Key skills for an IT Professional

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If you are an IT professional working in with Microsoft 365 then I would suggest the following are the top five skills that you need to have to be successful going forward. My pick, in order is:

1. PowerShell

2. Azure AD

3. Security

4. Intune

5. SharePoint

and here’s why:

PowerShell

PowerShell gives you the ability to script commands for both cloud and on premises Microsoft services. There are many things you can also only do using PowerShell, however more importantly, you can begin to automate what you do. This reduces the time it takes to complete processes as well as giving more consistent results. It also means that you can potentially offload these tasks to others who only need to know how to run the scripts you have created not understand what they entail.

I also find that understanding the PowerShell side of a process gives you a a much deeper understanding of that process and what is possible. I also think that having to do a bit of coding is a benefit to everyone. It helps you to think more logically, plan and structure what you want to achieve. You however don’t need to become a developer, it is easy to CTL-C and CTRL-V good scripts from various places and integrate them into your processes while making a few changes along the way. You can go as deep as you wish and create really amazing scripts that really make life in IT so much easier, while allowing you to do your job faster.

Remember, software will eat the world.

Azure AD

Identity is key to our modern world. You don’t get access to “stuff” until you prove who you are. Importantly, Azure AD is not the same a traditional on premises Active Directory. It is a subset, where the additional options can be added as needed. However, you need a good understanding of where a user’s primary identity is and how it is managed and secured in the cloud. Without this fundamental knowledge you are really going to struggle to understand things like modern device management and security.

All Microsoft services are underpinned by identity and Microsoft cloud services are underpinned by Azure AD. Thus, to administer, configure, troubleshoot these you need a good understanding of Azure AD.

Security

With so much of our assets now being digital, protecting them is paramount. We need to do this in a way that doesn’t inhibit productivity and that is a real challenge. Poor security to me indicates a fundamental lack of knowledge about the products in question. It also demonstrates a lack of discipline and consistency which are the hallmarks of your adversaries out there trying to gain access to systems you protect.

Security will never be an absolute and that makes it hard for many “IT types” to deal with who like to have a tangible end goal. There is not a finite end point with security, there is simply an ongoing challenge to stay one step ahead of the bad actors. Some see that as a burden while the true security professional sees it as a challenge. The protection of our future lies with good security and the challenges that brings. It therefore, will be a skill that will be in continuing high demand.

Intune

As mentioned, Azure AD doesn’t contain the same resources that on premises Active Directory did. The best example of this is probably Group Policy, which is something that Azure AD does not incorporate. To a large extent, that is now handled by Intune and this why it is such an important skill going forward for IT Professionals to become skilled with. It can also be implemented using things like PowerShell, which again goes to the point of how important this list of skills is across all Microsoft services today.

A key factor with Intune is its ability to configure mobile devices. This is something traditionally IT Professionals have not been able to do. However, with the growing numbers of mobile devices in use and their criticality to businesses of every size, it is now more important than ever to be able to easily configure and secure them directly from the Internet.

SharePoint

Most IT Professionals have some skill or familiarity with Exchange and emails which easily translates to services like Exchange Online. However, when it comes to files and folders in the cloud the service of choice is going to be SharePoint, for which there are a decided lack of skills even though SharePoint has been with us for many years now. As I have spoken about many, many time here, SharePoint is more than just simple storage, it is a collaboration system and needs to be approached in that manner to get the most from it. Not doing so results in lots of pain for both administrators and end users.


So there you have it. If I had to pick five skills in order that characterise a modern IT Professional, these would be they. You don’t need to be an elite ninja in each but likewise you can’t remain ignorant of them. if you work with Microsoft cloud technologies you should be familiar and comfortable with them all. If not, then you need to start investing some time and learning them because they will serve you well now and into the future.

