Securing Office 365 and the Modern Add-in


Over the past several months, I have spoken with many prospects and partners about Office 365. What I have discovered is that there are as many ideas about what Microsoft Office 365 is as there are people I’ve spoken to. I’ve heard “Office 365” defined as:

  • The desktop product(s) I use today – I pay for it via yearly subscription
  • OneDrive
  • The combination of SharePoint Online and OneDrive
  • Microsoft Office Online apps (Outlook Web Access (OWA), Outlook Online, Office Online)

You’ll see in there a mix of desktop and cloud-deployed products, and the reality is that in the short term you’ll most likely find yourself in a hybrid mode, rather than firmly planted in one or the other. The purpose of this discussion is the modern add-in, though, which only applies to Microsoft Office Online apps.

TITUS Message Classification modern add-in for Outlook Online

TITUS Message Classification modern add-in for Outlook Online

For those who may not be familiar, modern add-ins are Microsoft’s solution for enabling third party vendors to extend their Microsoft Office desktop functionality to browsers and mobile devices. Traditional desktop add-ins were written in languages incompatible with web browsers and mobile devices, so a language update was required.

Microsoft is continuing to develop and enhance modern add-ins, but at present there are some limitations which prevent some third party applications from working in the online apps the same way they do in the standard desktop user’s workflow. Critically, features available via modern add-ins cannot yet be made mandatory; they are optional and passive. If the third party app provides essential security and compliance capabilities, the current state of the modern add-in reduces policy enforcement to the whim of the users’ memory.

For this reason, before we release TITUS Classification for the online version of Office 365, we have decided to wait until Microsoft releases a version of the modern add-in which provides the necessary “hooks” to enforce policy, thereby making it a fully secure classification solution. We’ve seen some security vendors release products claiming to work seamlessly with Office 365 and its modern add-ins, but it is clear to us, our customers, and our prospects that a solution which is optional for users (and requires several extra steps) simply isn’t viable.

TITUS provides the foundation of data security with data discovery, identification, classification, and analysis; we will continue to provide our comprehensive data security solutions within Microsoft Office Online as soon as the modern add-in capabilities reach maturity.

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