How secure is Microsoft Teams?
The best tools today offer solid protection against phishing attempts and malware or ransomware attacks, and Microsoft Teams is no exception. It is one of the most secure business communication and collaboration apps as it offers advanced security and compliance capabilities by default.
MS Teams is built in accordance with Microsoft Trustworthy Computing Security Development Lifecycle (SDL), which is a key component of the Trustworthy Computing Initiative. SDL is a process that standardizes security best practices, allowing developers to decrease the risk and severity of vulnerabilities in software.
In other words, SDL helps ensure that software is designed and developed with privacy and safety in mind. One of the ways it does this is to assess codes for known security threats before it’s submitted to the final product.
What are the Built-In Security Measures in Microsoft Teams?
In its bid to fortify Teams against attacks and potential breaches, Microsoft has integrated a variety of features into the software. Here are some of the measures in MS Teams to help keep your data safe.
- End-to-end encryption (E2EE)
MS Teams uses end-to-end encryption to protect third parties from accessing voice, video, and screen-sharing data. When both parties enable encryption, Microsoft itself cannot intercept or read the data as only the receiver will be able to decrypt the data. Your data is encrypted both in transit and at rest in Microsoft data centers.
However, both parties will need to turn on this feature otherwise Microsoft Teams will use the default method of securing all data in transit using other industry standards like TLS (Transport Layer Security) and STRP (Secure Real-Time Transport Protocol.)
- Azure Active Directory (Azure AD)
Azure AD is a single trusted repository that lets administrators manage identities, including what users there are and who’s allowed to do what. Its services include core directory, access management, and identity protection. With Azure AD, your administrators will be able to determine which information will stay in the cloud and who can access and manage information without having to repeatedly log in each time
Active Directory also provides single sign-on, multifactor authentication, and conditional access to policies – all of which are part of the enterprise identity service that offers up to 99.9 percent of cybersecurity attacks.
- Transport Layer Security (TLS)
Microsoft Teams is built on top of Transport Layer Security and other industry-standard technologies to prevent eavesdropping. TLS helps to encrypt data (including messages, files, meetings, and other content) both at rest and in transit.
To guarantee the fidelity of every communication, TLS uses certificates issued by the Certificate Authority. The certificate proves the identity of each server in the communication, thus helping to protect against risks such as “man-in-the-middle attacks”, a type of threat in which the connection is intercepted without the knowledge of both parties.
- Compliance standards
Microsoft groups all its Office 365 products (including Teams) into four communication compliance categories: A, B, C, and D. Teams fall into category D, which is the highest level of compliance. This level of compliance covers the following standards:
- ISO 27001
- ISO 27018
- SSAE16 SOC 1 and SOC 2
- EU Model Clauses (EUMC)
Also, Teams is GDPR compliant.
- Communication monitoring
MS Teams comes fitted with a monitoring feature that enables administrators to keep an eye on conversations that go on within the software. Administrators can register keywords to trigger an alert whenever they’re mentioned. With this feature, users only have to use specific words to get the attention of the administrators to security issues. However, the monitoring must be done manually, and both parties must give their consent to it.
- Activity reports
Another security feature on Microsoft Teams is Activity Report. Administrators can gain insight into the summary of the activities that users engage in within the software. You will be able to see an overview of the activities individual users engage in such as the meetings they organize, attend the amount of time spent in the chat facility. There’s also a filter with which you can see a particular type of message such as mentions, replies, likes, etc.
- Supervised chats
Microsoft Teams comes with a security measure that restricts private messaging between users unless certain users are added to the chat. This feature can be especially helpful in helping educational institutions limit the private interactions students have with each other, so chats can only occur with the supervision of a teacher.
- Microsoft Defender
This feature targets malicious activities related to sharing of files and links that could potentially lead to an incident. Files that are safe are labeled “safe links” so users can decide which files to download and which to avoid.
How Does Microsoft Teams Protect Your Data in Transit?