Need to Know podcast–Episode 208

Jeffa is back! Jeff Alexander from Microsoft that is. Jeff is here to talk to about the modern desktop including things like Intune, Identity, Device Management and more. Modern desktops require a modern approach and thinking when it comes to everything from roll outs through to updating, so listen in for all the details on how to jump on board. Of course, Brenton and I give you an update on new things in the Microsoft Cloud so you’ll right up to date after this episode.

This episode was recorded using Microsoft Teams and produced with Camtasia 2019

Take a listen and let us know what you think – feedback@needtoknow.cloud

You can listen directly to this episode at:

https://ciaops.podbean.com/e/episode-208-jeff-alexander/

Subscribe via iTunes at:

https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/ciaops-need-to-know-podcasts/id406891445?mt=2

The podcast is also available on Stitcher at:

http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/ciaops/need-to-know-podcast?refid=stpr

Don’t forget to give the show a rating as well as send us any feedback or suggestions you may have for the show.

Resources

@Jeffa36

About Jeff

@Contactbrenton

@directorcia

New to Microsoft 365 in May

Adding the SharePoint Starter Kit

Provisioning Microsoft 365 Learning pathways

Get started with Intune

Locking installed apps to Windows Store only

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If you go into your settings in Windows 10 and select Apps you should see the above dialog.

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You can see the options that are available to you as shown above. You’ll see that one of the options available is Allow apps from Store only. Although not a fool-proof security option but setting this would reduce the chances of malware executing on the desktop because the only method of installation is from the Microsoft curated Store. A random piece of malware, delivered via email say, could not execute since it doesn’t come from the Microsoft Store I would suggest.

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Using Intune we can apply this setting across a range of Windows 10 desktops using a Windows 10 Device Restriction Policy as you see above. Simply locate the App Store option, then Apps from store only and set the value to Require as shown.

In a short period of time, once the policy has deployed, those devices will only be able to install software from the Microsoft Store, preventing installation from anywhere else and hopefully also preventing malware installations.

The good thing about this restriction is the user can still be a local administrator of their machine if you desire and installations will be restricted. The other good things is that it is policy based, which means it is easy to turn on and off as required or exclude users if need be.

As I said earlier, it is not a fool proof method of preventing malware being installed on a Windows 10 desktop, but would certainly make it much more difficult. In this day and age, we need all the help we can get to counter the threats. Hopefully, this will help.

Unable to enable Javascript on iOS device

While setting up a new iPhone that was enrolled in MDM and using Intune, I came across an issue when setting up the Qantas app on iOS.

When you attempt to login to the Qantas app to set it up for the first time you are shelled out to Safari and here it needs to use Javascript to complete its login process. Unfortunately, if you have Javascript disabled then you get a nasty error message that you need to enable it and you can go no further.

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No problem, you think. I’ll just go into the device Settings, Safari then Advanced where you expect to see the above Javascript option. Only problem is, that for some reason, you can’t change this option because it is disabled for some reason.

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In my case, the reason why it was disabled is because I had an Intune Device Restrictions policy in place that was blocking Javacript. You change this option by going into the iOS restriction policy, selecting Settings, Built-in Apps, Safari, Javascript as shown above. Change the setting from Block to Not configured, then Save the policy change and allow a few minutes for the policy to be applied to the device.

After that, I was able to re-run the Qantas app configuration and set up everything as expected. You could then, if course change the policy back if you wished to block Javascript going forward.

The lesson here is, that if something is blocked on your device that is managed by Intune, then most likely that setting is being controlled by an Intune policy and you’ll need to make the change there.

Windows Information Protection (WIP) in action

Windows Information Protection:

“helps to protect against this potential data leakage without otherwise interfering with the employee experience. WIP also helps to protect enterprise apps and data against accidental data leak on enterprise-owned devices and personal devices that employees bring to work without requiring changes to your environment or other apps”

It is a technology that is limited to Windows 10 desktops and is typically deployed via Intune using App Protection Policies.

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To get there you’ll need to navigate to the Microsoft Intune service in the Azure portal and then select Client apps from the menu on the left.

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You’ll then need to select App protection policies.

