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Microsoft has announced a new security service that will improve the way that cyber-attacks or, more accurately, cyber breaches are addressed. Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection is a cloud-based service that is being made available to commercial users of the Windows10 operating system (OS) and deals with post-breach identification issues.

Microsoft is starting to address security breach detection issues

The security industry acknowledges that average breach detection timelines, which remain stubbornly high at just over 200 days plus additional remediation, are unacceptable.

The main problem is that a lot of these attacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated and therefore difficult to detect using traditional security tools. Next-generation threat protection is positioned as the way forward when dealing with zero-day and advanced persistent threats (APTs). However, the number of breaches continues to rise and better facilities are needed to deal with breach identification and remediation issues.

The new Microsoft security service will make use of machine learning techniques to identify security breaches. It will utilize the tremendous advantage the company has of gathering threat data from the millions of Windows devices that use its software. The Windows OS has consistently been seen as a key target for hackers and malware writers. As such it can also be positioned as a primary source of security intelligence about security breaches.

This is Microsoft’s first major foray into the threat intelligence arena. Its services are still at the early stages of deliver (user testing) and there is a significant development roadmap ahead. The current version of Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection can identify suspicious behavior and can alert IT professionals. However, for now, that is as far as it goes. It is then down to the IT security experts to review the threat data on offer and decide on the appropriate remediation actions.

In the next phase, expect to see Microsoft build a more complete and well-rounded solution and add tools that can deal with quarantine and remediation requirements. This is a good start, but Microsoft is again playing catch-up with more serious security vendors that have moved more rapidly through the breach detection and threat prioritization stages.


Further reading

If security intelligence is the answer, enterprise clients are being badly let down, IT0022-000391 (June 2015)

“IBM Security to focus on time to value with its X-Force Exchange threat intelligence sharing platform”, IT0022-000596 (January 2016)


Andrew Kellett, Principal Analyst, Infrastructure Solutions

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