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2/10/2017
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Microsoft Beefs Up Enterprise Security In Windows 10, Surface

Microsoft's wave of security news targets hardware, Azure, Office 365, Windows 10, and SQL Server to safeguard business data.

Microsoft is making a series of announcements at next week's RSA Conference as part of its broader enterprise security strategy.

It has been more than a year since Microsoft announced plans to invest $1B in an integrated security strategy across products and services including Windows, Azure, and Office. Initiatives have driven progress in identity protection, data management, and staying ahead of attackers.

Now Microsoft is expanding on its security efforts with updates related to Windows 10, Surface hardware, Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (WDATP), Windows Hello, and Windows Analytics.

Surface is getting extra protection at the hardware layer with Surface Enterprise Management Mode (SEMM). This is geared towards heavily regulated industries that need physical protection; for example, the option to disable cameras or microphones in classified areas.

SEMM lets businesses control hardware configuration and OS processes within device firmware. Configuration can be applied to specific times of day, WiFi networks, Ethernet, Bluetooth, app access, and certificates that can be launched via initial deployments or pushed to cloud.

"In some of the most secure and locked-down environments, customers want to know how software is deployed and whether it's in policy," says Rob Lefferts, Microsoft's director of program management for Windows Enterprise and Security.

Admins must have physical possession of the device, and unique certificate signatures, to make any changes. This Surface security update can be deployed on Surface Pro 4, Surface Book, or Surface Studio.

Microsoft is also broadening device management in Windows 10 by bringing security configurations in Security Baseline Policies to MDM solutions. Previously, these settings were limited to Group Policy. It's also shipping the MDM Migration Analytics Tool to help report on Group Policy settings and configure policies for Windows 10 MDM managed devices.

WDATP, first announced at last year's RSA Conference, is getting a few adjustments. Users will be able to add customize detection rules and use "time travel" detections to look back through the previous six months of data and find undiscovered attacks.

Microsoft is also integrating security alerts from across the Windows security stack. Users can view malware reports, state of antivirus, and other advanced threats in one place.

In a one-year update following the $1B security investment, Microsoft CVP and CISO Bret Arsenault said one of his goals was to completely eliminate passwords within the next two years.

It's getting one step closer with new adjustments to Windows Hello, which is being expanded to all organizations with on-prem Active Directory-only environments. Previously, it was only available to devices with Windows 10.

"We want to make sure as many customers as possible can take advantage of new security features," says Lefferts of the news.

Windows Hello is also being updated with Dynamic Lock, which automatically locks down a device when the user walks away. Bluetooth signals determine the distance between the user's mobile phone and Windows 10 device, and can help block unauthorized device access.

Microsoft is working with Intel on an initiative called Project EVO, which will integrate Windows Hello with Intel's Authentice tech. The idea is to bring the hardware-based authentication of Intel's tool to protect Hello users from more advanced threats.

On the analytics front, Microsoft is broadening its Windows Analytics portfolio to include Update Compliance. The idea behind this is to give a broad view of Windows 10 update compliance for both monthly and feature updates. Businesses can use it to watch deployment progress, pinpoint problems, and maintain a broader view of their patched environment.

Update Compliance will be free; it's in public preview starting today.

Finally, Microsoft is announcing that the National Security Agency (NSA) is adding Surface devices (Pro 3, Pro 4, and Surface Book) to its list of Commercial Solutions for Classified Programs (CSfC).

"The cybersecurity landscape is in a situation of ever-increasing threats," says Lefferts. "As the world becomes more connected, the opportunities keep coming up for bad guys to do bag things, and profit from it."

Related Content:

Kelly Sheridan is Associate Editor at Dark Reading. She started her career in business tech journalism at Insurance & Technology and most recently reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft and business IT. Sheridan earned her BA at Villanova University. View Full Bio

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