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You’ll need to create a policy if one does not already exist.

For Windows 10 there are two policy options, with and without enrolment. The difference is that “with” enrolment the machine is effective using MDM (device management) and is typically directly connected to Azure AD. “Without” enrolment is typically just MAM (only application management) and is typically not directly joined to Azure AD. I’ll focus on a “with enrolment” option here but “without” is pretty much identical in the options provided.

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Once the policy is in place don’t forget that you’ll also have to assign it to a group of users for it to take action. However, before you actually assign it to live set of users in your environment, you may want to take a moment to understand the ramifications of what the policy will do.

If you examine the Required settings of the policy, as seen above, you will see that you can set an option for the Windows Information Protection mode. If you are just testing things and don’t want to impact or change your environment then I recommend the Silent option. If however, you want to have the policy protections enabled but want a choice when it is applied, select Allow Overrides (recommended). If you want to be totally strict about applying the policy to your Windows 10 devices, select Block.

The domain for your tenant should appear in the Corporate identity field below. If you have any addition domains you use, ensure they are entered in this field.

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If you then examine Advanced options, as shown above, you should see that an existing entry for Cloud resources already exists. When you drill into this, it should contain your Office 365 environment. I spoke about this location more in a previous post:

Intune App Protection blocking browser

and noted that you may need to make some adjustments to it to allow non Microsoft browsers on Windows 10 machines.

The interesting part is now if you also have on premises infrastructure you wish protected. So, imagine the Windows 10 devices are accessing data from Office 365 and from a local file server. By default, this local infrastructure will be considered ‘personal’ and won’t allow saving of corporate data there. In essence, Windows Information Protection (WIP) prevents corporate data being saved to personal locations. By default, your Microsoft 365 environment will be configured as a corporate data location but local fileservers will not be. Thus, if you wish to have your local infrastructure also classified as corporate data, then you need to specify your local DNS domain and IP range as I have done above as a Network Boundary. However, be warned, this has other implications that you need to consider which I’ll speak about later.

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There are additional options if you scroll down further. When data that is protected by WIP is stored on a device covered by this policy, it will be protected by WIP encryption at rest. An option here in the policy allows you to revoke these encryption keys if the device is ‘unenrolled’ from Azure AD. That means, the moment the device is removed from Azure AD, any corporate data will be unable to be read since the encryption keys will be revoked for the device. You can generate and upload a recovery agent as you see above if required, however modern Windows 10 releases will actually recover the key from Azure AD if that same machine is re-joined again to Azure AD.

I have also select the option to Show the enterprise data protection icon which will appear on documents WIP considers corporate data. This is always a good way to distinguish corporate data, so my best practices is to have it there as a reminder.

You’ll also see that you can use Azure RMS (rights management) with WIP if you want. I’ll leave this disable for simplicity now, but if you want that extra protection that Azure RMS gives, then it is available if you have a license for RMS.

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If those options are now saved to the policy and the policy is actually assigned to a set of users, once the policy has been fully assigned to a device you will see something like the above.

Here you will notice that all the OneDrive for Business files have been classified as corporate data as noted by the briefcase graphic in the file type icon. You will also note a new column as well – File ownership, which contains the domain you configured.

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If I look at the data on a local file server I see the additional File ownership column again, with all data being owned by my domain.

Thus, all data from Office 365 and my local infrastructure is now considered corporate, not personal, data. This means that it can only be accessed using the apps I have authorised to access corporate data in the policy.

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So how does this all work in practice? As an example, I created a new data file on the local Windows 10 device subject to the App Protection policy. This file is currently considered a personal file because it doesn’t have the briefcase graphic in the file icon.

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I can change the file from personal to corporate by right mouse clicking, selecting File ownership and then picking the option that I want. Here’s I’d choose Work (ciaops.com) to swap that file to being considered corporate data.

