64-bit OneDrive Sync client now available in preview…

OneDrive for Business Logo

Last night, Microsoft released a public preview of the 64-bit version of the OneDrive for Windows sync client.

This upcoming 64-bit version of the app doesn’t have any new/changed features over the current 32-bit version, but being a 64-bit app, should run much more efficiently on PCs running a 64-bit version of Windows 10 – especially where users regularly need to synchronise larger files. 

Microsoft’s OneDrive team said that “…the 64-bit version is the right choice if you plan to use large files, if you have a lot of files, and if you have a computer that’s running a 64-bit version of Windows.”.

As of today (it’s in preview after all), the OneDrive 64-bit version can only be installed on AMD64 devices, and for now Windows 10 on ARM PCs only support the 32-bit version of the sync client such as the #SurfaceProX

When officially released – expected later this April, the 64-bit version of OneDrive Sync Client will automatically replace the 32-bit version.

If you like betas and early testing, there is a public preview of the OneDrive 64-bit client available here

Poly Sync20+ “Teams Edition “- Hands-on Review

Released at the end of 2020, the Poly Sync 20 and Sync 20 + are personal Bluetooth and USB speakerphones designed for use with Microsoft Teams. Whilst nothing new in terms of form-factor – as other vendors such as Yealink, Jabra, Lenovo etc., all have similar form factor speakers, the quality design and easy to use features make the Sync 20 a great device for home workers, hybrid workers or anyone looking for a stylish, Bluetooth / smart portable speakerphone solution that has been “designed” for Microsoft Teams.

Poly Sync 20 on Desk
The Poly Sync-20

 

The Poly Sync 20 was the first in Poly’s new Sync range of USB and Bluetooth speakerphones. The Sync 20 has two bigger brothers – the Sync 40 and the Sync 60 which are aimed more for use in huddle spaces and smaller to medium sized meeting rooms – The Sync 20 and Sync 40 are available “now” and the Sync 60 is “coming “soon”. This review just looks at the Sync 20.

Poly SYnc Family of Devices

These device types are designed for those people that travel or are on the road often (outside of current COVID restrictions of course) and needing to join Teams Meetings / conference calls either alone or with one or two other people – or as a permanent set-up at the home office.  These personal speakers are great to ensure you have the best audio experience and that those on the other-end can also hear you well – certainly beats using a phone on “speaker phone” – please don’t do that!! 

Speeds and Feeds

The Poly 20 Sync costs circa £160 and measures 34mm x 95mm x 182mm so easily fits in your laptop/Surface bag or pouch.  Like many of its competition, it includes a rechargeable battery that gives about 20 hours of talk time (according to Poly – I didn’t test that) between charges and takes just 4 hours to charge using the attached USB A cable. One nifty thing about the Poly Sync 20, compared to most other similar devices in this category, is that it also doubles up as a portable battery charger allowing you to plug your smart phone or headphones into the Sync 20 to keep your other gadgets charged when working remotely. 

  • Bluetooth / USB Speakerphone
  • Portable Battery Charger
  • Windows 10 Dongle (Sync 20 + version only)

Look and Feel 

The Poly 20 Sync measures 34mm x 95mm x 182mm so easily fits in your laptop/Surface bag or pouch.

As you’d expect from Poly, the Poly Sync 20 is a good-looking device. As you can see from the images above, it has a silver bezel and a high-quality fabric mesh speaker cover. The device is also IP64 rated (meaning it is dust and water-resistant) and comes with its own equally stylish case for storage and protection against scratches etc.

Poly Sync-20 Close Up

On the front of the device, there are familiar buttons for call controls as well as a programmable button that you can use to open a voice assistant, check status, play / pause music etc., (this requires installing the Poly Customisation Software). Since this is a Teams certified device, there is also a dedicated Teams button on the device for instant access to the Teams app, joining a meeting etc.  There’s also a large call status light on the front.

Usability

As expected, the Sync 20 is incredibly easy to get going. I chose to plug mine into my Surface via the USB port. The Sync-20 was instantly recognised by Windows 10 and also showed up in Teams along with the recognition that this was a Teams Certified device.

Screenshot showing Teams recognising a teams Certified device

Pairing to my Samsung phone was also quick and easy and by using the PLT Hub app I could then simply configure the device and was even able to change the voice to British English! 

Performance and Quality

Sound Quality was tested by using my Surface (wired) and phone (via Bluetooth) to play some Spotify hits and some movie content (yes, Star Wars from Disney Plus!). Sound quality was crisp and clear. There was no distortion even with the volume “pumped” all the way up to maximum.  I am no audio expert, but for a portable device – it was loud enough for use in a meeting room, home office / hotel room. 

