Microsoft Teams has just issued a massive blow to Zoom with the launch of multiple new security features, including the game-changing security feature it was previously lacking.
Microsoft Teams has just dealt a major blow to its biggest rival Zoom with the launch of end-to-end encryption. Zoom launched the feature on its own video conferencing service last year and until now, had been able to use it to differentiate its offering against Teams.
But now, Microsoft has confirmed it will launch end-to-end encryption at its Ignite conference as it looks to steal users from Zoom as people continue to work from home during the pandemic.
In the first release, customers will have the ability to enable end-to-end encryption—which means no one can access video chats, including Microsoft, and law enforcement—for 1:1 Teams calls for designated users. Microsoft says it is “just the beginning of the E2EE work to expand to online meetings soon.”
It is the first major Teams features announcement this year, other than the news in January that Dynamic View was coming soon.
The lowdown on Microsoft Teams end-to-end encryption
Teams Desktop will be the first application to support using end-to-end encryption (E2EE) for 1:1 Teams calls, Rob Lefferts, CVP of Microsoft 365 Security tells me. Support will be extended later to more platforms.
“In this first phase, we will work with customers to gather feedback on this scenario to understand how it addresses their compliance needs and obligations,” says Lefferts. “We will then work to bring E2EE capabilities to online meetings.”
Initially, during a 1:1 Microsoft Teams call, audio, video, and screensharing capabilities will be E2EE, days Lefferts. Individuals in an E2EE call will be able to mute, hold, and turn their video on/off. However; “During a 1:1 call using E2EE the callers can chat, which will still use Teams industry standard encryption in transit and at rest, but will not be end-to-end encrypted.”
Security nearly always comes at the expense of some functionality, and in the case of Teams end-to-end encryption, this is also true. Some features won’t be available when making a 1:1 end-to-end encrypted call, Lefferts tells me: Call recording, live captions and transcription, call transfer, call merge, call companion and transfer to another device, adding a participant, compliance recording, or file share.
“E2EE information gets decrypted on the client device that is used in the E2EE communication (and only on that specific device),” he adds.
Other new Microsoft Teams features coming soon
The launch of end-to-end encryption comes alongside new security, privacy and compliance features in Teams.
So what else is new?
Another new feature coming soon in Teams is invite-only meetings controls, to help commercial and educational customers host online meetings safely, and avoid “Zoom-bombing” where uninvited guests can disrupt your meetings.
At the same time, in response to customer demand, Microsoft will offer the ability for meeting hosts to “Disable Video,” launching this Spring. The idea is to avoid distractions either during large meetings where sometimes people maybe don’t realize they have their video on, or during a school class, for example.
Another new feature, Microsoft Teams multi-geo support will give multi-national organizations greater control over the location of specific data centers where their Teams data is stored, down to the team and user level. This aims to help organizations in certain countries and in highly-regulated industries such as the financial sector meet data compliance and regulatory standards.
Meanwhile, Shared Channels in Teams enables channels to be shared across multiple organizations so firms can collaborate securely with customers, partners and suppliers while controlling how users access data and information.
Microsoft has also launched Sensitivity Labels, leveraging integration with its Azure Rights Management service, to protect and encrypt a document to restrict access to that content to only authorized viewers. The document can be shared as an attachment or using the document link while remaining encrypted.
And later this month, Teams will add Safe Links—a feature in Microsoft Defender for Office 365 that provides scanning and time-of-click verification of URLs in links shared through email messages and other locations across Office 365.
Teams wants to beat Zoom on security
Microsoft has been differentiating Teams to Zoom by highlighting its integration with Microsoft 365, Advanced Communications, and access to Microsoft security tools and threat intelligence. Lefferts points out that end-to-end encryption in Teams “is just an additional option to Microsoft 365 encryption capabilities.”
Both Zoom and Teams are still growing fast as working from home continues. As the one year anniversary of Covid-19 lockdowns arrives, the battle between the two video conferencing providers isn’t going to stop anytime soon.