Tag Archives: organization

Set up PowerShell script block logging for added security

PowerShell is an incredibly comprehensive and easy to use language. But administrators need to protect their organization from bad actors who use PowerShell for criminal purposes.

PowerShell’s extensive capabilities as a native tool in Windows make it tempting for an attacker to exploit the language. Increasingly, malicious software and bad actors are using PowerShell to either glue together different attack methods or run exploits entirely through PowerShell.

There are many methods and security best practices available to secure PowerShell, but one of the most valued is PowerShell script block logging. Script blocks are a collection of statements or expressions used as a single unit. Users denote them by everything inside the curly brackets within the PowerShell language.

Starting in Windows PowerShell v4.0 but significantly enhanced in Windows PowerShell v5.0, script block logging produces an audit trail of executed code. Windows PowerShell v5.0 introduced a logging engine that automatically decrypts code that has been obfuscated with methods such as XOR, Base64 and ROT13. PowerShell includes the original encrypted code for comparison.

PowerShell script block logging helps with the postmortem analysis of events to give additional insights if a breach occurs. It also helps IT be more proactive with monitoring for malicious events. For example, if you set up Event Subscriptions in Windows, you can send events of interest to a centralized server for a closer look.

Set up a Windows system for logging

Two primary ways to configure script block logging on a Windows system are by either setting a registry value directly or by specifying the appropriate settings in a group policy object.

To configure script block logging via the registry, use the following code while logged in as an administrator:

New-Item -Path "HKLM:SOFTWAREWow6432NodePoliciesMicrosoftWindowsPowerShellScriptBlockLogging" -Force
Set-ItemProperty -Path "HKLM:SOFTWAREWow6432NodePoliciesMicrosoftWindowsPowerShellScriptBlockLogging" -Name "EnableScriptBlockLogging" -Value 1 -Force

You can set PowerShell logging settings within group policy, either on the local machine or through organizationwide policies.

Open the Local Group Policy Editor and navigate to Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Windows PowerShell > Turn on PowerShell Script Block Logging.

Turning on PowerShell script block logging
Set up PowerShell script block logging from the Local Group Policy Editor in Windows.

When you enable script block logging, the editor unlocks an additional option to log events via “Log script block invocation start / stop events” when a command, script block, function or script starts and stops. This helps trace when an event happened, especially for long-running background scripts. This option generates a substantial amount of additional data in your logs.

PowerShell script block logging option
PowerShell script block logging tracks executed scripts and commands run on the command line.

How to configure script block logging on non-Windows systems

PowerShell Core is the cross-platform version of PowerShell for use on Windows, Linux and macOS. To use script block logging on PowerShell Core, you define the configuration in the powershell.config.json file in the $PSHome directory, which is unique to each PowerShell installation.

From a PowerShell session, navigate to $PSHome and use the Get-ChildItem command to see if the powershell.config.json file exists. If not, create the file with this command:

sudo touch powershell.config.json

Modify the file using a tool such as the nano text editor and paste in the following configuration.

{
"PowerShellPolicies": {
"ScriptBlockLogging": {
"EnableScriptBlockInvocationLogging": false,
"EnableScriptBlockLogging": true
}
},
"LogLevel": "verbose"
}

Test PowerShell script block logging

Testing the configuration is easy. From the command line, run the following:

PS /> { "log me!" }
"log me!"

Checking the logs on Windows

How do you know what entries to watch out for? The main event ID to watch out for is 4104. This is the ScriptBlockLogging entry for information that includes user and domain, logged date and time, computer host and the script block text.

Open Event Viewer and navigate to the following log location: Applications and Services Logs > Microsoft > Windows > PowerShell > Operational.

Click on events until you find the one from the test that is listed as Event ID 4104. Filter the log for this event to make the search quicker.

Windows Event 4104
Event 4104 in the Windows Event Viewer details PowerShell activity on a Windows machine.

On PowerShell Core on Windows, the log location is: Applications and Services Logs > PowerShellCore > Operational.

Log location on non-Windows systems

On Linux, PowerShell script block logging will log to syslog. The location will vary based on the distribution. For this tutorial, we use Ubuntu which has syslog at /var/log/syslog.

Run the following command to show the log entry; you must elevate with sudo in this example and on most typical systems:

sudo cat /var/log/syslog | grep "{ log me! }"

2019-08-20T19:40:08.070328-05:00 localhost powershell[9610]: (6.2.2:9:80) [ScriptBlock_Compile_Detail:ExecuteCommand.Create.Verbose] Creating Scriptblock text (1 of 1):#012{ "log me!" }#012#012ScriptBlock ID: 4d8d3cb4-a5ef-48aa-8339-38eea05c892b#012Path:

To set up a centralized server on Linux, things are a bit different since you’re using syslog by default. You can use rsyslog to ship your logs to a log aggregation service to track PowerShell activity from a central location.

