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New compliance controls added to Microsoft Teams PowerShell

Microsoft Teams PowerShell now gives IT administrators the ability to restrict communications between employees, a significant expansion of the app's tools for regulatory compliance.

Businesses can now use Microsoft Teams PowerShell to set policies that restrict interactions between employees. The capability could help expand use of the Teams collaboration app by financial firms and other heavily regulated companies.

The feature, called information barriers and available in public preview since last week, lets administrators set organizationwide restrictions within Teams to ensure compliance with regulations and ethics policies. The tool is administered through Microsoft Teams PowerShell, which helps organizations manage Teams on a large scale through a series of code-based commands.

Information barriers will be useful for banks and other financial firms, which have a legal obligation to prevent communications between, for example, investment managers and colleagues that have confidential information about companies seeking investment.

The tool could also be useful to isolate employees working on sensitive projects, such as an acquisition or an initial public stock offering.

Information barriers can prevent five interactions between employees:

  • joining a team;
  • joining a meeting;
  • starting a private chat;
  • sharing a screen; and
  • placing a phone call.

The tool also has retroactive power: The system will remove users from teams and group chats in which they no longer have permission to participate and prevent any further private messaging with unauthorized employees.

Team collaboration vendors are increasingly working to give administrators tighter control over who can access channels and content, said Irwin Lazar, analyst at Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill.

"This strikes me as a maturation of the space, as vendors increasingly deliver administrative and policy controls that users demand," he said.

Microsoft Teams PowerShell is generally available

Microsoft also recently announced that PowerShell, the framework used to administer information barriers, is generally available (GA) for Teams. However, in an unusual move, the vendor will maintain both a beta and a GA version of Microsoft Teams PowerShell moving forward.

Organizations, particularly government agencies, sometimes have IT policies that prohibit the use of any beta software. Those customers can now start using PowerShell with the release of a GA version, said Tom Arbuthnot, principal solutions architect at Modality Systems, a Microsoft-focused systems integrator.

The GA version of PowerShell comes with slightly fewer features and less sophisticated APIs. Microsoft will maintain the beta version to continue road-testing more advanced functions.

"The beta will always have more, newer functionality, and the GA will always have less," Arbuthnot said. "But [the GA version] has been tried, tested and blessed, basically."

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