Microsoft India’s Keshav Dhakad on the need for security in the time of Covid-19

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Updated: August 06, 2020 6:25 PM

The company processes more than 8 trillion security signals every day and uses them to proactively protect people from security threats

In order to counter these rising threats, organizations need strong tools, Dhakad said.In order to counter these rising threats, organizations need strong tools, Dhakad said.

At a time, when technology has become one of the key drivers for businesses, the issue of cybersecurity can no longer be ignored. In fact, companies such as Microsoft are now constantly monitoring threats. In conversation with FEOnline, Keshav Dhakad, group head and assistant general counsel- Corporate, External and Legal Affairs, Microsoft India, talks about how the company is dealing with the issue of security and the need for it (edited excerpts)

How important is cybersecurity in a post-Covid-19 era?

Over the past few months, technology has been the mainstay for first responders, governments, and companies to ensure business continuity. While we have witnessed the benefits of technology, the spike in remote work has made the security profile of organizations and users alike, more vulnerable. In fact, our threat intelligence teams saw 9,100 total file encounters between February 2 and May 2, that includes malware and phishing emails which used the Covid-19 crisis as a lure to get people to download malicious software. In order to counter these rising threats, organizations need strong tools, which have built-in security and advanced threat protection capabilities right at the PC, mobile and IoT level, powered by cloud-based threat monitoring and analytics, This will enable faster security patching and product updates.

How has Mircosoft changed its strategy post the spread of Covid-19?

Privacy and security are ingrained in the core design principles of every product and every solution we develop. Microsoft processes more than 8 trillion security signals every day and uses them to proactively protect people from security threats. We invest over $1 billion annually on cybersecurity, building advanced intelligence capabilities by design into all our solutions and platforms, and leverage our global threat intelligence graph to study the ever-changing threat landscape to proactively fight cybercrime.

Our Digital Crimes Unit, and threat intelligence teams are constantly monitoring threats and signals to identify and tackle COVID-19 themed attacks on customers. We continue to innovate at a fast pace during this crisis, developing new identity capabilities to help foster a secure apps ecosystem.

What is the kind of role machine learning and privacy is expected to play in these times?

Governments and local health authorities are heavily reliant on technology-driven tools for disaster management, relief efforts, and managing information flow for citizen safety. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are being used increasingly to enable containment measures, monitor, patient health and build models for analyzing outbreaks. These tools in the process are collecting and using a massive amount of personally identifiable data. Take for example the health data available with institutions on the frontlines of COVID-19 response, such as healthcare facilities and hospitals. This data, if not handled responsibly, could result in misuse, or get subjected to data breaches or data theft. This means that the government and companies processing or storing personal data now have a big responsibility to ensure cybersecurity and safeguard privacy.

How does Microsoft go about Detecting phishing and hacking attempts?

To combat this situation, we use our multi-layered defense system- a tool that includes machine learning, detonation, and signal sharing to quickly find and shut down email attacks. If any of these mechanisms detect a malicious email, URL or attachment, the message is blocked even before reaching the inbox. Attachments and links are opened in isolation through virtual machines – in essence, like detonating a bomb in an unpopulated area. On top of that, analysts continuously evaluate user-submitted reports of suspicious emails, which can be used to better understand attacks and to train machine learning models. Once a file or URL is identified as malicious, the information is shared with other services such as Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) to ensure endpoint detection benefits from email detection and vice versa. Sharing signals across services means that PC users with Windows Defender can be protected even if they are not using Microsoft email services.

Can you elaborate on Microsoft’s push for security in its products?

Through Teams, we provide privacy and security controls for video conferences that safeguards user privacy, secures user identity and account information, as well as protects data and defends against cybersecurity threats. In fact, Teams complies with 17 global standards and meets the industry’s most stringent security and compliance demands, supporting more than 90 regulatory standards and laws. We recognize that security, compliance, and privacy have never been more important. COVID-19 has fundamentally the way we work, interact and collaborate with others. At Microsoft, we remain deeply committed to help organizations and users stay productive and secure and trust the technology that they use.

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