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Once I make the option to categorise it as corporate data, you’ll see the logo changes immediately to indicate the file is now managed. The file has also now been encrypted by WIP on the local device for protection. The user doesn’t see this as the WIP encryption/decryption is handled seamlessly behind the scenes on the device.

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Now that this data is a corporate file, only apps that I have defined as corporate apps can open that file. You’ll see above that Notepad will work on both types of files, corporate and personal, but what happens if you try and open this corporate file with a non corporate app like Wordpad, which, as you can see, says it will only open personal files?

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What happens, is that the corporate file cannot be opened by the non corporate app as shown above and I get an denied message.

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You’ll see that I get a similar result if I try and copy data from a corporate app and attempt to paste to a personal app. Because I set the option earlier in my policy to Allow Overrides, I see the options shown above indicating that I can proceed pasting corporate data into a non corporate app but the actions may be tracked.

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The way that I can tell whether the data in the file is being protected and considered corporate is with a small briefcase icon in the upper right as shown above.

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If I select this icon I get further information that the app is being managed by my domain as shown.

This means in summary, that you can use WIP applied via Intune App Protection policies to ensure that defined corporate data does not end up in non corporate locations. WIP corporate data while stored on a Windows 10 device is protected at rest by encryption.

Also, remember that not all Windows 10 devices will be enrolled into your Azure AD. Some may just be associated (typically BYOD). By implementing a Windows 10 App Protection policy Without Enrolment you can protect the corporate data that is on these device as well. A good scenario here is to imagine a user’s personal Windows 10 Home machine that they use to access corporate data after hours to work on while not on their corporate joined devices. This means you can protect data even on Windows 10 Home editions machines (via a  non enrolled App Protection policy).

There are some issues to be aware of here, especially when you start mixing WIP with on premises locations. The best way to explain this is via an example I’d suggest. I set up WIP to include my local server and when the policy applied, all the data on that server was considered corporate. The apps that I used are mainly those that were set up in the Intune policy such as Word, Excel, etc as well as some custom apps like Adobe Acrobat Reader which I have detailed how to do here:

Adding Acrobat Reader as an Allowed app

Where things came unstuck a tad was when I wanted to use a not so common app like Keypass. The Keypass app lived on my Windows 10 machine but that data lived in the on premises server. Thus, the Keypass app could only open ‘personal’ data but all the data on the local file server, including the Keypass data file, was now ‘considered’ corporate data thanks to the Network Boundary settings in the policy. In short, I couldn’t open the data when I needed to. Moving the data file to other locations didn’t help either as it was still considered corporate data and the Keypass app could only open personal data. Annoying to say the least.

In the above scenario, with a small number of custom apps required to open data, you could add these custom apps to allowed list of apps in the policy so they are permitted to work with corporate data. If that becomes to hard then you probably need to evaluate whether you want your on premises infrastructure classified as ‘corporate’ data. However, failing to do that means you can’t copy from locations defined as corporate, such as Office 365, to these.

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As you can see from the above, when I attempt to copy from my OneDrive for Business (corporate location) to a location that is considered non-corporate (local server) I get the above. Because I specified the ability to override I do get a bypass option but you’ll see when I do that, the data I copy will have it’s corporate protection removed and reverted to a personal data.

The key message is therefore that implementing WIP is something you need to think about carefully and plan prior to implementing. If you get it wrong then it will be a huge source of frustration for users, However, implemented correctly it is yet another way to protect your corporate data on both managed and unmanaged Windows 10 devices.

Adding Acrobat Reader as an Allowed app

When you set up an Intune App Protection Policy for Windows 10 you are effectively enabling Windows Information Protection (WIP). This is designed to protect your business information being shared with non-business approved applications. This means there are a range of standard business ‘approved’ applications that are enabled by default. These are typically ‘enlightened’ apps that can differentiate between corporate and personal data. This allows them to abide by the policies set in the Intune App Protection policy you create. Applications that are not ‘enlightened’ are typically blocked from working with corporate data.

