Classifying and Protecting CUI with Azure Information Protection

How do you store data like Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) that is no longer behind your firewall or network secure? Labels are the Microsoft answer to the questions above. Instead of securing the container housing the data, labels secure the files or data itself, offering data-centric security. This security model uses encryption and classification to secure the data regardless of its location. Due to the rise of the mobile workforce, secure data perimeters no longer exist.

Azure Information Protection (AIP) is among the Microsoft labeling products that help meet CMMC Access Control (AC) and NIST. Specifically, it helps meet CMMC AC.2.016, which states that control begins with identifying and marking the CUI. It also helps meet the requirements of NIST 3.1.3 that ensures that CUI flow is controlled according to the approved authorizations. What is AIP, and what are the advantages of using it? Read on to learn more.

AIP is a cloud-powered platform that uses a content labeling system to find, categorize, and secure emails and documents. It is a component of Microsoft Purview Information Protection (MPIP). AIP extends the classification and labeling functionalities offered by Microsoft 365. The labels protect the data from unauthorized actions like copying, viewing, printing, and downloading based on your organization’s policy. The organizations holding federal contracts can benefit a lot from AIP.

It supports many types of content, including text, images, PDFs, emails, and Microsoft Office files. AIP protects files stored in file servers on-premise and cloud platforms like OneDrive and SharePoint Online.

What Does AIP Comprise

As stated above, AIP uses labeling to ensure content security and categorization. It encompasses the following:


The data or files can be classified by users or automatically according to various security schemes. Labeling and classification information is embedded within the document metadata and the actions defined are enforced.


AIP uses visual and metadata labels embedded within the document to record the classification. It has an on-premise scanner that helps administrators scan their on-premise files for sensitive content for labeling, classification, and protection. Hence, the file can be categorized depending on their security levels and class in the CUI.

Protection or Rights Management

The Azure Rights Management (RMS) encrypts the file and includes all the authentication requirements and defines the data’s usage rights. This protects the data and ensures that only authorized users can access it and perform the allowed actions or operations on the data. Azure RMS might be legally needed for legal discovery, best information management practices, and compliance.

The Need for Data Protection

In today’s world, data protection is vital. The number of cyber incidences targeting data is massive, from data breaches, information leaks, and data theft to data corruption. If you are a federal or Defense industrial Base contractor, you hold critical data. Though unclassified, CDI and CTI form Controlled Unclassified Information and may have severe ramifications if it falls into the wrong hands. Therefore, data protection is necessary to ensure the safety of sensitive data and compliance with various federal regulations.

Benefits of Using Azure Information Protection

If your organization works within a Microsoft Office 365 environment or deals with CUI, Azure information protection offers a deeper understanding and granular control of how and where your content is distributed and used. Below are some of the benefits of using AIP.

Identification and Classification of Sensitive Data

AIP helps you identify the critical data like Controlled Unclassified Information that needs proper and safe handling in compliance with Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement requirements and guidelines. AIP also helps you in labeling the sensitive data within your organization. AIP has several standard labels, including General, Public, Personal, CUI, highly confidential, and confidential. However, you can also customize your labels. The labeled can then be classified in various degrees or categories of sensitiveness. This helps in fulfilling the requirements of CMMC AC.2.016.

Data Protection and Usage Rights Control

The other benefit of AIP is controlling usage rights and data protection. Once data is categorized, it needs to be protected. It uses the Azure Rights Management (RMS) to manage access and encrypt sensitive data. Azure RMS also integrates with third-party applications and other Microsoft cloud services. Therefore, it scans and encrypts any labeled data within your organization.

With Azure rights management, the data remains protected, giving you control of the shared data no matter where it is. Due to the encryption, only authorized personnel can access the data. Therefore, AIP helps you control who can access and modify the shared data, preventing illegal modification, distribution, or storage.

Tracking And Reporting Document Use

Data monitoring is essential in any data-centric security implementation. Microsoft AIP offers excellent reporting and tracking capabilities. This helps manage how the data is accessed, detect and respond to malicious behaviors, and prevent data misuse. Therefore, you can detect whenever an unauthorized user accesses or views the protected CUI or CDI. Azure Information Protection also provides detailed logs and reporting that helps you remain compliant by meeting the regulatory requirements.

Migrating to Microsoft GCC High for compliance with DFARS 7012 is ideal. However, labeling the CDI, ITAR, and CUI is vital for your compliance. Therefore, you need to include and account for it in your organization’s System Security Plan (SSP). At Cleared Systems, we help Federal Prime and Subprime contractors secure their data and achieve various compliance. Contact us today for data protection services like AIP configuring.

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Microsoft 365 Government Community Cloud (GCC) High is a specialized cloud solution tailored for U.S. federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government organizations, as well as for contractors who hold or process data subject to specific security regulations. In this article, we will explore the features, benefits, and differences between Microsoft 365 GCC High and other Office 365 offerings.

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