Microsoft wages war on passwords

Supports passwordless log-in for Azure AD apps via Microsoft Authenticator

Microsoft is “declaring an end to the era of passwords,” according to Frank X. Shaw, the company’s corporate vice president, communications.

As part of a suite of security announcements Microsoft today said it was boosting its support for passwordless login via the Microsoft Authenticator app. Authenticator now supports passwordless login for “hundreds of thousands of Azure AD connected apps,” the company said.

Authenticator supports password-free login by combining an employee’s phone and fingerprint, face or PIN.

The announcement was made at the company’s Ignite 2018 conference in Florida.

“Nearly all data breaches start with compromised passwords somewhere,” Shaw told a briefing ahead of the announcement.

“No company is helping enterprises eliminate more passwords than Microsoft with Windows Hello login capabilities and our work with the FIDO alliance,” Shaw said.

Confidential computing

The company also revealed today that it was launching a public preview of its ‘confidential computing’ service for Microsoft Azure.

Microsoft in September last year announced it was offering a select group of customers the opportunity to participate in a private preview of the service, which uses Intel Skylake CPUs’ SGX (Software Guard Extensions) capabilities to create a hardware-based enclave, allowing the processing of highly sensitive information within Azure.

“We worked closely with Intel to be the first public cloud to introduce Skylake servers into a public cloud data centre and then made them available through a limited preview where customers can sign up and we work with them to give them access to the servers, to start to play with this kind of technology,” Microsoft Azure chief technology officer Mark Russinovich told Computerworld earlier this year.

“When you run your computation and store your data in an SGX enclave, nothing outside of that enclave can see what’s in it,” Russinovich said. “It’s encrypted, down at the processor level, and nothing can tamper with what’s in it.”

Although the information is protected, it is possible to cryptographically confirm that the correct code is running within the enclave.

Microsoft announced today it was expanding its security 'report card' — Microsoft Secure Score — to include EMS and Azure Security Centre.

The company also said it was starting the roll out of Microsoft Threat Protection. “We’re building on what we’ve learned with our Office, Azure and Windows Advanced Threat Protection services and are bringing them together into one integrated Microsoft Threat Protection experience,” Shaw said.

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