Why the cloud provides you with "walled garden" security

Safety in numbers. It is a proven survival principle that has, well, survived for eons. Encapsulated in this principle are many worthy lessons, such as implicit trust and resource pooling. These lessons are easily seen in the security concept of a Walled Garden. This defense model can be traced back to when 17th century townships were designed around the palace with concentric rings of defense leading out. Cities throughout Europe and China's Forbidden City mirror this Walled Garden defense pattern.

In the modern age, we see Walled Garden defenses bridging the gap between the physical and the digital worlds we all occupy. Your physical being is safe inside a locked house or apartment, sometimes with a gated barrier around it. But you also have a digital being—an online twin of you (e.g. your birth and health records), of your company (e.g. your incorporation papers, financial and tax filings), and your ecosystem of partners (e.g. any operating agreements, purchase orders, and invoices). You need your digital twin to stay safe because the online world is rampant with progressively more destructive cyber threats.

Hacking is an asymmetric threat

A large organization can be susceptible to an estimated 4,000 cyberattacks a day. Hackers can use malware, viruses, phishing e-mails, ransomware, and any other number of methods to steal company or personal data. These cyber criminals have no governmental rules or HR regulations to meet when it comes to hacking your computer. Your limited ability to fight against lawless hackers makes them an asymmetric threat. We must resign ourselves to the fact that the "us against the world of bad guys" fight isn't a fair one. So, how can your organization stay safe against these odds?

No such thing as absolute security

Anything in the digital world touted as absolutely secure means it is absolutely un-usable. Given that team productivity is imperative, the bar for being absolutely secure is out of the question. Being reasonably secure then becomes your new target. Here is where the bear joke ("How fast do you have to run when chased by a hungry bear?") comes in:

The punchline is "just a little bit faster than the other guy." In a world where there is no absolute security against cyber criminals, how can you be just a little bit safer?

Join the Cloud - safety behind the wall

Let's revisit the Walled Garden concept of safety. Just as residents of an ancient fortified city can protect themselves by challenging their enemies with croc-infested moats and armed sentries, so can you and your digital twin afford similar protection by working within the digital sanctuary of the modern cloud platforms. Microsoft's Office 365, collaborative platforms like SharePoint, and even Google ChromeOS are all examples of walled gardens. Within these platforms, you can effectively operate your company by building processes, collaborating with team members, communicating with external entities and more. When your organization uses Microsoft Office 365, Dynamics 365 and other cloud-based business services, you and every team member are authenticated, trusted and, most importantly inherit the protection that defend these platforms. Operating inside a cloud-based walled garden managed by Microsoft is inherently safer than trying to do so on your own with anti-virus and malware apps. A few thoughts to “bear” in mind:

  • Microsoft's Annual Security Investment: >$1 Billion
  • Number of security professionals employed: 3,500+ (making Microsoft one of the largest non-state security organization by employee and investment)
  • Devices running Windows 10 are 58% less likely to encounter ransomware than devices running Windows 7 or earlier

Whether you find these facts interesting, impressive, or surprising is immaterial. As an Office 365 user, you inherit the benefits from these investments. Offline synchronization of documents, real-time global virus detection, team member identity authentication, and end-to-end military grade encryption are quietly protecting your company’s digital twin. This is the power of the cloud.

Making the move into this walled garden is relatively painless, I promise. Continuing with the Microsoft example, the simple task of syncing your files onto OneDrive or OneDrive for Business automatically ensures each update is scanned for viruses. With Exchange Online, phishing email, and ransomware threats are detected and quarantined before they hit your inbox. Make no mistake, this is industrial-grade security, the same that protects some four million PCs now in use by the US military. And all this is part of your Office 365 subscription at the price of a latte and bear claw.

References & Attributions
Microsoft Partner Security Airlift 2017

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