Cisco Hyper Shield: Data Centre security redefined.

Cisco has introduced a new product called Hypershield, which they claim is one of the most significant security products in Cisco’s history. It is expected to be generally available starting from July 2024.

What is Hyper Shield?

Hypershield is a cloud-native, AI-powered system designed to enhance the security of AI-scale data centers. Unlike traditional security products, hyper shield is integrated directly into the network’s fabric, offering a revolutionary approach to protecting digital infrastructure services in data centres, protecting applications, devices, and data across public and private data centers, clouds, and physical locations.

This is the Most Consequential security  announcement In Cisco’s 40-Year History

Cisco.

The holistic system promises to bring the security advantages of a hyperscale model to enterprises, allowing security to be embedded in every software component of every application running on the network, on every server, and in both public and private cloud deployments.

How Hyper Shield is different.

Hypershield is different to traditional security “bolt ons” because it not just a new security product or the next version of something that already exists. What makes this different and unique, is that Hyper Shield represents a brand-new security architecture model built from the ground. It uses an open-source technology called eBPF that hyperscalers use to automate patching and other time-consuming jobs. It has the ability to transform every network port into a high-performance security enforcement point and works by blocks application exploits in minutes while preventing  lateral movement of attacks.

Innovation from within

I think Hypershield is exciting because it represents a significant shift in how security is approached within the data centre fabric.

“Why we think this is the most consequential is we’re taking what used to be a firewall, an appliance, and we’re like melting into the network. It’s not a separate thing that you add on. It’s like magic. It writes its own rules, it tests its own rules, it qualifies its own rules, deploys its own rules, and then overnight it upgrades itself”

Tom Gillis | VP Security | Cisco

It is built with technology originally developed for hyperscale public clouds Cisco are making this technology available for enterprise IT teams of all sizes regardless of how big their data centre foot print is. It works by enabling security enforcement to be placed everywhere it needs to be, at the application and data layer, which is a major shift and change in how traditional data centre security works. Cisco say that it’s expected to have a significant impact on how businesses protect their digital assets.

With this innovation … we have actually been able to deliver something that’s unlike anything we’ve done in the last 40 years at Cisco. And I will say that we’re just getting started.

Jeetu Patel | Cisco’s EVP

Rather than relying on traditional network and application level firewalls in the datacentre, Hypershield works by essentially providing security boundaries around every application and service. It naturally uses artificial intelligence to learn and adapt, so it gets better at detecting and understand normal activity from attack attempts. 

I look forward to learning more about this.


Read more from Cisco

Cisco Hypershield: Security reimagined.
Cisco Reimagines Security for Data Centers & Clouds in Era of AI.

CRN Report:

Cisco and Splunk – For Security and Observability.

With the $28B aquisition now complete between Cisco and Splunk, both vendors will soon be in heavy marketing mode as they position their new combined offerings (under Cisco) to “unify the full power of network and endpoint data with leading Security and Observability solutions, all underpinned by our highly scalable, AI-powered data platform“.

The combination of Cisco and Splunk will provide truly comprehensive visibility and insights across an organization’s entire digital footprint, delivering an unprecedented level of resilience through the most extensive and powerful security and observability product portfolio on the market.

Gary Steele| VP Splunk.

So what does that mean?

Unification and Choice

According to the new Splunk website and publicly facing collateral, the combining of forces is destined to offer the following value and connected experiences to their combined customer base.

  • Power the SOC of the Future, by
    • improving the efficacy, efficiency, and economics of defending organisations and service providers against modern security threats, offering what they claim will be the  “most comprehensive security solutions for threat prevention, detection, investigation and response.”
    • Continuing to deliver Splunk’s existing  security and monitoring platforms, while adding Splunk technology to Cisco’s existing portfolio with enhanced network, endpoint and cloud data for” unparalleled insights and faster remediation“.
    • Enhancing Cisco’s security offerings across the board to help organisations secure users, protect infrastructure, and improve prevention, detection and remediation with Cisco’s User Protection, Breach Protection, and Cloud Protection suites which is fed from Cisco’s Talos data intelligence platform.
  • Enrich Observability across all and any environment by:
    • Offering a comprehensive full-stack observability solution, enhancing customers’ ability to deliver seamless digital experiences and prevent downtime across any environment, combining and joining Cisco Thousand Eyes and App Dymanics with Splunk’s portfolio of products.
    • Continue to offer choice to customers, by offering unified solutions as well as the individual Cisco and Splunk whilst providing unified management and insights.
    • Create a world leading observability platform through the Integration of the best of Cisco and Splunk technology leading to an holistic ability ability to detect and remediate incidents, empowering IT Teams to focus on enablement, security and digital transformation rather than troubleshooting performance and issues.

What about AI?

Yes… Cisco and Splunk also talk alot about AI empowerment and execution. After all, AI workloads are intense, drive traffic into different places and have a profound impact on how people use and access data and applications.

Aimed more at organisations who build and operate on their own data, rather than consume SaaS, the fuel of AI and its ability to provide information and serve requests is reliant on fast and secure access to models trained on huge volumes of the data.

Cisco beleive that their combined forces will bring an unmatched breadth of data through allowing organisations to build, scale and tune, highly scalable data platforms while ensuring performace and security at scale.

The competition?

The race to empower and secure both traditional and AI powered workloads continues up pace. Cisco have a great history of building arguably the best networking technologies in the world, have one of best SaaS performance monitoring platforms and now with the added arsenal of products from Splunk, puts them in a great position to win over customers, partners and MSPs with a unified offering.

Cisco have struggled to win hearts and minds with security for years but this combining of forces gives them an ACE card to play. Whether they will get this right (from a hearts and minds, price and integration) is yet to be seen, but Cisco have a great track record of integrating technologies from vendors their aquire.

More information

More information around the combined entity of Cisco and Splunk are coming in fast and late last week, Cisco ran a customer and partner briefing which is now available on demand here.

Continue reading “Cisco and Splunk – For Security and Observability.”

Microsoft’s Copilot for Security available April 1st

No – it’s not an April Fools Joke – Microsoft yesterday (13th March 2024) announced that their much anticpiated Copilot for Security will be available to buy and use from 1st April 2024.

What Does Copilot for Security Do?

Originally announced a year ago and after extensive testing in private preview, Copilot for Security is aimed at IT Security and Sec Ops teams as it brings Microsoft’s Copilot technology, Microsoft’s threat intelligence services and Machine Learning into a dedicated security service powered by Copilot. .Copilot for Security can processes prompts and responds in eight languages, with over 25 languages supported at launch.

For organisations that already invest and consume Microsoft security services such as Sentinel, Defender, Entra, Priva, Intune, and Purview this is a exciting time!

Image (c) Microsoft Security.

Copilot for Security is informed by large-scale data and threat intelligence, including Microsoft’s daily processing of more than 78 trillion security signals – a gaint increase from 65 trillion signals stated just last year. This is largest threat intelligence database in the world. Microsoft do not use any organisational data to train their LLMs.

One huge advantage of Copilot’s conversational abilities is its capacity to rapidly compose incident reports. It can also tailor these reports to be more or less technical based on the intended employee audience, say Microsoft.

Copilot for Security offers a huge variety of capabilities, including:

  • Human-readable explanations of vulnerabilities, threats, and alerts across all of Microsoft’s security products and services, aswell as, (later) third-party tooling as well.
  • Answer questions about alerts, threats and incidents in real-time and take action.
  • Automatically summarising incident analysis and offers recommendations for subsequent actions based on the tools the organisation is licnesed for and/or deployed.
  • Ability for users to edit the prompt to correct or adjust responses and share the findings with others and create extensive run books based on prompts as well as ability to share prompts with other anaysts in the team.

After nearly a year of various preview stages and vigorous testing both my Microosft Security Expert and enterprise organisations, Microsoft say the feedback has been “overwhelmingly positive.” A recent AI economic study by Microsoft demonstrated that security professionals work 22% faster and are 7% more accurate when utilising Copilot for Security. An impressive 86% of participants reported that Security Copilot enhanced the quality of their work, and >90% expressed a desire to use Security Copilot for future tasks. The report further indicates that security novices, possessing basic IT skills, performed significantly better with Security Copilot compared to members of a control group. Moreover, their superiors expressed greater confidence in their output.

Copilot for Security in Action

A year in readiness.

In the annoucement, Microsoft cited statements from Forrester VP Jess Pollard who said that “Experienced practitioners will reap the most rewards from the capabilities Microsoft offers, and while it’s unlikely to identify threats SOC [security operation center] teams would miss, it does make investigation and response faster”.

Just like Copilot for Microsoft 365 – Adoption and Training is Key

Just like any major technology change such as Copilot for Microsoft 365, adoption, training and practice is going to be vital to get maximum value anmd trust from Copilot for Security. Security teams will need to a fair amount of change management and training to ensure they can take advantage of the Microsoft Copilot for Security. Forrester cited in the report that “it takes around 40 hours of training to get security practitioners comfortable with using Copilot for Security. In addition, we heard that it takes four or more weeks — with many stops and starts — to get practitioners comfortable with the technology.”

With a global shortage of Cyber Security Skills, an exponential growth in attacks and attack surfaces and the rise of AI at cyber crimimals finger tips, Copilkot for Security has been one of the most anticipated uses for Copilot. There is no doubt that Copilot for Security can lower the barrier to entry into the cybersecurity industry, Forrester also said that “Though large language models and generative AI may level the playing field and allow for accelerated security talent development, no amount of out-of-the-box prompt books and guided response steps replace fundamental security knowledge, skills, and experience.

The Pros Microsoft Copilot for Security

Feedback from Microsoft early-access clients loved about Copilot for Security, including the following:

  • Making script analysis easier by de-obfuscating and explaining contents.
  • Accelerating threat hunting by helping write queries based on adversary methods.
  • Speeding up and simplifying complex KQL queries or PowerShell script creation.
  • Analysing phishing submissions by verifying true positives and providing inbox details.
  • Improving analyst experience by reducing the need to swap between various tools.
  • Generating leadership / executive-ready incident report summaries efficiently.

Things to be aware of at launch

There are serveral key areas which wont be available at intial launch, but epect to see rapid release cycles and updates once GA. Currently the following is not available but will be added over time.

  • Single Data Repositories – Copilot currently requires multiple instances for users / organisations that want to silo data between different business units, group companies or geo locations. These will be eventually be rolled into a single instance/interface but today will cause challenges for large MSPs and global / complex organisations.
  • Third Party Tools – At launch Copilot for Security will not provide integation into third party tools so organisations will need to be using Microsoft’s first party security tools like Defender for Ideneity and Defender for Endpoint. This is on roadmap.
  • Limited Integfration and Automation: Much of the work Copilot for Security does on day one is around reporting, alterting across mutiple signals sources and behaviour. Whilst it can execute run-books, some services like auto-quarantine and network isolation will not be available at launch.

New Features at Launch

In the annoucement, Vasu Jakkal, corporate VP of compliance, identity, management, and privacy at Microsoft said that as part of the launch, the following new features will be available to Copilot for Security:

  • Custom promptbooks,: allowing Security Teams to create and save their own natural language prompts for common security workstreams and tasks similar to the notebook feature in Copiolot for Microsoft 365.
  • Knowledge integrations: Which will enable the connecting of Copilot for Security to customers’ logic and workflow and the ability to perform activities based on company defined step-by-step guides.
  • Integration with customers’ curated external attack surface from Microsoft Defender External Attack Surface Management to identify and analyse the most up-to-date information.
  • Summarisation in natural language of additional insights from Microsoft Entra audit logs and diagnostic logs for a security investigation or IT issue analysis related to a specific user or event.
  • New fully customisationable usage dashboards to provide reporting on how teams interact with Copilot.

