Microsoft ramps up Windows 10 security, introduces two-factor authentication

Microsoft is trying to entice enterprise firms to adopt its new Windows 10 operating system by including a host of new security features, including two-factor authentication.

The technology giant claims that the traditional single-password method is too insecure and at the heart of system break-ins and data theft.

Read more: Microsoft Windows 10 Technical Preview build 9860 now available to download

In a blog post, Microsoft's head of Windows enterprise program management Jim Alkove wrote that enhanced security is a key focus for the new OS, with security issues "central to many of the customer conversations I've had since we announced the availability of the Technical Preview."

"We believe this solution brings identity protection to a new level as it takes multi-factor security which today is limited to solutions such as smartcards and builds it right into the operating system and device itself, eliminating the need for additional hardware security peripherals," Alkove added.

Windows 10 users will be able to enrol devices as one of the two authentication factors, with the other being either a PIN or biometric input. Attackers would then need a user's physical device, along with the means to use the user's credential in order to access information. The credential could be either a key pair generated by Windows, or a certificate given to the device by a company's existing PKI system.

The user credentialing system will be supported by Microsoft's Azure Active Directory and consumer Microsoft accounts, enabling enterprises and consumers to move away from passwords more easily.

Windows 10 will also include features to protect any access tokens generated throughout the authentication process, and data loss prevention (DLT) technology will also offer protection to both personal and corporate data. IT managers will now be able to set up "app-allow and app-deny lists" giving organisations control over which apps are able to access corporate data.

Read more: Should I upgrade to Windows 10?

Enterprise firms largely avoided Windows 8, so Microsoft will be hoping improved security features will entice some chief information officers back on board for Windows 10. The new OS is expected to launch by mid-2015, with its public testing programme already underway.