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Microsoft: Why identity protection is the key to corporate security

As businesses of all sizes continue to put more and more of their data online, the need to ensure this information remains secure is more pressing than ever.

Microsoft has long been the preferred choice of partner for many companies, with its Microsoft 365 platform offering a comprehensive, and more importantly, secure way to ensure data stays protected. But just exactly what goes in to ensuring millions of enterprises can leave the office each evening feeling assured that their data is safe?

At the recent IP Expo event in London, ITProPortal spoke to Brad Anderson, Microsoft's corporate vice president of enterprise mobility, about what threats are the most pressing for one of the world's biggest enterprises.

"We think that identity is the most important thing to protect, because that's what everyone is trying to attack," he notes, "what we're seeing in the enterprise is that the number of attacks is dramatically soaring."

Microsoft has greatly expanded its enterprise cloud and security offerings in recent months, with Microsoft Azure now the preferred option for around a hundred million businesses worldwide. 

"You have to have the power of multiple clouds backing you to be able to identify the attacks that are happening, and then take action to protect your company and your people," Anderson says.

He notes that many recent cybersecurity attacks and breaches can be traced back to identity theft - the golden key to corporate and personal information alike. There has been a transition in enterprise security recently that has seen many organisations shift their protection "outside the perimeter" as more mobile devices speak directly to the cloud, requiring a new way of safeguarding valuable information. With around 950 million identities stored on Azure, Microsoft needs to ensure that its security is up to the test. 

"You have to think about what the new security model is in a world where we have mobile devices talking directly to cloud services - and we believe that the new model is identity-driven."

"What has enabled us to be at the forefront is that we have become the authoritative source for enterprise identity."

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/deepadesigns)

The sheer size of Microsoft's customer base has allowed it to harness this information to build an "Intelligent Security Graph" that can spot security trends and threats before they even happen. The company is able to allocate a "risk score" to every identity in its database depending on the possible perceived threat risk, with higher-risk entities being asked for a second form of authentication before being granted access. 

Anderson is bullish about the advantages this approach can offer businesses, noting, "if you take a look back at all these breaches that have been traced back to identity theft, had they been using this service from Microsoft, we would have detected that there was something suspicious going on, and we would have blocked, or at least notified the organisation to go look at this."

"To say that all major cloud providers need to take security seriously is an understatement," he adds, "our customers tells us that they believe having their data stored in Microsoft 365 is more secure than if it was their own data centres - and that's because securing that data is like life itself for us."

"(Security) has become a boardroom conversation now, and one of the most important parts of the agenda," he notes. "It's become one of those important conversations that every company can understand...they understand that if they have something of value, they are under attack."

Microsoft is now aiming to attract more customers to its platform, confident in the belief that it can offer greater intelligence and protection for businesses of all sizes. Anderson notes that working with Microsoft allows partners to greatly simplify their security platform, as it can bring together multiple services and tools in one offering to reduce complexity and the risk of attack.

"We think we have some unique intelligence, we know we have partners that have unique intelligence, and as we look to bring this all closer together," he says. "But this is not something Microsoft is going to do alone - we have to figure out the right ways to share the intelligence that we have, and our partners have, to make better solutions for everyone."

Michael Moore
Michael Moore is News and Features Editor working across both ITProPortal and TechRadar Pro. He has worked as a technology journalist for more than five years, including spells at one of the UK's leading national newspapers. He is interested in hearing about all the latest news and developments across the Business IT world, and how companies are using new technology to help push forward their work and make their customer's lives easier.