Microsoft Bans Its Employees from Using Slack Due to Security Concerns

Microsoft instituted a ban on the free version of Slack, a popular workplace messaging app, citing security concerns.
John Loeffler

Microsoft told its employees this week that they could no longer use the free version of the popular workplace messaging app Slack, citing security concerns around Microsoft's intellectual property.

Microsoft Bans Its Employees Using Slack, Citing IP-Security Concerns

Microsoft maintains a list of several software products from its competitors that it greatly discourages its employees from using, not surprisingly, but only a select few are outright banned over security concerns. Such is the case with the free versions of the popular workplace messaging app Slack, specifically Slack Free, Slack Standard, and Slack Plus.


According to a new report from Reuters and LiveMint, an internal memo has been making the rounds in Microsoft offices, which reads in part, "Slack Free, Slack Standard and Slack Plus versions do not provide required controls to properly protect Microsoft Intellectual Property (IP)," and so cannot be allowed on Microsoft computers.

It goes on to point out that Microsoft does have its own workplace messaging app[!] that does all the same stuff that Slack does. "Existing users of [the banned Slack apps] should migrate chat history and files related to Microsoft business to Microsoft Teams, which offers the same features and integrated Office 365 apps, calling and meeting functionality."

In case they hadn't been clear enough, they address the inevitable question that someone was going to ask: could they use Slack's Premium version instead?

"Slack Enterprise Grid version complies with Microsoft security requirements," the Microsoft memo continues, "however, we encourage use of Microsoft Teams rather than a competitive software."

So sit down, Greg.

Other Services Strongly Discouraged or Banned By Microsoft

Slack isn't the only software competitor getting singled out by Microsoft. Amazon Web Services and Google Docs are highly discouraged, since they are the direct competitor services of Microsoft's Azure cloud computing solution and its Office 365 service, respectively, so it's just a bad look if its employees use these services, even if they are fully security compliant.

If someone has a genuine business justification for why they needed those apps or service specifically, Microsoft will allow it, though I don't think a memo having to justify it is one that any programmer would want to write.

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Speaking of writing! Grammarly, everyone's favorite fake-it-like-an-English-major grammar tool is a no-go with the company, though interestingly not because they have an objection to a competing product--even Microsoft seems to realize that their Office grammar checker could use some work. No, the company bans its use by its employees over a legitimate security concern, which is that Grammarly can access Information Rights Management-protected text in emails and Word documents, making it a security vulnerability that Microsoft would rather not have to deal with.

And not surprisingly, there is the cloud version of GitHub, the ubiquitous version-and-source-control-service and repository for code, documentation, and other related files, that Microsoft flat out bars its employees from using for anything work-related. So no, Microsoft employees, you cannot store the source code for the latest version of Microsoft Outlook on GitHub, where an errant checkbox in a user's account settings can open up the lock on some of the world's most valuable intellectual property and inadvertently turn Microsoft Windows 11 into the world's most popular open-source operating system.

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