Microsoft's security tactics focus on customers, transparency, and working with its tech competitors

Diana Kelley, Microsoft's Cybersecurity Field CTO, talks about the company's approach to data security, collaborating with its major tech competitors, and why the cloud is a security imperative.

CNET's Dan Patterson interviewed Diana Kelley, Microsoft's Cybersecurity Field CTO, about the company's approach to data security, collaborating with its major tech competitors, and why the cloud is a security imperative. The following is an edited transcript of the interview.

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Dan Patterson: We like to think of tech as this homogenous blend, but then there are also these monolithic companies. Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft. How do you work with your colleagues and other companies? How do you interoperate with the rest of the technology industry to make sure that some things like democracy or even the safety of the enterprise, SMB, and consumers are secured?

Diana Kelley: We are incredibly customer focused so our first line is to be as transparent with our customers as we can. We actually have something called the Trust Center. The Trust Center is where our lawyers worked on the wording but I promise it's not a legalese. It's very clear and easy to digest and understand what our commitment is to trust and transparency to all of our customers. And some of our competitors are customers too. It happens in technology. We also are one of the founding members of something called Tech Accord. The Tech Accord is about agreements among large technology companies about how their data can be used and a commitment to not allowing anyone, any nation state to go maliciously after a citizen and persecute them. Essentially laying out rules of the road.

Then we work on data science. We've talked about machine learning and state of the art and making those models better and optimizing them over time. Microsoft has a data security meetup once a year where we invite our competitors, other large technology companies like IBM, Facebook, and Netflix to come. Nobody is sharing secrets, corporate secrets. What it's about is smart scientists who know that defending democracy and defending information is important. Coming together, sharing state of the art thinking so that we can all be better.

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Dan Patterson: Help me understand. I know I'm asking some of the same questions in different ways. Take me five years into the future. Help me understand both the threats of the future as well as the defensive tactics that will be deployed in the future.

Diana Kelley: It's likely that in the future the threats are gonna take more and more advantage of those nine billion devices that are coming online. That attack service being very broad. Looking at a tax where the malicious actors are gonna be trying to get in anywhere they can, whether it's gonna be your toaster. This sounded like fantasy 20 years ago when I was in the business. Now, we do actually have smart toasters. Your toaster, your car, your garage door, your baby monitor. In business: elevators, building automation systems, the heat sensors for example, fire suppression in data centers. All of these looking at the expansion of that attack surface, that's gonna be where I suspect that the attackers are gonna be going more frequently. What about us? What about the defenders? This is why the cloud is a security imperative because as we see this spread of these devices, we need to have a place to be able to manage and observe and monitor that activity. And also, as quickly as possible to take action if possible. When you start seeing the power of the cloud, that's where you can see this very fast, rapid turn around.

When there's defender world for example, we've had situations where one device and one part of the world encounters a malicious piece of software and it is identified. Then the signal can go up to the cloud and all the defender devices are now gonna be protected against that malicious software. Before it can spread, you get it eradicated, and you get it blocked. As we get these nine billion devices every year, being able to identify that quickly and get the fix out over the air as rapidly as possible is going to be really, really important.

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About Dan Patterson

Dan is a Senior Writer for TechRepublic. He covers cybersecurity and the intersection of technology, politics and government.

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