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Microsoft events — the year ahead – The Official Microsoft Blog

Empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more is a 7 billion-person mission that we don’t take lightly. None of us at Microsoft could ever hope to reach that objective without a vast set of partnerships with curious and passionate people who seek to deeply understand technology and its power to transform individuals, businesses and industries. Facilitating connections, sharing our technologies and partnering to create solutions to real-world challenges is why we create the many Microsoft event experiences we host around the world.

Microsoft event experiences are designed to benefit specific audiences and structured to support clear objectives. We’re committed to closely aligning with all our partners, customers, and business and IT decision makers and connecting you with peers and industry leaders. To find out more about each event, visit our event website for details. Or, if you’re looking for a quick description of each event, read below to get a snapshot of our upcoming events.

Flagship events
IT professionals and developers
Microsoft Ignite — For IT professionals, decision makers, implementors, architects, developers and data professionals. This event provides opportunities to explore the latest tools, receive deep technical training and get specific questions answered by Microsoft experts. With more than 26,000 attendees who join to learn, connect and explore what Microsoft has to offer, this truly is the place where reality meets imagination. Orlando, Florida | Nov. 4-8, 2019

Developers
Microsoft Build — Where leading architects, developers, start-ups and student developers converge to focus on the latest tech trends and innovate for the future. We maintain our “produced by developers and for developers” mantra while inviting the next generation of developers to participate in the student zone. Seattle, Washington | May 19-21, 2020

Microsoft partners
Microsoft Business Applications Summit — An annual opportunity to bring together a community of Microsoft customers and partners in roles that include power users, business analysts, evangelists, implementers and technical architects. This event provides a forum to learn how Microsoft’s end-to-end Dynamics 365 and Power Platform can create and extend solutions to drive business success. Anaheim, California | April 20-21, 2020

Microsoft Inspire — Where Microsoft partners meet to connect and celebrate as one community at the close of Microsoft’s fiscal year. With hundreds of thousands of partners across the world, our partner ecosystem is stronger and more united than ever. We invite you to learn more about how Microsoft leaders are supporting our partners, and how partners can capitalize on the opportunities ahead. We’ve co-located our Microsoft sales kick-off event to build on our shared partnership philosophy. Las Vegas, Nevada | July 20-24, 2020

Regional tours

We started our regional tours for attendee convenience and to gauge how digital transformation is happening around the world. They’ve been a success on both fronts. This year we’re expanding to 30 markets for Microsoft Ignite The Tour and starting Microsoft Envision I The Tour in seven cities. Check out one of the stops on our regional tours in a city near you.

IT professionals and developers
Microsoft Ignite The Tour — We are bringing the best of Microsoft Ignite to you by traveling to 30 cities around the world for both ease of access and for the robust localized content for these distinct markets. Join us for in-depth learning and experiences in a free, two-day format that allows IT professionals and developers to learn new ways to build solutions, migrate, and manage infrastructure and connect with local industry leaders and peers. Visit Microsoft Ignite The Tour for locations and dates.

Business decision makers
Microsoft Envision | The Tour — An invitation-only, single-day event held in multiple cities around the world. With a global focus, this summit allows members of the C-suite to focus on challenges and trends that are changing the way organizations do business. Taking inspiration from our CEO Summit, this conference is designed to give leaders a chance to step back and learn about smart strategies to tackle emerging issues, power new efficiencies and build new business models and revenue streams. Visit Microsoft Envision I The Tour for locations and dates.

Digital learning

For those unable to make it in person or who are looking to quickly skill up on a particular topic, we offer digital learning options. Watch training sessions and event keynote sessions at any time. View multiple modules or choose a learning path tailored to today’s developer and technology masterminds that are designed to prepare you for industry-recognized Microsoft certifications.

Additional events

We’re just scratching the surface of the full picture of events that Microsoft has to offer. If you don’t find what you are looking for here, visit our full global events catalog for a list of events in your region and possibly your own city. These are events that are organized around specific product offerings and located in easily accessible locations with a wide range of class levels offered.

We invite everyone to join us to learn and grow, join us to connect with your peers, join us to get the answers you need so that you can deliver the solutions that can help propel your digital transformation. Visit our events website of flagship and regional events, and we look forward to seeing you in the year ahead.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Beyond overhead: What drives donor support in the digital era – Microsoft on the Issues

One of the greatest challenges to running a successful nonprofit organization has always been that donors look at nonprofits’ stewardship of funds as a primary way to assess impact. While there is no doubt that nonprofits must use donor funds responsibly, tracking to see if a nonprofit maintains the highest possible ratio of spending on programs-to spending on overhead is a poor proxy for understanding how effective a nonprofit truly is. In fact, the imperative to limit overhead has forced many organizations to underinvest in efforts to improve efficiency. Ironically, this has long prevented nonprofits from utilizing innovative digital technologies that could help them be more efficient and effective.

