Microsoft Teases Mobile-Centric Office 365 Encryption Options

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Company is readying more ways of securing data while its productivity software platform makes itself at home on smartphones and tablets

Microsoft is banking on an expanded set of Office 365 encryption features to help businesses keep a lid on sensitive information while their workers roam far and wide.

Following a flurry of mobile-enabled product releases, Microsoft’s Office software portfolio has evolved well beyond its desktop roots. And that means providing IT with tools that allow employees to get their jobs done without sacrificing security, according to Shobhit Sahay, an Office 365 technical product manager.

Beginning in the second quarter of 2015, the company is planning to build on its encryption-based toolset, he revealed in a Feb. 18 announcement. Currently, administrators can lock down their Office 365 environments using Office 365 Message Encryption, Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (S/MIME) and Information Rights Management (IRM).

IRM is a file-level, permission-based digital rights management (DRM) technology that first made its debut in Office 2003. The technology can be customized with the use of templates, including new departmental templates that establish blanket IRM policies for groups or entire divisions within an organization.

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OneDrive for Business, Microsoft’s cloud storage offering, currently supports syncing of IRM-protected files. And soon, IRM will be making the leap to the mobile flavors of Office. “Going forward, we are bringing the same rich IRM experience to Office applications across different platforms,” said Sahay.

Those platforms include the Office apps for iPhone, iPad and Android. The iOS builds will get IRM this summer, while Android users will need to wait until the second half of 2015. When the Universal Office apps and Outlook launch for Windows 10 this year, “IRM will be enabled out of the box,” he said.

For businesses with a fleet of Mac systems, IRM support will also arrive in the second half of this year. The company is “working hard to enable IRM in the newly released Outlook app for iOS and Android,” Sahay said. Launched earlier this year, Microsoft’s Acompli-based mobile Outlook apps were recently updated with enterprise-friendly security and management capabilities, including passcode enforcement and remote wipes that take just seconds after an IT administrator pulls the trigger.

“With these expanded cross platform IRM experiences, users will be able to safely work with their Office documents whichever devices they are using and organizations can create and enforce policies for sensitive content to meet their compliance requirement,” said Sahay.

On the Office 365 Message Encryption front, Microsoft is readying new features that offer “better control of your encrypted messages while working with external recipients and you can better manage the policies for external communication,” said Sahay. Expected to begin rolling out in the second quarter, these include message expiration controls that allow senders to set a time limit for their encrypted messages.

Also slated for a second-quarter release are message revocation tools that enable administrators or senders “to revoke access from certain recipients once the encrypted message is viewed,” added Sahay. Finally, user-triggered encryption allows Outlook Web Access users to quickly encrypt their messages with a click of a button.

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Originally published on eWeek.

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