Privacy and Security at the Microsoft Build 2019 Developers Conference

Normally in May Microsoft hold their annual developers conference called Microsoft Build (and for this year and last year (2018) it clashed with the Google IO developer conference – not sure if that is by design or just bad planning) .

You need to understand where Microsoft is right now in relation to what services they offer. Microsoft as a company is now more focused on:

  • Productivity tools (e.g. Microsoft 365, Office 365, Power BI ad Analytics)
  • Development tools (e.g. Visual Studio) and all the API’s used by developers to build applications
  • Cloud Services (mostly around the Azure platform, but also Software, Infrastructure and storage as a service)
  • Internet of Things (IOT – especially the Azure Sphere product and processing services for edge computing)
  • Surface PC’s including HoloLens and Mixed Reality
  • Gaming.

They have largely conceded the consumer space, particularly in mobile, to Apple (IOS) and Google (Android), although they continue to populate these ecosystems with their own applications linking to their own services.

Microsoft Vision

There were no specific talks that I could find on the Microsoft Build website relating specifically to security and privacy, but in the Vision Keynote Satya Nadella (the CEO) pointed out that it is the responsibility of all developers to gain trust with their clients through:

  1. Privacy:
    1. Privacy as a human Right
    2. Need to engineer for privacy
  2. Cyber Security:
    1. Build in Cyber Security
    2. Critical Infrastructure remains secure
    3. Election Guard, ensuring integrity and open source security in election/voting systems
    4. Homomorphic Encryption
  3. Responsible AI:
    1. Build systems without Bias
    2. Building Ethical AI.

A lot of the sessions (see below for links) hold the concepts of security and privacy as central pillars which goes towards the central vision of gaining trust.

I can recommend watching the replay of the Vision keynote. It doesn’t have a lot of technical detail, but has a lot of the main announcements for new products and services coming later in 2019 which doesn’t really fall into the subject matter for this blog.

Sessions that may be of interest

Here are a number of search links to show you some subjects that are related to security, privacy, Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence:

Artificial Intelligence in particular needs to be developed responsibly as there is vast opportunity to invade peoples privacy and through biased data sets make decisions that are exclusive rather than inclusive/fair.

Some other sessions that may be of interest, although these are likely to be technical in nature, are:

Internet of Things (IoT) and Azure Sphere

Azure Sphere is an interesting concept and not something I have come across to date from other IoT vendors. Azure Sphere (previously announced in 2018) incorporates:

  1. An embedded microcontroller
  2. Linux based custom embedded OS
  3. Cloud security through Microsoft Azure
  4. Secure updates of the core components for the life of the device.

There are some improvements coming for Azure Sphere. I recommend you visit the Azure Sphere website to find out more. In time this is how IoT will be done, while at the moment IoT is largely implemented in an insecure way (I will be writing about this in more detail in a future blog).

Encryption

There was also a talk on what they are calling homomorphic encryption. Let me explain what this is about. We all know about:

  • Encryption at rest where files are stored in an encrypted state and only the person with the decryption keys can view the contents
  • Encryption in transit where we largely use https encrypted protocols to transfer data between end points.

What homomorphic encryption is about is the ability to process data without decrypting it, which is a major leap forward in privacy since the processor won’t have to decrypt the data to process it. This is still a research project, so not available for mainstream yet, but still a significant breakthrough. The first 15 minutes of the talk is general information, while the rest is exploring the development API’s and is more technical.

Developer Keynotes

You can also look at some of the following additional keynote replays. These sessions are more technical in nature, so be warned there might be some developer-speak in them. I am still going through these, and once I have completed my thoughts on these subjects I will updated this blog (might not be for another 7 days due to my weekday commitments).


Headline photo provided by Panos Sakalakis on Unsplash


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