In a previous article:

Intune App Protection Policy blocking browser

I detailed how this could affect third party, non-Microsoft browsers, like Chrome, accessing the Internet. That article, also showed you how to easily overcome that issue with some minor configuration changes.

In this article I’ll look another way that ‘non-enlightened’ apps get blocked and how you can easily enable them.

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So, let’s say that you have created an Intune Windows 10 App Protection policy like that shown above. When you do you configure a number of Protected apps as you can see. Typically, these a Microsoft products like Office, Internet Explorer, Edge and so on.

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With that default protection policy successfully applied to a Windows 10 machine you can then see the data identified as personal or business on that machine now. The above shows you some files in OneDrive for Business, which is considered a business location. You can tell they are business files by the little brief case in the upper right of the file icon. Thus, all these files are considered to be business and are protected by WIP.

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Let’s say that I now want to open the business PDF file with Adobe Acrobat Reader.

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The result is, you are unable to do this because Acrobat Reader is not an ‘enlightened’ app. Thus, it is considered a personal app and is therefore denied access to business information.

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To rectify this situation we need to return to the Protected apps section of the Intune App Protection policy and select the Add apps button as shown.

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You then need to select the option Desktop apps from the pull down at the top of the screen. When you do so, you will probably see no apps listed below.

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You should now enter the following information into the fields:

Name = Acrobat Reader DC
Publisher = *
Product Name = Acrobat Reader
File = acrord32.exe
Min version = *
Max version = *
Action = Allow

The most important item here is the filename for the program is entered correctly, (without any path) into the File field. In this case, the executable for Acrobat Reader is acrord32.exe.

Select Ok, once you are entered all the file details correctly here. Basically we are creating an exception for this app with WIP.

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You should now see the program you just added in the list as shown above. Make sure you also Save your changes so they get applied to the policy.

Now with the policy updated, and the exemption for your app created, (in this case Acrobat Reader), you just need to wait a short time until the policy is applied to your machines.

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With a few minutes, you should be able to repeat the process of opening that same business file and find that you can now view the file as shown above is the program that you couldn’t before.

You can now basically repeat the same process for any other custom applications you have that are ‘non-enlightened’ and you wish to have open business information saved in Microsoft 365 protected with WIP.

Intune App Protection Policy blocking browser

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Within Intune I went and created a Windows 10 App Protection Policy.

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I defined my Protected apps as you see above.

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So the Required settings are as shown and utilise Windows Information protection (WIP). The idea is WIP is:

“Windows Information Protection (WIP), previously known as enterprise data protection (EDP), helps to protect against this potential data leakage without otherwise interfering with the employee experience. WIP also helps to protect enterprise apps and data against accidental data leak on enterprise-owned devices and personal devices that employees bring to work without requiring changes to your environment or other apps.”

according to Protect your enterprise data using Windows Information Protection (WIP).

After creating the policy I applied it to a test machine.

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Most things worked as expected EXCEPT that I couldn’t use non-Microsoft browsers like Chrome! I kept getting a block message as shown above. if I removed the Application Protection policy then I could browse fine on non-Microsoft apps again. Clearly something to do with the policy was blocking Chrome browsing!

The root cause is the concept of enlightened apps in WIP.

“Windows Information Protection (WIP) classifies apps into two categories: enlightened and unenlightened. Enlighted apps can differentiate between corporate and personal data, correctly determining which to protect based on internal policies.”

from Unenlightended and enlightended app behavior while using Windows Information Protection (WIP).

As it turns out, third party browsers like Chrome are considered unenlightened apps. If you read a little bit further down that article you find the following table:

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This explains why Chrome (unenlightened app) is being blocked because it is trying to connect via an IP address effectively. Ok, so now we know why, how do we fix the problem?

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Turns out the fix is in the last column as highlighted above. We need to use the /*AppCompat*/ string!

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To do this navigate to Advanced settings from the menu on the left. Then select the entry you should have there called Cloud resources as shown above.