Which Organisations benefit most?

For organisations that already invest and consume Microsoft security services such as Sentinel, Defender, Entra, Priva, Intune, and Purview – Copilot for Security will likley be at tool that provides an indispensable enhancement that will not only reduce workload and increase productivity, but siginifcantly help Security Teams to work better together and detect and respond faster than ever.

Organistions that are not fully invested in Microsoft’s extensive secrtirty portfolio and choose to use other vendors will still benefit, but until wider third party support is available, runinng trials and evaluating the potential move to more Microsoft Security technologies is a smarter move. There will be increased funding pots and incentives to entice organisations to move to Microsoft Security.

Almost every Security vendor is adding Gen AI into their products and services, but today, no other organisation has built what Microsoft have (though this will likley change).

Pricing from $4 per hour

Yes, ok I saved this for the end.

Pricing will be offered through a consumption-based model, allowing customers to pay according to their usage needs. Usage will be categorised into Security Compute Units (SCUs). Customers will be billed for the number of SCUs provisioned on an hourly basis at a rate of $4 per hour, with a minimum usage requirement of one hour. Microsoft say this is an opportunity for any organisation to begin exploring Security Copilot and expand their usage as necessary.

This, lowers the entry point to the solution without a big initial license outlay and should simplify the pilot, on-boarding and rollout process. The PAYG model is also something organisations are used to, making it more accessible and straightforward and avoiding the complexity of traditional stackable licensing schemes.

Microsoft CSP partners, like Cisilion will be key in helping customers to manage their spend, working with the Sec Ops team to tweak and finetune the solution to help map, manage and plan spent.

Cisco announces “AI Assistant for Security”

Last month, and now just a few weeks away from Cisco Live, Cisco have announced they are bringing a new “AI Assistant for Security” to market this year. This is an artificial intelligence tool that combines generative AI technologies with an “unparalleled scope of data” , giving IT/SecOps teams the ability to generate more secure, AI-driven insights that span devices, applications, security, networks, and the internet .

“AI Assistant for Security will help provide better protection to our customers by simplifying management for both seasoned administrators and novice users. Our aim is to inject generative AI and unify telemetry across all Cisco Security solutions to create a more effective experience and safeguard our customers”

Brian Feeney | VP Global security partner sales | Cisco

Cisco AI Assistant for Security marks a major step in making artificial intelligence pervasive in the Cisco Security Cloud. Starting with the Cisco Secure Firewall Management Center, Cybersecurity professionals will be able to leverages Cisco AI Assistant for streamlining and automating firewall management both on premises and in the cloud.

Firewalls first – more later

Cisco have said that they will launch the AI Assistant for firewall as soon as Spring 2024, with this representing a great opportunity for their partners and customers to start leverage the advantages of AI.

Cisco say this will be included and integrated into their cloud-delivered Firewall Management Center with no additional charge. Longer term, Cisco said they plan to extend it to their other firewall management tools later.

Why? Well, according to Gartner, Configuration complexity and inconsistent rules are among the highest cause of security risks and breaches when it comes to configuring networks and firewalls with misconfiguration being the cause of nintey nine percent (99%) of all firewall breaches.

Image (c) Cisco

The AI Assistant for Security is built on “Ciscos foundation of security, data protection, and privacy, guided by Cisco’s responsible AI principles and framework”. Their AI assistant is trained on Cisco’s huge security-focused datasets, (Talos) which analyses more than 550 billion security events daily and helps IT and SecOps teams in making informed decisions, enhancing their tooling and reporting capabilities, and automating intricate tasks.

“Cisco is harnessing AI to reframe how organisations think about cybersecurity outcomes and tip the scales in favor of defenders. Cisco combines AI with its breadth of telemetry across the network, private and public cloud infrastructure, applications, internet, email, and endpoints. “

Jeetu Patel | VP security and collaboration | Cisco

Cisco say that their Cisco AI Assistant for Security is a major step forward in making artificial intelligence relevant and pervasive in the Cisco Security Cloud – their unified, AI-driven, cross-domain security platform. Cisco Secure Firewall Management Center will be the first platform to leverage the AI Assistant for Security to simplify firewall management.

This should make it much easier to manage and maintaining firewall rules and policies, by enabling administrators to “talk to and administer” the platform to with natural language to find policies, understand rules, spot anonomises and even get suggestions for new rules.

How AI Assistant for Security is different to Microsoft Security Copilot?

Scope

Cisco AI Assistant for Security and Microsoft Security Copilot are both artificial intelligence tools that are designed to help IT and SecOps teams work do efficiently, smarter and safer users work faster, but the platforms and services are different in several ways when comparing to Microsoft Security Copilot.

Cisco’s AI assistant is designed to work across (initially) their firewall services (with other services that make up the Cisco Secure Cloud portfolio coming later), Microsoft Security Copilot is designed to assist cybersecurity professionals in investigating critical incidents across their entire security portfolio including Microsoft 365, their XDR platform, Azure and Sentinel. Microsoft Security Copilot doesn’t work across physical security devices like firewalls so the two services are potentially good complementing services.

Microsoft has combined the power of OpenAI’s large language model with Microsoft’s own threat analysis footprints which is informed by more than 100 different data sources across Microsoft 365,Azure and hundreds of this party data analysis companies. It uses the combined intelligence of more than 65 trillion threat signals every day to provide company and sector specific insights, alerts and guidance.

Use Cases

Currently AI Assistant for Security is designed to help organisations better configure their security services (starting with firewalls), detect inconsistencies (for example across different sites, service or offices). This will expand over time however and we expect more to be annouced in Feb 2024 at Cisco Live in Amsterdam.

Use cases for Microsoft Security Copilot include for example the ability to allow admins to use prompting language prompting to ask Copilot to  acreste an exec level report on an incident response for a particular ongoing investigation. Copilot will pull data across multiple sources based on the set of interrelated and connected tools and services. Another change of prompt for example could the see Copilot provide more information, change how it displays or summarises the report, or even create lessons learned documents or suggest changes in process.

Cost

According to Cisco, the AI assistant for Security will be generally available for firewall customers in the spring of 2024 at no additional cost via the cloud-delivered Firewall Management Center (FMC) and expanding to other management tools in the future.

Microsoft Security Copilot, however, which is currently in paid public preview is expected to cost >$100k when it’s officially availabily later this year.

A better together story?

As you can see the Cisco and Microsoft’s offering in this space is quite different. While Cisco see their AI Assistant for Security as a way of differentiating their brand in the cyber security space and to leap ahead of the competition in this traditional secoery space (think Palo, HPE, Dell, Checkpoint etc), Microsoft Security Copilot is more geared towards collating security signals from the organisations configuration, reports and signals from Microsoft’s own threat intelligence of 65 Trillion signals, the organisations configuration and third party connected signals to provide almost an AI powered cyber security team.

I very much see this as a “use both” better together theme.

Closing Thoughts

According to Gartner, Configuration complexity and inconsistent rules are among the highest cause of security risks and breaches when it comes to configuring networks and firewalls with misconfiguration being the cause of nintey nine percent (99%) of all firewall breaches.

As such, launching this with a “firewall first” approach is a sensible move by Cisco to add more value to their offering through the use of embedding generative AI into their core security product base without adding a surcharge or making it “Premium”. It should help to further position Cisco as a Leader in the security space against the fierce completion. I look forward to this being available and for Cisco to increase it’s reach over time to the rest of their portfolio.


Read more

You can learn more about Microsoft Security Copilot at and Cisco’s AI assistant below.

Cisco Announcement and Blog: Help Firewall Admins With Cisco AI Assistant for Security

Cisco AI Assistant: Cisco AI Assistant – Cisco

Microsoft Security Copilot: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/security/business/ai-machine-learning/microsoft-security-copilot



Could HPE’s acquisition of Juniper disrupt the networking market?

It’s official – HPE have confirmed they are acquiring Juniper Networks for around $14 billion in an “all-cash” deal. According to reuters, this price represents a premium of just over 32% over Juniper’s closing stock price on the day the deal was announced.

Since HPE (Hewlett Packard Enterprises) broke away from HP in 2015, they have been on an acquisition spree and have made a number of strategic purchase including Nimble Storage, SGI, Cray and SimpliVity. The acquisition of Juniper will be HPE’s largest acquisition to date. The deal is expected to close later this year or early 2025.

Under the acquisition, Juniper CEO Rami Rahim will lead the combined HPE networking business, reporting to Antony Neri, CEO of HPE.

Why have HPE bought Juniper?

The acquisition will add a huge arsenal to HPE’s already impressive networking business and according to HPE will “create a new networking leader with a comprehensive portfolio”.

In the annoucement by HPE they said that “HPE’s acquisition of Juniper represents an important inflection point in the industry and will change the dynamics in the networking market and provide customers and partners with a new alternative that meets their toughest demands,” | HPE CEO Antonio Neri.

HPE claims that this deal will enhance their role at the intersection of fast-growing AI trends, increase their market potential, and foster more innovation for their customers as they assist in connecting the AI-native and cloud-native domains. They also claim that it will create substantial value for their shareholders.

Combining HPE and Juniper’s complementary portfolios supercharges HPE’s edge-to-cloud strategy with an ability to lead in an AI-native environment based on a foundational cloud-native architecture

Antonio Neri | CEO | HPE

This acquisition of Juniper will position HPE as a strong end to end contender in the enterprise and mid market networking space, in a space which is dominated by the likes of Cisco, Arista and Dell.

The coming together of HPE and Juniper will esentially create a networking company that can compete in the growing era of “AI everywhere”. This will give HPE two main vantage points to compete against the network giants like Cisco, Arista and Dell.

  • HPE should have more capablity, the products and reach to target the data center network infrastructure business with a focus on AI workloads, leveraging Juniper’s expertise and track record in data center and cloud networking whilst also expanding HPE’s edge-to-cloud portfolio offering.
  • HPE will also gain the ability to leverage Juniper’s investment and maturity in AI powered network management to stregthen and innovate the overall HPE portfolio.

HPE has emphasised this aspect of the deal in their press statement, seeing this as a huge opportunity to leverage the “explosion of AI and hybrid cloud-driven business” and meet the increasing demand for technologies that are needed to connect, protect, and analyse vast amounts of data from the edge to the cloud.

How will impact the competition?

How this impacts the other networking giants will remains to be seen. Much of the success of HPE in this expanded market and where Aruba operates today will be one of great interest as they have traditionally been seen as entry level and far from entperpise class. However, HPE have the change to change all this and reset expections buy taking advantage of Juniper’s MIST and JunOS platform – perhaps breathing new life into Aruba and create a wider, extensive portfolio of products that scale to any market, office and budget but time will tell. This along with the wider HPE and Juniper porfolio could create a comprehensive and consistent offering across every market segment.

From an SD-WAN perspective, it’s also worth noting that HPE own Silverpeak and Juniper is not a market leader in that space. When we look at the wider security portfolio also, it will be interesting to see where HPE they will focus their efforts. Integration of Aruba Clearpass with Junipers’ MIST could be intriguing, or could even put them in the postion to create a competitive solution to Cisco full software defined access (SDA). Time will tell.

As the world continues to prepare, adopt and invest in the new emerging technolgies of AI, this new technology battle field will not just be aimed at the enterprise networking market. This aquisition will put new competition across all market verticles and all segments including mid market, enterprise, service provider and cloud. How this is taken by customers also remains to be seen. Some I have spoken too think that this may make existing Juniper customers re-evaluate their opens and look at the likes of Cisco, Arista or Dell again, while others think it will only bring growth to HPE.

One this is for sure – there will be increased competiton and it will keep the other networking giants on their toes. In these situations this can only be good for the customer as increased competition or a new offence usually creates innovation from all the partners in the space and creates a price compete.

