At its Microsoft Ignite 2018 conference this week, Microsoft announced what it is billing as a war against passwords by extending the reach of an existing Microsoft Authenticator application for mobile devices to an instance of Active Directory (AD) running on the Microsoft Azure cloud. The goal is to eliminate the need to rely on passwords to access any application that is integrated with Azure AD.
At the same time, the company launched Microsoft Secure Score report card, which organizations can employ to determine their relative cybersecurity posture. By analyzing customers’ overall Windows environment through the report card, Microsoft also plans to make recommendations for improving their cybersecurity posture. Some of those recommendations, such as upgrading to Windows 10, obviously will be more self-serving than others.
In addition, Microsoft is launching Microsoft Threat Protection, which makes available a variety of existing threat detection services the company has in place for Microsoft Office 365 cloud service customers to consume.
An application programming interface (API) for Microsoft Graph Security is also now generally available. That API is an element of a larger Microsoft Intelligent Security Association of vendors committed to advancing security interoperability via a common set of interfaces.
Finally, Microsoft previewed an instance of Azure confidential computing service, which, like other similar services, ensures that even Microsoft employees don’t have access to the data stored on the Azure cloud.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told conference attendees that Microsoft is trying to leverage its global infrastructure to thwart cybersecurity attacks anywhere they occur. “There are 6.5 trillion security signals processed by us every day,” he said.
Microsoft also noted that 61 companies are now participating in the Cybersecurity Tech Accord, an agreement to defend all customers everywhere from malicious attacks by cybercriminal enterprises and nation-states. New members include Panasonic, Salesforce, Swisscom and Rockwell Automation.
In addition, Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit, working with global law enforcement agencies, is taking credit for working with 18 criminal botnets and releasing nearly 500 million devices from the control of a botnet. Microsoft also claims in the least two years there have been 12 instances in which it played a major role in taking down 84 fake websites, most of which were set up by a group known as Strontium that allegedly has close ties the Russian government.
While Microsoft is clearly making significant strides in terms of improving cybersecurity, it’s apparent that much of its focus resolves around the Azure cloud and the latest instances of Windows. Microsoft, in effect, is trying to leverage the inherent weaknesses of its legacy on-premises software to drive upgrades.
Of course, the cybersecurity issues most organizations face today are multiplatform. Microsoft may claim there are thousands of applications running on AD Azure. But those applications are only a fraction of the applications that need to be secured, many of which now run on everything from Apple Macs to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud. Clearly, a more comprehensive approach to cybersecurity technologies such as two-factor authentication will be required by most organizations.