Security and Compliance
Published: January 2016
When moving your organization to cloud services, security concerns add another layer of consideration; one of trust. You have to be able to trust your service provider with processing the data that you provide to the service provider through your use of the online service, which is “your data.” Security, compliance, and privacy in Office 365 has two equally important dimensions:
Security and compliance is an ongoing process, not a steady state. It is constantly maintained, enhanced, and verified by highly-skilled, experienced and trained personnel. We strive to keep software and hardware technologies up to date through robust processes. To help keep Office 365 security at the top of the industry, we use processes such as the Security Development Lifecycle; we also employ techniques that throttle traffic and prevent, detect, and mitigate breaches.
For the latest information on Office 365 security and compliance, visit the Office 365 Trust Center.
Microsoft is recognized as an industry leader in cloud security. Using decades of experience building enterprise software and running online services, our team is constantly learning and continuously updating our services and applications to deliver a secure cloud productivity service that meets rigorous industry standards for compliance.
At the service level, we use a defense-in-depth strategy that protects your data through multiple layers of security (physical, logical and data):
Figure 1 – Multiple layers of defense in depth
A defense-in-depth strategy ensures that security controls are present at various layers of the service and that, should any one area fail, there are compensating controls to maintain security at all times. The strategy also includes tactics to detect, prevent, and mitigate security breaches before they happen. This involves continuous improvements to service-level security features, including:
For more information on how Office 365 is protected against DDoS attacks, see Defending Office 365 against denial of service attacks, available for download from the Service Trust Portal (STP). Note, you must be enrolled in the STP to access this document. Enrollment is free and easy for all Office 365 tenants (including trial subscriptions). See Get started with the Service Trust Portal for Office 365 for business, Azure, and Dynamics CRM Online subscriptions for steps to enroll.
With regards to people and process, preventing breaches involves:
Preventing breaches also involves automatically deleting unnecessary accounts when an employee leaves, changes groups, or does not use the account prior to its expiration. Wherever possible, human intervention is replaced by an automated, tool-based process, including routine functions such as deployment, debugging, diagnostic collection, and restarting services.
We continue to invest in systems automation that helps identify abnormal and suspicious behavior and respond quickly to mitigate security risk. We are also continuously evolving a highly effective system of automated patch deployment that generates and deploys solutions to problems identified by the monitoring systems—all without human intervention. This greatly enhances the security and agility of the service. We regularly conduct penetration tests to enable continuous improvement of incident response procedures. These internal tests help our security experts create a methodical, repeatable, and optimized stepwise response process and automation.
Physical Layer – Facility
Customer data is stored in our Office 365 datacenters that are geographically distributed while taking regional data location considerations into account. Our datacenters are built from the ground up to protect services and data from harm by natural disaster or unauthorized access. Datacenter access is restricted 24 hours a day by job function—with only customer application and services access given to essential personnel. Physical access control uses multiple authentication and security processes, including badges and smart cards, biometric scanners, on-premises security officers, continuous video surveillance, and two-factor authentication. The datacenters are monitored using motion sensors, video surveillance, and security breach alarms. In case of a natural disaster, security also includes automated fire prevention and extinguishing systems and seismically braced racks where necessary.
Physical Layer – Network
Perimeter protection is implemented through the use of controlled devices at the network edge and on points throughout the network. The overarching principle of our network security is to allow only connections and communications that are necessary to allow systems to operate, blocking all other ports, protocols and connections. Access Control Lists (ACLs) implemented in the form of tiered ACLs on routers, IPsec policies on hosts, firewall rules and host based firewall rules are implemented in the network with restrictions on network communication, protocols, and port numbers. Edge router security allows the ability to detect intrusions and signs of vulnerability at the network layer. Networks within the Office 365 datacenters are further segmented to provide physical separation of critical back-end servers and storage devices from the public-facing interfaces.
The logical layer of security involves many controls and processes implemented to secure the host machines, applications running on those hosts and from administrators that may perform any work on those host machines and applications.
Most of the operations performed on hosts and applications by administrators are automated so that human intervention is reduced to a minimum, reducing the possibility of an inconsistent configuration or a malicious activity. This automated approach extends to the deployment of systems within our datacenters.