What do you think about the aquisition? Feel free to tell me in the comments below.


Leave a Reply

Who are Juniper?

Juniper is a leading provider of networking products, including routers, switches, network management software, network security products, secure access service edge (SASE) solutions and software-defined networking (SDN) technology. According to their website "Juniper is dedicated to dramatically simplifying network operations and driving superior experiences for end users. Our solutions deliver industry-leading insight, automation, security and AI to drive real business results. We believe that powering connections will bring us closer together while empowering us all to solve the world’s greatest challenges of well-being, sustainability and equality".

Who are HPE?

According to their website, "Hewlett Packard Enterprise is the global edge-to-cloud company that helps organizations accelerate outcomes by unlocking value from all of their data, everywhere. Built on decades of reimagining the future and innovating to advance the way people live and work, HPE delivers unique, open and intelligent technology solutions as a service.  With offerings spanning Cloud Services, Compute, High Performance Computing & AI, Intelligent Edge, Software, and Storage, HPE provides a consistent experience across all clouds and edges, helping customers develop new business models, engage in new ways, and increase operational performance". 

Today, HPE offers switches via its Aruba Networks business unit which they acquired back in 2015.


HPE Press Statement:
HPE to acquire Juniper Networks to accelerate AI-driven innovation | HPE

Juniper Press Statement:
HPE to Acquire Juniper Networks to Accelerate AI-Driven Innovation | Juniper Networks Inc.

My 8 AI tech predictions for 2024

man looking up a cloud thinking about AI advances in 2024

Our social media feeds will be full of predictions for the year ahead this week, after all, 2023 was an exciting and crazy year in tech with arguably some of the biggest advances we have seen for more than a decade. You can read my 2023 tech review here.

With all the advancements in Generative AI technology and chatbots in 2023, I have focussed my tech predications specifically around the rise and development of Generative AI, since every aspect of IT is going to be “AI infused” this year I believe, and organisations start to enter the next level of adoption maturity – from “what is coming” and “what might be possible” to real business impacts and tangible examples.

#1 AI is going to keep getting better and more “intelligent”.

This is quite a no-brainer really, as we already know that OpenAI has big plans for 2024 and with Google hot on their tail with Gemini, I would expect to see the release ChatGPT 4.5 (or even 5) at some point in the first half of 2024. We could also see image technology like DALL-E shift into video creation for the masses an not just images. There will also be more competition to win the Gen AI race from Microsoft, Apple, Google and Amazon. This could be the new browser and search engine wars. Microsoft will adopt the later ChatGPT and DALLE-3 tools into their Copilot products.

#2 Business will invest more AI and core technology training.

Outside of using Generative AI to help us write emails and documents, many organisations will be looking to AI to further enhance business automation and data processes to complement and enhance human capabilities.

With the output of most of the AI tools we will use in the enterprise being reliant on the data on which they use as a reference point or to operate, there will be a need to invest in skills around the fundamentals of AI and big data analytics. People will need to learn how to interface with AI, how to write to good prompts that deliver the right outcome and how to leverage these new tools to radially improve productivity and outcomes.

At the more basic levels, there will also be a focus and need to drive good adoption of the base technologies used within organisations as a result of the technologies and processes put in place. From good data labelling and classification, to simply working with and storing files in the right places in Office 365 and to using the new tools such as Copilot in Edge and Microsoft 365, Intelligent Recap in Teams, businesses will need to revisit the level of IT training given to employees, encouraging Centres of Excellence and building technology sponsors or mentors across different teams.

Training users on what tools to use, how to use them and when will be key and is something many organisations still do badly.

#3 We will see more Legal Claims against AI.

Whatever happens in terms of the tech advances of AI, there is no doubt that we see a leap in the number of legal claims from authors, publishers and artists against companies who have been building AI products – after all, we’ve already seen a few in 2023.

The reason for this, is that at the heart of any Generative AI products are large language models (LLMs). The leading AI companies such as Google, Microsoft and OpenAI, have worked really hard to ensure their models adhere to and respect copyright laws while “training” their models. In fact, Microsoft are so bold about this, they even put in place a copyright protect pledge to protect companies back in September last year.

Just last week (December 2023), the New York Times filed a huge lawsuit against Open AI and Microsoft for copyright infringement. They claim that their heavily journalism content was being used to train and develop ChatGPT without any form of payment.

OpenAI and Microsoft are also caught up in another lawsuit over the alleged unauthorised use of code in their AI tool Github Copilot and there have already been other examples of lawsuits against developers of generative AI products including Stability AI and Midjourney in which artists have accused the developers of using their content to train text-to-image and image creation generators on copyrighted artwork.

The legal battles of 2023 highlight some of the complex and evolving issues surrounding intellectual property rights with the development and use of AI.

As 2024 gets underway, I suspect we will see more examples (especially if the New York Times case is successful).

#4 The rise of robust governance policies.

As we move from proof of concepts and idealisation to real proven examples of how these AI tools can be used in our daily lives, I think we will see an increase in regional, state and local companies, putting in place robust governance policies, processes and tools including the testing and validation for content generated by AI generated content. This will require new tools for ensuring there are appropriate guard rails and monitoring throughout.

Organisations will need to have clear AI policies in place that map out what AI products and tools they allow, guidance around content and image generation as well as what they view as ethical, responsible, and inclusive use of AI, outside of the policies that the AI companies have in place and the guidance they provide.

Education will also be key to ensure that employees can learn and put to practice, the necessary skills to use AI tools in workplace and to ensure the above checks and policies are implemented. Creating centres of excellence and good practice sharing will also be key to ensure employees and organisations get maximum benefit and gains from using AI.

#5 Expect to see more deception, scams and deep fakes.

We will likely see more deception and trickery for financial gain this year as fake person generators and deep fake voice and videos become more of a widespread tool for phishing and scams. We have already seen cases (and warnings) by banks where voice cloning technologies can already accurately replicate human voices and threaten the security of voice print based security systems. In 2024,we are likely to see this go further to many more areas across personal, corporate and political exploitation and deception.

Left unsupervised and unprotected, the rapid growth and risks of digital deception imposes a huge risk and needs security response and protection organisations to respond. I think we will see more guidance, more safeguards, specialised detection tools, increased awareness and increased use of multi-factor protection. A new method of digital prints to detect such fakes is going to be critical if people and organisations are going to remain confident that these technologies can’t be beaten by deep fakes.

To protect the reliability of information in a fast-changing digital world, it will be essential to have the tools and skills to detect and counteract AI-generated fabrications.

#6 Proliferation of “new” wearable AI technology.

I expect to see a huge increase in products and services around AI wearables or AI-powered wearables. This will further drive the already increasing trend that shifts away from traditional screen-focused devices towards more integrated, context and environment aware devices that provide up-to-date monitoring that fuel data driven insights and decisions into personal and professional lives.

Applications: This could open up huge advances in for example continuous health monitoring devices, such as blood glucose monitors, anxiety detection, cancer scanning, gut health and even AI controlled insulin pumps. In sports we could a new level of performance monitoring and tracking with huge sponsorships deals by leading health and fitness companies. This will/could also lead to more data for unique advertising revenues…

Apple have also recently said they are working with OpenAI and plan to leverage the computing edge (their devices) by directly enabling AI processes on their devices rather than relying solely on cloud connected AI services.

Security comprises and wider privacy concerns are likely to be impacted by this shift especially as these devices (in a similar way to health trackers do today) will have the ability to record and process huge amounts of personal, health and other data. In the case of smart glasses for example, this could also lead to new laws and legislation (and restrictions) to ensure privacy isn’t compromised by recording or capturing video without permission or consent.

#7 Cyber attacks and defence will become “more AI driven”.

With any new technology – security plays a vital role. I think we will see a massive change to the level of attacks and therefore the protection and detection needed from cyber security systems this year. From an attacker perspective, it is likely that the use of Machine Learning and AI will continue to amplify the sophistication and effectiveness of cyber attacks – with more convincing personalised-driven tactics, including advanced deepfakes and intricate, personal phishing schemes, using AI to craft more convincing social engineering attacks that make it increasingly difficult to differentiate between legitimate and deceptive communications – both externally and from within the organisation. We will also see systems customise attacks based on industry, location and known threat protection landscape.

From a defence perspective, the fight against AI attacks will also be AI-centric with new AI-based detection tools and applications that work in real time. Identity will be the primary defence and attack vector. For example, Microsoft’s Security Copilot which is currently in preview promises to be the first generative AI security product to help businesses protect and defend their digital estate at AI speed and scale. These tools, in partnership with people powered response and remediation teams should at least even the fight between the AI powered attackers and the defenders that are needed to keep our businesses, industry and services safe.

Without playing the War Games/Terminator scare games, the treat of bad actors/nation state attackers. organised cyber crime division and opportunity hackers have a new set of tools available to help them. The battle between attackers and the biggest Cyber Security MSPs, Cloud giants and business is going to heat up. We will see victims and we will see scares. The battle against cyber threats is becoming ever more complex and intertwined with AI.

Businesses will need a more nuanced and advanced approach to cybersecurity which will mean simplification, standardisation and most likely reducing the number of different disconnected security products they have and adopting a more defence in depth approach with AI powered SEIM tools or full outsourced Managed Security.

#8 Zero Trust will finally be taken seriously.

To wrap it up – and with the growth of AI in to every part of our personal and work lives, working across more devices, applications, and services, the realm of control that IT traditionally had over the environment will continue to move outside of their control.

With the rise of AI and more importantly AI being used to drive more sophisticated attacks – compromising personal devices that are used to access corporate data, I think we will see more organisation adopting the zero-trust security models whilst consolidating their point product solutions into a more streamlined and unified approach.

Zero Trust is a security strategy – not a product or a service, but an approach in designing and implementing the following set of security principles regardless of what technology products or services an organisation uses:

  • Verify explicitly.
  • Use least privilege access.
  • Assume breach.

The core principle of Zero Trust is that nothing inside or outside the corporate firewall can be trusted. Instead of assuming safety, the Zero Trust model treats every request as if it came from an unsecured network and verifies it accordingly. The motto of Zero Trust is “never trust, always verify.”

We also know many organisation have a huge amount of digital dept when it comes to security – with lots of point products, duplicate products and dis-jointed systems. I think we will see organisations focus more around:

  • Closing the gaps in the Zero Trust strategy– making sure they have adequate protection against each of the layers
  • Focus on data protection to minimise data breach risk – things like Data Loss Prevention, encryption, conditional access, labelling and data classification etc.
  • Doing more with less – by removing redundant or duplicate products and aligning with tools that better integrate with one another and that can be managed holistically through a single pane of glass.
  • Doubling down on Identity and Access control – moving to passwordless authentication methods, tighter role based access control, time-based access for privileged roles and stricter conditional access policies.

I also think that Generative AI has a huge potential to strengthen both our awareness of data security, and in adding an additional layer of visibility and protection. I expect we will see admin tools become smarter at looking at information over sharing, pockets of risk and potential compromise and having the ability to take action (expect more premium SKUs) to close the gaps, inform information owners or alert Sec Ops teams. I think we will see organisations spend more time looking at risk management and insider risk too.


I could probably go on – as there is so much happening and the pace we saw in 2023 will only continue and if not increase.

Conclusion

In conclusion, this article has discussed some of the major trends and my predictions for AI in 2024, based on the developments, achievements, rumours and general trajectory seen last year.

In short, my predictions, include the improvement and competition of generative AI models, the need for more AI and data skills training, the legal and ethical challenges of AI-generated content, the rise of AI governance and security policies, the increase of deception and deepfakes, the proliferation of AI wearables, and the role of AI in cyberattacks and defence.

These trends highlight the both the opportunities and risks of AI for personal, professional, and societal domains, and the importance of being aware and prepared for the impact of AI in the near future.

