analysis

The flexibility of Windows 10 is putting us on the path to a secure workplace

By Robin Lipscomb, - Analysis

Microsoft’s new eagerly awaited operating system, Windows 10, was launched to much fanfare this summer, signaling the company’s move to a more personal and contextual approach to delivering ICT services.

This paradigm shift is a reflection on the way people now consume ICT services and in how they work in today’s modern world. Users want to be more mobile and work from devices that enable them to be far more effective, productive and relevant throughout their busy lives.

With an increase in the use of tablets and smartphones, location is seemingly no longer a barrier but security threats are changing and, in response, the way they are managed has had to evolve.

If you look back over the history of Windows, traditionally work was something people did in their office, where, typically the internet and applications were accessed via a VPN.  The company owned the devices, which were all confined by strict policies – each user was somewhat confined and managed in a regimented manner. Individualism was not thought as important in this highly secure model!

Today’s mobile technologies have crashed through these barriers and users habits have changed, blurring the edges between consumer and business computing. But with this increased mobility, new security threats have evolved – hazards that weren’t even a twinkle in the eye of developers a decade ago.

Therefore Windows 10 incorporates a set of features designed to improve security on mobile devices and provide a more intuitive approach to using technology.

In this ever-changing security landscape Microsoft has modified its approach to the way it introduces updates for its new operating system, introducing a principle of continuous improvement to replace the methodology of staged upgrades.

Microsoft has declared that Windows 10 is the last real operating system to come out of Redmond as it makes its transition to a cloud-based as-a-service model. With faster and more frequent updates being made available to Windows 10, the new approach will see small incremental improvements to the platform rather than a large change every three years or so.

In theory, this flexible approach means the new OS will be more agile and up-to-date, and emerging security threats can be countered quicker and more effectively.

The more personal stance of Windows 10 can also be evidenced through its inclusion of biometric authentication, something Microsoft has been working towards through its membership of the industry consortium the FIDO Alliance.

This comes in the form of Windows Hello, which offers a biometric authentication alternative to passwords by making it possible for users to log into devices running Windows 10 using their facial features or fingerprints. To do this users will require specialized hardware, such as image recognition sensors.

Biometrics promise to offer a host of benefits to the users, such as a reduction in instances of identity theft, an issue that has become a blight for the online community, with the number of people falling victim to identity theft in the UK rising by almost a third vs the previous year.

The move away from passwords will also be a welcome change for corporate helpdesks as well who still receive far more calls requesting password reset than any other demands. After all, you can always get access to your device, unless you’ve forgotten to screw your head on!

Over time it is expected that we will see the emergence of a dual authentication process where, for example, both finger print and voice recognition will be used to in order to access Internet services over the cloud.

The introduction of a new web browser, called Edge, with Windows 10 is further proof of Microsoft’s commitment to increased security.

Traditionally, Microsoft has been a martyr to supporting legacy versions of its old browser Internet Explorer, which is a key target for vulnerabilities.

While users of Windows 10 will still be able to employ Internet Explorer 11 if they choose, Edge will be the default browser for most users of the new operating system. Edge comes with enhanced security features and incorporates sandboxing technology that keeps what users are doing online separate from their personal information and data.

The general theme running through Windows 10 is an operating system aimed at individual users where enhanced security features are baked into the core of the programming. With features delivered in a more intuitive way, people can be more productive, wherever they choose to work, meaning IT is not regarded as a barrier to success.

Microsoft wants people to use Windows as the portal to a host of web –based apps and software and has introduced a more reactive and agile approach to security to help them do that.

Of course, the general user will not care about what goes on under the bonnet. As long as they can access an app they want, when they want and from where they want, they will be happy thanks to a constantly improving system of security and alerts.

Microsoft wants to ensure ‘it just works’, something they have struggled with in the past. Compared with their competitors – Android and Apple’s iOS – Microsoft has up until now been regarded as a bit clunky by consumers, and as a result has had not much success in the mobile space.

Microsoft is betting that things are changing with Windows 10. A truly secure workplace could be just around the corner.

To learn more about Windows 10, see our previous blog post here. Click here for the next blog post in the series that looks at the Internet of Things. 

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