Microsoft Teams protects your data in transit by the means of several technologies including Transport Security Layer and STRP (Secure Real-Time Transport Protocol). These protocols encrypt data as it travels over the internet.
The process involves the issuance of certificates by a Certificate Authority to authenticate the identity of each server in the communication. According to Microsoft, “if the certificate is valid, the client uses the public key in the certificate to encrypt the symmetric encryption keys to be used for the communication, so only the original owner of the certificate can use its private key to decrypt the contents of the communication.”
How Does Microsoft Teams Protect Your Data at Rest?
Every piece of data you send (regardless of the format) is stored and backed up in Azure. Azure is delivered through data centers in 54 global regions, with each center complying with regulations in the region the organization operates in.
The encryption at rest in Azure is based on a simple conceptual model that involves the following:
- Encryption of the data using a symmetric encryption key
- Decryption of the data using the same key as it is prepared for use in memory
- Data may be partitioned and different keys used for each partition
- Encryption keys are stored in a secure location and kept safe by identity-based access control.
How to Improve Your Microsoft Teams Security Settings
Microsoft Teams comes with some security measures enabled by default, but you can improve it by adjusting the settings. Here are some tips:
- Enable multi-factor authentication: This setting provides an additional layer of security by verifying the identity of users using different methods which may include biometric attributes like fingerprints or face.
- Classify sensitive data via MIP: Microsoft Information Protection (MIP) allows you to protect critical information by classifying sensitive data within a Teams shared folder. Folders and documents can be encrypted to avoid unauthorized access.
- Set up data loss prevention: This feature helps to secure your organization’s data by preventing the sharing of sensitive data with external and guest users. Messages containing critical information will be automatically deleted, and documents containing sensitive data won’t open for those users.
- Use lobby feature: You can enable this security measure to prevent external users from accessing your meetings in Microsoft Teams. They will be redirected to a virtual lobby where they will have to wait for admission.
- Configure access control: You can create access control rules to allow or deny external access and guest access. By assigning roles to them, you can limit what they can see and change.
How to Enable Two-Factor Authentication in Microsoft Teams
Two-factor authentication makes it possible for users to sign in safely from untrusted devices from anywhere and at any time. When enabled, you will receive a security code in your email or phone to confirm that it’s you. To turn on this feature:
- Got to security settings and sign in with your Microsoft account
- Click on Two-step verification and select ‘Set up two-step verification’
How to Control Access to Your Microsoft Teams Data with Conditional Access Policies
Conditional Access is a feature on Microsoft Teams that can help boost security and prevent unauthorized access to your organization’s data. It’s an effective way to bolster your authentication process without burdening users. To access data and other resources they need, users must meet certain requirements.
You can create policies that apply to specific individuals (or groups), to cloud apps, or that require that specific conditions be met. The conditions may include the device’s operating system, location, and client apps. Based on these policies, you can control what happens when any of the requirements are satisfied.
Most Conditional Access policies by organizations put hurdles in place such as requiring that the devices be domain-joined or enrolled in Intune. Here are steps to setting up a Conditional Access policy:
- Navigate to Azure Active Directory > Security > Conditional Access
- Click New Policy
- Give your policy a name and complete the three vital elements of Conditional Access (Assignments, Access Controls and Enable Policy).
How to Monitor and Respond to Security Alerts in Microsoft Teams
To combat cyberattacks, Microsoft Teams has a variety of features to monitor activity usage and identify security threats.
To monitor Teams activity in your admin center, follow the steps below:
Go to Analytics & Reports > View Reports > Usage
Best Practices for Safe and Secure Use of Microsoft Teams
Some general best practices include:
- Create teams that mirror your organizational structure such as Admin, IT, Sales, and so on.
- Each team should have dedicated channels created to allow interaction and collaboration on different projects.
- Allow users to create different teams as the need arises provided the conversations will be monitored.
- Integrate with other software in your technology stack.