Bluetooth connectivity works as expected on my mobile device (I didn’t bother pairing it to my Surface since I used the USB-A cable for this and “hate” using a dongle which is needed to use the device as a Teams Certified speaker). 

USB Charging – is a nice to have and it does mean I don’t have to carry multiple devices about – Using the device as a Bluetooth speaker on my Samsung phone, I was able to charge my phone from 54% to 100% whilst playing music from it in less than an hour. 

Summary and Close

In all a great device if you are in the market for a high-quality, Teams certified small portable smart speaker to use with your mobile or laptop/tablet then you won’t be disappointed by the Sync-20. The built-in battery charger is a definite plus point too when working remotely – though there’s not enough power in the USB to charge my Surface Go. 

At ~£160 it’s on par with similar devices in its class and has fantastic build quality. Like most devices, firmware is upgradable via the Poly management apps, but the real test will of course be when I finally return to some form of going out and working in different places. 

March 2021 Teams Display Updates enables Cortana voice search, custom backgrounds and more.

Microsoft has just started rolling out a heap of new updates and features Teams displays, such as the Lenovo ThinkSmart View.

In case you are not familiar, Teams Displays are low-cost, dedicated devices design for just Teams Meetings, Calls, and simple collaboration/presentation. The idea behind these is that having Teams on a dedicated second display means that separating out “teamwork” and individual work can make focus easier. I have a ThinkSmart View on a small table on the other side of my home office which I find helps me to focus on the meeting in situations where I don’t need to “stuck” in front of my Laptop. You can read my earlier review of the ThinkSmart here

Updates on Teams Displays

In the latest update, Microsoft has brought us the following features and improvements:

  • Voice Control: Powered by Cortana, you can now search for meetings, ask teams to join your meeting, find a message, open a file, or call a person.
  • Custom Background: Providing feature comparison with the desktop clients, you can not only blur your background but use the Microsoft provided custom backgrounds in meetings and calls.
  • Live Reactions: You can now send a range of emoticons to show support, applause, “love”, and laughter during a meeting. 
  • Cortana and Bing: Seach integration, allow users to find information hands-free with voice while collaborating or taking part in meetings and calls – For example, “what is the time in Seattle”, or “Show my latest messages from Rachel”.

These features are rolling out as part of the March 2021 update for Teams displays.

The biggest announcements from MSFT Ignite 2021

So, it wouldn’t be a Microsoft event (#MSIgnite) without a handful of “wow” demos, updates, and new products announcement both in preview and GA across Teams, the wider Microsoft 365 platform, Azure, Windows 10 and Power Platform, but without doubt the biggest “thing” to happen at Ignite this year was Mcirosoft Mesh.  Anyway, here’s my 

As in previous years), Microsoft have published their “encyclopaedia” if you like, of Ignite (the #BookOfIgnite ) which covers all the announcements in detail along with links to blogs and tech articles.

This post, on the other hand is a summary of my personal “top 3” announcements across each of the core solution areas. Of course, depending on your role, line of business and priorities, and interests, you will have your own favourites so feel free to let me know yours in the comments.

 

Microsoft Mesh

This stole the show from the moment the keynote started and was without question the biggest news of Ignite 2021. Much of the keynote and later sessions were available to watch live AltSpace VR in both Mixed and Virtual Reality. Mesh is Microsoft’s new Mixed Reality Platform which is designed to allow people who are in physically various locations to join collaborative and shared holographic experiences across many kinds of devices.

The business case for Mesh builds upon the success of HoloLens 2 and is designed (and was highlighted) for organisations to let their teams joined shared virtual spaces for collaborative meetings, where everyone will appear as virtual avatars (reminds me of the holograms in the StarWars). Microsoft say that their target audience is both enterprise and commercial customers. Microsoft Mesh can be accessed through an updated version of AltSpace VR, which is Microsoft’s VR platform. Microsoft Mesh will be coming to HoloLens via a dedicated app and solutions built through Mesh by developers will also be able to be tailored/supported to Windows Mixed Reality, PCs, Macs, Smart Phones, and headsets like Oculus.

