Insider Threat Prevention

Advanced Guidance for Locking Down SharePoint and Protecting Critical Data

rectangle Written by: Matthew Delman rectangle 2 5 min read

SharePoint is quickly becoming one of the most popular data storage and sharing locations for enterprises of all sizes. It comes standard with many Microsoft licenses, which makes it an easy decision to use for collaboration. As a result, securing the data stored within SharePoint ios absolutely vital.

The standard SharePoint security measures are likely not enough to ensure the most effective protection for enterprise data. This blog post dives into advanced lockdown strategies to transform your SharePoint site collection into a digital Fort Knox, safeguarding your most sensitive data.


Refine Access Control to Tighten Data Protection

Access control is one of the most effective ways to protect SharePoint data. Beyond ensuring that users only have access to what they need in the moment they need it, there are ways to drive beyond the basics to further protect critical information.

Basic permission levels like Read, Edit, and Full Control still have their place in your SharePoint data security program. It’s moving beyond those basics, however, that empowers security teams to better protect sensitive information. To do that, security teams should:

  • Break Inheritance: By default, permissions are inherited from parent sites. Breaking inheritance enables setting unique permissions for specific users, groups, or even individual items within the site collection. This allows you to tailor access precisely to each user’s needs. For example, grant Edit permissions to a specific group of users for a confidential report library within the site collection, while restricting access to other libraries containing less sensitive information.
  • Apply Surgical Permission Levels: Standard permission levels can be too broad, and thus allow too many people access. Instead, applying more granular options like Design and Manage Lists means granting specific creation and modification rights without allowing full control. For instance, assign the Design permission level to a team responsible for creating new document templates within the locked-down site collection. This allows them to define the structure and layout of documents without granting them the ability to edit existing content.
  • Create Security Groups: Security groups allow you to manage access efficiently by assigning finely tuned membership. A few suggestions include:
    • Role-Based Groups: Create security groups based on user roles within the organization. For example, a “Legal Review Team” group could be granted Read access to specific libraries containing contracts, while a “Financial Reporting Team” group might have Edit access to financial data libraries.
    • Dynamic Groups: Utilize Azure Active Directory (AAD) dynamic groups to automate membership management. These groups automatically populate based on predefined user attributes like department or job title, ensuring only authorized users have access to the locked-down site collection.

More granular access control ensures that even if credentials become compromised, they will not have unlimited access to critical SharePoint data.

Track and Limit External Sharing

External sharing can be a double-edged sword. While it facilitates collaboration, it also introduces potential security gaps. To ensure that external sharing is done with the lowest possible risk, security teams should completely block external sharing by disabling features like “Send Link” and “SharePoint Designer workflows.” These functionalities could be exploited for unintended sharing of sensitive information. Consider implementing a change management process to notify users and adjust workflows that previously relied on external sharing.

There are options for secure external sharing though, and these include:

  • Secure Guest User Accounts with limited permissions within the locked-down site collection. Using secure guest accounts allows for controlled collaboration with external parties while restricting their access to sensitive data. Implementing a guest user lifecycle management process as well, means you can ensure timely account provisioning, deprovisioning, and access reviews.
  • Dedicated Collaboration Platforms with stricter access controls can also be used. These platforms may offer features like secure file sharing, document co-authoring, and real-time communication, all within a secure environment.

Using these secure sharing methods ensures that no unauthorized personnel access SharePoint data as well as making it possible for teams to accurately track sharing practices.


Encrypt SharePoint Data No Matter Where It Is

The data in your SharePoint environment needs to be encrypted regardless of whether it’s at rest, in transit, or in use. When it’s stored in SharePoint and not being accessed, at rest encryption needs to be applied to make it harder for unauthorized users to read. This need not apply to external parties either. Internal users who don’t have access permissions via their user account would not be able to read encrypted files because they don’t have the right decryption key. Having this kind of data encryption limits accidental or intentional data loss.

Encrypting data in transit means data being sent between users is not able to be intercepted easily. Using secure communication protocols limits the possibility of threat actors interrupting the flow of data and collecting anything useful for their purposes. When that encryption is applied, data can be sent from point to point with minimal worry of it being intercepted.

In-use encryption, what Sotero calls queryable encryption, is the last component of the chain. Data often needs to be decrypted in some capacity to be accessed. Once that happens, you remove some level of security from the information. In-use encryption keeps that data protection in place and ensures that your critical data remains secure.


How Sotero Supports SharePoint Data Security Best Practices

The Sotero platform is designed to unify data security posture management and data detection and response into a solution that discovers, classifies, and secures data at rest, in-transit, and in-use. Using its built-in AI to classify data, Sotero identifies the most sensitive SharePoint information and enables you to accurately define specific permissions. Sotero also secures data against any potential admin errors, limiting access when necessary to avoid mistakes.

Sotero ensures that data is encrypted at rest, in transit, and in use, adding another layer of data loss prevention. The platform continuously monitors data security posture and dynamically adapts to threats. This keeps SharePoint security updated and effective to improve overall cyber resilience. By halting threats in their tracks, Sotero reduces and protects against disruptions to business operations for seamless, long-term business continuity.

With Sotero, customers can secure their SharePoint Online instance with some of the best data protection in the industry. This is vital with the cost of data breaches growing and the flood of cyberattacks showing no signs of stopping.


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