- Use PowerShell to manage Teams
- Enable two-factor authentication to protect against unauthorized access and make signing on more secure.
- Enforce least-privilege access so users can only access the resources that they absolutely need to perform their role.
- Prevent file download to unauthorized devices.
How to Avoid Phishing Scams and Other Security Threats in Microsoft Teams?
Phishing attacks are a type of threat whereby cybercriminals attempt to steal sensitive information by posing as official communication from legitimate companies or individuals. Here are ways to avoid such scams and other security threats:
- Always check notifications in Teams under “Activity” rather than clicking links from your emails. Genuine notifications will both appear in “Activity,” and Teams but phishing attempts will only appear in your email.
- Use Microsoft Defender to protect your email, documents, and online storage against Malware.
- Educate and train your employees on how to identify the signs of a phishing scam. This is unarguably the best way to protect against phishing scams. Common signs include:
- The email is unexpected and unsolicited.
- The email may ask you to download an application or document or adjust your security settings.
- You may be asked to provide your personal information via email.
- The email may contain typographical or grammatical errors.
- The email has extra (or less) information than normal such as added numbers or changed letters.
- The link in the email may take you to a site different from where the email says it will take you to.
- The link in the email may take you to a site similar to the real thing but with inconsistencies such as outdated logos, poor design, typos, etc.
- The email has multiple recipients as opposed to a single individual.
How to Stay Safe When Working Remotely with Microsoft Teams?
Remote work increases the risks of data breaches when using Teams, but you can stay safe when working from home with Microsoft Teams by using the following tips:
- Backup data: Cyberattacks often happen unexpectedly, but you can minimize the impact by backing up your critical data so you can quickly recover and resume work should any disruption occur.
- Work closely with IT: All hands must be on deck to ensure Microsoft Teams’ security. Be sure to follow all the guidelines provided by the IT department.
- Update devices regularly: Outdated devices make MS Teams vulnerable to attacks. New updates contribute to your safety as they provide protection against possible loopholes that cybercriminals can exploit to launch attacks.
- Be open to education and training: The world of cybersecurity is always evolving, so there’s the need to be educated on current best practices and trained on how to handle cyber threats.
- Use the right set of tools: Remote workers need a variety of tools to stay safe when using Microsoft Teams. These include VPN to encrypt your data and encryption tools to comply with regulatory standards and boost security efforts. Firewalls can also help in blocking malicious network traffic.
- Enable two-factor authentication and a strong password policy: These solutions can help prevent unauthorized access to Microsoft Teams, thus protecting your organization’s devices and data.
- Secure internet connection: Working from home requires an internet connection, which hackers can exploit if it’s unsecured. Remote workers can stay safe by using an antivirus or some other internet security tool to decrease risks.
What is the risk of data breaches within Microsoft Teams?
Although Microsoft Teams comes with a plethora of security measures to keep your data safe, there are still potential risks nonetheless. The first thing to know is that the level of security you experience with Microsoft Teams is based on the measures you implement. On top of that, here are areas of concern to know:
- Unauthorized devices: A major cause of security risks in MS Teams is the use of unauthorized devices by staff as cybercriminals can exploit them due to the absence of tight security measures. Limiting access to unauthorized devices can help prevent data leaks.
- Guest access: Because many organizations bring in vendors, contractors, and other guests for different reasons, external members may become privy to shared proprietary or confidential information. It’s important to limit guest access to only channels needed to perform their duties.
- Compliance: Attempts by cybercriminals are external threats, but internal threats exist too. Failure to comply with stipulated standards may expose your organization to data leaks. These include ways in which employees interact, how data is collected, processed, and stored as well as how long documents are stored for.
Microsoft Teams is very secure but the burden of ensuring that keeping sensitive data safe lies on every organization and their employees as most security lapses are caused by users. In other words, MS Teams provides an array of features that you can enable or configure to strengthen Microsoft Teams’ security for your organization. Use the tips in this guide to take security up a notch and don’t forget to train your team on best practices.