Microsoft Office update will stop you fraternizing with certain co-workers

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Microsoft’s online collaboration tools and office software allow employees to work together remotely or in person but the software giant also has a feature in place to prevent workers and teams from sharing files and even communicating with one another.

With information barriers in Microsoft 365, organizations can restrict communication and collaboration among specific groups of users for both business and security purposes.

Microsoft Teams, SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business all support information barriers and if your subscription includes them, a compliance administrator can define policies that allow or prevent communications between groups of users.

In a support document, Microsoft lays out several situations where organizations may want to use information barriers including internal teams working with trade secret material should not be able to call or chat with employees in certain groups and a research team should only be able to call or chat with a product development team. 

It’s worth noting though that information barriers only support two way restrictions and one way restrictions such as a marketing team communicating with day traders but day traders not being able to communicate and collaborate with a marketing team aren’t supported.

Protecting your organization with information barriers

When information barriers are in place, employees who shouldn’t communicate or share files with other specific users won’t be able to find, select, chat or call those users.

Information barriers apply to chats and channels in Microsoft Teams and in both SharePoint Online and OneDrive. In Teams though, they can prevent employees from searching for a user, adding a member to a team, starting a chat session with someone, starting a group chat, inviting someone to a meeting, sharing a screen, placing a call, sharing files and accessing files through a shared link.

Meanwhile in SharePoint Online and OneDrive, information barriers can be used to prevent unauthorized collaborations like adding a member to a site, accessing a site or content, sharing a site or content or searching a site.

According to a new post in the Microsoft 365 roadmap, Microsoft is readying the launch of version two of information barriers which will bring a set of new features including flexible people discoverability, increased scalability and multi-segment support when they roll out in July of this year.

Although all employees should be able to communicate and collaborate with their co-workers in the office or other shared spaces, the same can’t be said online. By preventing sensitive company materials from being shared using information barriers, organizations can take preventive steps to thwart data leaks as well as insider threats.

Anthony Spadafora

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.