Microsoft Teams

Teams Ignite Features
Highlight of new Teams Meeting Features

 

Always needing its very own category, my top 3 in this category are:

1. Improvements for Teams Meetings and Live Events.

    • Teams can now be used to create and run fully interactive webinars for up to 1,000 attendees and will also support webinars with up to 20,000 attendees from later this month. This will also be included for any customer with Office 365 E3 and more without any additional licenses or cost.
    • Dynamic View for Teams meetings will be released next month and is all about ensuring more inclusive and natural meetings for remote/hybrid meetings making them more engaging. Dynamic view uses AI to adjust elements of the meeting to allow for display different modes such as charts, chats, etc next to video feeds as well as an overlay of presenter video and presentation space.
    • Improved privacy and security in meetings – with meeting-only meeting controls and end-to-end encryption in one-to-one calls.
    • PowerPoint Live in Teams is available now. The much-requested feature combines slides, notes, and meeting chat in a single view to help make presentations easier for speakers and presenters and to make them more engaging for attendees.

2. Teams Connect

A new channel-sharing feature coming to Teams “later” this calendar year. This will enable users to share channels with anyone, internal or external. Unlike guest access, the shared channel will appear within a user’s primary Teams tenant, alongside other Teams channels meaning that “multiple organisations can share a single channel” that all members can then access from their own Teams environments. Channel sharing seems is great for scenarios where multiple organisations are collaborating on a specific project for example. Guest Access isn’t going anywhere and is still relevant as this is more suited to situations where an external organisation or person needs broad access to data, meetings, and information, beyond just a specific channel. This is currently in “private preview”.

3. Teams Calling Updates

  1. Direct Routing and Survivable Brach Appliances: With the explosion of customers enabling and migrating to PSTN calling in Teams from traditional IP PBXs, the use of Direct Routing grown 8-fold, Microsoft announced several new certified Session Border Controllers (SBC) for Direct Routing, with 6 new SBCs completing certification in just the past 3 months. Additionally, to add resiliency to the most critical locations, Survivable Branch Appliance (SBAs) are now generally available, enabling PSTN calling in the event an outage does not allow the Teams client to directly connect to Microsoft 365 global services.

  2. Operator Connect Conferencing brings an “operator-managed service” that provides “bring your own operator” for conferencing, meaning customers can keep their preferred operator contracts in place as they migrate their PSTN infrastructure to the cloud. This also allows additional geographic dial-in coverage, enhanced support, and reliability with locally agreed technical support and SLAs. This enters private preview from June, with the initial wave of qualified partners, including BT, Deutsche Telekom, Intrado, NTT, Orange Business Services, and Telenor.

  3. New Cloud Calling Plan Countries were also announced, with Microsoft native calling plans coming to 8 new markets from April 2021 including New Zealand, Singapore, Romania, Czech Republic, Hungary, Finland, Norway, and Slovakia, bringing native Microsoft Teams Calling Plans to 26 markets across the globe.

    Teams Calling Countries - April 2021

Identity, Security & Compliance

1. Identity

Focusing on helping organisations deliver on their Zero Trust strategy including, 

    1. Password-less authentication which is now “generally available” for cloud and hybrid environments meaning customers can move towards a truly password-less world leveraging multi-factor authentication and risk based conditional access to provide just in time, assume breach, challenge everything approach to identify and access management without the need for passwords.

    2. Azure AD Conditional Access now uses authentication context to enforce more granular policies based on user actions across the applications they are using or the sensitivity of data they’re trying to access.

    3. Azure AD verifiable credentials will be in public preview later this month. Verifiable credentials allow organisations to confirm information without collecting or storing personal data, improving security and privacy.

2. Security announcements

A wealth of announcements here as well, all of which will further strengthen, Microsoft’s commitment to deliver the absolute best security protection, detection, and response for all clouds and all platforms:

    1. Azure Sentinel now seamlessly integrates with Microsoft 365 Defender with shared incidents, schema, and user experiences to simplify investigations for a totally aligned view and remediation surface.
    2. Endpoint and Office 365 defender capabilities are now also integrated into the Microsoft 365 Defender portal.

    3. New Threat Analytics experience within the Microsoft 365 Defender portal provides a set of reports from expert Microsoft security researchers designed to help customers understand, prevent, and mitigate active threats, like the recent Solorigate / SolarWinds attacks.

    4. The Secure-core services that are now build into Surface devices (and other leading Windows 10 devices) is also coming to Windows Server and Azure edge devices to help minimise risk from firmware vulnerabilities, attacks, and advanced malware in IoT and hybrid cloud environments.

3. Compliance announcements

    1. Co-authoring of Microsoft Information Protection-protected documents will be available in “public preview” from this week. This in my experience the number one blocker of being able to properly deploy organisational wide information protect across SharePoint sites, Teams, and individual documents since currently (well, prior to this announcement) it was not possible to co-author docs that were encrypted which makes most of the power of Modern Office 365 and co-authoring useless. This feature helps significantly close the gap between security and productivity.