Admin Access to Data
Administrator access to Office 365 and your data is strictly controlled. Core tenets of this process are role based access and granting personnel least privilege access to the service that is necessary to perform specific operations. These tenets are followed whether the access is physical (i.e., to the datacenter or the servers) or logical. An example where this comes to life is a process called “Lockbox” that administrators use to request access for elevated privileges.
Access control happens at various levels:
Security Development Lifecycle
The Microsoft Security Development Lifecycle (SDL) is a comprehensive security assurance process that informs every stage of design, development, and deployment of our software and services, including Office 365. Through design requirements, analysis of attack surface, and threat modeling, the SDL helps us predict, identify, and mitigate vulnerabilities and threats from before a service is launched through its entire BitLocker production lifecycle. We continuously update the SDL using the latest data and best practices to help ensure that new services and software associated with Office 365 are highly secure from day one.
Anti-malware, Patching, and Configuration Management
The use of anti-malware software is a principal mechanism for protection of your assets in Office 365 from malicious software. The software detects and prevents the introduction of computer viruses and worms into the service systems. It also quarantines infected systems and prevents further damage until remediation steps are taken. Anti-malware software provides both preventive and detective control over malicious software.
Our standard baseline configuration requirements for servers, network devices, and other Microsoft applications are documented where the standards outline the use of a standard package. These packages are pretested and configured with security controls.
Changes, such as updates, hotfixes, and patches made to the production environment, follow the same standard change management process. Patches are implemented within the time frame specified by the issuing company. Changes are both reviewed and evaluated by our review teams and the Change Advisory Board for applicability, risk, and resource assignment prior to being implemented.
Office 365 is a highly scalable multi-tenant service, which means that your data securely shares the some of the same hardware resources as other customers. We have designed Office 365 to host multiple customers in the service in a highly secure way through data isolation. Data storage and processing for each tenant is segregated through Azure Active Directory and capabilities specifically developed to help build, manage, and secure multi-tenant environments. Azure Active Directory isolates your data using security boundaries. This safeguards your data so that the data cannot be accessed or compromised by co-tenants.
Data Integrity and Encryption
Office 365 has several cryptography and encryption features. For details on these features, see Data Encryption Technologies in Office 365, available for download from the Service Trust Portal (STP). Note, you must be enrolled in the STP to access this document. Enrollment is free and easy for all Office 365 tenants (including trial subscriptions). See Get started with the Service Trust Portal for Office 365 for business, Azure, and Dynamics CRM Online subscriptions for steps to enroll.
Protection from Security Threats
Threat management strategy for Office 365 is a composite of identifying a potential threats intent, capability, and probability of successful exploitation of a vulnerability. The controls used to safe guard against such exploitations are heavily founded upon security standards. By validating the ISO 27001/27002 and NIST 800-53 controls implemented by Microsoft via the independent audits of these controls, you are able to assess the effectiveness of the controls deployed by us.
The overall cyber threat landscape has evolved from traditional opportunistic threats to also include persistent and determined adversaries. We equip you with a defense-in-depth approach to address the continuum of threats ranging from common “hacktivists” to cyber criminals to nation-state actors.
Our Office 365 security strategy is founded upon a dynamic strategy with four pillars of thought. The mindset shift we made to make our defenses more effective and ever evolving is commonly referred to as “Assume Breach” and assumes that a breach has already happened in the environment and is simply not known. With this mindset, the security teams are continuously attempting to detect and mitigate security threats that are not widely known. One set of exercises is to artificially propagate a security threat and have another group respond and mitigate the threat. The primary goal of these exercises is to make Office 365 resilient so the new vulnerabilities are quickly detected and mitigated.
Advanced Threat Protection
Office 365 provides robust email protection against spam, viruses and malware with Exchange Online Protection (EOP). But as hackers around the globe launch increasingly sophisticated attacks, many organizations are seeking tools that provide advanced protection. That’s why Exchange Online offers Advanced Threat Protection (ATP), an email filtering service that provides additional protection against specific types of advanced threats. ATP for Exchange Online delivers the following benefits:
For more information, see Introducing Exchange Online Advanced Threat Protection.