Microsoft Authenticator now protects against “MFA Bombing” .

The Microsoft Authenticator is getting a backend upgrade in which it now be able suppresses risky sign notifications in an attempt to mitigate against “MFA fatigue” caused by this new attack tactic called MFA bombing. As a big internal advocate of passwordless within my own organisation this is great news…

What is MFA Bombing

“MFA Bombing”, is an attack method in which attackers continually try to logon from unfamiliar locations causing an influx of MFA prompts aimed to truck the user to click accept and allow the sign in since they get sick of dismissing notifications. This is known as MFA bombing attacks.

Microsoft say that this new policy should address the root cause of this growing security breach method.

How Microsoft Authenticator protects against MFA Bombing

In response to this, Microsoft’s Authenticator app will now automatically suppress notifications that come from “risky signins” based on number matching, a MFA method that requires users to verify their identity by entering a numerical code displayed on the screen.

This is aimed to protect users that use the “approve only method” but acts on any method used. Microsoft will now suppress Authenticator notifications when a request is deemed to pose potential risks, such as when the request originates from an unfamiliar location or is exhibiting other anomalies such as repetitive requests (or bombing).

We now suppress Authenticator notifications when a request displays potential risks, such as when it originates from an unfamiliar location or is exhibiting other anomalies. This approach significantly reduces user inconvenience by eliminating irrelevant authentication prompts.

Microsoft.

With this feature, and in the event of a login request that looks risky, the standard notification will not be sent to the users device via the authenticator app. Instead, the user (or attacker) will receive a notification on screen (where they are trying to logon) and be told to “Open your Authenticator app and enter the number shown to sign in,”.

When the user opens the Authenticator App, the request will be available for the user and they can sign in…..

Since no notification will be shown on the users mobile authenticator app, if the request was not made by the user, no notification will be displayed so the request will time out.

This significantly reduces user inconvenience by eliminating irrelevant and known risky authentication prompts.

Microsoft recommend “number matching”

Whilst these additional protections are great, it’s recommended that organisations look to implement number matching (if not enabled by default) to enhances the security of the sign-in process by requiring users to enter a sequence of numbers that are displayed on the sign-in screen when approving an MFA request in the Authenticator app. This has a number of immediate benefits over simple approve/deny options including:

  • It prevents accidental approvals by making sure that you are aware of the sign-in request and have access to the sign-in screen.
  • It defends against MFA fatigue attacks, which are spamming attempts to trick people into approving access requests by sending you multiple notifications.
  • It provides an additional layer of security by verifying that the device or app that generates the numbers is the same as the one that receives the approval request.

The implementation of number matching, is a grest way forward and has been extremely successfully in preventing attackers that engaging in MFA fatigue / bombing attacks.

Combined with the new suppression technology for known attacks , Microsoft say that this change has already prevented more than 6 million MFA notifications since September 2023.

Number matching in MFA is available for the Microsoft Authenticator app and can be enabled by IT admins for different scenarios, such as multifactor authentication, self-service password reset, combined registration, AD FS adapter, and NPS extension.

Microsoft September 2023 News: The new and exciting stuff

Microsoft hosted a live Surface and AI event on Thursday 21st September where they announced a lot of new and exciting features and products across its various platforms and services. In this blog post, I have tried to summarise the most notable ones and explain how they might benefit you and your organisation.

Disclaimer (and product plug) - Since this was an AI event in whole, I also want to state that other than some slight tweaks, this blog post was written by Bing Enterprise Chat - Microsoft Designer created the image. The whole thing took less that 10 minutes. 

Copilot: Your AI Assistant at Work and Beyond

Copilot is a new feature that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help you with various tasks, such as drafting emails, summarizing texts, creating images, and more. You can access Copilot from Windows 11, Microsoft 365, Edge, and Bing, and chat with it in natural language. Copilot will understand your intent and provide relevant assistance based on the context and your data.

For example, you can ask Copilot to draft an email for you with a specific tone, or to generate a graphic art based on your description. You can also use Copilot to answer questions, troubleshoot your PC, control your settings, and access recommendations. Copilot is designed to save you time, reduce your cognitive load, and ignite your creativity.

Copilot will be generally available for enterprise customers on November 1st, and for a select group of consumers and small business customers as part of the Early Access Program (EAP). It will initially be limited to three hundred licenses and will cost $30 per user per month.

Windows 11: The Most Powerful and Personal Windows Ever

Windows 11 is the latest (and IMO best) version of the Microsoft’s desktop operating system that powers millions of devices around the world. Windows 11 offers a fresh and modern design, improved performance, and security, and a more personalised and connected experience. They announced the latest update coming next week (Sept 26th). Some of the new features in Windows 11 will include:

  • An updated Start menu that gives you quick access to your apps, documents, and settings.
  • An updated Taskbar that lets you easily switch between multiple instances of each app, hide the time and date, and end tasks with a right-click.
  • A new Dev Home that helps you set up your development environment by downloading apps, packages, or repositories, connecting to your developer accounts and tools, and accessing experimental features in WSL.
  • A new Dev Drive that provides a fast and secure storage volume for developers, with a file system that delivers both performance and security.
  • A new WinGet Configuration that simplifies the setup process for developers by reducing it to a single command.
  • New Gallery in File Explorer that makes it easy to access your photo collection across all your devices.
  • A new Snipping Tool that lets you record your screen with audio and mic support, copy and redact text from a screenshot, and edit your images with Paint.
  • A new Photos app that has new editing capabilities to achieve stylish background blur effects and makes it easier to find specific images backed up in OneDrive.
  • Updated Narrator that uses natural human voices in new languages, and lets you use voice access to log in to your PC and access other areas on the lock screen.
  • Refreshed Notepad app that automatically saves your session state, allowing you to close Notepad without any interrupting dialogs and then pick up where you left off when you return.
  • A new Instant Games feature that lets you play your favorite casual games directly from the Microsoft Store without the need to download and install them on your device.
  • Windows Copilot – Your Copilot for Windows.

Windows 11 also announced general availability of Windows 365 Boot and Windows 365 Switch, which allow you to log into your Windows 365 Cloud PC as the primary Windows experience on the device or easily switch between the Cloud PC and the local desktop. Windows 365 is a cloud PC service that lets you stream a full Windows experience from anywhere on any device and is fully managed from Intune.

This update will start rolling out as a free update on September 26th.

Surface: The Ultimate Devices for Work and Play

Surface is Microsoft’s line of devices that combine innovative design, powerful performance, and versatile functionality. Surface devices are built to work seamlessly with Windows 11 and Microsoft 365, offering the best productivity and creativity tools for work and play. I am a massive fan of Surface

The new / refreshed Surface devices include:

  • Surface Laptop Studio 2: The most powerful Surface ever built, with the latest Intel Core processors, NVIDIA Studio tools for creators, touchscreen display, and flexible design with three unique postures.
  • Surface Laptop Go 3: The lightest and most portable Surface Laptop, with touchscreen display, premium features like an incredible typing experience and a Fingerprint Power Button, and four stylish colours.
  • Surface Go 4: The baby Surface Pro is this time, available only for corporate and not consumer market (why??), the device is the same dimensions as before but is more repairable (the most repairable and sustainable device int he Surface Fleet). It ditches the 4GB RAM option (good) and brings a higher spec entry level processor. Pricing increases too which is a shame as is ditching consumer market. These are great for school kids.
  • Surface Hub 3: The ultimate collaboration device for teams, with a large interactive display that runs the Microsoft Teams Rooms experience. Surface Hub 3 pairs seamlessly with Teams-certified devices and supports Hub on day one. There was also an upgrade announced for Surface Hub 2S customers to upgrade to Surface Hub 3,

The new Surface devices are available for pre-ordering now.

Microsoft 365: The World’s Productivity Cloud

Microsoft 365 is a cloud-based subscription service that offers the best productivity apps for work and life. Microsoft 365 includes apps like Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, OneDrive, Teams, Stream, Loop, Clipchamp, and more.

Microsoft 365 Copilot (which will be available from 1st November) is an add-on service at $30 per user per month and provides in-built AI-powered features and services that help you get more done across all your Office 365 apps and services – with support also coming to Microsoft Designer, Loop and Clipchamp and more.

Some of the new features and services in Microsoft 365 include:

  • Copilot in Outlook, Excel, Word, Loop, OneNote, Stream, and OneDrive: Copilot is integrated into various Microsoft 365 apps to provide AI assistance for different tasks. For example, you can use Copilot in Outlook to draft emails, in Excel to create charts, in Word to summarize documents, in Loop to generate content blocks, in OneNote to take notes, in Stream to transcribe videos, and in OneDrive to find files.
  • Generative Expand, Fill, and Erase in Microsoft Designer: These features let you manipulate images in creative ways, such as expanding the canvas, filling in missing areas, or erasing unwanted objects. Generative Erase is generally available now, and Generative Fill and Expand are coming soon.
  • Copilot Lab: Copilot Lab is a feature that lets you learn how to use Copilot effectively, share your favorite prompts with coworkers, and get inspired by other users. Copilot Lab will be accessible to all Microsoft 365 Copilot users once it’s generally available in November.
  • Mobile Application Management (MAM) for Windows: This feature allows employees to access organisational resources through Microsoft Edge from an unmanaged device, while giving IT the ability to control the conditions under which the resources can be accessed.

Bing and Edge: The Smartest Way to Search and Browse

Bing and Edge are Microsoft’s search engine and web browser that offer a fast, secure, and personalized way to search and browse the web. Bing and Edge use AI to provide relevant information and assistance based on your needs and preferences.

Some of the new features and improvements in Bing and Edge include:

  • DALL-E 3 in Bing Image Creator and Microsoft Designer integration: Bing Image Creator is a feature that lets you create images from text descriptions using AI. Bing Image Creator is now powered by DALL-E 3, which produces more realistic and detailed images. You can also access Bing Image Creator directly from Microsoft Designer for further editing.
  • Content Credentials: Content Credentials is a feature that uses cryptographic methods to add an invisible digital watermark to all AI-generated images in Bing. This helps you verify the origin and authenticity of the images. Content Credentials will be supported in Bing Image Creator, Microsoft Designer, and Paint soon.
  • Bing Chat Enterprise: Bing Chat Enterprise is a feature that lets you chat with Copilot from the Edge mobile app. You can also use multimodal visual search and Image Creator from Bing Chat Enterprise.
  • Copilot in Microsoft Shopping: Copilot in Microsoft Shopping is a feature that helps you find what you’re looking for more quickly. You can ask for information on an item, and Bing will ask additional questions to learn more. Then, Bing will use that information to provide more tailored recommendations. This feature will be available soon on both PC and mobile.
  • Personalised Answers: Personalised Answers is a feature that uses your chat history to inform your results. For example, if you’ve used Bing to track your favorite soccer team, next time you’re planning a trip it can proactively tell you if the team is playing in your destination city. Personalized Answers will begin to roll out soon.

Microsoft Advertising: The Best Way to Reach Your Customers

Microsoft Advertising is a platform that helps businesses connect with their customers across the web. Microsoft Advertising offers various solutions and tools to create effective and engaging ads that reach the right audience at the right time.

Some of the new features and improvements in Microsoft Advertising include:

  • Copilot in the Microsoft Advertising Platform: Copilot in the Microsoft Advertising Platform is a feature that simplifies and enhances every aspect of your experience with the platform. You can use Copilot to create campaigns, get content recommendations, optimize your performance, and more. This feature will be coming soon.
  • Compare & Decide Ads: Compare & Decide Ads are a new type of ads that pull relevant data of various products or services into a succinct table. This helps users easily evaluate different options based on their criteria. Compare & Decide Ads will be available for cars initially and will be brought to closed beta in early 2024.

