With AI transforming the workday, it’s no surprise business owners eagerly anticipated the Microsoft Copilot release date. Since Copilot rolled out last fall, GCS has been inundated with questions:
Is Microsoft Copilot safe to use?
Can I trust Microsoft Copilot with my data?
Is Microsoft Copilot a security risk?
The answer depends on your data security. Is it airtight? Or, like most companies, are there gaps that could make using Microsoft’s new AI-powered productivity tools risky?
Get an overview of Microsoft Copilot and 5 questions to assess your AI security risk below.
What Is Microsoft Copilot?
Microsoft Copilot for Microsoft 365 is an AI-driven tool that streamlines office productivity. It coordinates large language models (LLMs), Microsoft Graph, and Microsoft 365 apps. LLMs are artificial intelligence algorithms designed for deep learning to comprehend, summarize, and create content. Graph is a Microsoft service that organizes and provides access to data across Microsoft applications like emails and documents.
Enhanced with OpenAI’s GPT-4, Microsoft Copilot can handle complex tasks and understand vast amounts of text, improving its capabilities in productivity tasks within the Microsoft 365 suite.
Copilot is integrated with familiar Microsoft 365 apps, such as Word and PowerPoint.
“Today marks the next major step in the evolution of how we interact with computing, which will fundamentally change the way we work and unlock a new wave of productivity growth. With our new copilot for work, we’re giving people more agency and making technology more accessible through the most universal interface — natural language,” said Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s Chairman and CEO, of Copilot.
How to Use Microsoft Copilot
Touted as “your everyday AI companion,” Microsoft Copilot is built to boost your productivity and creativity while using the 365 suite of apps. One of its star features is Microsoft 365 Chat. Chat analyzes your data from emails, meetings, chats, documents, and the Internet. It uses this data to streamline tedious everyday tasks for you:
Document Drafting in Word
Microsoft Copilot assists in creating and refining written content, facilitating the drafting of reports, letters, or articles efficiently.
Presentation Development in PowerPoint
Copilot aids in designing engaging presentations, helping to organize content and visualize ideas effectively.
Spreadsheet Analysis in Excel
Copilot enhances data management by assisting in expanding spreadsheets, analyzing data, and creating complex formulas.
Email Summarization in Outlook
Workers are typically inundated with emails, and Copilot can make managing the influx of messages easier by summarizing long threads.
Teams Call Annotation
In Microsoft Teams, Copilot can annotate or bullet point discussions, keeping track of important meeting details.
Copilot can also command your Microsoft apps. For example, you can ask it to animate a slide or translate a Word document into a PowerPoint presentation. Moreover, you can teach it new skills like how to connect to your CRM to fetch specific customer data and deposit it into documents and emails.
What Are the Data Security Risks of Using Microsoft Copilot?
The data security risks of using Microsoft Copilot can be high because many companies have loose access controls in place. Research shows that 16% of businesses’ critical data is overshared. In fact, the average company has 802,000 files at risk of oversharing — typically with users or groups within the company.
Alarming Business Data Security Statistics
- 83% of sensitive business files are overshared with companies’ users.
- 90% of business-critical documents circulate outside of the C-Suite.
- 17% of sensitive company data gets shared with 3rd parties.
Unleashing Copilot in an office with loose access controls is like handing the keys to the digital kingdom to AI.
Microsoft Copilot Data Security Considerations
Below are some considerations for assessing the need to set up Access Control and Data Protection configurations.
What if someone can access sensitive documents? For example, an unhappy employee takes executive level, HR, or payroll documentation? In healthcare settings, workers could also get their hands on medical records.
Potential risks and consequences could include:
- Breach of protected information: personally identifiable information (PII) and Protected Health Information (PHI)
- Ramifications of the information becoming known/public
- Ongoing control measures to protect individuals whose information was accessed
What if someone had access to key Intellectual Property (IP) or financial information about the company? An example of this might be a software development or architectural firm in which all workers have access to code or design plans.
Potential risks and consequences could include:
- Insider risk concerns
- Corporate espionage/piracy
- Longer term ramifications of leaked financial or IP data
That’s not to mention external threats, such as a hacker compromising an account with AI enabled and then exfiltrating sensitive data.
5 Questions to Assess Your AI Security Risk with Copilot
Below are 5 data security questions to ask before introducing Microsoft Copilot — or other AI tools — into your business environment.
- How does your organization define sensitive data within the business?
- Do you know how data flows through your organization?
- Where does sensitive data exist within your organization?
- How are users granted access to sensitive data or documents?
- What are your sharing policies within your Microsoft environment?
Answering these questions could reveal how well your organization accounts for and safeguards its data. Knowing not only where the data resides but also who has access to it is of critical importance.
Maintaining a protected place to store data, controlling who has access to that data, and implementing a process to review, grant, and revoke access to sensitive data are steps to be taken before automating access to this information via an AI platform.
How Does Microsoft Copilot Keep Your Data Secure
Microsoft asserts that it built Copilot with the same comprehensive approach to security, compliance, and privacy as the rest of its products. This includes two-factor authentication, privacy protections, and compliance boundaries.
Microsoft Copilot follows strict European privacy laws, such as GDPR.
Copilot doesn’t use your data for its basic training.
Your data stays within Microsoft’s secure environment.
Your Copilot usage information is safely stored and encrypted.
Admins have options to integrate web content and tools securely.
Copilot only works with data you’re allowed to access.
This last point is where many businesses could get into trouble. Microsoft Copilot follows your company’s predefined privacy, security, and compliance policies and processes. If your users have access to sensitive information, then so does Microsoft Copilot.
Therein lies the AI security risk because users at most companies have too much access to sensitive data.
How to Get Microsoft Copilot?
Where can you get Microsoft Copilot? Is Microsoft Copilot free? These are some of the most common questions business owners have after assessing the security implications of AI.
Microsoft Copilot is included with the licenses for:
- Microsoft 365 Business Standard or Business Premium
- Microsoft 365 E3 or E5
- Microsoft Office 365 E3 or E5
Minimize Your AI Risk with Dedicated Microsoft Managed Security
Whether you need to select a Microsoft license or secure your IT environment for AI adoption — GCS Technologies can help.
We’re certified Microsoft partners and can handle all your Microsoft licensing, security, and managed IT service needs.
Reach out today for expert guidance on getting your business AI-ready.