Microsoft Support and Professional Services and Breach Notification Under the GDPR

Microsoft Support and Professional Services take its obligations under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) seriously.

Microsoft Professional Services includes a diverse group of technical architects, engineers, consultants, and support professionals dedicated to delivering on the Microsoft mission of empowering customers to do more and achieve more. Our Professional Services team includes more than 21,000+ total consultants, Digital Advisors, Premier Support, engineers, and sales professionals working across 191 countries, supporting 46 different languages, managing several million engagements per month, and engaging in customer and partner interactions through on-premise, phone, web, community, and automated tools. The organization brings broad expertise across the Microsoft portfolio, leveraging an extensive network of partners, technical communities, tools, diagnostics, and channels that connect us with our enterprise customers.

The drive for Microsoft Professional Services' global data protection incident response team is to (a) employ rigorous operations and processes to prevent data protection incidents from occurring, (b) manage them professionally and efficiently when they do occur, and (c) learn from these data protection incidents through regular post-mortem and program improvements. Microsoft's Professional Services data protection incident response team's processes and results are reviewed and attested to by multiple security and compliance audits (for example, ISO/IEC 27001).

Data Protection incident response overview

Microsoft Professional Services is committed to protecting its customers and takes considerable measures to prevent data protection incidents from occurring as a means of maintaining customer trust. A data protection incident in the Professional Services organization is a breach of security leading to the accidental or unlawful destruction, loss, alteration, unauthorized disclosure of, or access to Personal Data, or Support or Consulting Data, while processed by Microsoft. For Commercial customers that have purchased Premier Support, Unified Support or Microsoft Consulting Services, you should refer to your data protection incident response language in the Professional Services Data Protection Addendum located at

Scope & limits of data protection incident response process

Our personal data breach notification process begins when we declare that a [personal data breach] has occurred.

To be declared, the Microsoft data protection incident response team must determine that a data protection incident as defined previously has occurred. Declaration will occur as soon as all pertinent information is available to determine that a data protection incident has occurred.

Due to the nature of professional services, some events that seem like Microsoft data protection incidents are not because they occurred through customer's actions or on customer's systems. Microsoft does not monitor for or respond to data protection incidents within the customer's realm of responsibility. However, when Microsoft becomes aware of a customer-driven data protection incident we will classify this incident as a customer-driven data protection incident, which the data protection incident response team calls an 'event', inform the customer of our observation, and as requested will assist them on their response effort, to the extent required by their interaction with Microsoft. Some examples of customer-driven data protection incidents include inadvertent sending Microsoft the customer's passwords and other sensitive data to Microsoft, requests to delete data and being the victim of fraud.

Some actions are out of scope for this process completely, including general questions about our data protection policies or standards, data subject right requests, opt-out requests, product wish lists, or bug reports not related to data protection, data protection incidents not involving customer's data, and fraud against Microsoft.

Types of data protection incidents

The data protection incident response team has identified a set of scenarios that may occur in professional services. While adhering to the basic data protection incident response framework, procedures have been developed and customized to expedite the response process. For instance, a misdirected email may require little investigation. On the other hand, identifying malicious personnel may require a complete forensic investigation due to the surreptitious nature of an offender's activities. This set of scenarios may provide insight into the data protection incident response process for professional services.

Data protection incident response process

When Microsoft Professional Services identifies a data protection incident, a triage process occurs that (a) assesses the event, (b) determines whether it is in-scope for this process, (c) determines whether it was malicious, (d) performs a preliminary investigation and assigns a severity level, and (e) alerts and coordinates with appropriate stakeholders within Microsoft. The team also begins recording details for tracking purposes and the post-mortem exercise.


Microsoft Professional Services continuously monitors for emerging data protection incidents across all data stores containing personal data—both online and offline. We use different methods to detect data protection incidents, including automated alerts, customer reports, reports from external parties, observation of anomalies, and indications of malicious or hacker activity.

