Is Microsoft Teams SEC-compliant?


Microsoft Teams is a great platform for business collaboration. It offers many features that can help your registered investment advisory (RIA) or financial advisory firm become more productive and efficient. But what about security and compliance? These are especially crucial considerations for financial firms that must adhere to strict regulations, such as the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Rule 17a-4.

Fortunately, when configured properly, Microsoft Teams comes equipped with features that can keep your firm’s sensitive data safe and support your IT compliance. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at these features and how, when they are properly configured for RIAs or financial advisors, they can help your firm meet its regulatory obligations.

Security and compliance in Microsoft Teams

In addition to enforcing two-factor authentication, single sign-on, and data encryption, Microsoft Teams offers the following security features.

  • Microsoft Defender for Office 365 – This service identifies malicious content in Teams, as well as in integrated apps like SharePoint and OneDrive, and blocks access to it. This is especially helpful in defending against malware, phishing, and business email compromise.
  • Safe Links and Safe Attachments – Safe Links checks links in Teams messages against a list of known malicious websites and replaces them with a warning message if they are suspected to be unsafe. Meanwhile, Safe Attachments checks attachments for malware before they are downloaded. These features can help prevent users from accidentally clicking on harmful links or downloading dangerous files.
  • Secure Score – This tool helps you assess your RIA firm’s current security posture. It provides a list of recommended actions to help you improve your security and gives you a score so you can track your progress over time.
  • Conditional access policies – These are granular controls that you can use to restrict access to Exchange Online, SharePoint, and Skype for Business Online based on conditions like location, device type, and network connection. And because Teams’ core functionalities rely heavily on these apps, the conditional access policies that are set for them automatically apply to Teams as well.

Besides these security features, Microsoft Teams also offers a number of compliance-related capabilities.

  • Information Barriers – This feature helps prevent accidental or unauthorized communication between employees who are not supposed to share information with each other. You can create “barriers” between different groups of users, and if someone tries to send a message or file to a user on the other side of a barrier, they will receive a warning message.
  • Communication Compliance – Automatically monitor and record all Teams communications for compliance purposes with this feature. Communications Compliance can also flag communications that contain offensive language, sensitive information, and information related to internal and regulatory standards.
  • Sensitivity labels – Use this feature to apply sensitivity labels to Teams messages and files to help classify and protect sensitive information. You can configure the labels to automatically trigger certain actions, such as encryption or watermarking, when being shared or accessed.
  • Microsoft Purview Data Loss Prevention (DLP) – This feature helps you prevent sensitive information from being shared accidentally or inappropriately. You can create DLP policies that flag or block the sharing of sensitive information, such as credit card numbers and Social Security numbers.
  • Customer Key – Encrypt your Teams data at rest using your own customer-managed key. This ensures that only your RIA firm has access to the data, even if Microsoft’s systems are compromised.
  • Retention policies – This feature allows you to set how long Teams messages and files are retained for regulatory, legal, business, or other reasons. You can also specify when certain messages and files should be archived or deleted immediately.
  • Content search – This capability lets you search through all Teams data, including messages, files, and conversations. You can use it to find specific information or to investigate compliance issues.

Proper configuration is key

When it comes to security and compliance, Microsoft Teams is a great option for an RIA or financial advisor firm. Microsoft even retained an independent assessment firm to evaluate the compliance of Azure and Office 365 with SEC Rule 17a-4, so you can be confident that Teams meets all the necessary requirements.

However, these features will only work if they are properly configured. If you’re not sure how to set up Teams for SEC compliance, RIA WorkSpace can help. We have a team of experts who are familiar with the requirements for RIAs and financial advisors and will help you configure Teams to be secure and compliant. Contact us today to get started.