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The future of enterprise mobility and security for utilities

By Ryan Northrop, Microsoft Mobility & Security Product Manager on December 7, 2016

Filed under Power & Utilities

Cybersecurity is a top priority for most companies. For utilities, it’s vital. Being able to leverage the benefits of cloud computing requires utilities to have full faith in the cloud provider’s accessibility and security systems.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking at Bentley Systems’ 2016 Utilities Forum, where I partnered with Mike Schellhase, Bentley’s Senior Director of Software Development, to examine the current and future impact of enterprise mobility and security on utilities and their field workers.

During our discussion, we explored how very few industries face the challenges of the highly distributed work that utilities do, where field work must occur wherever the infrastructure lies. The processes, technology, and networks that bring utilities’ field workers to new levels of efficiency are evolving every day. Because of this, utilities face security challenges and solutions in cloud-based approaches and mobile app management as they enable field workers with the latest information to prioritize, schedule, and complete their assigned jobs—and send key information gathered at job sites back to update corporate systems. As all of this is happening, utilities must protect confidential customer information, meet stringent regulatory requirements, and have an always-working, always-secure environment.

Microsoft’s goal is to help utilities keep pace with these security challenges with freedom and peace of mind. We offer a layered security approach that allows utilities to access information while protecting that data across the email and collaboration apps they use—enabling a Protect, Detect, and Respond strategy.

Utilities have to Protect the front door to safeguard resources, which means you define policies that allow or block entrance based on certain risks. Advanced risk-based conditional access determines who can retrieve data and from which devices. Using biometrics—fingerprint and facial recognition—makes it harder for unwanted users to get in and easier for employees because they don’t have to remember passwords.

Detect means if someone gets through the front door, you monitor the user when he/she is in an application or file. Detect protects your data through machine learning and data analytics to identify an attack before it happens. For years, rights management services (RMS) helped businesses with policy enforcement. Now, RMS has evolved into a system that can automatically classify a document based on the content. For example, when a file contains credit card information, it automatically is classified as confidential, which puts into effect preset policies about who can access the information and from where.

In today’s world, there is no such thing as being 100% secure. Risk will always be there, which requires the Respond layer. Microsoft gives utilities the tools and information needed to help identify and respond quickly to an attack before damage is done. The technology helps you uncover suspicious activity and pinpoint threats with visibility and behavioral analytics. Advanced Threat Analytics protects users on the network while Cloud App security takes over when users are accessing data outside the network with SaaS applications or other websites.

This is where Microsoft offers something unique and powerful: The Microsoft Intelligent Security Graph. The Security Graph is an aggregate of anonymized data from the hundreds of global cloud services we operate (both consumer and commercial) and data about the threats faced by the over one billion PCs we update every month via Windows Update. The information is combined with external data points collected through extensive research and partnership with industry and law enforcement through our Digital Crime Units and Cybersecurity Defense Operations Center. To give you a sense of what that means, we add to the Security Graph data from the 300 billion monthly authentications across our consumer and enterprise services, as well as the 200 billion emails that are analyzed each month for malware and malicious web sites.

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What this means for you is that the Microsoft Intelligent Security Graph uniquely positions us to better protect utilities and their data, helping you to harness the power of the cloud while keeping a strong level of security by protecting information, detecting breaches, and responding before damage can be done.

It’s exciting to see how today’s and future mobile apps and cloud technologies can improve both field worker productivity and customer satisfaction for utilities. For more information about how Microsoft’s identity-driven innovations can help you stay secure and productive, visit: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/cloud-platform/enterprise-mobility-security.

I was pleased to participate with our good partner Bentley Systems in this event. They are a global leader dedicated to providing comprehensive software solutions for advancing infrastructure, and have been instrumental for many years in helping customers with the transition to the cloud. I encourage you to check out the work that Bentley is doing here.

Twitter: @MSutilities

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