    2. Microsoft Azure Purview was announced in more detail. Purview provides new cross-platform support and deeper insight into data classification and protection across structured and un-structured data across on-premises, data bases, Microsoft Cloud and third-party services including Google and AWS – it’s Azure Information Protection on steroids!

    3. Microsoft 365 data loss prevention (DLP) now supports Google Chrome browsers and on-premises file shares and SharePoint Server as well as SharePoint Online and of course Microsoft’s Edge (Chromium based) browser.

    4. Microsoft 365 Insider Risk Management Analytics was released into public preview.

Power Platform

1. Power Automate Desktop was made free!

This is really really big news for any organisation that is looking, using, or intending to use Robotic Process Automation (RPA).  Power Automate Desktop is a an “attended Robotic Process Automation” solution which is a macro recorder on steroids. You can download it now if you want to try it. It will be available first for #WindowsInsiders to try (built into Windows 10), however it will eventually be rolled out to Windows 10 as a core product (most likely as an optional feature). Until now, a per user for month for the tool would cost about £12 a month. Power Automate currently has circa 400 actions to help build flows across different applications and the best part is that it enables you to build your own scripts to automate time consuming repetitive tasks which saves time and money. Microsoft’s goal here is to “democratise the development for everybody with Power Platform” by making no-code/low-code accessible to everyone not just developers.

2. PowerFX (a new low code programming language) was announced.

PowerFx is a low code programming language that is based on the foundation of the Microsoft Power Apps canvas. What’s great is that since Power Fx is based on Microsoft Excel, it will naturally be a great fit for a wide range of people since it will leverage skills, they “many” already know and becomes a common ground for business users and professional developers alike to express logic and solve problems. Microsoft also said they were planning make Power Fx, open source, making the language available for open contribution by the broader community on GitHub.

3. Dynamics 365 now seamlessly integrates with Microsoft Teams

This ensures conversations, calls, meetings, and chat will be available across dynamics 365 – within opportunities, sales, marketing, finance, and operations.

Windows 10

Windows 10 usually gets a backseat at Microsoft Ignite (as it typically focusses on cloud services and new things), but this year, there were some things which resonated.

1. Power Automate Desktop

As discussed above, Power Automate Desktop was announced and will be free for all Windows 10 users including Windows 10 Home and Pro and not just to Enterprise users. You can read more about this above.

2. Windows 10 in Cloud 

Simply put, cloud configuration is a Microsoft-recommended device configuration for Windows 10, cloud-optimised for users with specific workflow needs. IT admins use Microsoft Endpoint Manager to apply a standard, cloud-based, easy-to-manage configuration of Windows 10 to a selected set of new or existing devices. The configuration works on devices running Windows 10 Pro or Windows 10 Enterprise and may be appropriate for workers who only need a limited number of IT-curated and approved applications to meet their targeted workflow needs. User accounts are registered in Azure Active Directory and devices are enrolled for cloud management in Intune, so they are automatically updated with continuous product and security updates.

Microsoft announced that the newly announced Windows 10 in Cloud has now been integrated into Microsoft Endpoint Manager, which will make it even easier to provide a secure device configuration regardless of the type of worker. Microsoft also made a full “Windows 10 in cloud configuration overview and setup guide” available which is designed to help solution integrators, partners, and internal IT teams to apply a uniform, secure and easy-to-manage cloud-based configuration of Windows 10 Professional or Enterprise devices.

3. New version of Windows 10 Perhaps?

Well maybe! During a Fireside chat session at Ignite, Surface and Windows Lead, Panos Panay “teased” of some major updates and design changes coming to Windows. Windows 10 Insider LogoThese were very much hints and teases than any firm commitments but talked a lot about the fact that Microsoft has not “talked about the next generation of Windows for a while” and that he was “so pumped” for it – ending with “it’s going to be a massive year for Windows.”


Written: 05 March 2021

Windows 10 v21H1 available “now” if you want to try it early.

Microsoft last night shared all the details about Windows 10 version 21H1, which is the, the next version / ok update to Windows 10 which will be formerly released at sometime late spring.

As expected, this update is another minor update just like 20H2 was back in October 2020 and this will actually be the first time since Microsoft shifted to a bi-annual release cycle that the “Spring” update for Windows 10 is a just a minor one. This means there won’t be any new major feature additions (as the October 2020 Update was the previous year).

If you are a WindowsInsider in the beta channel, you can get Windows 10 version 21H1 today.