Security Monitoring and Response
Many threats target software vulnerabilities, but others attack operational weaknesses, which is why Microsoft uses the Operational Security Assurance (OSA) framework. OSA supports continuous monitoring, helps to identify operational risks, provides operational security guidelines, and validates that those guidelines are followed. OSA helps make Microsoft cloud infrastructure more resilient to attack by decreasing the amount of time needed to protect, detect, and respond to security threats.
Office 365 has operationalized security into a scalable process that can quickly adapt to security trends and industry-specific needs. Microsoft engages in regular risk management reviews, and it develops and maintains a security control framework that meets the latest standards. Internal reviews and external audits by trusted organizations are incorporated into the Office 365 service life cycle. Close working relationships with other Microsoft teams result in a comprehensive approach to securing applications in the cloud.
Key standards that give you confidence in Microsoft’s security technologies and best practices are independent audits and verifications of adherence to standards embodied in ISO 27001, SSAE 16 SOC1 Type II and HIPAA.
Customer Controls for Security
Office 365 combines the familiar Microsoft Office suite with cloud-based versions of our next-generation communications and collaboration services: Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and Skype for Business. Each of these services offers individualized security features that you can control. These controls allow you to help adhere to compliance requirements, give access to services and content to individuals in your organization, configure anti-malware / anti-spam controls, and encrypt data.
Along with the encryption technologies in Office 365 that are managed by Microsoft, Office 365 also includes encryption features that customers can manage and configure. These technologies, which offer a variety of ways to encrypt customer data at rest or in-transit, are:
Information on these technologies can also be found in the Office 365 service descriptions.
You also have configuration options for anti-malware/anti-spam controls in the service. You may optionally choose to use your own anti-malware service and route to and from Office 365 via that third-party service. Office 365 uses multi-engine anti-malware scanning to protect incoming, outgoing, and internal messages from malicious software transferred through email.
Your administrators can use the Office 365 Administration Center to manage anti-malware/anti-spam controls, including advanced junk mail options and organization-wide safe and blocked sender lists. Individual users can manage their safe and blocked senders from within their inboxes in Outlook or Outlook on the web.
Content controls and multi-engine malware scanning also help eliminate documents containing malicious code. Based on file name extensions, Office 365 blocks certain file types that can contain malicious code from being uploaded to or retrieved from the service. Office 365 uses an intelligent instant message filter to help protect the service and your networks against malware and spam via IM.
Highly Secure End-User Access
Office 365 customer data and services are secured at the datacenter, network, logical, storage, and transit levels. In addition, it is critical to be able to control access to data and how it may be used. In the Office 365 service, Azure Active Directory is used as the underlying identity platform. This enables your tenant with strong authentication options granular control over how IT professionals and users can access and use the service. Office 365 also allows integration with an on-premises Active Directory or other directory stores and identity systems such as Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) or third-party secure token systems (STSs) to enable secure, token-based authentication to services.
Federated Identity and Single Sign-on
Your administrators can federate on-premises Active Directory or other directory stores with Azure Active Directory. After federation is configured, all Office 365 users whose identities are based on the federated domain can use their existing corporate logons to authenticate to Office 365. Federation enables secure, token-based authentication. This also allows administrators to create additional authentication mechanisms such as:
With IM federation, Skype for Business users can IM in a highly secure environment with users in other organizations that use Skype for Business, on-premises Skype for Business or Lync Server, and even the Skype public IM network. All federated communications are encrypted between the IM systems using access proxy servers. In addition, Skype for Business allows administrators to save IM conversations.
Multi-factor authentication enhances security in a multi-device and cloud-centric world. We provide an in-house solution for multi-factor authentication with a phone call, text message, or notification on a dedicated app. We also support third-party multi-factor authentication solutions.
Multi-factor authentication options include:
Users who are enrolled for multi-factor authentication are required to configure App Passwords in order to use Office desktop applications, including Outlook, Skype for Business, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneDrive for Business.
Once your information worker has logged in with multi-factor authentication, they will be able to create one or more App Passwords for use in Office client applications. An App Password is a 16-character randomly generated password that can be used with an Office client application as a way of increasing security in lieu of the second authentication factor.
For more information, see Multi-Factor Authentication for Office 365.
