Ensuring Data Security and Compliance with Microsoft 365

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Did you know that having cyber security covered doesn’t necessarily mean that requirements for privacy laws are in place?

After a few years of major cyber attacks making headlines, we would hope that there is an increasing understanding of the critical importance of cyber security. However now, the focus needs to also be on data privacy.


  • Financial services clients want their data to be secure.
  • Patients want Healthcare services to keep their records confidential.
  • Donors to Nonprofits want their personal information properly handled.

Data privacy is about protecting people. Of course, all organisations wish for better security, but not everybody does what is needed for data protection. When it becomes an afterthought, it can lead to the impression that privacy and security are at odds with one another.

However, when done strategically, ensuring data privacy can lead to:

  • Trust and Confidence: When customers are confident that their data is secure with you, they are more likely to do business with you.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Non-compliance with strict regulations can result in hefty fines and legal consequences.
  • Competitive Advantage: Customers are becoming more concerned about data privacy issues, so organisations that prioritise it can gain a competitive edge.

An ally in your quest for better data protection is Microsoft 365. The leader in cloud-based productivity software provides a range of features and practices to help organisations protect their sensitive information. In this article, we’ll look at how Microsoft 365 can help to protect your organisation’s data while meeting rigorous compliance requirements.

Security Features in Microsoft 365

What’s in Microsoft 365 that can help you create a resilient digital environment? Here’s an overview of Microsoft (Office) 365 security and compliance features.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)Adds an extra layer of security on top of passwords; users who log in must provide a second form of verification (like a text message or an authentication app)Reduces the risk of unauthorised access; even if a password is compromised, MFA prevents account breachesIf an employee’s credentials get compromised, MFA can stop criminals in their tracks.
Microsoft DefenderFormerly known as Advanced Threat Protection (ATP), shields against sophisticated cyber threats, including phishing emails, malware, and zero-day attacksScans attachments and links in emails, blocking malicious content before it reaches your inboxWhen a staff member receives an email claiming to be from a trusted client and ATP detects a suspicious link, it prevents them from clicking and thwarts a potential phishing attack.
Data Loss Prevention (DLP)Prevents accidental or intentional data leaks, by identifying sensitive information (e.g., credit card numbers, health records) and enforcing policies to prevent unauthorised sharingEnsures that confidential data stays within your organisation, minimising the risk of accidental exposureWhen an employee tries to email a customer list containing personal details, DLP flags the action, preventing accidental leakage and maintaining compliance.
Information Rights Management (IRM)Allows control over who can access, forward, or print specific documents or emails, encrypting files and restricting actions based on permissionsSecures sensitive documents, even when shared externally, so that only authorised recipients can view or modify themWhen you share a confidential contract with a partner, IRM ensures that they can read it but can’t forward it to others without permission.

*These are all included with a Microsoft 365 Business Premium licence at no extra cost.

Staying Healthy with Microsoft Secure Score

Using Microsoft 365 Secure Score is like having a built-in security health checkup. It evaluates how well you’re protecting your digital assets, including data, devices, and applications. The better your security practices, the higher your score. Secure Score can recommend where you can improve, then you can create an action plan to implement recommended actions.

The Secure Score feature is included in Microsoft 365 Business Premium and available once you start using the suite. You don’t need to set up Secure Score, and you can view it in the Defender for Cloud Overview dashboard. The score automatically updates every day.

Some recent updates to Microsoft Secure Score can further enhance your security posture:

  • Phishing-resistant MFA strength is required for administrators
  • Windows Azure Service Management API is limited to administrative roles
  • Internal phishing protection for Microsoft Forms is enabled
  • SharePoint guest users cannot share items they don’t own

Compliance Capabilities in Microsoft 365

Microsoft 365 supports these compliance standards:

  • ISO 27001: Outlines best practices for information security management systems and helps improve security controls and risk management
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA): Helps protect healthcare data, controlling access, and maintaining audit trails
  • Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA): Guides banks, credit unions, insurance companies, and other financial services institutions in outsourcing material business activities like cloud computing services
  • Privacy Act 1988 (Cth): Governs personal information handling by businesses, with Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) outlining how to collect, use, and disclose personal data
  • Notifiable Data Breaches (NDB) Scheme: Mandates businesses to report eligible data breaches to affected individuals and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC)

To monitor compliance with these standards, your IT expert can log in to your Microsoft 365 admin centre and navigate to the Security and Compliance section. Choose the relevant modules then configure settings and set up policies. If a standard is not available, you can contact an external IT professional with GRC capability to map out its requirements to your security policies and settings.

Key Compliance Tools in Microsoft 365

The features below can help enhance your compliance:

Compliance Manager
  • Helps track compliance tasks and assessments
  • Simplifies complex regulatory requirements
  • Provides a quantifiable compliance score to track your efforts
Compliance Score
  • Quantifies compliance efforts across various controls
  • Measures your adherence to standards
  • Enables continuous improvement by spotting gaps
  • Vital for legal and regulatory purposes
  • Allows you to search, hold, and export content for legal cases
  • Ensures compliance during litigation or investigations
Audit Log Search
  • Aids in monitoring and investigating security incidents
  • Tracks user and admin activities within Microsoft 365
  • Provides an audit trail for compliance audits

Best Practices for Data Protection and Governance

Here are some key best practices for enhancing data security in your organisation, particularly when using Microsoft 365:

  1. Prioritise data encryption, ensuring sensitive information is obscured from unauthorised access, even within Microsoft 365
  2. Implement MFA to add an extra layer of security, deterring potential breaches
  3. Regularly update access permissions, reflecting changes in roles and responsibilities, to maintain tight control over data access
  4. Conduct frequent security awareness training, fostering a culture of vigilance and proactive protection among your team
  5. Utilise Microsoft 365’s advanced threat protection features to guard against sophisticated cyber threats
  6. Establish clear data governance policies that define the handling, storage, and transmission of data, aligning with industry standards
  7. Engage in continuous monitoring and auditing of data activities to quickly identify and address any irregularities or vulnerabilities
  8. Embrace a strategy of least privilege, limiting user access to the minimum necessary for their role, reducing the risk of internal threats
  9. Back up data regularly, ensuring business continuity and resilience in the face of unexpected data loss incidents.
  10. Stay informed about the latest security trends and updates, adapting your strategies to the evolving digital landscape.

Microsoft 365 Compliance and Cyber Security Solutions in Brisbane, Townsville

Ensuring data security and compliance is a strategic imperative for modern businesses. At ADITS, we understand the complexities and challenges of maintaining those. Our team of experts is dedicated to helping you leverage the full potential of Microsoft 365 to safeguard your sensitive information and ensure regulatory compliance. Whether you are looking to optimise your existing Microsoft 365 setup or planning a new implementation, ADITS offers tailored solutions to meet your specific needs.

Contact us today to learn more about the cyber security services and compliance benefits in Microsoft 365 for your Queensland business:


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