What you need to know about Azure Information Protection

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Article updated 3/30/2023

The importance of data and information protection cannot be overstated. Losing control over your company’s sensitive information can harm your business in many ways—from reputational damage and public backlash, to legality or compliance issues.

Data protection is essential to every organization’s security strategy, and Microsoft’s Azure Information Protection solution can help you protect your sensitive data from unauthorized access.

What is Azure Information Protection?

Azure Information Protection (AIP) is a cloud service that makes it easy for you to audit and set policies for your sensitive data. Its primary focus is identifying data using sensitivity labels, and protecting that data through encryption.

Microsoft Information Protection (MIP) vs. AIP—are they the same?

AIP is one of the building blocks of Microsoft Information Protection (MIP), extending the labeling and classification functions of the latter. AIP is more advanced with additional capabilities, making it more suitable for hybrid work environments.

AIP can be leveraged with MIP’s Data Loss Prevention (DLP) features, which use machine learning to identify sensitive data in motion and stops it from leaving the organization without approval. This feature enables greater protection of your organization’s sensitive data by detecting and blocking surveillance or spear-phishing activities.

Microsoft has stated that AIP is part of the overall MIP solution and integrates with Microsoft 365 (Microsoft Office 365’s suite of productivity apps). While AIP is an agent of MIP, MIP is built into Microsoft Windows and Microsoft 365. Both use sensitivity labels to categorize data.

Benefits of using AIP

AIP uses a granular protection policy for each item of sensitive data, which means you can establish different policies for different groups of people.

Other benefits:

Labeling and classifying files with AIP

AIP allows you to track the progress of your sensitive data at a glance and make sure all your essential files are correctly classified. It also provides a way for you to see which employees have access to which files, so you can be assured only those who need it will have access to the business’ personal or confidential information.

Additionally, if someone does not have permission for an encrypted file, they won’t be able to open it in any way, shape or form, even with their username and password. Azure Information Protection’s unified labeling client (currently in maintenance mode) offers you more control over protecting, labeling and classifying other files, on top of its everyday uses.

Sensitivity labels

Sensitivity labels are a means to classify your organization’s data in a way that shows how sensitive the data is. By applying labels, you reduce the risk of sharing information that shouldn’t be accessible to anyone outside your organization or department. This allows you to protect all of the available confidential documents easily.

When using Microsoft 365, sensitivity labels appear as tags on emails and documents. They seamlessly integrate into users’ workflows without extra work. Each item can have both a separate sensitivity label and a retention label applied to it.

A retention label refers to the length of time a sensitive data set is retained. It should be set to a specific amount of time so users can determine how long the data will be preserved.

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AIP on-premises scanner

The on-premises scanner is an agent installed on an on-site server, and allows IT employees to scan data for sensitive information. The scanner can scan documents and files, allowing you to quickly identify which on-premises files need to be labeled, classified or protected. The scanner can also auto-label files based on their content.

The scanner is available through the Microsoft Azure portal. It will scan on-premises file repositories—including file servers and SharePoint servers—and identify their location, classifying them based on their content. It can alert, label, classify and protect files in a location before data is lost.

Why your business should use AIP

Using AIP allows you to make sure you comply with the latest GDPR regulations, and ensures that your files are encrypted before they are sent, making it harder for cybercriminals to access them.

AIP also has a lot of security features in place to keep your sensitive data safe. It uses encryption to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of your data. To protect against unauthorized access or changes, it also encrypts the data at rest and in transit.

Discover what AIP can do for your business

From AIP’s unified labeling functions to the classification and protection of documents within your business, with Azure Information Protection, you can create a comprehensive protection program for your organization’s sensitive data. 

The IT experts at BCS365 can help you smoothly and efficiently implement AIP into your company’s networks, and train your employees on its uses. Talk to them today about enhancing your data protection.