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August 7, 2023
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 min read

Office 365 Data Loss Prevention: Guide and Best Practices

Learn the ins and outs of Microsoft 365 DLP and how to use it to its fullest capacity. Discover how Strac’s DLP mitigates the shortcomings of Office 365 DLP.

Office 365 Data Loss Prevention: Guide and Best Practices
Calendar Icon White
August 7, 2023
Clock Icon
 min read

Office 365 Data Loss Prevention: Guide and Best Practices

Learn the ins and outs of Microsoft 365 DLP and how to use it to its fullest capacity. Discover how Strac’s DLP mitigates the shortcomings of Office 365 DLP.



  • Data Loss Protection is a relatively growing industry flourishing as more and more businesses move to the cloud and collaborate online. 
  • Cybersecurity vendors are racing to provide reliable solutions and facing heat from competitors like Microsoft and Google.
  • DLP companies like Strac are disrupting the existing cloud security landscape through no-code APIs that sit on top of major SaaS applications and protect them. 
  • One of the principal drawbacks of MS Office 365 is that a) it cannot redact emails containing unstructured text or documents across all formats like images, word docs, pdfs, screenshots, etc. and b) it has high false positives/false negatives and cannot accurately detect sensitive data.

In 2021, Microsoft crossed the $2 trillion mark in market capitalization, an arguable feat that most companies dream of. However, in the same year, a report from Business wire surfaced, claiming:

“An alarming 85% of organizations using Microsoft 365 have suffered email data breaches, a research by Egress Reveals.”

This impacted the business heavily and tanked stock prices dramatically. The moral? 

Cyber security is a tough nut to crack. However, whatever may be the case, cybersecurity is the shield that your business needs. 

From another perspective, the newscast throws light on the reliability and security features of Microsoft 365 - a product that ranks second in market share and is used by millions of companies across the globe. 

Stats on usage of top SaaS platforms

This article discusses everything you must know about Microsoft 365 DLP features. Let’s dive into detail.

So, What Exactly Is DLP in Microsoft 365?

Microsoft 365 data loss prevention protects data and prevents unauthorized sharing of sensitive information. 

Early in 2017, Microsoft was tasked with creating the Security and Compliance Center for Office 365. This allowed users to manage and protect sensitive information through Microsoft Office 365’s data loss prevention features. 

Office 365 DLP features worked similarly to other DLP tools in that segment, allowing users to secure their data through specific rules. For instance, a policy defined within Office 365 to govern data sends notifications when someone violates the rule.

Further, Microsoft Office 365 administrators can define and apply DLP policies across the network to automatically identify, monitor, and manage data flow at rest or in transit.

The software achieves these capabilities through deep content analysis and advanced machine learning algorithms. It allows DLP to uncover content that matches your policies and blocks data sent through email, cloud storage, or any other third-party app. 

But, Do We Really Need DLP for Office 365?

Businesses deal with critical information such as intellectual property (IP), customer information, financial data and business plans, and much of this data requires robust DLP policies

Now, the question is, ‘Do we need Microsoft 365 DLP?’

The answer is yes and no. We’ll tell you why.

Microsoft 365 DLP policies can help you automatically identify, track, and protect sensitive data elements across its services like OneDrive, Exchange, Teams, and others. This makes it necessary to keep your data secure.

However, you do not need Office 365 DLP if you implement a robust DLP tool like Strac

Strac provides modern no-code scanners and Data Loss Prevention (DLP) softwares for every major SaaS product in the market. The software seamlessly integrates with Office 365, Zendesk, Slack, Gmail, ChatGPT, Salesforce, Box and many others 

Redaction of sensitive data in Zendesk tickets

Benefits of Microsoft 365 DLP

Reports suggest,

  • More than 34% of American businesses experienced a data breach in the previous year, and 
  • 74% of those businesses were unaware of the breach when it happened. 

The report also suggests that human errors, technology glitches, and criminal acts mostly account for data breaches.

Graph showing Human errors, technology glitches, and criminal acts

No doubt, having Microsoft Office 365 DLP makes sense in 2023. Here are a few notable benefits of DLP in Microsoft 365.

