The Copilot 365 Security Issues Every Business Needs to Know About

3 min read
Jul 3, 2024 3:59:57 PM

The Copilot 365 Security Issues Every Business Needs to Know About



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Microsoft 365 Copilot, released in November 2023, is arguably the first generative AI able to solve real business problems. Implemented correctly, it can revolutionise how your team works, accelerating productivity and allowing employees to create documents in hours that usually take weeks.

But as powerful as the technology is, it isn’t without its flaws. You need to be very careful with how you implement Copilot to avoid some pretty serious security issues and keep your data protected.  

In this article, we explain what you need to be aware of when integrating Copilot 365 and the steps you must take to keep your environment secure. 


Copilot 365: An overview

Microsoft Copilot is a generative AI tool that integrates with your current Microsoft applications to supercharge your team’s productivity. Here’s just a taste of the things you can achieve by integrating Copilot into your Microsoft 365 environment:

  • Create documents and presentations in minutes using generative AI
  • Identify trends and generate visuals in Excel  
  • Automatically summarise Teams meetings 

For more information on Copilot’s full capabilities, read our blog post on the topic. 

The software is very secure security-wise. Microsoft adheres to GDPR regulations, complies with data residency requirements, and encrypts information sent between Copilot and your applications. It doesn’t use your company’s data to train machine learning models, either. 

As we’ll see below, however, Copilot’s security issue isn’t with the software itself. It concerns how you use it. 


The real security issue with Copilot is data security

Copilot's biggest benefit is also its biggest flaw: it can access and analyse all your company’s data. 

Because Copilot can retrieve data from any integrated 365 application, there’s a very real risk that users can inadvertently access or generate content using sensitive or personally identifiable information if the proper protocols aren’t in place. 

The AI tool can only surface data the employee using it has access to. The trouble is that poor permission management means employees can access almost every file if they know where to find them. 

So imagine a scenario where an employee asks Copilot for an update on your company’s latest project so they can quickly inform the client. There’s a risk Copilot includes everything your OneDrive stores about that project, from widely available information like timelines and status updates to more sensitive data like costs and project-related employee bonuses. 

Your employee suddenly has access to information they shouldn’t and knows, for example, that their colleague is getting a significantly bigger bonus for this work than them. That’s not great for team morale and could lead to serious HR issues further down the line.

In another scenario, employees may reveal sensitive information about another client. Employees may not be aware they are doing this (especially if they don’t read through Copilot-generated content), but the cross-client data leak can wreak havoc on hard-earned relationships and violate client-party contracts. 

It’s not just users accessing personal or sensitive data you need to worry about. What they do with that information could also be an issue, especially if they store sensitive personal information on public cloud services. 

Finally, malicious actors could target Copilot’s access privileges using phishing emails, just as they can target your employees. The results can be even more devastating, however, since they can suddenly access every piece of data and use Copilot to browse it instantly. 


How to keep Copilot secure

Closely monitoring and controlling Copilot’s access rights is the only way to leverage its excellent productivity features without inadvertently introducing data security issues. 

That’s because Copilot can only reveal information users have access to using the same access mechanisms you already have in place across other 365 products. 

As such, we recommend companies adopt the principle of least privilege, which limits data access to a minimum and thus reduces the risk of anyone (employee, malicious actor or otherwise) accessing information they shouldn’t. 

Of course, managing access rights requires a lot of work. You’ll need to constantly revise access levels as individuals move to new positions and other employees leave the company for pastures new. 

It’s not all you’ll need to do, either. We recommend companies take the following steps to ensure Copilot doesn’t access any private files:

  • Define your sensitive data and identify where it lives in your 365 infrastructure. 
  • Apply sensitivity labels to these files. Copilot recognises these sensitivity labels and will not use them when generating content. 
  • Amend existing employee-sharing policies and set strict access controls by adopting the principle of least privilege. 
  • Educate employees about Copilot's capabilities and limitations — and the importance of thoroughly vetting anything the tool produces. 


Integrate Copilot safely with Method

If the above sounds like a lot to handle on your own, we’re here to help. As a Microsoft Gold Partner, we can help you successfully and securely integrate Copilot into your existing 365 environment — giving your team access to the tool’s productivity-boosting features without impacting data security. 

For more information on Copilot or to speak to someone about an initial consultation, give us a call today on 0345 521 6111 or get in touch using our contact form.


For more information on how Method IT can help improve your business’ security posture, contact our team today or give us a call on 0345 521 6111. 

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