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Microsoft Azure confronts security challenges

The news: Microsoft cloud services, including Azure, are attracting sharp criticism for lax security protocols, slow response to threats, and lack of transparency.

Sounding the alarm: The CEO of security firm Tenable, Amit Yoran, said that Microsoft is ”grossly irresponsible” with its security practices on Azure and that the company has a “culture of toxic obfuscation.”

  • The criticism was in response to a critical Azure vulnerability that has remained unpatched for months. 
  • The “cross-tenant” security issue can enable unauthorized access to data and applications belonging to other customers.
  • The flaw was reported March 30 but won’t be fixed until September 28, per Bank Info Security.
  • In response, Microsoft provided an explanation of the “extensive process” the company follows when a vulnerability is disclosed, stating that it wants to ensure protection without significant customer disruption.

Zooming out: Security experts aren't the only ones chiding Microsoft for cloud exploits and vulnerabilities.

  • US Sen. Ron Wyden wrote a letter to CISA director Jen Easterly, attorney general Merrick Garland and FTC chair Lina Khan urging them to hold Microsoft responsible for “negligent cybersecurity practices.”
  • This is in relation to a hacking campaign against Microsoft in July that targeted organizations and US government agencies. “At least hundreds of thousands of individual US government emails” were stolen.
  • Microsoft revealed July 14 that hackers had stolen an encryption key that gave them widespread access to cloud services. The company mitigated the issue and said it would improve security.

The bigger the cloud, the bigger the risk: As a key vendor to the US government and Department of Defense, Microsoft’s cloud security practices will continue to be under scrutiny.

Our take: The benefit of the Pentagon’s $9 billion Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability (JWCC) is that it divides the contract among Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and Oracle.

  • The contract ensures that technology and solutions are not tied to one vendor and can be adjusted should the need arise.
  • The downside: Microsoft will have an uphill battle in restoring customer and government confidence in its services or risk losing brand capital and cloud customers to competitors.