  • Microsoft DLP solution can detect suspicious activity and allow its user to block information from leaving the system. This is achieved through customized complex DLP policies. 
  • Office 365 DLP enables businesses to prevent the unauthorized sharing of company data to avoid leaking information to other parties. 
  • With Microsoft 365 DLP, you can protect sensitive data and prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. In case of theft, use device encryption to keep your data safe. 
  • Office 365 DLP helps perform compliance audits. With Microsoft 365 DLP, you can perform regulatory compliance for data protection. Organizations dealing with data and digital assets must follow regulatory compliance, including training programs for employees’ growth and development.
  • The Intune feature in Microsoft 365 DLP enables you to protect your corporate data on mobile devices via a container policy. It protects data from risky or malicious activities. Also, on sudden employee termination or misplacement of devices, you can remove all your corporate data from mobile devices in one click.

Limitations of Microsoft 365 DLP

Microsoft 365 data loss prevention helps prevent the loss of sensitive information and data, but it has its fair share of limitations. For instance, Microsoft DLP is ineffective against ransomware and phishing threats

  • Major shortcoming of Office 365 DLP is false negatives and positives when detecting sensitive data across unstructured text and documents of different formats. It is not accurate leading to frustration and decreased productivity.
  • Another major drawback is that Microsoft Office 365 DLP can’t redact sensitive email data.
  • Office 365 DLP also cannot redact sensitive data within documents like images, pdfs, screenshots, word docs, excel sheets, and more. 
  • Operating and using Microsoft DLP is time-consuming and requires configuration and customization.
  • Data loss prevention protection is limited against various data security threats that exist in PDFs and images, making business data vulnerable. 9
  • The complexity of setting up Microsoft 365 DLP also hinders the workflow and systems of a company. Furthermore, configuring policies is complex and hard to refine for better results.

How Microsoft 365 Data Loss Prevention Works?

Office 365 has a Microsoft Purview compliance portal that provides users with several features to boost their data security. This portal includes all features dedicated to data loss prevention.

Setting up policies and rules

Office 365 DLP allows users to set up rules and policies that determine,

-        which data needs protection,

-        how it must be managed, and

-        who should be notified if the data is shared in a way that violates the set policies and rules.

Make sure that your DLP policy details the conditions the content must match before enforcing the rule and taking actions automatically that you want the rule to take when a content match is identified.

Applying DLP policies

Office 365 DLP policies can be applied across Microsoft products like OneDrive accounts, SharePoint sites, Teams, Exchange Online, and more. 

Microsoft 365 DLP Best Practices

Here are a few Microsoft 365 DLP best practices that can help you make the most of the software features.

  • Identify and classify data
  • Restrict sensitive data access 
  • Determine the nature of your uploaded data
  • Eliminate redundant data
  • Check your collaborations

Identify and classify data

Office 365 DLP automatically identifies and classifies sensitive data. However, several other DLP tools classify data automatically and provide additional features.

For instance, Strac is one such DLP software that instantly detects and redacts PII, PHI, and sensitive data, like credit card numbers, health information, social security number, and more.

Restrict sensitive data access 

Another practice for effective data loss prevention is to restrict access to sensitive information. According to the Principle of least privilege, only those employees who need it to accomplish tasks and fulfil their roles should have access to specific data. The more restricted the access to data, the lesser the chances of data theft.

In cases of misplaced or stolen devices, utilize data encryption to prevent access to sensitive information. Data encryption adds a layer of protection to prevent unauthorized access.

Determine the nature of your uploaded data

Your approach to using Office 365 DLP isn’t right if you aren’t aware of the nature of your sensitive data in the cloud. Scan your data at rest, in motion and in transit to know the type of sensitive data (employee salaries, social security numbers, sheet containing IP addresses, password-protect files, etc.) are available in your Office 365 cloud. Once you know the sensitive data elements, you can better define your DLP strategy.

Eliminate redundant data

This is a general best practice to follow to streamline your DLP strategy. Once you identify the type of data stored in your Office 365 cloud and its location, remove any data that’s redundant and that you don’t need.

Check your collaborations

With Office 365, collaboration is easy. You can easily share data among teams or to external sources via emails. To ensure 100% data security, look into your collaborations. Determine what you share and with whom. Especially, track the sensitive data being shared constantly among teams.

Knowing your collaborations will help you enhance your data security, control access/ permissions, and also help you educate your teams on secure collaboration. Further, reviewing collaborations will also help you find anonymous links accessing sensitive data.

