Learn about sensitive information types
Identifying and classifying sensitive items that are under your organizations control is the first step in the Information Protection discipline. Microsoft 365 provides three ways of identifying items so that they can be classified:
- manually by users
- automated pattern recognition, like sensitive information types
- machine learning
Sensitive information types are pattern-based classifiers. They detect sensitive information like social security, credit card, or bank account numbers to identify sensitive items, see Sensitive information types entity definitions
Sensitive information types are used in
- Data loss prevention policies
- Sensitivity labels
- Retention labels
- Insider risk management
- Communication compliance
- Auto-labelling policies
- Privacy management (preview)
Fundamental parts of a sensitive information type
Every sensitive information type entity is defined by these fields:
- name: how the sensitive information type is referred to
- description: describes what the sensitive information type is looking for
- pattern: A pattern defines what a sensitive information type detects. It consists of the following components
- Primary element – the main element that the sensitive information type is looking for. It can be a regular expression with or without a checksum validation, a keyword list, a keyword dictionary, or a function.
- Supporting element – elements that act as supporting evidence that help in increasing the confidence of the match. For example, keyword “SSN” in proximity of an SSN number. It can be a regular expression with or without a checksum validation, keyword list, keyword dictionary.
- Confidence Level - Confidence levels (high, medium, low) reflect how much supporting evidence was detected along with the primary element. The more supporting evidence an item contains, the higher the confidence that a matched item contains the sensitive info you're looking for.
- Proximity – Number of characters between primary and supporting element
Learn more about confidence levels in this video
Example sensitive information type
Argentina national identity (DNI) number
Eight digits separated by periods
- two digits
- a period
- three digits
- a period
- three digits
A DLP policy has medium confidence that it's detected this type of sensitive information if, within a proximity of 300 characters:
- The regular expression Regex_argentina_national_id finds content that matches the pattern.
- A keyword from Keyword_argentina_national_id is found.
<!-- Argentina National Identity (DNI) Number --> <Entity id="eefbb00e-8282-433c-8620-8f1da3bffdb2" recommendedConfidence="75" patternsProximity="300"> <Pattern confidenceLevel="75"> <IdMatch idRef="Regex_argentina_national_id"/> <Match idRef="Keyword_argentina_national_id"/> </Pattern> </Entity>
- Argentina National Identity number
- Identification National Identity Card
- NIC National Registry of Persons
- Documento Nacional de Identidad
- Registro Nacional de las Personas
More on confidence levels
In a sensitive information type entity definition, confidence level reflects how much supporting evidence is detected in addition to the primary element. The more supporting evidence an item contains, the higher the confidence that a matched item contains the sensitive info you're looking for. For example, matches with a high confidence level will contain more supporting evidence in close proximity of the primary element, whereas matches with a low confidence level would contain little to no supporting evidence in close proximity.
A high confidence level returns the fewest false positives but might result in more false negatives. Low or medium confidence levels returns more false positives but few to zero false negatives.
- low confidence: Value of 65, matched items will contain the fewest false negatives but the most false positives. Low confidence returns all low, medium, and high confidence matches.
- medium confidence: Value of 75, matched items will contain an average amount of false positives and false negatives. Medium confidence returns all medium, and high confidence matches.
- high confidence: Value of 85, matched items will contain the fewest false positives but the most false negatives. High confidence only returns high confidence matches.
You should use high confidence level patterns with low counts, say five to ten, and low confidence patterns with higher counts, say 20 or more.
If you have existing policies or custom sensitive information types (SITs) defined using number-based confidence levels (also know as accuracy), they will automatically be mapped to the three discrete confidence levels; low confidence, medium confidence, and high confidence, across the Security @ Compliance Center UI.
- All policies with minimum accuracy or custom SIT patterns with confidence levels of between 76 and 100 will be mapped to high confidence.
- All policies with minimum accuracy or custom SIT patterns with confidence levels of between 66 and 75 will be mapped to medium confidence.
- All policies with minimum accuracy or custom SIT patterns with confidence levels less than or equal to 65 will be mapped to low confidence.
Creating custom sensitive information types
To create custom sensitive information types in the Security & Compliance Center, you can choose from several options:
Use the UI You can set up a custom sensitive information type using the Security & Compliance Center UI. With this method, you can use regular expressions, keywords, and keyword dictionaries. To learn more, see Create a custom sensitive information type.
Use EDM You can set up custom sensitive information types using Exact Data Match (EDM)-based classification. This method enables you to create a dynamic sensitive information type using a secure database that you can refresh periodically. See Create a custom sensitive information type with Exact Data Match based classification.
Use PowerShell You can set up custom sensitive information types using PowerShell. Although this method is more complex than using the UI, you have more configuration options. See Create a custom sensitive information type in Security & Compliance Center PowerShell.
Improved confidence levels are available for immediate use within Data Loss Prevention for Microsoft 365 services, Microsoft Information Protection for Microsoft 365 services, Communication Compliance, Information Governance, and Records Management. Microsoft 365 Information Protection now supports double byte character set languages for:
- Chinese (simplified)
- Chinese (traditional)
This support is available for sensitive information types. See, Information protection support for double byte character sets release notes (preview) for more information.
To detect patterns containing Chinese/Japanese characters and single byte characters or to detect patterns containing Chinese/Japanese and English, define two variants of the keyword or regex.
- For example, to detect a keyword like "机密的document", use two variants of the keyword; one with a space between the Japanese and English text and another without a space between the Japanese and English text. So, the keywords to be added in the SIT should be "机密的 document" and "机密的document". Similarly, to detect a phrase "東京オリンピック2020", two variants should be used; "東京オリンピック 2020" and "東京オリンピック2020".
Along with Chinese/Japanese/double byte characters, if the list of keywords/phrases also contain non Chinese/Japanese words also (like English only), it is recommended to create two dictionaries/keyword lists. One for keywords containing Chinese/Japanese/double byte characters and another one for English only.
- For example, if you want to create a keyword dictionary/list with three phrases "Highly confidential", "機密性が高い" and "机密的document", the it you should create two keyword lists.
- Highly confidential
- 機密性が高い, 机密的document and 机密的 document
While creating a regex using a double byte hyphen or a double byte period, make sure to escape both the characters like one would escape a hyphen or period in a regex. Here is a sample regex for reference:
We recommend using string match instead of word match in a keyword list.
For further information
- Sensitive information type entity definitions
- Create a custom sensitive information type
- Create a custom sensitive information type in PowerShell
To learn how to use sensitive information types to comply with data privacy regulations, see Deploy information protection for data privacy regulations with Microsoft 365 (aka.ms/m365dataprivacy).