Conclusion

These are just some of the highlights from the Microsoft September 2023 News. There are many more features and products that we didn’t cover here, but you can find them on the current web page context. I hope you are excited about these new developments, and I would love to hear what you are most excited about.

Cisco to Aquire Splunk

Cisco has announced that it will acquire Splunk, a cybersecurity and observability platform platform for $28 billion.

Cisco say that acquisition is expected to help them create the next generation of AI-enabled security and observability solutions, moving organisations from threat detection and response to threat prediction and prevention.

This will help build on the extensive full stack observability platforms Cisco have already including Thousand Eyes and Cisco App Dymanics.

We’re excited to bring Cisco and Splunk together. Our combined capabilities will drive the next generation of AI-enabled security and observability…. From threat detection and response to threat prediction and prevention, we will help make organizations of all sizes more secure and resilient.”

Chuck Robbins | CEO | Cisco

This is the biggest acquisition in Cisco’s history and a massive push into software and artificial intelligence-powered data analysis. With three two complimentary services coming together it should help Cisco achieve it’s mission to “securely connect everything to make anything possible, and move from threat detection and response to threat prediction and prevention”.

Splunk President and CEO Gary Steele will join Cisco’s Executive Leadership Team reporting to Chuck Robbins.

What is Cisco’s Full Stack Observability offering?

Cisco’s Full-Stack Observability (FSO) solutions bring together performace and availability data from on-premises, cloud and SaaS applications allowing organisations to monitor traditional and modern applications, track performance of cloud-native applications, and correlate network metrics with application performance data and provide real-time insights and recommended actions for any performance related issues along with the potential. Impact to the business.

Cisco Full-Stack Observability is comprised of a single platform that brings together multiple solutions such including AppDynamics, ThousandEyes, and Cisco Secure Application. Splunk will soon be added to this!

The platform is open and extensible, API-driven, focused on OpenTelemetry, and anchored on Metrics, Events, Logs, and Traces (MELT).

You can find more information about Cisco Full-Stack Observability solutions on the Cisco website


You can read the announcement from Cisco below.

https://newsroom.cisco.com/c/r/newsroom/en/us/a/y2023/m09/cisco-to-acquire-splunk-to-help-make-organizations-more-secure-and-resilient-in-an-ai-powered-world.html

Microsoft 365 E5 to get Defender for IoT for free

Introducing Defender for IoT

Microsoft have announced that organisations with Microsoft 365 E5 subscriptions will soon be getting a new “service plan” called “Defender for IoT – Enterprise IoT Security – Enterprise IoT Security”.

As spotted in the Microsoft 365 Message [ID: MC673712] update over the weekend, this service plan will provide both Microsoft 365 E5 customers and those who have the Microsoft M365 E3 add-on [E5 Security] with real-time device discovery, continuous monitoring, and vulnerability management capabilities for up to 5x Enterprise IoT devices (such as printers, scanners, cameras, Smart TVs, VoIP phones) per user license [so an organisation with 2,500 devices will get support for cross the organisation. Additional per-per device licenses will also be available for purchase.

Illustration of "Defender for IOT" - Image (c) Microsoft.

The Internet of Things (IoT) supports billions of connected devices that use both operational technology (OT) and IoT networks. IoT/OT devices and networks are often built using specialized protocols and may prioritise operational challenges over security.

When IoT/OT devices can’t be protected by traditional security monitoring systems, each new wave of innovation increases the risk and attack surfaces across those IoT devices and OT networks.

Microsoft

This will start to roll-out next month (October 2023) and provides tools and insights for protect enterprise IoT networks, including:

  • Tools and insights for protect enterprise IoT networks
  • Agentless IoT device monitoring
  • Support for cloud, on-premises, and hybrid OT networks
  • Support for modern and proprietary Operations technology (OT) protocols
  • Lightweight security micro-agents which allow IT to build security straight into IoT operations and innovations.

Read more on Securing IoT devices for “Defender for IoT – Enterprise IoT Security

https://learn.microsoft.com/en-gb/azure/defender-for-iot/organizations/overview?view=o365-worldwide

Cisco XDR uses Cohesity to help protect your org from ransomware

Cisco has added ransomware detection and recovery support to its recently unveiled Extended Detection and Response (XDR) system.

Ransomware is a type of malicious software that encrypts the end user’s device and data and demands a ransom for its decryption. Ransomware attacks can cause considerable damage to businesses and organisations, disrupting their operations and compromising their data. To combat this threat, Cisco has now introduced a new solution that integrates with their new Extended Detection and Response (XDR) solution with Cohesity’s DataProtect and DataHawk offerings.

Cisco’s XDR system is a cloud-based platform that combines multiple security products and telemetry sources to detect, analyse, and respond to threats across the network and endpoints. As Cisco announced the General Availability of their XDR platform, they also announce that they have added ransomware detection and recovery support to their XDR system, enabling Security Operations Center (SOC) teams to automatically protect and restore business-critical data in the event of a ransomware attack.

This feature is made possible by integrating Cisco’s XDR system with Cohesity’s DataProtect and DataHawk offerings, which are well established and trusted, infrastructure and enterprise data backup and recovery solutions. These provide configurable recovery points and mass recovery for systems assigned to a protection plan and can preserve potentially infected virtual machines for forensic investigation and protect enterprise workloads from future attacks.

Cisco said that the exponential growth of ransomware and cyber extortion has made a platform approach crucial to effectively counter adversaries. It also noted that during the second quarter of 2023, the Cisco Talos Incident Response team responded to the highest number of ransomware engagements in more than a year.

The integration of Cisco’s XDR system and Cohesity’s solutions is designed to help Security Operations Centre (SOC) teams and IT to automatically detect, snapshot, and restore business-critical data at the very first signs of a ransomware outbreak; often before it has had a chance to move laterally through the network to reach the high–value assets.

In the announcement, Cisco and Cohesity said that they already have a long-standing partnership, with over 460 joint customers. Cisco have said that the Cohesity Cloud Services package will also be able to be sold by their Cisco channel partners like Cisilion later in 2023. The Cohesity Cloud Services include data security and management as well as threat defense, data isolation and backup/recovery. Cisco have also said that the software can be deployed and hosted on both Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS) via their marketplaces.

This brings more features to Cisco’s XDR service (a competitive landscape where they compete against the likes of Microsoft, Sentinel One and Palo Alto) and brings together a myriad first-party Cisco, and third-party security products to control network access, analyse incidents, remediate threats, and automate response all from a single cloud-based interface. The offering gathers six telemetry sources that SOC operators say are critical for an XDR solution: endpoint, network, firewall, email, identity, and DNS, Cisco stated in the announcement.

Part of Cisco’s growing Security Portfolio

The Cisco Security portfolio is a comprehensive set of solutions that work together to provide seamless interoperability with your security infrastructure, including third-party technologies. Their growing portfolio covers various aspects of security, such as network security, user and endpoint protection, cloud edge, advanced malware protection, email security, web security and workload security. The Cisco XDR system is part of this portfolio and integrates with other Cisco products and services to detect, analyse, and respond to threats across the network and endpoints.

Cisco XDR system can leverage the threat intelligence from Cisco Talos – the cloud-based platform known as Cisco SecureX, as well as the backup and recovery solutions from Cohesity to provide a powerful and proactive defense against ransomware and other advanced threats. Cisco XDR system also supports third-party integrations with other security vendors, including Microsoft, Splunk and many others.

Cisco have, and continue to invest heavily in their end-to-end security portfolio and their XDR solution (as of December 2022) is on the cusp of moving into the Leaders Quadrant in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Endpoint Protection.

Cisco's XDR play competes against other industry leading XDR vendors including Sentinel One Microsoft Defender, Crowdstrike Falcon, Palo Alto Cortex XDR and Trend Micro Vision One.  

Cisco are on the verge of become a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Endpoint Protection.

Conclusion

Ransomware is a serious threat that requires a comprehensive and proactive solution. Cisco’s XDR system, integrated with Cohesity’s DataProtect and DataHawk offerings, provides a powerful way to detect, prevent, and recover from ransomware attacks.

For organisations with a fragmented security portfolio and those heavily invested in Cisco infrastructure, Cisco’s XDR can be an excellent choice for organisations that need to increase visibility and simplify the detection and remediation time with the integration of XDR with the rest of their Cisco Security portfolio – enhancing the visibility, automation, and effectiveness of security operations.

Key takeaways from Cisco’s 2023 Network Trends Report

Cisco has just published their 2023 Global Networking Trends Report. This report covers some of the emerging networking trends in the multi-cloud world, and how they affect the IT operations and security of organisations. The report is twenty-one pages long and covers some interesting trends and observations from more than 2,500 IT leaders in 13 countries across North America, Latin America, Asia Pacific, and Western Europe (including the UK).

Image (c) Cisco

My key take aways from the report

  • Hybrid work and multi-cloud adoption are driving the need for innovative approaches to securely connect remote workers to corporate data and assets distributed across multi-cloud environments with a huge need (40% of respondents) to de-silo operations and bring together network and security controls and visibility.
  • Cisco says that “providing secure access to applications distributed across multiple cloud platforms” is the top challenge cited by 41% of networking professionals, followed by gaining end-to-end visibility into network performance and security (37%).
  • Growth and demand for SASE. SASE (Secure Access Service Edge) is a convergence architecture that delivers simplified and consistent security and performance for multi-cloud access and hybrid work. Cisco are a leading vendor in the SASE space which combines SD-WAN (Software-Defined Wide Area Network) and SSE (Security Service Edge) into a single, integrated SaaS security offering.
    • In the report, Cisco highlighted that 47% of respondents expect to connect their branches and remote clients using a SASE model by mid 2025, while 59% said that they will be prioritising centralising and consolidating cloud security over the same period.
  • Extending SD-WAN connectivity consistently across multiple clouds can automate cloud-agnostic connectivity and optimize the application experience. 53% of respondents prioritise integration with cloud service providers for this purpose5.
  • End-to-end network visibility and predictive analytics are essential for ensuring a consistent user experience across the complex digital service delivery chain, especially around SaaS apps with 51% of respondents prioritising end-to-end network telemetry and visibility. 47% of respondents said they will be prioritising predictive network analytics.
  • More organisations are multi-cloud than ever before with 92% of organisations reporting that they use more than one public cloud service (includes SaaS, IaaS and PaaS).

How Cisco Technology can help address these challenges

Cisco provide a comprehensive portfolio of products that can help organisations address many of the challenges of multi-cloud networking and security which fall into the SASE and SD-WAN categories. These include:

  • Cisco SD-WAN with edge security stack or SD-WAN with Umbrella Cloud Security (SASE) both leverage the Cisco Identity Service Engine’s Security Group Access Control Lists for segmentation policy management and enforcement across the WAN.
  • Cisco SD-WAN integrated with Cisco Umbrella SIG for a cloud-delivered SASE model that seamlessly secures access wherever users and applications reside.
  • Cisco Cloudlock, – Cisco’s cloud-native cloud access security broker (CASB) that helps secure your use of SaaS applications 
  • The Cisco SD-WAN and these SSE collaborations provide a range of SASE deployment options for our Partners and Managed Service Providers (MSPs), allowing them to utilize a mix of networking and cloud security solutions to offer multiple managed options to enterprises at various stages of their SASE journey 3.
  • Cisco Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) is a cloud-native platform that combines SD-WAN, SWG (Secure Web Gateway), ZTNA (Zero Trust Network Access), DNS-layer security, CASB (Cloud Access Security Broker).