How to download it

To download it, you’ll need to go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update and then choose to download and install the 21H1, which is build number 19043.844 (KB4601382). The installation process is quick (my Surface Go took about 15 minutes) and its a similar upgrade path/patch experience from version 2004 to 20H2.

Getting Windows 10 21H1 from Windows Update

What will 21H1 bring?

Windows 10, version 21H1 brings with it a new set of features that are designed to improve security, remote access and quality. “The are focused on the core experiences that customers have told us they’re relying on most right now,” explained John Cable, Vice President, Program Management, Windows Servicing and Delivery.

New features in Windows 10 version 21H1 include multi-camera support for Windows Hello, which allows users of PC/laptop with an integrated camera to use an external camera (hello certified) for authentication and sign-in. This update also brings performance improvements for Windows Defender Application Guard as well as Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) Group Policy Service (GPSVC) updating, the latter getting support for more remote work scenarios.

There’s also a usual long list of big fixes and minor cosmetic updates as you’d expect.

Windows 10 version 21H1 will be available for non-insiders “later in the first half of this calendar year,” John Cable said , and we should get a final release date in the next week or so.

You can get this today of you are a WindowsInsider in the Beta channel. It is optional.

Windows 10 animated Gif (why not)

Microsoft announces “Microsoft Viva”, a new employee experience designed for the digital era that puts people first.

Satya Nadella announcing Microsoft Viva

Microsoft today (4th Feb 2021) announced Microsoft Viva, (not sure i love the name) a new employee experience platform that aims to bring tools for employee engagement, learning, wellbeing, and knowledge discovery into a single and unified place – Teams.

The Employee eXperience Platforms (EXP) is said to be a market worth more than $300 billion but is fragmented with lots of different several services, infrastructure, and tools which are in the main dis-jointed and non-integrated. With Viva, Microsoft is planning to address this “problem” through the creation of a unified experience built on Microsoft 365 and Teams along with an eco-system of partners working together for a connected and familiar experience.

I

Microsoft Viva is made up of 4 key elements:

  • Learning
  • Insights
  • Topics and
  • Connections

Viva Learning

Viva Learning makes training and professional development opportunities more discoverable and accessible in the flow of work. It aggregates all the learning resources available to an organisation in one place, including content from LinkedIn Learning; Microsoft Learn; third-party providers including Skillsoft, Coursera, Pluralsight and edX; as well as an organisation’s own content library. From traditional learning courses to microlearning content, users can discover, share, assign and track a wide variety of learning as a natural part of the workday.

The Viva Learning app is now available in private preview and starting later this year Viva Learning will offer integrations with leading learning management systems, including Cornerstone OnDemand, Saba and SAP SuccessFactors.

Viva Insights

Viva Insights gives individuals, managers and leaders personalized and actionable insights that help everyone in an organisation thrive. Personal experiences and insights, visible only to the employee, help individuals protect time for regular breaks, focused work, and learning, as well as strengthen relationships with their colleagues. Managers and leaders can see trends at team and organization level, as well as recommendations to better balance productivity and wellbeing. The insights are aggregated and deidentified by default to maintain personal privacy. In addition, a new dashboard allows organizations to combine employee feedback from LinkedIn’s Glint with collaboration data from Viva Insights, enabling leaders to more accurately identify where teams may be struggling, proactively adjust work norms, and then quantify the impact of those changes over time. In addition to using data and signals from Microsoft apps, customers will also be able to incorporate data from third-party services like Zoom, Slack, Workday and SAP SuccessFactors.

The Viva Insights app in Teams and the new Glint and Viva Insights dashboard are now available in public preview.

Viva Topics

Viva Topics delivers a knowledge discovery experience that helps people connect to information and experts across the company. Using AI to reason over a customer’s Microsoft 365 data, and with the ability to integrate knowledge from a variety of third-party services such as ServiceNow and Salesforce, Viva Topics automatically surfaces topic cards within conversations and documents across Microsoft 365 and Teams. Clicking on a card opens a topic page with related documents, conversations, videos, and people.

Viva Topics is now generally available as an add-on to Microsoft 365 commercial plans.

Viva Connections

Viva Connections provides a personalised gateway to your digital workplace where employees can access internal communications and company resources like policies and benefits and participate in communities like employee resource groups, all from a single customizable app in Microsoft Teams.

The Connections app for Teams will be available on desktop in public preview the first half of 2021 with a mobile app coming later this year.

Microsoft have said that a global network of services partners. starting with Accenture, Avanade, PwC and EY will provide consulting and advisory services to help customers optimize their existing employee experience investments by bringing them together with Microsoft Viva.

