Early in February 2018, Microsoft and Symantec announced a partnership, one that allows Symantec to integrate its security solutions with Microsoft Azure and Office 365. The move is an expansion of service alignment, following the October 2017 announcement that Symantec will use the Azure cloud to deliver its Norton consumer-grade cybersecurity software, according to Microsoft.

Both companies have praised the initial move as a win-win. Microsoft gained a valuable vendor and Symantec expanded its potential audience size and improved the delivery system for its products. Evidently, the two organizations enjoyed working with one another, as this latest move represents a definite ramp up in the partnership.

Symantec secures Microsoft’s Cloud
“The collaboration between Microsoft and Symantec brings together advanced network security and intelligent cloud infrastructure… Symantec’s full suite of security and compliance controls complement our broad set of Azure security solutions to provide customers with an ideal, trusted cloud platform,” said Scott Guthrie, executive vice president, Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise Group, during the expanded partnership announcement.

It is easy to see what Microsoft stands to gain from this partnership. Despite the reputation and history of the product, Azure has been playing aggressive catch up to Amazon’s AWS in terms of user base. According to Gartner research, AWS still leads the market in turns of overall usage, especially in the infrastructure-as-a-service sector. While Microsoft is in secure control of second place, the company is likely looking for ways to transform Azure into the superior product.

Since both Azure and AWS market themselves as widely flexible cloud solutions, the clear advantage may come in terms of cybersecurity standards. Symantec has long been seen as a leader in the antivirus and cybersecurity market. Outfitting the Microsoft Azure and Office 365 platforms with Symantec Web Security Service enables corporate Azure and 365 users to better manage cloud data, prevent information leaks and guard against data breaches.

Cloud services providers are rushing to diversify their solutions to serve a variety of clients. Security measures are still catching up to this design choice. Cloud services providers are rushing to diversify their solutions to serve a variety of clients. Security measures are still catching up to this design choice.

Looking ahead to 2018
Symantec clearly sees the role of cybersecurity providers growing in 2018. The company blog outlined a series of new challenges that it expects to see in the coming year. While 2017 headlines included the dramatic WannaCry ransomware attack, Symantec feels that blockchain – digital record-keeping software made popular through Bitcoin – may headline 2018’s largest cybersecurity concerns. Part of this comes with its wider adoption.

Nokia announced earlier in February that it will use blockchain to power its financial transactions in its new sensing-as-a-service platform and other companies are expected to follow. As blockchain handles increasing amounts of money in the digital space, it is logical to assume the number and intensity of cyberattacks will increase. Symantec expects that cyber criminals will even use artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve their attack methods.

Symantec also expects organizations will struggle with IaaS (the large theater where Microsoft and Amazon are the two main providers). The company feels the flexibility and scalability of these solutions will be the main problem as both will increase the change of errors in implementation and design. This scenario seems likely as not every client using IaaS has an in-house IT team to help facilitate the transition.

Giving Azure and 365 the extra Symantec coverage may be the difference maker in which of the two leading IaaS providers avoids a massive 2018 data breach.