The table below shows the key challenges discussed in the report and the corresponding solutions from Cisco that can help address them:

ChallengeSolution
Providing secure access to applications distributed across multiple cloudsSASE (Secure Access Service Edge), a convergence architecture that delivers simplified and consistent security and performance for multi-cloud access and hybrid work. SASE It combines SD-WAN (Software-Defined Wide Area Network) and SSE (Security Service Edge) within Cisco’s cloud platform
Gaining end-to-end visibility into network performance and securityCloud-based network detection and response solutions, such as Cisco Secure Cloud Analytics, which provides visibility and threat detection for an organisations’ network across public, private, and hybrid cloud environments.
Extending SD-WAN connectivity consistently across multiple cloudsSD-WAN multi-cloud integrations, which allow networking and cloud teams to accelerate and automate extensions from enterprise sites to various cloud providers and other enterprise sites through Internet, interconnect, or colocation and cloud provider networks.
Siloed cloud, network, and security operationsCloud-centric operating model, which brings cloud operating model principles to the network and across the entire cloud/network IT stack, enabling more integrated workflows and better collaboration between network, security, and cloud operations.
Visibility into end user experience and performance of multiple Cloud SaaS appsCisco ThousandEyes provides real-time and historic view into the availability of thousands of different SaaS apps. It allows IT to monitor all employee’s user’s digital experience against software as a service and on-prem applications, regardless of where users are, through the essential elements of your SASE architecture. With ThousandEyes, organisations can gain back visibility and control over SaaS applications and ensure that they are performing optimally.
Table 1 – How Cisco technology addresses the challenges of securing and managing Networking and Security across multi-cloud environments,

Summary

Cloud is the new data center, Internet is the new network, and cloud offerings dominate applications. By gaining a view of global Internet health and the performance of top SaaS applications, IT teams can proactively detect and remediate major unexpected network or application issues affecting them as soon as they happen.

Based on the report, Cisco say that organisations can mitigate against many of the challenges discussed by adopting a cloud-centric operating model that brings cloud operating model principles to the network and across their entire cloud/network IT stack. This can enable more integrated workflows and better collaboration between network, security, and cloud operations.

Azure Active Directory is now “Entra ID”

Today, Microsoft have announced the next milestone in their expanded vision for the unified secure access with some huge changes to their unified access and security offering Entra which has now become the brand name for all things identity and access management. Along with that is a name change to Azure Active Directory to Entra ID.

Is Azure AD discontinued?

No… This is a name change that is a result of the shift to a truly end to end multi cloud identity and access solution that spans beyond simply Microsoft 365 and Azure. The name change is designed to reflect it’s new and enhanced capabilities.

In the last 12 months, we saw an average of more than 4,000 password attacks per second, an almost threefold increase from the 1,287 attacks per second we saw the previous year.

Microsoft Security Intelligence Report

With this they have announced they are expanding their Microsoft Entra suite into the Security Service Edge (SSE) category with the launch of two new products.

Microsoft Security Service Edge
  • Microsoft Entra Internet Access and
  • Microsoft Entra Private Access.

Microsoft Entra Internet Access is an identity-centric Secure Web Gateway that protects access to internet, software as a service (SaaS), and Microsoft 365 apps and resources. It extends Conditional Access policies with network conditions to protect against malicious internet traffic and other threats from the open internet.

Microsoft Entra Private Access is an identity centric Zero Trust Network Access that secures access to private apps and resources. Designed to reduce operational complexity and cost by replacing legacy VPNs with simple yet granular security to ensure that any user can quickly and seamlessly connect to private apps across hybrid and multi cloud environments, private networks, and data centers from any device, from any location and from any network.

The goal and vision of Microsoft here is to help organisations secure access to any app or resource, from anywhere. Microsoft say in their security blog that the flexible work arrangements we have become accustomed too, along with continued increase cloud adoption continue to put strain on traditional and legacy corporate networks and network security approaches. Using VPNs to backhaul traffic to the legacy network security stack weakens security posture and damages the user experience while using siloed solutions and access policies leaves security gaps.

Both are now in preview….

The renaming of Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) to Microsoft Entra ID was also announced which Microsoft say has been done as Microsoft to simplify the product naming conventions and to unify their expanded product family. The change was made as Azure AD now supports multi-cloud meaning the name Azure AD no longer represented the breadth of its offerings.

Azure AD is now Entra ID

Personally not a fan of the name change even though their reasoning makes sense… Everyone knows what Azure AD is (or maybe that’s the problem… they think they do!)… Even Microsoft Teams wasn’t sure about it.!

😂

Microsoft say that that the currently capabilities and licensing plans, sign-in URLs, and APIs will remain unchanged, and all existing deployments, configurations, and integrations will continue to work as before.


You can read more about these recent changes and announcements here.

Cisco acquires Armorblox, bolstering their Security offerings

Cisco have announced that they are to acquire Armorblox, a leading email security house whose portfolio (which is centred around email protection) includes email security, DLP, data encryption, impersonation protection, fraud protection, URL, and ransomware protection.

What do Armorblox do?

Founded in 2017 and now with over 58,000 customers, Armorblox protects organisations against data loss and targeted email attacks like business email compromise, vendor fraud, and account takeovers. Their tools leverage Generative AI and Large Language Models (LLMs). They have scored highly in the Gartner Peer Insights report and have invested heavily in their interoperability through APIs.

Armorblox are also part of the Microsoft Intelligent Security Association and has deep integrations with Microsoft Sentinel which will play well with Cisco’s goal to work more closely with Microsoft.

Cisco say that “Through this acquisition though, we see many exciting broad security use cases and possibilities to unlock“.

Armorblox seamlessly integrates over APIs with existing security stacks, making life easier for security teams. Our comprehensive security solution leverages large language models, such as GPT, and a broad set of deep learning algorithms to accurately detect today’s targeted threats, protect key business workflows, and reduce manual work for security teams through automated processes.

Armorblox

Cisilion plan to leverage this investment to bring new AI powered security offerings to their existing portfolio across as well as enable them to leapfrog their competition and offer compelling, integrated, and advanced threat protection.

I’m excited to see the ways in which Cisco leverage this acquisition to bolster security across all their offerings. Assimilating and embedding the technologies they aquire is one of their huge strengths.

Microsoft Defender named “Leader” in the latest Gartner Magic Quadrant for Endpoint Protection Platforms

Another Gartner Quadrant another winning result – as yet again, Microsoft continues it’s move up the quadrant – this year storming ahead of their competition in the Endpoint protection category with Defender for Endpoint.

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint is designed to protect every endpoint platform an organisation may use including Windows, Linux, macOS, Android, and iOS. Earlier this year, Microsoft introduced Microsoft Defender for Business which was positioned to provide smaller businesses with a streamlined way to protect their organisations with enterprise-grade security at a price point that is attractive to businesses of this size.

In this latest Gartner Magic Quadrant review which was published last week, Microsoft have been positioned in the most top right position.

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Endpoint Protection Platforms

Why Microsoft Defender

For years, third-party endpoint protection and antivirus vendors have positioned there products as “needed” to protect Windows, as the past 5 years has shown, Microsoft is now probably the biggest the secuity company you didnt know existed with virtually every product catagory they have (from endpoint, to CASB) being gatner magic quadrant leaders.

Further more, as organisations look to consolidate tools, reduce admin overhead and “do more with less”, more organisations are looking at leveraging their investment in Microsoft 365 E5 by taking advantage of the extensive set of security tools included within their subscription. It’s not just about cost either – there is no compromise as Microsoft continues to make enormous investments (to the tune of four billion per annum) to ensure that they have the best security and compliance propositions in the market with products that continue to develop to meet customer expectations and the every growing threat landscape.

What is Microsoft Defender for Endpoint?

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint is an enterprise endpoint security platform designed to help enterprise networks prevent, detect, investigate, and respond to advanced threats.

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint is available in two plans, Defender for Endpoint Plan 1 and Plan 2. A new Microsoft Defender Vulnerability Management add-on is also available for Defender for Endpoint Plan 2 users.

The Microsoft Defender for Endpoint (DFE) features 6 key components (which vary depending on the licensing you have).

Core Defender Vulnerability ManagementBuilt-in core vulnerability management capabilities use a modern risk-based approach to the discovery, assessment, prioritization, and remediation of endpoint vulnerabilities and misconfigurations.
Attack Surface ReductionProvides first line of defence in the stack, by ensuring configuration settings are properly set and exploit mitigation techniques are applied, the capabilities resist attacks and exploitation. This also includes network protection and web protection, which regulate access to malicious IP addresses, domains, and URLs.
Next Generation ProtectionMicrosoft Defender for Endpoint uses next-generation protection designed to catch all types of emerging threats.
Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR)This detects, investigates, and responds to advanced threats that may have made it past the first two security pillars. Advanced hunting provides a query-based threat-hunting tool that lets you proactively find breaches and create custom detections.
Automated Investigation and RemediationIn conjunction with being able to quickly respond to advanced attacks, Microsoft Defender for Endpoint offers automatic investigation and remediation capabilities that help reduce the volume of alerts in minutes at scale.
Microsoft Secure Score for DevicesDefender for Endpoint includes Microsoft Secure Score for Devices to help you dynamically assess the security state of your enterprise network, identify unprotected systems, and take recommended actions to improve the overall security of the organisation
Microsoft Threat ExpertsMicrosoft Defender for Endpoint’s new managed threat hunting service provides proactive hunting, prioritization, and additional context and insights that further empower Security operation centres (SOCs) to identify and respond to threats quickly and accurately.
Key components of Microsoft Defender for Endpoint

Integration across the wider Microsoft Stack

Defender for Endpoint naturally integrates extensively with various other Microsoft solutions, including:

  • Microsoft Defender for Cloud
  • Microsoft Sentinel
  • Microsoft Intune
  • Microsoft Defender for Cloud Apps
  • Microsoft Defender for Identity
  • Microsoft Defender for Office

Defender for Endpoint – Business v Plan 1 vs Plan

Defender for Endpoint is now available in three plans:

  1. Defender for Business
  2. Defender for Endpoint Plan 1
  3. Defender for Endpoint Plan 2 (formerly known as Defender for Endpoint).
FeatureDefender for BusinessDefender for Endpoint
Plan 1
Defender for Endpoint
Plan 2
Centralised Management✔️✔️✔️
Simplified Client Configuration✔️
Microsoft Defender Vulnerability Management✔️✔️
Attack Surface Reduction✔️✔️✔️
Next Generation Protection✔️✔️✔️
Endpoint detection and response✔️✔️
Automated investigation and response✔️✔️
Threat Hunting✔️
Threat Analytics✔️✔️
Cross Platform (Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux)✔️✔️✔️
Microsoft Threat Experts✔️
3rd Party Partner APIs✔️✔️✔️
Defender for Endpoint | Plans and Features

Microsoft Security Hits $20B in Revenue

Microsoft Security Banner

In a blog post following Microsoft’s Q2 earning report this week, Microsoft shared how their security revenue had grown 33% from 2022 to 2023 and now stands at $20Billion driven massively by their global partners who have been helping customers strengthen their security posture while saving money through vendor consolidation. Microsoft stated that security remains the number one investment for businesses is where organisations spend the most, and easily justifiable for companies.

To put this into perspective, the $5 billion increase in Microsoft’s security business over the past twelve months is larger than the revenue generated by every pure-play cybersecurity vendor other than Palo Alto, which expects to hit $6.85 billion growth when they publish their results later this year.

We are taking share across all major categories we serve…..customers are consolidating on our security stack in order to reduce risk, complexity and cost.” – Satya Nadella.

Even in this economically challenging time, organisations still see security as the top priority.

Vasu Jakkal | CVP of Security, Compliance, Identity, & Management | Microsoft

Every Growing Market

According to McKinsey & Company, the cybersecurity market is now worth $2 trillion as more businesses realise that they lack the levels and breath of protection and detection measures to keep their data, identities, applications, devices, and networks and safe whilst the number of attacks continue to rise at alarming rates.

