“Everybody is under pressure and yet the world isn’t getting any simpler. On the contrary, the attacks are becoming more and more sophisticated.”
In today’s digital landscape, cybersecurity has become a critical issue for businesses, governments, and individuals alike. The frequency and severity of attacks, along with evolving work habits of employees, mean that IT teams are becoming increasingly overwhelmed.
In an exclusive interview, Expert Insights spoke to Steve Dispensa, the VP of product for the endpoint management division at Microsoft, to gain his insights on the state of the security landscape, and the challenges faced by organizations today.
You can listen to our full conversation with Steve on the Expert Insights Podcast.
Dispensa joined Microsoft in 2013, following the acquisition of his company PhoneFactor, a start-up that is now a core component of Microsoft Azure AD’s MFA solution. Dispensa describes a “revolution” in the company after current CEO Satya Nadella took over. “Microsoft is now this incredibly innovative, front-line organization,” he says. “We’re really back on the front edge of the coolest technology in the world, and internally the culture has reflected that.”
Dispensa and his team are responsible for managing the Microsoft Intune platform, which together with Microsoft Configuration Manager, is used by hundreds of millions of users, on hundreds of millions of devices around the world. It enables teams to impose security and compliance policies across PCs, mobile devices, Macs, and Linux devices. Microsoft recently released a major new update for Intune, which Steve has been working on since joining the Intune division, three years ago.
The new Microsoft Intune Suite includes an enterprise endpoint privilege management solution, building on the machinery that is in Windows and a new mobile application management component, which connects a micro-VPN from the managed app, directly to the applications that the user is trying to access from their personal device, among many other new capabilities.
The Magic Of Product Management
Microsoft has an “unmatched capability in really high scale enterprise endpoint management,” Dispensa says. Microsoft is three times larger than their closest competitor in the space and has a user base in the “nine figure numbers.” Developing a product with such a large user base, each with diverse needs and security challenges, is not easy.
Prioritizing development updates and deciding which features to launch next is the “magic of product management,” Dispensa explains. “We have different kinds of requests per industry… educationis a huge business for us. That’s kind of distinct in terms of their requirements. And there are small businesses versus enterprise, which have different requirements. Born in the cloud versus on-prem.”
“The way we prioritize is obviously customer driven, we have no shortage of customer signal. We all talk to customers daily in the product team, in order to make sure we have a good signal… the good news is the world changes pretty fast, and so every quarter we build a new plan and we’re able to take the latest feedback into account. But it’s certainly a big challenge.”
But with scale, comes the power of data. “The amount of enterprise data and signals that we get is unmatched in the world…all of that signal gives us new opportunities to make things less complex, more cost effective, and more secure for organizations. That’s an exciting part of the scale we work at.”
The Challenges Facing IT Teams
This data also provides insights into the challenges facing IT teams. “IT departments are overwhelmed,” Dispensa says. “The number of attacks continue to rise. There is an increasing persistence and severity of attacks that organizations are having to deal with, and yet IT departments are more stretched than ever before, both in terms of personnel and finding qualified folks to fill roles, but also in terms of budget. IT is stretched very, very thin.”
Shrinking IT budgets have become a major challenge for security teams, at a time when attacks continue to become both more frequent and more severe. “We’ve been talking with customers a lot about how to do more with less, because that’s been the refrain that we’ve heard from our customers. Everybody is under pressure, and yet the world isn’t getting any simpler. On the contrary, the attacks are becoming more and more sophisticated.”
“We have seen it, and of course, the whole world has seen it very vividly over the last year with Ukraine and the significant cyber component of that. The economic challenge associated with dealing with the increasingly severe security landscape is certainly something that’s on the mind of CISOs today.”
Dispensa explains that another challenge facing IT teams is evolving work habits. “Working remotely…has really put additional pressure on SOCs and on IT teams. The corporate perimeter has been dead for years. But this takes it to the next level, when literally everybody in the organization is working remotely or even worse, working at combination of remotely and in the office. You have the best of both worlds from a scenario mix perspective.” Addressing the move to bring-your-own-device is one of the major components of Intune’s latest product update.
The final trend Dispensa and his team have identified is an increasing need to break down silos between IT teams and security teams. “They came from different places traditionally, but the modern reality is that these two organizations have got to communicate in lockstep in order to effectively secure the organization while still letting users be productive.”
The Future Of Endpoint Management
Looking forward, Dispensa believes the future of endpoint management will be about seamlessness, integration, and automation. “We believe the trend around doing more with less is going to hold, the trend of hybrid work is going to hold, and the trend of security getting ever more complex is going hold. We believe strongly in the view that the more seamless you can build a solution set, the more integrated a solution set can be, then the easier and the lower cost it will be.”
“As I said earlier, the data and signals that we have is going to unblock some pretty amazing opportunities to automate and to bring more sort of predictability into the system for IT pros, so that they can move from being reactive to more proactive with managing and protecting their end user estate.”
Microsoft has recently announced a $10 billion USD investment in ChatGPT developer OpenAI, and the company will be rolling out AI services within the Edge browser and across the Microsoft 365 application suite, bringing the power of AI technology to more technology users than ever before, amid debate about the future of AI technologies in the work place.
“AI is a defining technology of our time, and we are optimistic about what AI can do for people, industry, and society. I don’t think that AI takes over everything, and there is no more IT. That’s not a thing I think will happen. But I do think that the notion of bringing in AI tooling to help users and to help IT pros automate tasks and to give them more tools to be able to respond proactively – I definitely think that is in our future.”
Read our full Q&A with Steve Dispensa here.
Listen on the Expert Insights Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/expert-insights-podcast/id1676931016?i=1000603939734
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