Privacy by Design
When you entrust your data to Office 365 you remain the sole owner: you retain the rights, title, and interest in the data you store in Office 365. The data you store in Office 365 is “your data.”
It is with this clarity of principle that we ensure that we maintain your privacy and operate our online services with certain key principles:
Beyond this, we have privacy controls to allow you to configure exactly who has access to what within your organization. Strict controls and design elements prevent or mingling of your data with that of other organizations using Office 365 and from Office 365 datacenter staff having access to your data.
In addition, Microsoft redirects government requests for your data to be made directly to you unless legally prohibited and has challenged government attempts to prohibit disclosure of such requests in court.
Customer Controls for Privacy
In addition to service-level capabilities, Office 365 enables you to collaborate through the use of transparent policies and strong tools while providing the distinct ability to control information sharing.
Operating a global cloud infrastructure creates a need to meet compliance obligations and to pass third-party audits. Auditable requirements come from government and industry mandates, internal policies, and industry best practices. Continuous compliance refers to our commitment to evolve the Office 365 controls and stay up to date with IT standards and regulations.
As a result, Office 365 has obtained independent verification, including ISO 27001, ISO 27018, and SSAE 16 audits; is able to transfer data outside of the European Union through the EU Model Clauses; is willing to sign a HIPAA Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with all customers; has received authority to operate from a U.S. federal agency under FISMA; and has disclosed security measures through the Cloud Security Alliance’s public registry. Office 365 extends the controls implemented to meet these standards to customers who are not necessarily subject to the respective laws or controls.
Office 365 service meets ISO 27001 standards and was the first major business productivity public cloud service to have implemented the rigorous set of global standards covering physical, logical, process, and management controls.
ISO 27018 is the first international standard for privacy in the cloud. Microsoft was the first major cloud service provider to be independently verified as meeting ISO 27018.
Office 365 has been audited by independent third parties and can provide Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements No. 16 (SSAE 16) SOC 1 Type I and Type II and SOC 2 Type II reports on how the service implements controls.
Office 365 has been granted FISMA moderate Authority to Operate by multiple federal agencies. Operating under FISMA requires transparency and frequent security reporting to our U.S. Federal customers. Microsoft applies these specialized processes across our infrastructure to further enhance our Online Services Security and Compliance program for the benefit of customers who are not subject to FISMA requirements.
Office 365 is the first major business productivity public cloud service provider to offer a HIPAA Business Associate Agreement (BAA) to all customers. HIPAA is a U.S. law that applies to healthcare entities—it governs the use, disclosure, and safeguarding of protected health information (PHI), and imposes requirements on covered entities to sign business associate agreements with their vendors that have access to PHI.
EU Model Clauses
Office 365 became the first major business productivity public cloud service provider to sign the standard contractual clauses created by the European Union (known as the “EU Model Clauses”) with all customers. The EU Model Clauses address the international transfer of data. Office 365 is one of very few cloud services—if not the only cloud service—that has received broad validation from European data protection authorities (DPAs) regarding its approach to the EU Model Clauses, including from Bavaria, Denmark, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, and Spain.
Further, the Article 29 Working Party, a consortium of European data protection authorities, has publicly stated that our contractual commitments meet the requirements of the EU Model Clauses. Microsoft is the first cloud services provider to get such an approval from the Article 29 Working Party. You can read more about this here.
Cloud Security Alliance
Office 365 meets compliance and risk management requirements as defined in the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) Cloud Control Matrix (CCM). The CCM is published by a not-for-profit, member-driven organization of leading industry practitioners focused on helping customers make the right decisions when moving to the cloud. The matrix provides a detailed understanding of the security and privacy concepts and principles that are aligned to CSA guidance across 13 domains. Office 365 has published a detailed overview of its capabilities for the CCM requirements that illustrates how these capabilities meet these requirements and empowers customers with in-depth information to evaluate different offerings in the marketplace today.
Customer Controls for Compliance
With Office 365, we offer a range of compliance features, including data loss prevention (DLP), eDiscovery, and auditing and reporting functionality. Across these capabilities, the user experience is preserved and productivity is not affected, leading to greater user acceptance.
