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How Can You Make Your Office 365 GDPR Compliant?

Posted by Dimitri Ayrapetov on 12/12/18 11:12 PM


The GDPR or General Data Protection Regulation is a new legal rule developed to protect the personal data of European Union citizens. Every digital transaction of EU citizens’ data needs to adhere strictly to the GDPR rules. 

While you may not have an operational office in the EU, the information stored in your organization concerning EU citizens still comes under GDPR regulations. The law applies to every organization with EU customers, regardless of the location of this data or who is processing and controlling the information. Hence, if you engage in any type of business with EU, its citizens, or just have a single client from the EU, you are required to follow these complex regulations. 

GDPR compliance in Office 365 is essential because many organizations experience personal data breaches which leads to high penalties. It is known that fines for not maintaining GDPR  compliance can reach up to 20 million Euros. Breach of data including alteration, access, loss, wrong use, or disclosure of personal information can lead to GDPR data compliance issues. 

Office 365 can help you stay compliant with GDPR terms in various ways. 

Here are 4 steps to staying compliant with GDPR terms: 

1.     Utilize GDPR Assessment 

For your Office 365, Microsoft offers users a simple GDPR assessment option. This assists in analyzing as well as understanding the GDPR compliance status of your organization. You can know to what extent your organization follows and complies with personal data protection terms by EU laws. 

In addition, this GDPR assessment will also offer information on steps you can take to maintain GDPR compliance in your organization or Office 365. 

2.     Find Personal Data 

Apart from protecting personal data of EU citizens from a breach, GDPR also mandates organizations to identify and document that they have a legal basis for storing this information. Defining this legal basis can start by identifying and classifying EU citizens’ personal data throughout your organization. 

a.      Content Search 

Using Content Search in Office 365, you can look for data in documents, emails, and instant messaging conversations. Content Search can be used for Skype for Businesses, Exchange Online, OneDrive Online, and SharePoint online. 

After the Content Search, you can analyze the search results, statistics, or preview the results. 

b.     Data Loss Prevention 

All your Office 365 documents stored in Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, or OneDrive can simply utilize Data Loss Prevention for sensitive data. The in-built DLP can help organizations identify sensitive information according to GDPR for over 80 data types. In fact, using this feature, your organization can prevent accidental sharing any such sensitive information. 

For instance, if you have accidentally shared a record containing personal information of an EU citizen, the DLP will block the email or access to the document shared. 

c.      Advanced Data Governance 

Once you have identified data that you need to protect, you can manage it with Advanced Data Governance feature of Office 365. It is an integrated, artificial intelligence tool that helps in reducing compliance risks. Using Advanced Data Governance, it is possible to set policies and protect data throughout its life-cycle. 

Note: Although Content Search, Data Loss Prevention, and Advanced Data Governance can help you identify, classify, and manage data access in your Office 365, it can’t make you completely compliant with GDPR terms. Sharing of sensitive information internally in your organization will still be exposed to risks. 

3.     Protect Personal Data 

Although the protection of personal data starts with Data Loss Prevention itself, one crucial requirement is to save data from cyber threats. This can be done using: 

a.      Encryption Keys 

You can utilize Message Encryption of Office 365 for sending and receiving encrypted messages. This ensures that only the intended receiver can access the data or information in the message. The feature works with Gmail, Yahoo!, Outlook, etc. 

You can additionally save your documents with Protect Document option. Open your Office 365 document, go to File> Info> Protect Document. 

b.     Threat Intelligence 

Threat Intelligence feature of Office 365 helps in identifying and understanding the attacks and threats in SharePoint Online as well as Exchange Online. Further, you can address these threats with the assistance and knowledge offered for prevention. 

c.      Advanced Threat Protection 

Advanced Threat Protection is a feature of Office 365 that enables email protection against malicious content, attachments, and spams. With ATP, you can prevent your users from sharing malicious content in emails, block virus-infected hyperlinks, and hide suspicious URLs. 

d.     Management Activity API 

The Office 365 Management Activity API offers you information regarding admin, user, policy actions/events, and system. This information can be utilized to create compliance-monitoring solutions. 

e.     Azure Information Protection 

Using Azure Information Protection, you can protect sensitive information, documents, and email stored at any place, shared with anyone. Moreover, you can utilize classification, embedded permissions, and labels to secure sensitive data. 

f.       Advanced Security Management 

Advanced Security Management of Office 365 enables tracking of abnormal and risky usage by users which can lead to potential data breaches. It also allows the administrator to set activity policies that help in evaluating risk activities by users. 

4.     Identify Leaks 

According to GDPR terms, it is necessary for organizations to report Office 365 related and other breaches within 72 hours. So, even if one of your employees, who has some EU citizens’ data stored, loses his PC data or laptop, the loss of data should be reported. Utilising Office 365 audit logs, the data breaches can be tracked and investigated. 

 Maintain GDPR Compliance and Protect Personal Data in Office 365 

Since every organization utilizes, classifies, and manages data differently, it is necessary to first identify the data, its processing, and types of breaches it can cause. Once you have analyzed your systems and its data protection structure, you need to ensure that all the procedures, processes, and systems are inclined towards saving user data from security breaches.  

In a wider perspective, ensuring GDPR compliance can be tiresome but makes you a secure organization with an enhanced data protection. 

 TrnDigital For Managing GDPR Compliance 

TrnDigital can help you manage Office 365 GDPR compliance. We can assist you in planning, identifying, classifying, protecting, and auditing the data related to your Office 365. With our deep technical knowledge and expertise in GDPR compliance, we help our clients mitigate compliance risks that might otherwise lead to severe EU penalties.  

Topics: Microsoft Office 365, GDPR

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