Microsoft's Azure platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offering to Australian standards has taken a big step forward in the local market with the announcement that an audit of the company's Australian facilities has confirmed they meet Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) security standards for the transmission of government information.
The four-month assessment – conducted by Foresight Consulting under the ASD's Information Security Registered Assessors Program (IRAP) – validates the Microsoft Azure Australia Geo for use in storing UNCLASSIFIED government information based on the facilities' compliance with ASD Information Security Manual requirements.
Foresight examined core Azure services including its virtual machines, cloud services, storage services, virtual network, Azure SQL database and Azure Active Directory directory services. All run from the company's Australian data centres in a manner that Foresight's assessment said was “in place and fully effective”. fall under the auspices of the company's separate ISO 27001 and SOC2 security assessments.
“We're trying to make sure that government and commercial customers understand that we think the protection and security of their data is important,” Microsoft chief security advisor James Kavanagh told CSO Australia.
“There is a lot of demand and interest in this from our customers and partners offering services into the government,” he added, likening the process to the US government's FedRAMP certification process. “It's a very high bar of security control that provides a report against the government requirements.”
With companies still struggling with many questions around the security of information stored in cloud services, Kavanagh said certification to government security standards would validate Microsoft's PaaS approach and increase confidence in cloud services across the board.
“We've tried to provide this confidence in our program that is relevant from the smallest agencies up to the largest,” he explained. “It's really trying to provide that baseline confidence and trust so they can go forward and build their own systems on top of our platform.”
“Cloud security is always a shared responsibility,” he continued. “We implement security controls, but then the customer build a secure application on our platform and they have to implement security controls.”
Those security controls are reinforced by the other controls Microsoft has implemented within Azure – including the idea of zero privileges for access, which prevents internal Microsoft staff from accessing customer data. Such controls are introduced and managed through a significant investment in access-control systems.
“Customers may not have the ability to invest in a very sophisticated access control and privilege management system,” Kavanagh said.
“Instead, they're trying to inherit some of the capabilities we offer. This is work they would have had to do themselves as they were assessing going into the cloud; hopefully this will streamline their work and give them a sense of comfort.
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