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Microsoft Unveils Azure Confidential Computing Data Encryption Service

Microsoft today unveiled Azure confidential computing, a cloud computing service that encrypts data while it is in use, Microsoft Chief Technology Officer Mark Russinovich said in a prepared statement.

With Azure confidential computing, end users can create a security enclave based on Microsoft server software or Intel chips, according to Russinovich. In addition, the service ensures Azure users can store data in a virtual black box for protection against cybercriminals, governments and malicious insiders, Bloomberg indicated.

Azure confidential computing also makes user data inaccessible to cybercriminals and Microsoft alike, Russinovich stated. That way, Microsoft won't be able to turn over data in response to government warrants and subpoenas.

"Confidential computing offers a protection that to date has been missing from public clouds," Russinovich noted. "This means that data can be processed in the cloud with the assurance that it is always under customer control."

Customers can try out Azure confidential computing through Microsoft's Early Access program, which provides access to Azure VSM and SGX-enabled virtual machines, tools, software development kits (SDKs) and Windows and Linux support that allow any cloud application to protect its data while in use.

Azure Cybersecurity Attacks on the Rise

The number of Azure cybersecurity attacks rose 300 percent on a year-over-year basis in the first quarter of 2017, according to the Microsoft Security Intelligence Report (SIR) for 1Q17.

Other notable findings from the 1Q17 SIR included:

  • The number of Microsoft account sign-ins attempted from malicious IP addresses increased 44 percent year over year.
  • More than two-thirds of incoming attacks on Azure services came from IP addresses in China and the United States.
  • Trojans were the most commonly encountered category of malicious software.

Microsoft invests more than $1 billion annually on cybersecurity and will continue to explore ways to help Azure users safeguard their sensitive data, according to Russinovich.

Meanwhile, Azure confidential computing may help Microsoft further accelerate its server products and cloud services revenue growth.

Microsoft server products and cloud services revenue rose 15 percent year over year in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2017, driven in large part by a 97 percent increase in Azure revenue, the company said in a prepared statement.

Also, Microsoft recorded a commercial cloud annualized revenue run rate that exceeded $18.9 billion in the quarter.

Dan Kobialka

Dan Kobialka is senior contributing editor, MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E. He covers IT security, IT service provider business strategies and partner programs. Dan holds a M.A. in Print and Multimedia Journalism from Emerson College and a B.A. in English from Bridgewater State University. In his free time, Dan enjoys jogging, traveling, playing sports, touring breweries and watching football.