As digital workplaces continue to grow in popularity, innovative tools like Copilot in Microsoft 365 are transforming how we interact with and manage our data. SharePoint, known for its robust collaborative environment, is now integrating AI-driven solutions like Copilot to enhance user experience. However, with new technology comes new challenges, particularly regarding security and data accessibility.

Common Concerns with AI

Some common concerns with AI include the emergence of Shadow IT, where users, in the absence of adequate official solutions, turn to their own potentially insecure alternatives. This trend not only poses a direct threat to data security but also complicates the management and oversight of information systems within an organization.

Moreover, the assumption that data is safe simply because it is not widely known or easily accessible overlooks the sophisticated capabilities of AI tools like Copilot in Microsoft 365. These technologies have the potential to uncover access to “hidden” or obscure information, challenging the notion that unnoticed data remains secure. In the following sections, we will explore this issue in greater depth and present approaches to address this challenge. Additionally, you can watch our latest webinar, where we address prevalent worries regarding Copilot in Microsoft 365 and provide guidance on preparing for its use.

The Potential Security Pitfalls of Using Copilot in Microsoft 365

Copilot in Microsoft 365 allows users to navigate vast amounts of data with ease, thanks to its advanced AI capabilities. However, this innovation comes with significant security concerns, primarily regarding the unintentional exposure of sensitive information. In many Microsoft 365 environments, access to data is typically well-regulated, with specific information available only to authorized personnel. Copilot’s powerful search algorithms, however, could potentially provide visibility to sensitive documents that, while technically accessible, should not be readily available to all users. This challenge is intensified by the fact that, prior to Copilot, such sensitive information often remained concealed due to the limitations of manual search and organizational data silos. To sum up, information was deemed “secure” because a user would not go out of their way to find it. With Copilot, accessing data just got easier.

In addition to making existing content easier to find and include in new content, there is a concern about the handling of information that is created from using Copilot. What a user does with the content that is created. Is the content sensitive? Should the content be shared with others in the organization or outside of the organization?

With Copilot, finding information got easier. Creating new information got easier. But the governance of existing information and new information is too often overlooked. So much so that handling the security and compliance of existing and new information is the recommended first step when considering a Copilot roll out.

Strategies to Safeguard Sensitive Data in Microsoft 365

To effectively mitigate the security risks associated with using Copilot in Microsoft 365, especially the unintended exposure of sensitive data, it’s crucial for organizations to implement comprehensive protective measures.

By evaluating data (sites/teams/files), identity (users), endpoint (devices), and applications policies, organizations can ensure the right security measures are put in place. Here are four key steps that organizations can take to ensure their SharePoint data remains secure while leveraging the advanced capabilities of Copilot:

  1. Data Governance and Classification: Begin with a thorough examination of the data stored in SharePoint to identify and classify sensitive information, such as financial records, HR documents, and trade secrets. Implementing data governance policies will help determine the sensitivity of data, who has access, and the potential risks involved. Utilizing features like Microsoft 365 sensitivity labels can aid in classifying data automatically based on its content, ensuring that sensitive information is adequately protected.
  2. Robust Identity and Access Management (IAM): Strengthening IAM processes is crucial to ensure that only authorized users can access sensitive data. This involves deploying multi-factor authentication (MFA), regularly reviewing access permissions, and ensuring that access control measures are both stringent and user-friendly. By closely managing user identities and their access rights, organizations can significantly reduce the risk of unauthorized data exposure.
  3. Secure Endpoints: Since devices serve as access points to SharePoint, ensuring their security is paramount. This involves managing and securing endpoints by keeping applications up-to-date, ensuring devices are compliant with security policies, and monitoring for any signs of compromise. Managed devices and up-to-date applications form a critical line of defense against potential security threats.
  4. Application Security and Safe Data Sharing: The last step focuses on the applications accessing SharePoint data. Ensuring that these applications are secure and that data sharing practices do not expose sensitive information inadvertently is vital. Organizations should evaluate the security measures of applications integrated with SharePoint, enforce safe data handling practices, and educate users on the risks associated with data sharing, especially when using advanced tools like Copilot.

Watch our ‘Governance for Microsoft Copilot’ webinar on-demand to learn more about how to safeguard your data for the use of Copilot in SharePoint.

Balancing Innovation with Security

Rolling out Copilot signifies a leap forward in organizational efficiency and data management. However, it’s crucial to keep in mind the potential security risks that may arise with this. By implementing robust security measures and promoting a culture of data sensitivity, organizations can harness the full potential of Copilot in Microsoft 365 while safeguarding their valuable information.

 

As always, the digital workplace experts at Klarinet are ready to assist your organization in adapting to these innovative tools securely and effectively. Reach out to us for more guidance and support in managing your SharePoint environment with the latest AI integrations.

 

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