Despite Microsoft’s huge growth in this area, Microsoft pointed out that there is still a global shortage of cybersecurity professionals across the globe and in the USA alone, there are ~4 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs currently open, with salaries hugely inflated due to the high demand for these roles.

Organisations can save lots of money

In the Microsoft earnings call, Satya Nadella, called out their focus in helping customer “do more with less” saying that “this is a place where customers can save lots of money’
He talked about Microsoft’s breadth, depth, and integrated security portfolio, stating boldly that “Microsoft is the only vendor that has integrated tools spanning identity, security, compliance, device management and privacy“.

Much of the value and cost savings Microsoft saves their customers is through their productivity suite bundles, such as Microsoft 365 E5, which combines advanced security, privacy, and compliance, along with Teams voice and rich analytics. Recent customers to go all-in on E5 licenses include IKEA, NTT, Boots, Rio Tinto and Marks and Spencer, and leading global law firm Baker McKenzie.

Data from 2021/2022 Forester report.



Microsoft also provide dedicated Security and Compliance add-on suites as well, as the ability to purchase their security offerings as point products such including their Enterprise Mobility and Security suite which grew 16% to more than 241 billion seats.

Microsoft is the only vendor that has integrated tools spanning identity, security, compliance, device management and privacy

Satya Nadella | CEO | Microsoft

Microsoft called out an example of $4.46 billion, British Sports retailer Frasers Group, for its decision to consolidate tools and services from ten separate cybersecurity vendors to just Microsoft.

In another example, $2.76 billion, American digital media player manufacturer Roku moved its entire identity and access management business to the cloud with Azure Active Directory.

Market Bolstering Stats

  • SEIM: In October 2022, Microsoft Sentinel shot to the top of Gartner’s SIEM Magic Quadrant, zooming past IBM, Splunk, Securonix and Exabeam .
  • Identity & Access Management: IDC say Microsoft have 23.8% market share of the $13.6 billion identity and access management market, with Okta at a distant second at 9.2%.
  • Endpoint Security: Microsoft had 11.2% of the market in 2021 and 12.4% in 2022. Only CrowdStrike had a larger slice of the endpoint security market at 12.6% but has a lower growth. CrowdStrike, Microsoft &Trend Micro were of in April 22 Forrester Wave for EDR providers.

“Microsoft is the “only company” that offers “integrated end-to-end tools spanning identity, security, compliance, device management and privacy, informed and trained on over 65 trillion signals each day.”

Satya Nadella | CEO | Microsoft

The Role of Microsoft Partners

Despite the global shortage of Cyber Security professionals, Microsoft’s pointed out that their security business is surging partly due to the work many of their global Modern Work and Security partners are driving. Microsoft continues to invest significantly in partner skills enablement along with resources and funding to help their partners to help their customers. This ranges from funded discover and usage workshops, technology enablement funding, end user adoption funding (to help users work more securely), technical training initiatives, third party vendor displacement support and more.

As such Microsoft partners can certify and specialise in different security and compliance areas, helping their customers find partners that can help them understand their risk profile, identity weaknesses or risks, deploy and adopt new tools and platforms and migrate from point product to improve their security whilst reducing cost.

Organisations can reach out to their Microsoft representative or speak to their Microsoft Partner for more information

Microsoft technology (through the help of their partners) can save the average 10,000 seat organisation more than $8.3M per annum through investing in Microsoft 365 E5 and Sentinel according to research conducted by Forrester.

On a recent fireside chat that I hosted, most organisations on my panel discussed how they were improving their security through investment in Microsoft 365 E5 with the help of their partners.

The Microsoft Security Portfolio

Microsoft has organised their security portfolio (which spans more than fifty product categories overall) into six product lines.

  1. Defender: The Defender portfolio includes Microsoft 365 Defender (Microsoft’s extended detection and response (XDR) platform for securing endpoints, email, applications, identities, and data, as well as their Defender solutions for endpoint, Cloud, IoT, vulnerability management, threat intelligence, DevOps and external attack surface management.
  2. Sentinel: Microsoft’s SEIM platform
  3. Entra: Microsoft’s identity management and security portfolio, which includes Azure AD
  4. Purview: Data protection, data loss prevention, inside risk management
  5. Priva: Their new privacy risk management solution following their acquisition of RiskIQ
  6. Intune: Microsoft’s multiple vendor, multi-category endpoint management suite.

Note: Whilst Microsoft do not have dedicated products that cover the network infrastructure, SIP, WAN and Wireless LAN spaces, but work in partnership with leading infrastructure vendors such as Cisco to provide seamless identity and access integration.

Microsoft is the only vendor that has integrated tools spanning identity, security, compliance, device management and privacy

Satya Nadella | CEO | Microsoft
Microsoft Security 2023



You can read more on the official Microsoft security blog post here.

Microsoft 365 Security vs Point Solutions

TL;DR

Microsoft now claims that they handle, process and act upon more than forty-three trillion daily threat signals.

This blog, however, does not go into the specific features and security across Microsoft 365 and Azure, but instead explores the fact that despite the extensive array of security services, tools, and products that Microsoft offer, Microsoft report that only about a quarter of their customers are actively using the core security products they’ve invested in.

Only about a quarter of our customers are actively using the core Microsoft security products that they have invested in.

Microsoft (& Forrester)

This of course can mean that organisation might:

  • Have unnecessary security gaps, protection weaknesses and risk exposure
  • Be wasting money (through Microsoft protection services bought but not enabled)
  • Be buying twice (or more) through duplicate tools and services.
  • Have a more complex protection strategy than is necessary
  • Not be aware of Microsoft’s comprehensive multi-cloud security offerings

This blog shares some of the collective thoughts, and discussions I had with my customer advisory panel in our September fireside chat which focussed on the pros, cons, questions, and concerns around embracing the end-to-end protection across Microsoft 365 and beyond vs using point products and third-party security add-ons.

I’ve also included some (hopefully) useful links and content at the end of this blog.


if you’d rather watch / listen to the show, you can find the recording below:
Fireside Chat: Microsoft 365 vs muti point security

Here’s the summary of the discussion points from my recent fireside chat.

1. Microsoft Security – What is in the SKU?

Speaking to the panel on my recent Fireside Chat, I believe that most organisations don’t know enough about the breadth and depth of the Microsoft 365 Security Stack they have bought and invested in.

We use a variety of Microsoft 365 licenses but need a better understanding of what is included in, and what are we might be missing by not investing and adopting the wider Microsoft 365 E5.

Rowland Hills | COO | Leathwaite Human Capital Limited.

This is due, in part, to the constant change, enhancements and investment [$4b a year in R&D] with regards the changing threat landscape and the death and breadth of tools of available within Microsoft 365 E5. Add to this the renaming of Microsoft products (they do far too much IMO).

There’s a plethora of tools within the Microsoft 365 E5 licence. Understanding what those tools do, what is included, what they can replace and how they fit together is the biggest challenge for us. The stack is constantly changing, and new products are added or renamed so it is hard to keep up.

Jas Bassi | Head of Solutions Delivery | Gately Legal

2. Does having too many different security vendors lead to unnecessary complexity?

The Cyber Security market is huge. In a recent KPMG survey of 500 CEOs, 18% said that cyber security When I was first an IT consultant in the early noughties, security was always about having strong passwords and the best “black box device” to protect on-premises stuff! Be it, firewalls, mail security, web filters, VPN, IPS etc that protect aspects of an organisation’s internal network or Data Centre environment.

The average organisation has over seventy security products from thirty-five different vendors.

Gartner | 2021

As the world has, and continues to shift to a perimeter less, multi-cloud and distributed workforce (with home working creating thousands of “offices of one”), many organisations now struggle with not only the ever-expanding threat landscape and increasing talent shortage, but the growing number of vendor solutions, their associated mounting costs, cross over of product, and features.

In a world of highly distributed data and disappearing perimeters, today’s enterprises are struggling not only with the expanding threat landscape, but the growing solutions landscape and their associated complexity and mounting costs.

Forrester

Complexity is the new enemy, meaning that silos and multi-vendor point products are the bane of Security Operations. Not only are they costly, but their features also overlap, they don’t necessarily integrate and in most cases, there is no single pane of glass or “intelligence” across the platforms.

This not only causes complexity and cost, but above all does not provide a holistic view of security and threats across their organisation without the use of yet more expensive tools and connectors into a SEIM platform.

We see this quite often with our customers too – particular in the case where Microsoft 365 has been organically deployed. We often see that customers, whilst heavily invested in Microsoft 365 continuing to invest and use a plethora of third-party tools and thus are not realising the true value and protection of the extensive and integrated Microsoft 365 Security Suite.

This is not just about cost either. Having too many tools addressing point solutions, combined with no holistic view of security can cause too much “noise” and alerts meaning real potential threats are ignored or get lost. This is the primary reason Microsoft cite for why “only one quarter of their customers are actively using the core security products they’ve purchased“.

As well as the advantages of a joined up and integrated security portfolio, any organisation that has, or is embracing the Microsoft Cloud, can recognise cost savings of over 52% and see ROI of 92% (according to Microsoft & Gartner) by adopting the vast array of security services within their Microsoft 365 subscription and/or by displacing legacy point products.

Organisations can typically save 52% on their security by using Microsoft 365 E5 Security compared to point products and solutions.

2021 Microsoft Zero Trust Solutions – Total Economic Value Report

3. “In my opinion” Microsoft Security is world class

It doesn’t have to be this way though, and once there is joint awareness, understanding and trust in the Microsoft security portfolio – this complexity and silo approach to security can be a thing of the past.

Microsoft (as any end to end security provider) would say that that Microsoft can secure and protect the entire digital footprint for every enterprise customer, however the reality is for any organisation that has, or is embracing Microsoft Cloud, significant cost advantages (>52% according to Microsoft & Gartner) can be achieved in security alone by enabling the services they have bought and displacing all or most of their legacy point security products.

Joining us on the Fireside chat this month was Jose Lazaro Pinos, a Security Architect at Microsoft. He said that:

Our solutions deliver comprehensive protection across your entire digital estate – Identity, Data, Apps, Endpoints, and Infrastructure Network. Where we differentiate is that security is built into our products rather than bolted on.

We have a building block approach to security and compliance and provide protection in over fifty security categories.

We are investing $20b in security over next 5 years.

Jose Lazaro Pinos | Security Architect | Microsoft

Many of the clients we work are onboard and committed to leveraging Microsoft Cloud and Microsoft Security across the board. This extends to beyond basic hygiene services such as Azure AD, Conditional Access, Identity Protection and Privilege Identity Management, into the more advanced compliance and protection services such as Defender for Office 365, Identity and Endpoint, DLP and Purview (formerly Microsoft Information Protection) for compliance and data protection and Sentinel for SEIM and XDR.

We use Microsoft Security for most things. We also use Microsoft Information Protection and DLP and were an early adopter for Azure Sentinel.

Paul Clark | Director Security & Services | London & Quadrant Housing

L&Q, like many organisations have a hugely diverse workforce and the tight integration of the Microsoft Security products have enabled them to have confidence that their employees, devices, and data are well protected wherever they are. Paul also said in the chat, that with the Exec board are on-top of Security and it’s very much front and centre so Paul and his team need to top of their game and trying to ensure they continue to get value from the new things coming to Microsoft Security is top of mind and again enforces what we hear about point one above.

The Microsoft ecosystem is our primary security stack, but if the business is not educated and engaged, it can be easy to be sold multiple products that overlap or do the same thing. We have a drive to consolidate where we can with Microsoft 365.

Alex Taylor | Group IT Director | AWIN

4. What are the downsides of a single vendor approach?

In short, the consensus from the panel was “probably none” – not anymore.