The detection processes used by Microsoft Professional Services are designed to discover data protection incidents and trigger investigations. For example:

  • Security vulnerabilities are reported to the Microsoft-wide reporting system for referral or reported directly to the Professional Services data protection incident response team.
  • Customers submit reports via the Customer Support Portal that describe suspicious activity.
  • Professional Services personnel submit escalations. Microsoft employees are trained to identify and escalate potential security issues.
  • For tools and systems used in the process of providing Professional Services, the operations teams use automated system alerts via internal monitoring and alerting frameworks. These alerts could come in the way of signature-based alarms such as antimalware, intrusion detection or via algorithms designed to profile expected activity and alert upon anomalies.

Data protection incident response drills, testing of data protection incident response plan

In addition to ongoing training, each year Professional Services executes drills in partnership with appropriate internal departments to communicate the data protection incident escalation procedures, roles, and responsibilities to all stabilization team members. This training prepares key stakeholders for real-world data protection incidents—whether security, physical, or privacy in nature. This training includes exercises with representatives of the data protection incident response team, security team, legal teams, and communications team.

After the exercises, we document the outcome and remediation methods we have decided to use.

Data protection incident response training

A key component of data protection incident response is personnel training to identify and report data protection incidents. Personnel in the Professional Services organization are required to take training that covers privacy fundamentals, GDPR regulations, and best practices on how to identify and report data protection incidents.

Regular online training is available, and completion is mandatory for all personnel. The training program employs testing, ongoing surveys, awareness, and follow-up designed to ensure that training is being understood and retained.


When Microsoft Professional Services organization identifies a data protection incident, it follows a documented industry standard response plan, beginning with determination that the data protection incident criteria are met. Where a data protection incident occurs, it is generally declared immediately after Triage but, depending on complexity, the declaration may happen at any point when a level of necessary information is available, including after the investigation stage. On the other hand, the team has discretion to declare a data protection incident based only on reasonable suspicion of occurrence. The team may also alternate between the various stages as the investigation progresses.

Based on the severity level, Microsoft may also complete an internal post-mortem for data protection incidents. As a part of this exercise, sufficiency of response and operating procedures are evaluated, and any updates that may be necessary to the Data Protection Incident Response Standard Operating Procedure or related processes are identified and implemented. Internal postmortems for data breaches are highly confidential records not available to customers. Postmortems may, however, be summarized and included in customer event notifications. As part of a routine audit cycle, post-mortem processes are reviewed by external auditors to ensure follow-up occurs.


When Microsoft Professional Services declares a data protection incident under the GDPR, we target notification to our customers within 72 hours.

After the declaration of a data protection incident, the notification process takes place as expeditiously as possible while still considering the security risks of moving quickly. To ensure that notification can be successfully delivered, it is the customer's responsibility to ensure that the administrative contact information on each applicable account, subscription, and online services portal is correct. While the goal is to provide impacted customers with an accurate, actionable, and timely notice, to achieve the 72-hour notification commitment the initial notification may not include complete details as all details may not be available during the early stages of a data protection incident. In addition, Microsoft may need to withhold some details due to the circumstances of the data protection incident. For instance, it may be necessary to withhold details if the act of providing notification increases risk to other customers or interferes with Microsoft's or law enforcement's ability to catch a malicious actor.

In its capacity as a data processor, Microsoft recognizes that customers are responsible for determining whether notification is appropriate and, if so, notifying the competent Data Protection Authority (DPA) and the customer's own data subjects of any personal data breach. Microsoft Professional Services will work to provide customers the information needed to proceed with notice in these circumstances.

When providing notice to customers of a personal data breach, Microsoft will include the following information, if applicable and known:

  • Nature of the breach
  • Mitigation measures Microsoft is taking or proposing
  • Product, service, application involved
  • Length of time personal data was exposed, if known
  • Volume of affected/exposed personal data records, if known
  • Sub-processor/supplier details, if one is involved in the breach

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