and how to enhance data security in the cloud. Let’s begin.

Exposing Myths About SharePoint Online Security

SharePoint often becomes the center of various security concerns and myths. Let's get our facts straight. Contrary to popular belief, SharePoint Online, powered by Microsoft's robust security infrastructure, offers multiple layers of defense. These include advanced threat protection, data encryption, and regular security updates. 

The platform's built-in security features safeguard against unauthorized access, data breaches, and other cyber risks, contributing to SharePoint Online security and compliance.

While no system can claim absolute invulnerability, SharePoint boasts a commendable security record. Reports indicate that SharePoint Online has experienced fewer security incidents than other cloud storage services. The platform is designed with a security-first approach and incorporates multiple layers of security, including:

  • Physical Data Center Security: Ensuring the physical safety of data centers where information is stored.
  • Data Encryption: Protecting data both at rest and in transit.
  • Secure Network Infrastructure: Implementing a fortified network to prevent unauthorized access and data breaches.
  • Strong User Controls: Empowering users with tools and settings to manage their data securely.

Additionally, Microsoft provides regular security updates and maintains a dedicated team of experts who monitor potential threats 24/7.

Compliance and Regulatory Standards in SharePoint Online

SharePoint Online's security and compliance commitment is evident in its adherence to international and industry-specific standards. This is similar to how platforms like Google Workspace DLP ensure compliance with their respective data protection regulations. These standards for SharePoint Online include:

  • ISO (International Organization for Standardization): SharePoint Online complies with ISO 27001, which sets out the specifications for an information security management system (ISMS). This compliance ensures that SharePoint maintains a systematic and ongoing approach to managing sensitive company and customer information.
  • FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act): Compliance with FERPA is crucial for educational institutions. SharePoint adheres to FERPA regulations, ensuring the protection of student academic records and controlled access to this sensitive information.
  • GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation): As a global data privacy and security standard, GDPR compliance is critical for any platform handling EU citizens' data. SharePoint aligns with GDPR requirements, offering tools and policies that help organizations meet GDPR obligations, such as data subject rights, minimization, and retention.

Several key features complement SharePoint’s security and compliance framework:

  • Data loss prevention: DLP in SharePoint Online helps organizations identify, monitor, and protect sensitive information in SharePoint.
  • Customer key management: This feature allows organizations to control their encryption keys and meet specific compliance requirements that mandate control over access to data at rest.
  • Compliance Center: SharePoint’s compliance center enables organizations to manage their compliance posture effectively. It provides insights into regulatory compliance performance, helps identify risks, and offers recommendations to improve compliance.

Enhancing SharePoint Online Security for Organizations

SharePoint offers a comprehensive suite of security features designed to protect and manage data effectively. Here are the SharePoint Online security best practices for different levels. 

  1. Infrastructure level security
  2. User level security
  3. Content level security
  4. External sharing management
  5. Regular audits and compliance monitoring
SharePoint Online Security Best Practices

Infrastructure level security

The foundation of SharePoint Online’s security lies in its robust infrastructure, and ensuring security at this level involves several critical practices:

  • Regular Server Hardening: It is essential to follow SharePoint's guidelines for server hardening. This process involves applying security patches, configuring server settings, and implementing best practices to minimize vulnerabilities.
  • Optimal configuration of TLS/SSL protocols: Proper configuration of TLS and SSL protocols is crucial for encrypting data during transmission, thus safeguarding it from potential interceptions or breaches.
  • Network device configuration: Correctly configuring network devices connected to SharePoint, including routers, switches, and firewalls, is vital to prevent unauthorized access and ensure secure data transmission.

User level security

At the user level, SharePoint Online provides robust mechanisms to ensure that only authorized personnel have access to sensitive data:

  • Effective user authentication: Implementing robust authentication methods, such as multi-factor authentication, helps verify user identities and secure access to SharePoint resources. Similar security measures are observed in systems like Google Drive DLP, where user access is meticulously managed to protect sensitive information.
  • Role-based access control: RBAC is crucial for defining and controlling user access based on their roles within the organization. It ensures users can only access the data necessary for their job functions.
  • Conditional access policies: These policies add an extra layer of security by enforcing specific conditions for access, like user location or device compliance, before granting access to SharePoint resources.

Content level security

Protecting the content within SharePoint Online is paramount, and several features are designed to ensure data integrity and confidentiality:

  • Data encryption: Encrypting data in transit and at rest is fundamental to SharePoint’s security, protecting data from unauthorized access.
  • Data loss prevention: DLP policies in SharePoint Online help identify, monitor, and protect sensitive information, preventing accidental sharing or leaks.
  • Sensitivity labels and policies: Utilizing sensitivity labels helps classify and manage content access based on sensitivity, triggering actions like encryption or restricted sharing as needed.

External sharing management

Managing how data is shared outside the organization helps maintain data security in SharePoint Online:

  • Control external sharing settings: Administrators can manage external sharing settings, defining who can share data and what data can be shared outside the organization.
  • Monitor external collaboration: Regularly reviewing and adjusting external collaboration settings ensures that data sharing remains secure and controlled.

Regular audits and compliance monitoring

Ongoing audits and compliance monitoring are vital in maintaining the security and integrity of data within SharePoint:

  • Audit user activities: Utilizing the audit log reports helps track user activities, identify potential security threats, and ensure policy compliance.
  • Compliance with standards: Regularly ensuring compliance with standards like GDPR, HIPAA, and others is crucial for meeting legal and regulatory requirements and maintaining the organization's reputation.

Why Does Sharepoint Online DLP Outperform the Security Features of SharePoint?

While SharePoint offers robust security, it has limitations in certain areas, raising questions about how secure SharePoint Online is in scenarios like real-time redaction of sensitive data across various platforms. A DLP solution fills these gaps by offering additional security and functionality that SharePoint alone might not provide.

The advanced machine learning technology used in DLP helps detect sensitive data more accurately. Additionally, they integrate with SharePoint and a range of other platforms. 

How Does Strac Enhance Security and Compliance in SharePoint Online?

Strac is a modern SaaS and endpoint DLP that enhances the security and compliance capabilities of SharePoint Online through its innovative features:

Schedule a demo for complete control over your SharePoint data.

Automatic remediation of sensitive data

Strac's advanced machine learning models accurately detect, mask, and encrypt sensitive data, including credentials, PII, and Protected Health Information (PHI). 

Compliance with regulations

By monitoring data in transit and at rest, Strac helps organizations align with regulatory requirements such as GDPR, PCI DSS, and HIPAA. This minimizes compliance risks and fulfills obligations for data protection.

Integration with Microsoft services

A key aspect of Strac's offering is its integration with Microsoft services, including SharePoint Online. This integration extends Strac's protective measures across Microsoft's suite of products, such as OneDrive, Exchange, and Teams, ensuring a unified approach to sensitive data protection across various applications.

Support for Collaboration Tools

Beyond SharePoint, Strac extends its security measures to other popular collaboration tools like Slack, Zendesk, and Salesforce. Strac ensures that collaborative environments remain secure and that sensitive information is not mishandled or exposed unintentionally.

Founder, Strac. ex-Amazon Payments Infrastructure (Widget, API, Security) Builder for 11 years.

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