Go back just 5 years and I’d say most IT and security teams had a negative (or empty) view of Microsoft as a “security company”. Even as their reputation improved, it was still commonplace to see many organisations that were accepting of just how extensive Microsoft’s security offering has become still question “what if one vendor gets compromised, you need protection from the other vendor that hadn’t been compromised“.

Our security team used to preference a multi-vendor approach, but the benefits of a single vendor approach are recognised – single pane of glass, consolidated reporting and joined up protection across the digital estate

Lee Phipps | Strategic Enterprise Architect | East Riding of Yorkshire Council

More recently, this view is changing, as my customer panel confirmed. Zero Trust is all about defense in depth and having multiple layers of protection. The key principle is not necessary about a single or multi-vendor, but more important is the need for seamless join up and integration between the service layers – whether this is a mix of vendor products connected via API driven integration into a SEIM, or the integration and consistency (which is key) through using a joined-up suite of products which provides multi-layer protection.

Its critical of course that whatever you use can see and protect all your applications, services and infrastructure including services which sit outside the Microsoft Cloud.

Zero Trust Security Architecture

Previously we used to use third-party multi-vendor products for monitoring and DLP, but we took the decision to remove these and move them to Microsoft and to configure the ruleset in Azure Sentinel to give us a seamless view and dashboard.

Mudassar Ulhaq | CIO| Waverton Investment Management

The panel also agreed that managing multiple security tools creates unnecessary workload for their IT and SecOps team as they have multiple products dashboards to check and consolidate and the terminology signals don’t always align.

Rowland Hills said that the reality here is that for any smaller business, where you are struggling to have a couple of people in IT and in which case have one or sometimes no dedicated security focussed person. The impact of attack of course is no different no matter how big or small you are, but one of the things about leveraging cloud for security means that the smallest or largest organisations benefit from the power of Microsoft Cloud which has some impressive threat protection stats (which they asked me to share).

Microsoft Infographic showing extent of Microsoft Security Graph and Signals.
(c) Microsoft -43Trillion daily threat signals include data seen through Risk IQ acquisition

Microsoft Security On-Ramp – where to start

Firstly, you don’t have to spend loads of money to get some increased awareness – you can work with your Microsoft Cloud Security partner and/or leverage some of the free tools, assessments, workshops, and training available to you as a Microsoft 365 customer.

Collaborate to Sharing Best Practice

We also find more recently that organisations are starting to form security alliances where they share best practice methodologies, observations and even training and workshops with their peers in similar organisations.

We work with other housing associations in a collective intelligence forum where we share information around cyber awareness and best practice and if any of us have an issue, we have others to lean in and help each other out.

Paul Clark | London & Quadrant Housing

This can be a great way to reduce the burden on stretched IT resources as well as reduce cost when they are paying for or attending security assessments and workshops, much in the same way we do with our customer panel on our monthly Fireside Chats.

Do it yourself with Microsoft Secure Score

Microsoft Secure Score enables your IT or Security Operations team to review, score and benchmark your organisation’s secure posture. Secure Score works by representing your security metric across the entire digital estate irrespective of whether you’re using a Microsoft or third-party tools.

Secure Score does four things

  1. Provides a tool to help you assess the state of your security posture across identity, devices, information, apps, and infrastructure. You can also benchmark your organisation’s status over time and compare it to other organisations.
  2. Evaluate each recommendation using embedded guidance to determine which vectors of attack are a priority and how they can be mitigated. Can also be used to help identity and add improvement actions to your posture improvement plan.
  3. Help determine potential user impact using integrated workflow capabilities to and identify the procedures necessary to implement each recommendation in your environment.
  4. Use historical reports to track and maintain progress, identify regressions, and report to leaderships teams. Using measurable data, clearly demonstrate the progress you’re making to better secure your environment.
Microsoft Secure Score(r)

Leverage Free* Cloud Security Workshops

Cisilion are one of a handful of trusted Microsoft Cloud Security partners that can deliver free (*funded – subject to approval by Microsoft) workshops, threat assessments and awareness workshops to help organisations understand, test drive, and prove the value of Microsoft Security whether they have already invested int he product suites or not.

These provide an overview, deep dive, and hands on exposure to help you understand key areas and aspects of key areas of threat protection including:

  • Securing corporate identities and access
  • Defending against threats with SEIM plus XDR
  • Securing Azure and multi-cloud environments
  • Mitigating compliance and privacy risks including “insider risk”
  • Protect and govern sensitive data
  • Defense and visibility in depth with Azure Sentinel
  • Securing the endpoint

We have created a quick guide/overview to the funded workshops. To register for one of these, speak to us, contact us, or get a referral to Cisilion from your friendly Microsoft Account Team.

Microsoft Fast Track Services

All paying Microsoft 365 commercial and public sector organisations will have entitlement to Microsoft Fast Track Services. This is a free consultative and guidance service delivered by Microsoft or their trusted Fast Track partners and provides free guidance and assistance for the enablement and adoption of Microsoft Cloud Technology.

Public Webinars and News

There is lots of useful content, webinars and new on the Microsoft Security Pages:

Join Our Security Community – Microsoft Tech Community


Microsoft Defender “top of the class” for ransomware detection and blocking.

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint has just received top marks for the latest Advanced Threat Protection Test carried out by AV-Test in Feb 2022.

The report (which tested many of the top products including Microsoft Defender in both the home and commercial space) found that it was best-in-class in terms of its ransomware detection and blocking.

The Advanced Threat Protection tests provide vendors and users with substantial findings as to how securely a product can protect against ransomware in real-life scenarios.

… All the products have to successfully defend against ransomware in 10 real-life scenarios under Windows. The test involves threats such as files containing hidden malware in archives, PowerPoint files with scripts or HTML files with malicious content.

AV-TEST

Top Marks

The tests were carried out amongst 14 of the top anti virus and endpoint protection products in the consumer and commercial space including:

  • Acronis
  • AVG
  • Avast
  • Bitdefender
  • Kaspersky
  • F-Secure
  • McAfee (Trellix)
  • Microsoft
  • Symantec

Whilst Microsoft came out joint top for all the tests in the corporate space, the lowest of the scores were McAfee / Trellix who AV-TEST claim were unable to fully block ransomware attacks in multiple different attack scenarios:

Microsoft Defender AV-TEST ransomware tests 02-22
McAfee AV-TEST ransomware tests 02-22

You can access the full reports from AV-TEST here.

Good news for consumers and corporate

In short this should be good news for corporate customers that use Microsoft Defender (which is built into Windows 10 and Windows 11) as well as consumers.

Consumers in particular are often sold additional third party antivirus and anti ransomware products when they buy a new computer, buy software or through advertising and whilst there may be good reasons to buy additional products, these results should demonstrate just how good Microsoft are at protecting consumers and corporate clients who use their products.

Defender is part of a much bigger family

In the corporate space at least, Microsoft Defender is a an entire multiplatform, multi vendor platform suite of. Integrated services for protecting corporate systems and data from attack, breach, ransomware and theft. Their product suite extends across Identity (Defender for Identity), Cloud, Endpoint, IoT and Office 365 to name just a few.

You can find out more about the Microsoft Defender suite of products for corporate customers here.

Microsoft also annouced last month the release of Microsoft Defender for individuals which provides enterprise grade protection for Microsoft 365 consumers and family users. Microsoft Defender is a cross-device security app that helps individuals and families protect their data and devices, and stay safer online with malware protection, real-time security notifications, and security tips. You can read more here.

Defending Ukraine: Microsoft share conclusions of their cyber-attacks’ defensives against Russian attacks

As Russia continues its attack on Ukraine, Microsoft has taken some of the lessons they have learnt from their cyber attack defensive assistance of Ukraine at the start of the war and have now shared their insights with the world to learn from.

In a recent blog post on Microsoft’s “Microsoft on the Issues” site, Brad Smith, Microsoft VP and Chairman, shared highlights of the re-occurring themes around how the war in Ukraine follows a similar yet updated parallel to other historical battles but with a modern cyber focussed offensive now a huge part of the war-plan.

In this most recent blog, Brad Smith discussed the three-part strategy Microsoft has discovered and observed during their early defense assistance of Ukraine. He calls out “destructive cyberattacks within Ukraine, network penetration and espionage outside Ukraine, and cyber influence operations targeting people around the world.”

The wider report goes into detail around how Microsoft’s are continuing their efforts in assisting in the defense of technological targets in Ukraine as well as the continuous evolving strategy Microsoft is pushing to further help harden businesses, institutions, governments, and nations against future cyber-attacks.

The Russian military poured across the Ukrainian border on February 24, 2022, with a combination of troops, tanks, aircraft, and cruise missiles. But the first shots were in fact fired hours before when the calendar still said February 23. They involved a cyberweapon called “Foxblade” that was launched against computers in Ukraine. Reflecting the technology of our time, those among the first to observe the attack were half a world away, working in the United States in Redmond, Washington.

Brad Smith | Vice President | Microsoft

Conclusions and how to defend against state nation attacks

Microsoft say that to defend against similar state-nation coordinated attacks you first need to understand the approach, what has worked and what needs to be done to allow other state nations and countries to better protect against cyber warfare. The conclusions of the report (which you can read in depth here), highlights the following:

  1. Defense against a military invasion now requires for most countries the ability to disburse and distribute digital operations and data assets across borders and into other countries.
  2. Recent advances in cyber threat intelligence and end-point protection have helped Ukraine withstand a high percentage of destructive Russian cyberattacks.
  3. As a coalition of countries has come together to defend Ukraine, Russian intelligence agencies have stepped up network penetration and espionage activities targeting allied governments outside Ukraine.
  4. In coordination with these other cyber activities, Russian agencies are conducting global cyber-influence operations to support their war efforts. Russian agencies are focusing their cyber-influence operations on four distinct audiences. They are targeting the Russian population with the goal of sustaining support for the war effort. They are targeting the Ukrainian population with the goal of undermining confidence in the country’s willingness and ability to withstand Russian attacks. They are targeting American and European populations with the goal of undermining Western unity and deflecting criticism of Russian military war crimes. And they are starting to target populations in nonaligned countries, potentially in part to sustain their support at the United Nations and in other venues.
  5. Finally, the lessons from Ukraine call for a coordinated and comprehensive strategy to strengthen defenses against the full range of cyber destructive, espionage, and influence operations.

The Wider Comprehensive Report

Cyber warfare Ukraine Image

Finally, Brad Smith references the extensive comprehensive report “Defending Ukraine: Early Lessons from the Cyber War” that Microsoft have also recently published which can be read and downloaded here.

Microsoft to acquire cyber intelligence research expert Miburo

Microsoft continues its huge investment and expansion of their leading cyber security, threat analysis and response solutions with the acquisition of Milburo, a world leader in foreign threat analysis and research detection services.

They announced via their security blog site that they have entered into an agreement to acquire Milburo, who will be ‘assimilated’ so to speak into Microsoft’s Customer Security and Trust organisation.

Microsoft will leverage Milburo portfolio to help bolster their current threat detection platforms while also expanding their abilities to counter new cyber threats and state sanctioned information operations and attacks. Miburo’s mission statement is to “protect democracies and the free information environment from malign influence and extremism.”

“Working in close collaboration with the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center, our Threat Context Analysis team, our data scientists and others, the new analysts from Miburo will enable Microsoft to expand its threat detection and analysis capabilities to address new cyber-attacks and shed light on the ways in which foreign actors use information operations in conjunction with other cyber-attacks to achieve their objectives. Miburo has become a leading expert in identification of foreign information operations.”

Tom Burt |Microsoft

The public announcement arrives just a month after Microsoft acknowledged its role in combating many state-sanctioned cyber-attacks and disinformation campaigns aimed at Ukraine by Russia.