Policy recommendations for securing SharePoint Sites and files

This article describes how to implement the recommended identity and device access policies to protect SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business. This guidance builds on the Common identity and device access policies.

These recommendations are based on three different tiers of security and protection for SharePoint files that can be applied based on the granularity of your needs: baseline, sensitive, and highly regulated. You can learn more about these security tiers, and the recommended client operating systems, referenced by these recommendations in the recommended security policies and configurations introduction.

Baseline security

The following diagram illustrates the set of recommended policies for baseline security and indicates which policies will be updated or newly created to add protection for SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business.

Summary of policies for SharePoint Online and OneDrive

For accessibility, this illustration is detailed in the following table.

Policy Where this is configured Changes for SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business Notes
Require multi-factor authentication (MFA) when sign-in risk is medium or high Azure AD conditional access policy Edit to add SharePoint Online For sensitive and and highly regulated protection, this rule is more protective
Require compliant PCs and mobile devices Azure AD conditional access policy Edit to add SharePoint Online This rule enforces device management with Intune
Only allow access from approved client apps Azure AD conditional access policy Edit to add SharePoint Online
High risk users must change password Azure AD Identity Protection user risk policy No changes This forces users to change their password when signing in if high risk activity is detected for their account
Device compliance policies Intune device compliance policy No changes You should have one policy for each platform
Define app plolicy Intune App Protection policies and conditional access rules Edit this rule to include apps that access SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business One policy for each platform
SharePoint admin access control policy SharePoint admin center policy This is a new configuration Configure access control policies to block access to SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business content from unmanaged devices

Sensitive and highly regulated security

Currently, the only difference between the recommendations for baseline security compared to sensitive and highly regulated security is the amount of protection in the first rule in this rule set: Require multi-factor authentication.

Level of protection Require MFA
Baseline Only when sign-in risk is medium or higher
Sensitive When sign-in risk is medium or higher
Highly regulated Always require MFA

Not every organization requires sensitive or highly regulated protection. If you do, you likely only require these levels of protection for a subset of users who have access to sensitive or highly regulated data. Therefore, the recommendation is to create additional rules for each level of protection and assign these to the target group of users. If a user is included in more than one rule, the most restrictive rule applies to their access.

The following diagram provides an example of Azure AD group assignments across the three tiers of protection.

MFA rules for three tiers of protection

In the illustration:

  • The MFA rule for baseline protection is assigned to "Regular core staff."
  • The MFA rule for sensitive protection is assigned to "Senior and strategic staff."
  • The MFA rule for highly regulated protection is assinged to "IT staff" and "Trade secret project staff."

Configuring policies

The rest of this article provides guidance on configuring the recommended policies.


All security groups created as part of these recommendations must be created with Office features enabled. This is specifically important for the deployment of AIP when securing documents in SharePoint.

Office features enabled for security groups

Require MFA

Baseline protection

For baseline protection, edit the rule you already created for Exchange Online to include SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business. Edit this in the assignments category:

Type Properties Values Notes
Cloud apps Include Select apps:
Office 365 Exchange Online
Office 365 SharePoint Online
Select both

Sensitive and highly regulated protection

For sensitive and highly regulated protection, create a new MFA rule for each (with the recommended level of protection) and assign the rule to the intended users. For recommended settings, see the following:

Require a compliant or domain joined device

Add Office 365 SharePoint Online to the scope of the existing rule. See Require a compliant or domain joined device.

Only allow access from approved client apps

Approved client apps support Intune mobile application management. This conditional access rule only allows access to services, like Exchange Online and SharePoint Online, from approved client apps. The control selected in this rule only applies to the iOS and Android platforms. Add Office 365 SharePoint Online to the scope of this existing rule, or create this rule if you don't already have it configured.

To create a conditional access policy to only allow access from approved client apps:

  1. Go to the Azure portal, and sign in with your credentials. After you've successfully signed in, you see the Azure Dashboard.

  2. Choose Azure Active Directory from the left menu.

  3. Under the Security section, choose Conditional access.

  4. Choose New policy.

  5. Enter a policy name, then choose the Users and groups you want to apply the policy for.

  6. Choose Cloud apps.

  7. Choose Select apps, select Office 365 SharePoint Online from the Cloud apps list, click on Select. Once the Office 365 SharePoint Online app is selected, click Done.

  8. Choose Grant from the Access controls section.

  9. Choose Grant access, select Require approved client app, then choose Select.

  10. Click Create to create the conditional access policy.

Define app protection policies

Modify the app protection policies for your environment to include apps that access SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business. You must create an app protection policy for each platform:

  • ios
  • Android
  • Windows 10

If you created these policies for Exchange Online, they might only include Outlook. The recommended list of apps includes the following:

  • PowerPoint
  • Excel
  • Word
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Microsoft SharePoint
  • Microsoft Visio Viewer
  • OneDrive
  • OneNote
  • Outlook

To create or edit the policies and assign these policies to users, see How to create and assign app protection policies.

For recommended app protection settings for baseline security, see "Settings" under Intune mobile application management.

Block access to content from unmanaged devices (SharePoint admin center)

In the case of SharePoint Online, when a conditional access policy is applied to enforce Intune app protection policies, this might not apply to all applications that access SharePoint Online. Some applications, such as Exchange, have access to some SharePoint resources. For example, Exchange allows attaching SharePoint files by default. Conditional access policies applied to SharePoint Online will not restrict this access.

To ensure baseline protection is applied uniformly, regardless of which service is accessing SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business, configure access controls directly in SharePoint admin center. We recommend you configure the following:

  • Block access from unmanaged devices. This includes devices that aren't compliant or joined to a domain.
  • Block access from app that don't use modern authentication.

See Control access from unmanaged devices.

Next steps

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