Microsoft discussed greater enterprise security with EMS, Windows 10 as a service and Azure Data Security

Microsoft’s plans for data security & productivity

Microsoft were once again hosting a large technical event to spread the word of the Cloud — this time as part of their global ‘Cloud Roadshow’ series. Last week the Cloud Roadshow team came to the ExCel Centre, London for a two-day technical training event. This event gave insights directly from the experts who build the product & services and who support & sell it on a daily basis. The agenda covered the full range of Microsoft products and services including, here are 3 of the core topics:

1) Ensuring Enterprise Security…

80% of employees surveyed by Microsoft use their own (non-approved) SaaS software to complete their daily tasks at work.

75% of network intrusions use weak or stolen credentials to perpetrate the hack or intrusion.

Statistics and trends like the 3 above are leading to more security concerns for IT departments and providers. Company IT staff & directors are increasingly worrying about information security and questions like “how can I protect my company’s data and network from intrusion?” are becoming all too common.

Microsoft products like EMS [Enterprise Mobility Suite] allow IT teams to lock down and restrict access to applications, data and services but also allow users to complete their daily tasks with self service capabilities.

Microsoft are continually working to allow companies to employ a BYOD policy but still keep control over their data. There is a significant modification on this front, from a device-centric perspective (1 user, 1 device) to a user-centric one (1 user, 5 or more devices). As part of this action, there is a push toward delivering cross-platform compatibility; the EMS suite supports most major operating systems and thousands of applications — including all the major SaaS applications (Salesforce, Concur & Box included) as well as the Microsoft suite of applications.

Another effort is to give employees one common identity and credentials to access the Office 365 suite, devices and 3rd party applications, all with single sign on and self-service capabilities on top of that (password reset, group management and access requests).

Identity Driven Security is another major of improvement in the latest release of the EMS suite, the ability to control at a really granular level what applications and data users have access to on Office 365 and SaaS applications with tools like Cloud App Discovery. The ability to protect all of this data behind multi-factor authentication and leveraging machine learning tools to detect the possibility of a threat before its happened allows the IT department to be proactive and prevent leakage rather than having to be reactive after the data has been stolen.

The EMS suite with AAD [Azure Active Directory] Premium, Intune (for Mobile Device Management), Rights Management and Advanced Threat Analytics comes at a similar price point for the whole suite as just one each element would cost on its own from other vendors.

The adoption of Windows 10 shows no signs of stopping; the US Department of Defense have recently upgraded to Windows 10.

2) Windows 10 As A Service

One of the areas that was covered in most depth at the event was Windows 10 (now Windows 10 as a service). Windows 10 is increasing their efforts towards a utopia across their products where they there is a common operating system on all devices — currently your Xbox, Windows 10 laptop and Lumia phone share a significant proportion of the code. This gives Microsoft the opportunity to have Windows 10 running on anything from 4 inches to 80 inches.

The adoption of Windows 10 also shows no sign of stopping anytime with the deadline for free upgrades ending in July. Commitments from large organizations to upgrade to Windows 10, like the US Department of Defense and its over 4 million devices, are encouraging large corporates and organization to make the leap to Windows 10. One of the key reasons for this is Microsoft’s decision to keep the application stack and code base of Windows 10 similar to previous versions of Windows, so application compatibility becomes much less of an issue — so much so that if an application supports Windows 7, then it’s highly likely that it will be compatible with Windows 10 because of the code similarities.

The other major changes in Windows 10 come around security and Microsoft are evolving these features at an incredible rate. Since the turn of the millennium, the number of hacks on organisations has increased dramatically starting with the “script kiddie” generation testing their skills and evolving into weaponized hacking by organized crime, nation states and terrorist organisation’s fuelled by profit with the aim of stealing IP or causing damage & disruption.

Microsoft are combating these sort of organised hacks (hacks similar to the attack on Sony last year) with a range of measures, such as Windows Hello. Windows Hello is a biometric security feature set that allows users to unlock their Windows 10 device with a fingerprint or their face, to name a few of the biometric options available. Microsoft are also moving towards more sophisticated methods of protection for Windows, security services are starting to move into a sub OS Virtual Machine and then if the device itself is comprised data and passwords are still secured at a lower layer.

The ultimate aim for Microsoft is to eliminate the password in Windows over the next decade.

Microsoft will be opening a UK region in Azure, allowing Financial and Insurance industries to consider Azure as an option for safe data storage.

3) Trusting Azure

Microsoft recently announced a UK region in Azure was due to come on-stream at some point around the end of 2016 and start of 2017. Part of the keynote from the Cloud Roadshow was focused around the launch of the new datacentre regions towards the end of 2016, this allow the Financial and Insurance industries to start considering Azure as an option as the data will not be leaving the United Kingdom which has proven a stumbling block so far with data sovereignty.

The feature set within Azure is also developing at a rapid rate, features like Azure AD B2B and B2C allow companies to create trust relationships between themselves and others businesses and consumers and share data and identity all while being protected their own security and data policies.

Over to you… If you were there, what did you think? What are you expecting from Microsoft in the next few years?

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