Microsoft boosts Windows Azure security with multi-factor authentication

Microsoft has added an additional layer of security, called multi-factor authentication, to its Windows Azure public cloud platform

Microsoft has added an additional layer of security, called multi-factor authentication, to its Windows Azure public cloud platform to provide increased access security and convenience for IT and users while accessing cloud applications.

The security tool provides Microsoft cloud users with secure access to on-premises and cloud applications from anywhere in the world. In addition to a user name and password, Windows Azure users will be able to authenticate via a mobile phone app, an automated voice call or a text message with a passcode, said Steven Martin, general manager of Windows Azure at Microsoft.

Identity and access management is an anchor for security and top of mind for enterprise IT departments. It is key to extending anytime, anywhere access to employees, partners and customers,” Martin wrote on Microsoft’s official blog.

The multi-factor authentication feature can be configured by IT for cloud applications and “meets user demand for a simple sign-in experience”, he added.

The cloud computing sector is forecast to grow at a pace of 36% every year, reaching revenues of $20bn (£12.7bn) by 2016. But a recent Gartner report revealed that users of cloud services – especially Software as a service (SaaS) – are finding security provisions inadequate.

Ambiguous terms around data confidentiality, data integrity and recovery after a data breach lead to dissatisfaction among cloud services users, Gartner analysts found. As a result, they called for more transparency and better risk management in cloud services.

Meanwhile, research by Ponemon Institute in March 2013 revealed that half of IT leaders are concerned about the security of cloud computing resources.

By deploying the authentication server on existing hardware or in a Windows Azure virtual machine, users will be able to synchronise with their Windows Server Active Directory for automated user setup and secure access to on-premises virtual private networks (VPNs) and web applications, according to Microsoft.

There are two billing options for Windows Azure multi-factor authentication – per user and per authentication. From 1 November 2013, it can be purchased for $2 per user per month for any number of authentications or $2 a month for 10 authentications.

Users can also set up multi-factor security for other Microsoft cloud services such as Office 365, and Dynamics CRM.

“Windows Azure multi-factor authentication is a managed service that makes it easy to securely manage user access to Windows Azure, Office 365, Intune, Dynamics CRM and any third-party cloud service that supports Windows Azure Active Directory,” said Scott Guthrie, corporate vice-president for Windows Azure. 

The security feature can be also used to control access to IT’s custom applications that have been developed and hosted within the cloud platform.

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