What is Azure Information Protection?
Updated on 20th Jan, 22 85 Views

Through this blog, you will learn the following topics –

Azure Information Protection (AIP) Introduction

Azure Information Protection is a Microsoft Enterprise Mobility and Security component from Microsoft Azure that provides document-level security. The two core components of this solution, data classification, and rights management services. While the former can classify documents, the latter helps to protect documents and emails across multiple devices including phones, tablets, and PCs.

Every document or email is protected by encryption and various authentication policies. Each document is given a label that represents the kind of information that the document contains. These labels can be added either automatically through a set of rules or manually by the user.

For example, administrators may automatically want to classify documents that contain credit card numbers. Every time this protected data is viewed, a check is done to see if the user viewing the file is permitted to do so or not while simultaneously alerting the IT administrators. This document-level security is very strong and works well even outside organizations because permissions remain with the file irrespective of where it is viewed, laptop, desktop, USB, etc. If someone without permission tries to view the file, they are blocked.

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Why do Organizations need Azure Information Protection?

Electronic record management, especially documents and emails, is often considered one of the most troublesome aspects for organizations regardless of their size. Think about how many emails you send and receive throughout a day. Your job role may require you to reference various documents housed within the organization. Proper categorization and security are significant concerns, especially when it comes to improper password protection or other human errors that can lead to a data breach. This is what Microsoft Azure Information Protection works to address.

  • In 2019, Facebook had 540 million user records exposed on the Amazon cloud server. (UpGrad)
  • In October 2016, hackers collected 20 years of data and 412.2 million accounts from six databases that included names, email addresses, and passwords for the Adult Friend Finder Network. (The Washington Post)   
  • In May of 2018, social media giant Twitter notified 330 million users of a glitch that stored passwords unmasked in an internal log, making all user passwords accessible to the internal network. (CBS)

And the list goes on…

From the above statistics, we know that more and more organizations are falling prey to crippling security breaches. Considering these increasing security breaches taking place in organizations, it has become highly important to secure employee information enclosed in documents and emails. Proper categorization of documents and security is one of the most significant concerns for organizations, especially when it comes to improper password protection or other human errors that can lead to a data breach. This is where Microsoft Azure Information Protection comes into play.

Microsoft Azure Information Protection provides granular control of documents while working within the Office 365 environment. Azure Information Protection helps in controlling content distribution and how the content is used. Only particular documents and some of their sections are allowed to be accessible to particular users.

This level of protection helps in:

  • Eradicating the challenges of unauthorized access
  • Preventing illicit modification
  • Classifying and storing documents properly
  • Gaining better control over one’s data
  • Meeting data protection compliance

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How does Azure Information Application Work?

To understand the working of Azure Information Protection, you need to understand its working mechanism, i.e., what is happening and how particular information is getting encoded in a document, and how those documents are classified.

Think label to be an entity that has certain metadata, and this gets spammed or encrypted as clear text to document and emails and the resultant is a classified document.

Where and how will this configuration be done? How is my app making me choose a particular label for the document? There are two types of classification that you need to achieve this goal.

First, the configuration is to be done on the Azure portal, meaning that the configuration has to be done for Azure Information Protection as a service. This includes the creation of policies and the creation of labels. Labels exist on portal.azure.com; you will use this portal to customize the settings related to labels and then you will add multiple labels to policy and then assign that policy to a group of users.

How does Azure Information Protection work?

Once the policy is assigned to a user, the user has to install an Azure Information Protection Viewer. It is a client that has to be installed on a user machine. Once that client is installed, the user will get a label bar in the application itself. The moment one has created a document, they can manually apply the label that they want while saving it. If one, as an admin, wants, one can automate the labeling part based on keywords.

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How to Set Up Azure Information Protection

Before installing Azure Information Protection unified labeling client, one needs to confirm with one’s administrator or help desk that they are using sensitivity labels to classify and protect documents and emails.

To successfully install Azure Information Protection on one’s PC, please follow the below-mentioned steps:  

  • Visit Microsoft Download Center and download AzInfoProtection_UL.exe.
  • Run the downloaded executable file. After running the file, you will be prompted to continue, click Yes.
  • On the Install Azure Information Protection client page, click “I agree” on reading the license terms and conditions.
  • If you are prompted to continue, click Yes, and wait for the installation to finish.
  • Now, close the window.

Before using the Azure Information Protection unified labeling client, one needs to restart all Microsoft Office applications and instances of File Explorer. With this step, one’s installation will get completed, and one can use the Azure client to classify and protect documents and emails.

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How does Azure Information Protection make Information Management easier?

In this age of digitalization, it is important to ensure data security.  With Azure Information Protection, this goal is within reach. Azure Information Protection allows greater control over the security and compliance of business information. This is done by robust protection via classification and encryption model without the need to ask users to complete complex security tasks during their working day. By automating the permissions process as a native action within SharePoint, Azure Information Protection ensures that information is automatically secured in a structured and predictable manner.

Azure Information Protection frees up users to create, store, interact with, and distribute content easily. In other words, Azure Information Protection facilitates a frictionless experience, instead of the distraction of laborious security chores. It also negates the impact that human error can have on security measures by automating the processes that are needed to achieve compliance.

Azure Information Protection enables collaboration to flourish internally and with external stakeholders without worrying that content will be accessible to unauthorized users. Moreover, Azure Information Protection gives one the ability to limit the access to documents on a timed basis, thereby allowing for content to be distributed and collaborated on by external agencies, customers, and partners without fear of it being used further down the road without one’s knowledge or permission.

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Types of Azure Information Protection Plans

Microsoft sells Azure Information Protection plans as direct add-ons to existing Office 365 subscriptions and as part of the security. The three plans that are offered by Microsoft are:

  • Azure Information Protection for Office 365
  • Azure Information Protection Premium P1
  • Azure Information Protection Premium P2

Microsoft also offers a free account for individuals who need to access Azure Information Protection protected content by entering their work email addresses. Once validated, users can install the Azure Information Protection app to view protected content on their mobile devices or Windows or Mac computers. Microsoft provides the Azure Information Protection for Office 365 plan for free for enterprises that subscribe to the Office 365 Enterprise E3 and E5 plans. Some of the features of the Azure Information Protection subscription include on-premises Exchange and SharePoint.

With these subscriptions, Azure Information Protection features include encryption protection for emails and documents in Office 365 and on-premises Exchange and SharePoint, integrated security with Office apps, and access to administrator Azure Information Protection controls such as usage logging and bulk add or removal of file protection.

Azure Information Protection Premium P1  provides additional rights to use on-premises connectors, track and revoke shared documents, and enable users to manually classify and label documents.

Azure Information Protection Premium P2 builds on Azure Information Protection Premium P1 with automated and recommended classification, labeling, and protection with policy-based rules and Hold Your Own Key (HYOK) configurations that span Azure Rights Management and Active Directory Rights Management.

Conclusion

In the current age of digitalization, where data is probably one of the most valuable assets for organizations, securing crucial data containing personally identifiable information is highly crucial. This is why Azure Information Protection plays such a key role in securing and classifying information. Since its introduction, Azure Information Protection has proven to be highly beneficial for organizations.

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