From InTune To Surface Along Lengthy And Insecure Corridors

Day 2 of TechEd carried on from where yesterday left off. Jam-packed sessions, a lot of information to absorb and a crazy amount of walking. The convention centre itself is almost 1.75 miles long and with the entire centre housing TechEd this year there’s a lot of running around trying to get to sessions on time.

My head was a little bit hazy this morning and I’m still not sure if this was due to the jet lag or the few beers I had last night. One thing is for certain, New Orleans comes to life at night and there is never a shortage of places to go to enjoy some food and talk to locals.

Today was all about Windows 8 (8.1), Windows Intune and Cyber Security. My first session of the day was titled 'Everything you wanted to know about Windows 8 and 8.1'. Two days ago I wouldn’t have seen myself going to this session but I thought it was appropriate given I am now the owner of the Surface RT and Surface Pro.

This session was run by senior Microsoft product managers and engineers from the UI (user interface), security and social networking team. As for Windows 8, well first things first. Windows 8.1 beta is due to be released at the Build conference in June. According to Microsoft 8.1 is putting in (and bringing back) the features that its consumers have asked for. Some of these feature include the ability to change tile sizes, boot up to desktop or start screen, more PowerShell cmdlets, kiosk mode and more Group Policy. 8.1 will also be more suitable for smaller screen devices.

Microsoft is also working closely with vendors and focusing heavily on the biometrics area. With PKI, social attacks, malware and identity theft increasing this is something that is becoming a high priority, especially when you consider that software can always be compromised. It’s also worth noting that many American companies are using Windows 8 in the enterprise, especially in the retail space.

Personally I still think there’s still a lot of inertia against pursuing Windows 8 in the enterprise. Some would argue that it’s the best business tablet environment available and with the new enhancements in 8.1 and the full release being available later in the year the uptake will certainly increase. For those interested there is a really good Windows 8 handbook available from the App Store for free. It covers keyboard shortcuts and other fancy bits that makes the user experience that little bit easier. Simply search ‘Windows 8 handbook’.

Another buzz word which has been doing the rounds this year is Windows Intune. Windows Intune is Microsoft’s cloud-based solution for Mobile Device Management (MDM), another area which is seeing incredible growth. The growth of smart devices is exploding and today users are wanting to be able to work from any location, use their own resources and have access to all their work information. An important part of this is the ability to deploy and managing applications across different platforms and more importantly protect identities and data.

Windows Intune is a subscription-based service but it does allow integration with System Center Configuration Manager. The SCCM integration (connector) allows organisations to connect with there Intune cloud instance and provide capability for managing mobile assets. It doesn't provide the full capability of the Windows Intune cloud management portal but it will provide some functions to make managing assets easier. There is a try before you buy option available also for those not yet wanting to take the plunge.

This afternoon saw me attending a session on 'Cyber Security - How survive the Ultimate Cyber Threat!' If you’re like me cyber threats are something that just happen, it’s part of the world we live in and we just have to deal with it. Interestingly enough most cyber threats to organisations come from within side the organisation itself. Economic espionage counts for approximately $13 billion in losses each year in the US alone. The amount of countries performing attacks, tactics being used and the amount of threats continues to increase.

It was clear with the session today that what we’re seeing now is the tip of the iceberg. A recent survey also highlighted that 65 per cent of company employees would happily exchange $25,000 for company data. 10 per cent of those surveyed said that $25,000 wasn’t enough! An insider threat according to Microsoft is a current or former employee, contractor or other business partner who has or had authorized access to a company network, system or data and used that access in a manner that negatively affects the confidentiality, integrity or availability of the organisation’s information or information systems. It’s important for businesses to spot early warning signs and mitigate the risk.

Part of this presentation highlighted just how easy it is to perform cybercrime. The instructor was more than happy to run through a free application that can be used to extract corporate information. Based on a simple URL, within seconds we could retrieve mail lists from a company’s internal network. Industrial espionage is increasingly rapidly and organisations need to take proactive measures to ensure they minimize the chance of any threat. It’s not just about firewalls and antivirus, it’s about staff too!

Visit Lifehacker's World of Servers Newsroom for all the latest news from TechEd North America 2013. And don't forget: TechEd is coming to Australia in September. Click here for more information.


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