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Here you should see your Microsoft 365 SharePoint and OneDrive sites as shown above.

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Add the string

|/*AppCompat*/

to the end of the line. Ensure the little green tick appears on the right hand side. Select OK to close that blade and the Save to update the Advanced settings page.

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If you now look closely on the Advanced settings page you will see the above information box alerting you to the need for the /*AppCompat*/ string if you want TLS by personal apps that connect directly to cloud resources via an IP. You can consider a third party browser unenlightened and therefore a personal app. Thus, it is telling us to do what we just did to allow third party browsers to connect to the Internet on machines where the policy is applied. Always read the configuration page eh?

Once you have saved the updated App Protection Policy and it has been applied to the devices, you should no longer be blocked when using third party browsers like Chrome and Firefox.

Organization doesn’t allow you to use work content

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Let’s say you have a bright and shiny Microsoft 365 Business tenant that you have configured out of the box. This means you have set up the default policies, assigned licenses and installed the software for users.

Your user now receives an email like the above with a PDF attachment. The system has Adobe Acrobat reader set as the default PDF reader.

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The user selects to open the attachment.

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Adobe Acrobat launches as expected but you receive the above error:

There was an error opening this document. Access denied.

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Instead, the user downloads the file to a local drive and then tries to upload it into a SharePoint Document Library as shown above.

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They are greeted by another error:

Can’t use work content here.

Your organization doesn’t allow you to use work content here.

What’s going on? Why can’t users save files? In short, the reason is Windows Information Protection (AIP). You can read more about what WIP is here:

Protect your enterprise data using Windows Information Protection (WIP)

By default Microsoft 365 Business has WIP enabled. This means there is now a distinction between ‘corporate’ and ‘personal’ data. Corporate data is data that is created using pre-defined ‘corporate’ apps like Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc. Personal data is EVERYTHING else i.e. PDFs, files from network shares, local files. Why? Because these files were NOT created by the apps authorised by the WIP policy that has been enacted by Microsoft 365 Business.

Is there are correct way to se up WIP so you don’t get these hassles? Yes, there sure is but in this article let’s keep it simple and cover off how to disable WIP for the time being so users can get on with their work.

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Locate the Microsoft 365 admin center and then select the Device Policies tile as shown above.

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You should then see a list of policies as shown above. In this case, I have two Application Policies for Windows 10 (one for enrolled devices and another for non-enrolled devices).

If you have multiple Application Policies for Windows 10 you’ll need to take the following actions on each policy.

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Select the policy to edit it. Details of the policy you select should appear on the right as shown above.

Locate the Restrict copying of company data line. Here you’ll see the Setting is ON, thus WIP is enabled. To change this setting, select the Edit hyperlink to the right as shown.

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You should that that Prevent users from copying company data to personal files is ON as shown.

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Change this setting to Off as shown and then select Save.

While you wait for that to sync to the Windows 10 desktops (which should only take a few moments) let’s go into the back end of Intune and see where this setting actually is.

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Navigate to Intune in the Azure portal and select Client apps from the main menu as shown above.

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On the blade that appears, select App protection policies as shown.

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This should display the application policies with the same names as you see in the Microsoft 365 admin center. Here are only application policies, device policies are elsewhere in Intune.

Select your Application policy for Windows 10.

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From the blade that appears select Required settings as shown. On the right will be displayed the state of Windows Information Protection.

If WIP is enabled, the option here will be Block.

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However, now you have changed the policy via the Microsoft 365 admin center the setting should be Off as shown above.

This confirms that WIP is now disabled in our environment.

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If you now return to SharePoint on the workstation, and assuming the policy has synced to the desktop, the upload of the file should work.

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Along with everything else that was blocked, including viewing PDFs.

Thus, to overcome the WIP issues with Microsoft 365 Business out of the box, you will probably need to change the Application Policy for Windows 10  as shown above.

How do you correctly configure WIP for your environment to take advantage of all the protection it offers? Stay tuned for an upcoming article on just that.