 

To find our more

Information above provided by Microsoft. To find out more, search for #MSFTVIVA – “combining collaboration, well-bring and learning”

Satya Nadella announcing Microsoft Viva

#Learning
#Insights
#Topics
#Connections

https://microsoft.com/en-gb/microsoft-viva

Microsoft announces $10b in Security Revenue and is leading the battle on the Cyber Security Crisis

Microsoft Security Logo

I first blogged about the sheer size and capability of Microsoft as a cybersecurity giant about a year ago, but last week Microsoft homed in on this as they highlighted the revenue from its various security offerings as part of its FY21 Q2 quarterly earnings.

$10 billion over the last 12 months.

You might think that for a global organisation like Microsoft, that this is just a number, but what is significant is that this amounts to a 40% year-over-year jump in the security and compliance part of Microsoft which means that Security and Compliance now makes up circa 7% of their total revenue for the previous year to date.

In a statement at the earnings report, Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella said “We waited in some sense until this milestone to show the depth, the breadth, the span of what we are doing.” …”there is a lot of work ahead, but we are investing very heavily because guess what? You know 10 years from now we’ll still be talking about it as technology becomes even [a deeper part] of our lives in our society in all critical industries.”

Satya went on to say in the announcement that “What we have built is very helpful in times of crisis and there is a big crisis right now, but you need to sort of obviously build all of this over a period of years if not decades and then sustain it through not just product innovation, but also I would say, practice every day.”

Proven hunters

Back in December 2020, Microsoft’s were the forerunner and lead investigator in the uncovering and closing of the massive global SolarWinds cyber-attack which hit private companies like cybersecurity company FireEye, many leading FTSE 100 organisations as well as UK, US, and other global government agencies (even Microsoft themself were affected).

Microsoft we the “defenders that other defenders were turning to” Microsoft said, they “were working with FireEye and across the public sector and private sector coming together”.

Zero Trust is more important than ever.

Part of Microsoft’s ability to respond to the SolarWinds hack has to do with what the tech and sec industry refers to as a “zero trust” approach to security. This means an organisation needs to continuously adopt an “assume breach” mindset and authenticate and validate access continuously. This is similar in some respects to fight against Covid19 of “assume you are infected”.

For anyone still sceptical about Microsoft as a security player, there is no doubting the giant that they have become. There are of course many “best of breed” products out there to protect against certain services or pillars, but what Microsoft has done well, really well is to have built a “best of suite” which spans not just across Azure and Microsoft 365 but also across pretty much any cloud, hybrid or on-premises apps and services a business uses.

Microsoft’s investment clearly goes far further than just having a good security portfolio, which is substantial when you look at technologies like Microsoft Defender, Sentinel or Azure Active Directory, but it is their ability to take these services, integrate them into all their products and infuse more AI and data signals (almost 7 Trillion a day) than anyone else.

MIcrosoft Security Infographic

Working from home adds to companies’ security needs

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic forced many companies to change how they work and think about work, with their employees now working from home either temporarily or (in many cases) for the foreseeable future in some capacity at least.

This has of course introduced and opened the way for new attack vectors for cyber hackers because the physical layers of security (in person identification and swipe card access for example into buildings), perimeter network security (such as network access control), and the fact that we probably only used “managed devices” meant that IT had a good awareness and grip on control of things like malware or odd user/network activity.

Working remotely changes this for most. When working remotely at home (unless only via a secured VDI), employees are running on their own network (and they aren’t sec admins) often in a false sense of security because “no one will hack my home“, often preventing or inhibiting IT to monitor them without changing their approach and toolsets.

For most (especially if using shared or personal devices), it doesn’t take much for just one person to download malware on their computer at home, then accidentally send that malware to your company’s systems or file shares when they next connect to the network to update a spreadsheet or send a report.

Security must be built in at every single point and can no longer be an afterthought. “There needs to be a real different approach to creating a cybersecurity solution for customers,” Satya Nadella said.

Security Giants

According to Microsoft, they now protect more than 400,000 customers across 120 countries, including 90 Fortune 100 companies. Microsoft currently categorise their security offerings into four pillars:

Security | Compliance | Identity | Threat Management.

This milestone figure of $10 billion comes from the security-related revenue generated by services including Microsoft’s Azure Active Directory, Intune, Microsoft Defender for Endpoint, Office 365, Microsoft Cloud App Security, Microsoft Information and Governance, Azure Sentinel, Azure Monitoring, and Azure Information Protection.

Microsoft Edge now alerts you if any of your online passwords are leaked!

Password Dialogue Screen

Let’s face it – all of us re-use our passwords across different systems, and most use one password for pretty much everything they online – and whilst these may be secure (and yes, some sites may enforce MFA – that’s something at least), if just one of these sites/company’s get’s breached – then your password is out there!!!