Data Loss Prevention
Although malware and targeted attacks can cause data breaches, user error is actually a much greater source of data risk for most organizations. Exchange Online provides data loss prevention (DLP) technology that identifies, monitors, and protects sensitive data and helps users understand and manage data risk. For example, DLP proactively identifies sensitive information in an email message, such as social security or credit card numbers, and alerts users via “Policy Tips” before they send that message. Your administrators have a full range of controls and can customize the level of restrictions for their organization. For example, users can simply be warned about sensitive data before sending—sending sensitive data can require authorization, or users can be blocked from sending data completely. DLP features scan both email messages and attachments, and your administrators have access to comprehensive reporting about what data is being sent by whom. Administrators can also apply RMS for content that is triggered by a DLP rule.
Additionally, you may encounter scenarios in which individuals in your organization handle many kinds of sensitive information during a typical day. Document Fingerprinting makes it easier for you to protect this information by identifying standard forms that are used throughout your organization.
This data loss prevention capability is being expanded to other aspects of the service like SharePoint Online in the near future.
Auditing and Retention Policies
By using Office 365 auditing policies, your users can log events, including viewing, editing, and deleting content such as email messages, documents, task lists, issues lists, discussion groups, and calendars. When auditing is enabled as part of an information management policy, administrators can view the audit data and summarize current usage. Administrators can use these reports to determine how information is being used within the organization, manage compliance, and investigate areas of concern.
For business, legal, or regulatory reasons, you may have to retain e-mail messages sent to and from users in your organization, or you may want to remove e-mail that you aren’t required to retain. Messaging records management (MRM), the records management technology in Office 365, enables you to control how long to keep items in users’ mailboxes and define what action to take on items that have reached a certain age.
MRM in Office 365 is accomplished by using ion tags and retention policies. An overall MRM strategy is based on:
Separating MRM functionality from users’ Inbox management and filing habits. Users aren’t required to file messages in managed folders based on retention requirements. Individual messages can have a different retention tag than the one applied to the folder in which they’re located.
The Office 365 Discovery Center can be delegated to your specialist users—such as a compliance officer or human resources personnel—to conduct eDiscovery tasks without having to generate additional overhead for the IT department. Using eDiscovery, compliance officers can retrieve content from across Exchange Online, SharePoint Online (including OneDrive for Business), and Skype for Business. With the integrated Office 365 eDiscovery, you have one single experience for searching and preserving email, documents, and site mailboxes. You can be specific about what to search for and preserve. The ability to find only what you want and nothing more can contribute to a reduction of discovery costs. The eDiscovery process places no burden on the user for preserving and searching for data, because all of these processes are performed in the background.
Data Spillage Management
Office 365 has compliance features to support you if your organization ever needs to manage data spillage. For example, if a federal government organization were to transmit classified data into Office 365, there are ways for the organization to remove the data by themselves. Compliance and security officials with appropriate RBAC privileges can use eDiscovery to search for the message or document and hard-delete them. The hard drives used to store the spilled data are never re-purposed or repaired or otherwise moved out of the physical security of the Office 365 datacenter. They are destroyed if they are no longer used in the Office 365 infrastructure.
Customer data privacy is one of our key commitments for the cloud. With Office 365, at contract termination or expiration, we will provide at least 90 days for your administrators to confirm all data migration has been completed, after which point your data will be destroyed to make it commercially unrecoverable. Further, we provide guidelines to your administrators to personally destroy your data if that is preferred. Electronic discovery can be performed to verify that none of your data can be returned.
Businesses today need productivity services that help users get more done from virtually anywhere while maintaining security in the face of ever-evolving threats. Office 365 supports both of these needs at once with a highly secure, cloud-based productivity platform. Information regarding Office 365 security, privacy, compliance, transparency, and service continuity can be found in the Office 365 Trust Center and the Service Trust Portal. The Office 365 platform incorporates security at every level, from application development to physical datacenters to end-user access. Today, fewer and fewer organizations have the ability to maintain an equivalent level of security on-premises at a reasonable cost.
Importantly, Office 365 applications include both built-in security features that simplify the process of protecting data and the flexibility for administrators to configure, manage, and integrate security in ways that make sense for their unique business needs. When businesses choose Office 365, they get a partner that truly understands business security needs and is trusted by companies of all sizes across nearly every industry and geography.