Microsoft's new Windows 11 operating system wants you to trust no one

Cybercrime is more sophisticated, widespread and relentless, with criminals targeting critical infrastructure

Microsoft, the world's largest software company, is touting the security and reliability of its recently launched Windows 11 operating system, banking on a zero-trust philosophy to protect users who are under constant threat from cyber attacks in this new era of working from anywhere.

The US company – one of only two with a $2 trillion market capitalisation as of Tuesday and behind only Apple – believes the next decade will throw in new challenges for work, study and any other activity, and computer systems must be in touch with the flexibility companies have been forced to embrace to tackle unpredictable crises that directly affect operations and the workforce.

"Anybody inside the perimeter is trusted and anybody outside is not. But that that model doesn't work any more because people are working from everywhere. We advocate for the zero-trust model which means, by default, I trust nobody – anyone who is trying to access my data or my information has to prove their trust," Mohammed Arif, business group director for modern work and security at Microsoft, told The National.

Cybercrime has become more sophisticated, widespread and relentless, with criminals targeting critical infrastructure such as health care, information technology, financial services and energy sectors, with attacks that cripple businesses and harm consumers.

But positive trends are emerging, including victims coming forward and increased engagement from law enforcement. Governments are also passing new laws and allocating more resources as they recognise cyber crime as a threat to national security, according to Microsoft's digital defence report.

Microsoft and fellow Big Tech player Google recently pledged to spend $30 billion over the next five years to fight cyber crime.

Windows 11, the 10th major version of Microsoft's flagship OS since its first release in 1985, features a redesigned interface that puts emphasis on productivity and collaboration in order to tackle what Microsoft calls the "hybrid paradox".

A survey by company showed that 70 per cent of respondents "loved" the flexibility they experienced with remote work and they want that to continue. That same proportion also want more in-person time, which calls for increased adoption and flexibility.

"This does mean that company leaders must rethink how their companies work, what will their companies operate like, so it's an interesting challenge ... for sure technology is a part of that solution, but it also involves changes in processes, policies and so on," Mr Arif said.

Covid-19 drastically changed how people worked, forcing technology providers to radically improve or alter their services to keep up with the unprecedented surge in demand from users. As the pandemic engulfed the world, Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella famously said that "we’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months".

Companies, in turn, have implemented a range of measures, from reduced work weeks to the freedom to work from anywhere, so as to keep employees productive and engaged, while also being mindful of well-being.

"We need to definitely believe that there is no going back to how things were in the past. We think this accelerated digital transformation is here to stay," Mr Arif said.

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We need to definitely believe that there is no going back to how things were in the past. We think this accelerated digital transformation is here to stay
Mohammed Arif, business group director for modern work and security at Microsoft

"The choice that employees and employers will make is that employers will have to decide what kind of work environments they want to set up and employees will also choose where they want to work and how they want to work."

Microsoft is also investing heavily in building data centres around the globe, with four to be opened in China by early 2022. It opened the Middle East's first data centres in the UAE in 2019. Microsoft, citing an International Data Corporation study, said that its cloud ecosystem will create 55,000 jobs by 2022.

Updated: October 16th 2021, 4:30 AM
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