Strac Office 365 Data Loss Prevention

The Strac Microsoft Office 365 app is a Data Loss Prevention (DLP) solution designed to safeguard against the unauthorized disclosure of sensitive information through emails. It efficiently identifies and redacts sensitive content in emails, providing organizations with detailed reports on the handling of such emails. This functionality not only enhances data protection but also supports compliance efforts by offering insights into data flow within the organization.

The app facilitates a secure environment where sensitive emails are masked, yet accessible to authorized personnel through the Strac UI Vault. This balance between security and accessibility ensures that data protection measures do not impede operational efficiency. Additionally, the Strac Office 365 App includes mechanisms to prevent the unauthorized external sharing of emails, incorporating a process that requires owner approval before sensitive emails or attachments are sent to external recipients. This feature significantly mitigates the risk of data leakage.

Organizations have the flexibility to define a comprehensive list of sensitive data elements—ranging from personal identifiers to financial information—that the Strac Office 365 App will automatically detect and protect. This capability is critical for maintaining the integrity and confidentiality of sensitive information.

Furthermore, the app provides valuable reports to Compliance, Risk, and Security teams, detailing access to sensitive messages. This level of transparency and control is invaluable for organizations looking to strengthen their security posture and ensure regulatory compliance.

For a deeper understanding of how the Strac Office 365 App can protect your organization's sensitive data and to explore its full range of features, including the automatic identification and masking of sensitive information, additional information is available through the provided link.

Strac Office 365 Incoming DLP

When a sensitive email (body or attachments) is received by the employee, Strac Office 365 DLP will automatically scan, discovery, classify and redact out the sensitive parts in the email.

Strac Office365 Email Redaction

Strac Office 365 Email Outbound DLP

Strac integrates seamlessly with Microsoft Office 365, utilizing APIs to monitor and manage email traffic. This integration allows Strac to scan emails in real-time as they are composed and sent from all Office 365 applications, including Outlook and Exchange Online. The system works unobtrusively, ensuring minimal disruption to user experience while maintaining high security standards.

Detection and Analysis

The core of Strac's effectiveness lies in its advanced content analysis and detection engines. Using a combination of predefined rules, regular expressions, and machine learning algorithms, the system scans for sensitive data such as Personally Identifiable Information (PII), Protected Health Information (PHI), and proprietary business information. This detection is bolstered by contextual analysis, which looks at the entirety of the communication to assess the risk of data exposure.

Strac Outbund DLP Remediation

Once sensitive data is detected, Strac applies organization-specific policies to manage it. These policies can be configured to meet various compliance requirements such as GDPR, HIPAA, and others. Actions enforced by these policies include:

  • Blocking: Preventing the email from being sent until the sensitive data is removed or adequately protected.
  • Alerting: Notifying administrators and users of policy violations, enabling quick corrective action.
  • Encryption: Automatically encrypting emails that contain sensitive data, ensuring that only intended recipients can access the information.
  • Redaction: Automatically removing sensitive information from emails before they are sent.

User Education and Incident Response

Strac's DLP solution also focuses on user education and incident response mechanisms. It provides real-time feedback to users when a potential data breach is detected, explaining why certain data cannot be sent and suggesting corrective actions. This not only prevents data loss incidents but also educates users about compliance and best practices in data handling.

Reporting and Compliance Auditing

Strac offers comprehensive reporting tools that provide visibility into all email communications. These reports include details on detected incidents, policy violations, and user actions, making it easy for compliance officers to audit and review email practices. Advanced analytics help identify trends and potential vulnerabilities, aiding in the continual refinement of security policies.

By leveraging Strac's advanced technology and integration capabilities, businesses can ensure that their Office 365 email communications are secure, compliant, and aligned with industry best practices. This not only protects sensitive information but also reinforces the organization's reputation by demonstrating a commitment to data security and regulatory compliance.

Here’s what Strac can do for you ⬇️

☑️Automatically detect and redact sensitive data accurately across channels like Slack, Gmail, Office 365, Zendesk, Intercom, etc., with its machine learning models.

☑️Ensure compliance with PCI, SOC 2, HIPAA, GDPR, NIST CSF, and NIST 800-53.

☑️Allow users to define custom policies on the data to redact, user access, audit reports, and more.

☑️Help users detect and redact textual comments and unstructured documents like png, images, screenshots, .pdf, and more.

☑️Integrate seamlessly with Salesforce, Box, Zendesk, ChatGPT, and more. Check all our integrations .

Read our other resources:

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

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