pogonici - Fotolia

Microsoft OneDrive Personal Vault aims to secure online files

Nervous about putting your most sensitive or important files in the cloud? Microsoft's answer is an added layer of security for OneDrive users called Personal Vault.

As security and privacy issues have grown as top consumer -- and business -- concerns in recent years, many tech vendors sought to address those concerns with new products and upgrades to other offerings. The latest such entry is Microsoft OneDrive Personal Vault, a security layer designed to give users an extra level of protection for their most sensitive and important files.

Any files "locked" in the Personal Vault, a protected area within OneDrive, can only be accessed with a second step beyond the login and ID required to use OneDrive. That second step -- also known as two-factor authentication -- can be a fingerprint, facial recognition, PIN or code sent to your phone. The idea is that even if an unauthorized user accesses your OneDrive account, these files would still be protected.

Microsoft said it already offers plenty of protection to OneDrive itself, but Personal Vault offers additional peace of mind and protects files that might be at risk should a password be stolen or compromised.

"Personal Vault adds to the robust privacy and security that OneDrive currently offers, including file encryption at rest and in transit, suspicious activity monitoring, ransomware detection and recovery, mass file deletion notification and recovery, virus scanning on download for known threats, and version history for all file types," Seth Patton, general manager of Microsoft 365, wrote in a blog post.

Any files left open in Microsoft OneDrive Personal Vault will also automatically lock after a certain period of time requiring the user to reauthenticate to access them.

Also, on Windows 10 PCs, OneDrive syncs Personal Vault files to a BitLocker-encrypted area of users' local hard drives.

Making it easier to secure important documents

Ultimately, it's a good thing that data is being encrypted and protected by two-factor authentication.
Bob O'DonnellAnalyst, TECHnalysis Research

Microsoft is getting the jump on other cloud vendors such as Apple's iCloud, Google Drive and Dropbox, which do not yet support two-factor authentication of protected folders. Microsoft TECHnalysis Research analyst Bob O'Donnell is impressed with various aspects of the service, including ease of scanning important personal documents such as a driver's license, birth certificate, passport or insurance forms directly into the protected folder.

"People generally don't take the time to secure this information online, so it's good that Microsoft is facilitating it," O'Donnell said.

But O'Donnell also warns that there is a flipside to putting work documents in a Personal Vault that only the user -- not the employer -- has access to.

"Ultimately, it's a good thing that data is being encrypted and protected by two-factor authentication," O'Donnell said. "But Microsoft faces the same problem Dropbox, Box and other cloud-based systems face when you think about, for example, an employee keeping proprietary files after they've left the company."

Other OneDrive goodies

In related OneDrive news, Microsoft also announced new storage plans for OneDrive users. The OneDrive stand-alone plan will soon come standard with 100 GB of storage (up from 50 GB) for the same $1.99 per month. Current users will automatically get the additional 50 GB at no additional cost.

Customers who subscribe to Microsoft Office 365 currently get 1 TB of OneDrive storage. A new additional storage option that will be "available in the coming months" enables Office 365 customers to add storage in 200 GB increments starting at $1.99 per month all the way up to 1 TB of additional storage for $9.99 per month.

Microsoft said it plans to offer Personal Vault "soon" in Australia, New Zealand and Canada, and in other regions, including the U.S., by the end of this year. When it does become available, OneDrive users will automatically get access to Personal Vault as a feature update.

Next Steps

OneDrive and SharePoint security features to be aware of

Microsoft Office 365 security introduction

Office 365 security features: Is this as good as it gets?

Dig Deeper on Content management software and services

Business Analytics
Data Management