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Microsoft Banning Android Phones for Staff in China

Starting in September, Microsoft will mandate the the use of Apple’s iPhones to authenticate identities when logging into work machines. 

Android security

Software giant Microsoft plans to block employees in China from using Android-powered devices to log into its corporate network.

According to a Bloomberg report, Microsoft sent an internal memo to Chinese staff detailing the plan, which goes into effect in September and will mandate the use of Apple’s iPhones to authenticate identities when logging into work machines. 

The directive is reportedly a part of Microsoft’s new Secure Future Initiative, which was created in response to multiple embarrassing breaches and a scathing US government report on Redmond’s inadequate cybersecurity practices.

Bloomberg said the mobile device mandate will impact hundreds of employees across mainland China and will push the use of the Microsoft Authenticator password manager and Identity Pass app.

The report notes that unlike Apple’s iOS store, Google Play is not available in China, leading local smartphone manufacturers like Huawei and Xiaomi to operate their own platforms. According to the memo, Microsoft decided to restrict access from these devices to its corporate resources due to the absence of Google’s mobile services in China 

Employees using Android devices, including those made by Huawei or Xiaomi, will be provided with an iPhone 15 as a one-time purchase, according to the memo. 

Bloomberg said Microsoft plans to distribute iPhones at various hubs throughout China, including Hong Kong, where Google’s services are available.

Under its new Secure Future Initiative, Microsoft has committed to releasing faster cloud patches, better management of identity signing keys and a commitment to ship software with a higher default security bar.

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The initiative was later expanded to adopt recommendations from the CSRB report and includes the addition of technical controls to reduce unauthorized access and lock down its corporate infrastructure. 

Microsoft plans to implement state-of-the-art standards for identity and secrets management, including hardware-protected key rotations and phishing-resistant multi-factor authentication for all user accounts.

Microsoft also committed to beefing up the protection of its network and tenant environments; removing all entity lateral movement pivots between tenants, environments, and clouds; and ensuring only secure, managed, healthy devices are granted access to Microsoft tenants. 

The new strategy will also place an emphasis on protecting Microsoft’s production networks and systems by improving isolation, monitoring, inventory, and secure operations.

Related: Microsoft’s Security Chickens Have Come Home to Roost

Related: US Gov Rips Microsoft for Shoddy Security, Poor Response to Chinese Hack

Related: After Major Cloud Hacks, Microsoft Unveils ‘Secure Future Initiative’

Related: Microsoft Cloud Hack Exposed More Than Exchange, Outlook Emails

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