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How to secure your emails using Azure Information Protection

Organizations handle many confidential documents daily, from sensitive financial information to proprietary business strategies. A concerning problem in many such organizations is the weak security measures that leave sensitive data vulnerable to unauthorized access. Emails and documents are often circulated in plain text, accessible by anyone within the organization, regardless of their role or clearance level. This lack of protective measures compromises the organization’s integrity and opens doors to potential data breaches and compliance violations.

The three Achilles’ heels in data security:

  • Attacks by unauthorized users: Weak authentication mechanisms and lax access controls allow unauthorized users to exploit enterprises. Without proper access controls, any department’s files can be accessed and maliciously exploited.
  • Access by malicious programs on behalf of users: This occurs without the user’s awareness. Malware such as viruses and trojans can mimic the user’s identity, decrypting valuable data and information on behalf of an unsuspecting user.
  • Malicious users with authorization: This is the hardest hazard to handle. Unlike external attackers, malicious users can navigate the system undetected, complicating identification and prevention. These users voluntarily give credentials, breaking trust.

Transitioning to secure information management with Azure Information Protection

Azure Information Protection (AIP) is a cloud-based service that allows organizations to classify and safeguard documents and communications using labels. AIP employs Azure’s rights management technology to provide security to files and emails across multiple devices. This technology ensures data protection by using encryption, identity, and authorization policies, regardless of the data’s storage location or shared parties.

Key features of Azure Information Protection

  1. Identity validation and access control: AIP ensures security by validating identities and granting access to protected content based on them. For example, if a marketing department user attempts to access sales department files, they will be denied access until granted.
  2. Encryption: AIP encrypts protected documents and emails, ensuring that even if a malicious program gains access, it cannot read the contents without the appropriate decryption keys.
  3. Integration with Azure AD: AIP integrates with Azure AD, allowing organizations to define conditional access policies based on various factors such as user identity, device health, location, and application sensitivity. These policies help enforce access controls and restrict access to protected content to authorized users and trusted devices.
  4. Document tracking: AIP offers document tracking capabilities that enable organizations to monitor access to protected documents in real time. If a malicious program gains access, administrators can revoke access remotely, preventing further unauthorized access.

Using labels to protect your data

Labels in AIP categorize and safeguard documents, allowing you to monitor and manage content usage. They help analyze data patterns for business insights, identify risky actions for intervention, and monitor document access to prevent data breaches. Visual indicators like headers, footers, watermarks, and metadata in plain text are added to files and email headers. The use of clear text metadata ensures that other services can recognize the classification and respond accordingly.

How to use Azure Information Protection to protect confidential emails

Follow these steps to use AIP for protecting confidential emails:

  1. Log in to your Azure portal as a global administrator.
  2. Select All ServicesAzure Information Protection.
  3. Click on LabelsAdd a new label.
  4. Enter the name in Label display name and provide the description in Description.
  5. Under Set permissions for documents and emails containing this labelProtectAzure (cloud key).
  6. In the Protection window that opens, click Add permissions.
  7. Select the user and decide the permissions you wish to give them (e.g., ‘Viewer’ or ‘Co-Owner’).
  8. Click OK to apply changes. Any document with this label will have the assigned permissions by default.
  9. Click On under Documents with this label have a watermark. Customize the font, size, color, and layout, then click Save.
  10. Under Configure conditions for automatically applying this label, select Add a new condition.
  11. Go to Azure PortalAzure Information ProtectionPoliciesGlobalAdd or remove labels.
  12. From the list of labels, select the one you created and click OK.
  13. For email messages with attachments, apply a label that matches the highest classification of those attachments → Automatic.
  14. To enable the protection bar in all Office apps, select On for Display the information protection bar in Office apps.
  15. To ensure sensitive emails are not forwarded, click On for Add the Do Not Forward button to the Outlook ribbon.
  16. Finally, click Save.

The above article seamlessly integrates AIP into your organization’s workflow to protect confidential emails. By following these instructions, you can ensure that sensitive information remains secure, even in the face of evolving cybersecurity threats.

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