Microsoft are trying to help prevent this – well, at least make sure you know so you can do something about it quickly…

Whilst anyone running Beta or Dev version of Edge have had this for a while, the latest “stable” update to roll out this week, has introduced / released probably of the most important feature to help users (everyone) understand anywhere where their password may have been breached/compromised – not just on their Office 365 or laptop credentials but across any (and i mean) any web site or SaaS service they use in Edge.

Introducing Password Monitor in Edge

Microsoft have released a new feature called Password Monitor (which is included in Edge build 88 and later), which notifies users if any of their saved passwords have been found in a third-party breach.

Edge Password Monitor Graphic

This is done by using password hash comparison (so Microsoft doesn’t actually learn or store passwords anywhere), so users can be assured that neither Microsoft nor any other party can learn the user’s passwords while they are being monitored for breach.

When you turn on Password Monitor, Edge  starts periodically (you can force it too) checking the passwords you’ve saved in the browser against a huuuuuuge database of known leaked passwords that are stored in the cloud. If any of your passwords match those in the database, they’ll appear on the Password Monitor page in Microsoft Edge Settings. and you also get a pop-up notification if new ones are found. What this is basically telling you is that “any passwords listed there are no longer safe to use” and you should change them immediately – pretty damn useful advice for anyone!
 

Why this so important

Each year, hundreds of millions of usernames and passwords are exposed online when websites or apps become the target of data leaks and as i mentioned at the start, whilst the public are regularly cautioned against reusing the same username and password combination for more than one online account, it’s a common practice, which leaves them vulnerable on multiple sites when even one passwords gets leaked. Even if your password is complex – it only takes one site to be leaked and your password and username is out there – its like leaving the front door of your house wide-open.

Leaked usernames and passwords often end up for sale on the online black market, commonly referred to as the Dark Web. Hackers use automated scripts to try different stolen username and password combinations to hijack people’s accounts. If one of your accounts is taken over, you can be the victim of fraudulent transactions, identity theft, illegal fund transfers, or other illegal activities and bear in mind many of these sites allow you to save or store payment information, address information, family information on them – perfect for an identity theft!

Password Monitor helps protect your online accounts in Microsoft Edge by informing you when any of your passwords have been compromised, so you can update them. Changing passwords immediately is the best way to prevent your account from being hijacked.

Enabling Password Monitor

This new feature is not enabled by default. In order to active this, you need to carry out these simple steps

  1. Sign in to Microsoft Edge using your Microsoft account or your work or school account.
  2. Navigate to Settings and more > Settings > Profiles > Passwords.
  3. Turn on Show alerts when passwords are found in an online leak.
  4. Any unsafe passwords will then be displayed on the Password Monitor page.

Screenshot of settings in Edge

If you are signed in and syncing your passwords, Password Monitor is automatically enabled in your browsers – auto enablement

When you first enable Password Monitor for the first time, all your passwords will be checked to see if any of them have been compromised. If any of your passwords match those in the list of known leaked passwords, a notification appears:

 

This notification appears only once each time a new password is found to be unsafe. Microsoft give you two options at this point:  – view the details or dismiss the notification – its ok you can come back to them later. 

 

Responding to notifications

If Edge informs you that a user / password combination has been breached / therefore is no longer safe, can go here to learn more :

Settings and more > Settings > Profiles > Passwords > Password Monitor.

Here you will see a list of all the unsafe passwords Microsoft has found, and then for each account listed on the page you can be redirected to that site to allow you to update and change your password.  If an entry in the list of compromised passwords is no longer relevant (you may have deleted your account for example), you can click ignore – remember though, if just one site is breached and you use that account elsewhere – change it!

Microsoft have provided a nice Q&A and support page for this here: Password Monitor support page.

 

Read More about how Password Monitor works

Password Monitor will be made available to Edge users on a rolling basis so it will not be immediately visible to everyone.

You can read more about how this works and why is such a vital step forward for privacy, security and control of your online life here: Password Monitor: Safeguarding passwords in Microsoft Edge – Microsoft Research

How to try out the new redesigned Microsoft Teams “public preview” design.

Since #MicrosoftTeams first launched back in 2017, the core design of the interface hasn’t really changed visually as Microsoft Teams hasn’t really seen a lot of visual or design changes with the familiar “grey and purple” coloured side-navigation bars, and the purple title bar.

