Office 365 is basis for Australian government’s new communication blueprint

The Protected Utility Blueprint details how agencies would configure and deploy Office 365 as the standard platform.

Australian Parliament House, Capital Hill, Canberra, Australia
Mlenny / Getty Images

The Digital Transformation Agency(DTA) has developed the Protected Utility Blueprint with Microsoft and the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), creating a program based on Office 365 to facilitate and standardise cross-agency communications.

The program delivers a secure and modern desktop with productivity tools to allow staff to create, store and share documents, host online meetings, instant message, manage team sites and project resources.

According to the DTA, the release of this first version will support agencies to move to the cloud so teams can easily work together irrespective of where staff are located.

With configuration guides and security documentation, the blueprint helps agencies dealing with data up to Protected level, ensuring they meet the security standards.

The blueprint details technology and configuration settings to deploy a secure, cloud-only Microsoft Office 365 environment for any agency planning a new deployment to attain a consistent cyber security posture across all environments, Protected or below.

Relying on Microsoft’s collaboration tools

The DTA expects to improve collaboration through the use of Microsoft's Teams, SharePoint Online and Planner.

Collaboration between agencies assessed at the same security level is "relatively straightforward," the DTA said, with extra attention being put on communication between agencies with networks that have been assessed at different security levels. The latter will have additional considerations and risks surrounding printing or faxing documents, or the risk of photos being taken of materials. 

"These considerations will need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis and risks accepted by the [government’s] chief information security officers (CISOs)," according to the document.

"Collaboration is initially controlled by whitelisting allowed domains. Individual users from those whitelisted external domains can then be invited individually to participate into Teams as guests."

How Australian agencies will deploy secure desktops

The blueprint details seven components to achieve a "secure desktop", which begins with cloud identity, the Azure Active Directory configuration including multi-factor authentication (MFA) and conditional access allowing login from anywhere and appropriate security policies to be applied.

The configuration of Office 365 (Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Microsoft Teams and OneDrive for Business) allows cloud-based file storage. Security and configuration of devices will include testing against security baselines and confirmation of security compliance. There will be space for endpoint management of iOS devices due to the limitations of not using iOS's supervisor mode, as well as for Windows 10 devices.

The blueprint covers the delivery and configuration of applications appropriate to the user, security configuration of Office 365 and endpoint devices to achieve the Essential Eight compliance, configuration of Autopilot to allow for automated deployment (and redeployment when required) of devices with no user interaction, and a flexible support model where system administration and role-based access control. Support can be done by in-house staff, contractors, or a managed service provider.

Expected benefits include efficiency and improved service

Apart from improving collaboration and security, the DTA lists operational efficiencies and  improved service levels as some of the benefits agencies will see from Protected Utility.

The DTA is expected to allow agencies to focus on core business activities by making better use of resources. Implementing Protected Utility, and moving to a cloud-based service could improve the availability of services, preventing disruptions.

According to the DTA, Protected Utility allows agencies to leverage knowledge and expertise from the DTA. It also supports staff mobility and workplace flexibility.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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