Microsoft Unveils Privacy-Enhancing ExpressRoute for Office 365

Security-conscious organizations can now establish a direct connection to their Office 365 clouds.

Microsoft Office 365 security

Office 365 melds Microsoft's productivity software suite with an array of cloud services aimed at improving collaboration and expanding mobile access to Office content, but in a post-Snowden world, organizations remain leery about entrusting the cloud with their valuable data.

To assuage its customers' concerns, last year Microsoft launched Azure ExpressRoute, a service that provides a private and secure link to the software giant's Azure cloud services by way of partner data center and network services providers. Today, businesses can use the technology on their Office 365 deployments.

"This direct connection offers customers more predictable network performance, a service-level agreement for guaranteed availability and additional data privacy," wrote Microsoft Office 365 Team in a Sept. 29 blog post announcing the general availability of Azure ExpressRoute for Office 365. "As more organizations depend on Office 365 for document collaboration and communications, they will come to depend more and more on the network connectivity they have between their users and Office 365."

Specifically, organizations can use Azure ExpressRoute for Office 365 for private access to Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, Skype for Business Online, Azure Active Directory, Office 365 Video, Power BI, Delve and Project Online, according to a FAQ issued by Microsoft. Yammer, Domain Name Service, Office 365 ProPlus installation files and Content Delivery Network server are not covered by the offering.

Existing Azure ExpressRoute customers can simply request that their network operators switch on Office 365 connectivity. Microsoft recommends that customers consult with their providers given the additional network traffic generated by Office 365. Partner companies include British Telecom (ET), Equinix, Tata Communications, TeleCity Group and Verizon.

In another Office security development, Microsoft announced today that it had begun rolling out its Data Loss Prevention (DLP) technologies in Office 2016, OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online. DLP enables administrators to create policies that restrict the sharing of sensitive Office content, helping organizations meet regulatory requirements and keep a lid on valuable information like social security and credit card numbers.

"By extending DLP to OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online, we are expanding upon the same protection you already have in Exchange, Outlook and Outlook on the web, offering broader protection of your data wherever it lives," wrote the company's Office 365 Team in a separate announcement. "In addition, Office 2016 also supports DLP in Excel, Word, PowerPoint and Outlook, scanning documents for defined sensitive information."

Over the coming weeks, enterprise customers will be able to create automated policies restricting content and messages containing sensitive information types, including ABA routing numbers, passport numbers, driver's license numbers and an assortment of other personally identifiable data. Administrators can elect to detect external sharing and implement corrective actions, block sensitive content and customize DLP's policy tips and user notifications.

More DLP features are on the way, according to Microsoft. The company is currently working on adding policy exceptions, custom classifications, document fingerprinting and new policy conditions based on a user's identity.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...