Screenshot of Teams Dark mode
Screenshot of Current Microsoft Teams Desktop in dark-mode

A Fresh Lick of Paint

Back in October 2020, Microsoft announced some changes for Teams, including the introduction of new “Fluent icons” and subtle colour changes to Teams both for the light (default) mode and the more popular dark mode in which the changes are much more obvious.

Microsoft recently made it possible to users (if enabled by the Teams Global Admin) to test out some of “coming soon” changes to Teams through a new public preview feature. This new fluent design update is the latest to show itself in the preview. I’m enabled within our corporate environment to try these out, which I have done – and here’s the new fresher view that is coming to everyone soon. 

As you can see below, the dark is much more dark (just compare to your own Teams client), and the icons on the left pane are refreshed a much more modern looking and, well just cleaner. Screenshot of Teams desktop showing Fluent Design

Ooooh…so how do I try the new Teams design?

Great question and it’s really easy to do so long as your company Microsoft Teams / Office 365 admin has enabled the ability for users to “opt in” from the Teams Admin Center. 

Screenshot showing how to enable Teams preview in Teams Admin Centre

One this is done (ask them), you (as a user), need to “enroll” your Teams app into the public preview program to get the preview features.

To do this, simply click on your profile picture at the top, click “about”, and then enable the “public preview” option, as shown below. You will get a notification which will alert you that you are about to switch to the public preview version of the Teams Client. At this point you will be signed out (if you aren’t you need to manually sign-out) and will then need to sign back in.

Enabling Teams Preview in the Teams client

What else is in Preview?

Microsoft publish the features of all release and preview versions of their Office 365 apps here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/officeupdates/current-channel-preview

Additionally, any user can give feedback to Microsoft on Teams by going to the
Help > Give Feedback within the Teams client.

Finally, Microsoft has a Microsoft Teams Public Preview space on their Tech Community Site which can be found here: https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/microsoft-teams-public-preview/bd-p/MicrosoftTeamsPublicPreview

Can I switch back?

Yep – simply follow the steps above but untick the option for the public preview, sign-out and back in again. 

Say Hello to the SurfacePro 7+

Surface Promo

Microsoft today have announced some subtle but important updates to their Surface family which I wanted to share with you quickly.

As always, I welcome any comments and thoughts – are you a fan or always on Surface range? What’s your thoughts on Hub 2S?

Surface Pro 7+ (not the “Pro 8”) Launched

The Surface Pro 5 shipped with an LTE variant which was and remained popular but neither the Pro 6 nor Pro 7 included an LTE variant which was extremely frustrating for organisations that wanted always on Surface Devices. Until now the only way to that was to move to the ARM based Surface Pro X or the baby Surface Go LTE...until now that is!

Announcing -the Surface Pro 7+ (yes, not sure why it’s not the Pro 8)

Image of Surface Pro 7+
Image of the Surface Pro 7 plus (courtesy Microsoft)

 

The Pro 7+ includes the following key updates to last year’s Surface Pro 7:

  • 11th Gen Processor options
    • Dual-core 11th Gen Intel® Core™ i3-1115G4 Processor (Wi-Fi)
    • Quad-core 11th Gen Intel® Core™ i5-1135G7 Processor (Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi AND LTE)
    • Quad-core 11th Gen Intel® Core™ i7-1165G7 Processor (Wi-Fi)
  • Same form factor as Pro 7
  • 2.1x faster than the Pro 7 (10th Gen) 
  • Optional LTE Support on select models
  • Battery is bigger and longer with 4.5x better than the Pro 5 LTE
  • Now includes removable SSD – like the Surface ProX

 

Surface Hub 2S 85”

The latest news here is that shipping of the latest giant 85″ Surface Hub has started shipping with US, UK and other shipping this month (existing orders) and EU following in early Feb followed by other regions such as Asia-Pac / India etc by March 2021.

Surface Hub 2S 85"

Surface Hub2S 85″ (courtesy Microsoft)

Microsoft spent a bit of time focusing on the huge achievements they have made here, not just on getting the device ready, but getting it ready for shipment and fulfilment globally – which given the pressures on manufacturing due to COVID-19 and Microsoft’s previous “challenges” in getting Surface Hub v1 into market this was well called out!

For those not familiar, Hub 2 S 85″ is a beast but a thing of beauty. If builds on the gorgeous look and familiar Surface family feel but also provides a nice upgrade to the (now 5-year-old) Surface Hub V1 84″. It’s still heavy at 85kgs but won’t require 4 of the “world’s strongest man contestants” at least to move into position and wall mount it. There’s also of course the familiar Steelcase wall mounts and roam stands available.

You can see the full spec’s in the image below

Surface Hub 2S 85" Specs