No matter what industry you work in – legal, accounting, retail, or something else – document security can quickly become an issue. How do you ensure sensitive documents aren’t accidentally emailed to the wrong person or that confidential files can’t be copied?
If you’re just using folder security at the basic level in your cloud services, that’s not going to help prevent an email with an employee’s SSN being sent to the wrong email address.
34% of surveyed organizations have had sensitive data compromised due to poor document handling practices.
If you’re one of the millions of Office 365 business users, you have a powerful tool at your disposal that can help you solve the document security issue.
Sensitivity labels in Office 365 allow you to tag documents based on content. Those tags can then be attached to specific security policies, such as:
- Do not copy
- Add watermark
- Not to be shared externally
- Track content and how it’s used
- Encrypt the document
What type of content do sensitivity labels protect?
Sensitivity labels can be applied to:
- Word documents
- Excel spreadsheets
- PowerPoint presentations
- Outlook email messages
More recently, Microsoft has added the ability for these labels to be applied to the following containers:
- Microsoft Teams sites
- Office 365 groups
- SharePoint sites
How are sensitivity labels applied?
Sensitivity labels can be applied manually by the user or by an administrator. They can also be applied automatically based upon the content of a document or email.
Administrators can additionally set up safeguards to ensure all documents as they’re created have a sensitivity label. They can:
- Set a default sensitivity label for all documents
- Require users to apply a sensitivity label before a document can be saved
Image source: Microsoft
Where are sensitivity label policies enforced?
Because sensitivity labels are applied at the document level, they can follow the document throughout a number of your workflow areas. Including:
- Office applications across different platforms
- Multiple third-party apps, such as Salesforce, Dropbox, etc.
How Can I Use Sensitivity Labels at My Business?
There are a number of benefits to using sensitivity labels for document security of your MS documents and emails. Here are some smart ways you can deploy them.
Use Label Customization to Be Specific
Sensitivity labels are completely customizable, meaning you don’t have to follow just “classified, public, etc.” designations.
Look at how your organization uses your documents and how they need to be protected and customize your labels to match your needs.
For example, you may have an R&D department that works on upcoming products. Instead of using just a “confidential” label, create one for “R&D Only” that you can apply specific security policies to. This makes it completely clear to your users who has the ability to read/share/copy documents with that sensitivity label.
Take Advantage of Marking and Watermarks
Users might not always look at the taskbar of a document to see its sensitivity label. But if you apply a watermark across the file that says “for internal use only” they can’t miss it.
You can mark content by adding headers, footer, or watermarks automatically based upon the sensitivity label of a document. The only type of content these markings can’t be applied to are emails.
Help Users Know What Label to Apply
You can reduce user confusion over which sensitivity label a particular document they’re creating should have. Microsoft gives you a couple of options to do this.
- Prompt users with a sensitivity label recommendation based upon the content. You can add a message at the top of the screen that explains why that label is recommended.
- Create a custom help page that appears as a “Learn More…” option in the label drop down. This page can give users instructions on how to choose the right label for a document.
Use Labels for Tracking Documents
Sensitivity labels don’t have to apply a specific security policy, they can also be applied to track document usage.
For example, if you’ve sent out a new employee training document and want to know how it’s being received, you can tag it with a sensitivity label that allows you to see how often that document is being opened and shared.
Require Justification for Changing a Label
One loophole that could put a protected document in danger is if a user changed a document’s sensitivity label to a less protected setting.
You can prevent this from happening by setting up a rule that requires users to give justification before a sensitivity label can be changed on a document.
Use Encryption Settings for Better Protection
Sensitivity labels allow you to apply encryption settings to documents and emails that can deploy a number of protections.
- Only allowing users in your company to open a document or email
- Time limit content availability, such as a price list
- Restrict the ability to copy or forward information in an email
- Create group specific permissions for ability to edit a document
Learn How to Do More with the Tools You Use
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