Now more than ever, cloud-based technology can have a transformative effect on how nonprofit organizations increase impact and reduce costs. The same technologies that give for-profit businesses insights about customers and markets, create operational efficiencies and speed up innovation can also help nonprofits target donors and raise funds more strategically, design and deliver programming more efficiently, and connect field teams with headquarters more effectively. This means smart investments in digital tools are essential to every nonprofit’s ability to make progress toward its mission.

The good news is that a major shift is underway. As part of our work at Microsoft Tech for Social Impact to understand how nonprofits can use technology to drive progress and demonstrate impact, we recently surveyed 2,200 donors, volunteers and funding decision-makers to learn how they decide which organizations to support, what their expectations are for efficiency and effectiveness, and how they feel about funding technology infrastructure at the nonprofits they support.

The results, which we published recently in the white paper “Beyond overhead: Donor expectations for driving impact with technology,” make clear that people donate to organizations they trust and that donors are increasingly looking at data beyond the ratio of program spending to overhead spending to measure impact. We also found that those who support nonprofits now overwhelmingly recognize the critical role technology plays in driving impact and delivering value. Nearly four out of five supporters (which includes both donors and volunteers) and more than nine out of 10 funding decision-makers told us they support directing donations to improve technology at a nonprofit. An overwhelming majority — 85 percent of supporters and 95 percent of funding decision-makers — are more likely to contribute to organizations that can show that they are using technology to improve how it runs programs.

At the same time, the survey found that most people expect organizations to use donations more efficiently and to advance the causes they work for more effectively than in the past. Among supporters, for example, 79 percent believe nonprofits should be better at maximizing funding than they were 10 years ago. Just over 80 percent of funding decision-makers believe nonprofits should be more effective at achieving their goals and advancing the causes they work for now than in the past.

To give you a better sense of what potential donors are looking for as they consider where to target their nonprofit contributions and how much they weigh technology into their thinking, we have developed a tool using Power BI so you can look at the data in greater detail. Within the tool, you can see how people responded to questions about overall effectiveness and efficiency, the importance of technology as a driver of success, how likely they are to support organizations that use technology to demonstrate impact, and their willingness to fund technology improvements at the nonprofits they support.

To make the tool as useful as possible for your organization, you can sort the data by supporters and funding decision-makers, and you can explore how responses varied by region. As you move through the data, you will see how these critical groups of supporters and funders think about these important questions in the region where your organization operates:

The ultimate goal of this survey was to get a clearer picture of what motivates people to contribute to an organization and how technology can help nonprofits meet supporters’ expectations. Overall, I believe our research provides some important insights that can help any organization be more successful. Fundamentally, we found that people donate to organizations that are perceived to be trustworthy, and that trust is achieved though operational transparency and effective communications. More than ever before, donors recognize that using data to measure and demonstrate impact is the foundation for trust.

I encourage you to read the full report and learn more about Microsoft’s commitment to support nonprofits.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

How to deal with the on-premises vs. cloud challenge

For some administrators, the cloud is not a novelty. It’s critical to their organization. Then, there’s you, the lone on-premises holdout.

With all the hype about cloud and Microsoft’s strong push to get IT to use Azure for services and workloads, it might seem like you are the only one in favor of remaining in the data center in the great on-premises vs. cloud debate. The truth is the cloud isn’t meant for everything. While it’s difficult to find a workload not supported by the cloud, that doesn’t mean everything needs to move there.

Few people like change, and a move to the cloud is a big adjustment. You can’t stop your primary vendors from switching their allegiance to the cloud, so you will need to be flexible to face this new reality. Take a look around at your options as more vendors narrow their focus away from the data center and on-premises management.

Is the cloud a good fit for your organization?

The question is: Should it be done? All too often, it’s a matter of money. For example, it’s possible to take a large-capacity file server in the hundreds of terabytes and place it in Azure. Microsoft’s cloud can easily support this workload, but can your wallet?

Once you get over the sticker shock, think about it. If you’re storing frequently used data, it might make business sense to put that file server in Azure. However, if this is a traditional file server with mostly stale data, then is it really worth the price tag as opposed to using on-premises hardware?

Azure file server
When you run the numbers on what it takes to put a file server in Azure, the costs can add up.

Part of the on-premises vs. cloud dilemma is you have to weigh the financial costs, as well as the tangible benefits and drawbacks. Part of the calculation in determining what makes sense in an operational budget structure, as opposed to a capital expense, is the people factor. Too often, admins find themselves in a situation where management sees one side of this formula and wants to make that cloud leap, while the admins must look at the reality and explain both the pros and cons — the latter of which no one wants to hear.

Part of the on-premises vs. cloud dilemma is you have to weigh the financial costs, as well as the tangible benefits and drawbacks.

The cloud question also goes deeper than the Capex vs. Opex argument for the admins. With so much focus on the cloud, what happens to those environments that simply don’t or can’t move? It’s not only a question of what this means today, but also what’s in store for them tomorrow.

As vendors move on, the walls close in

With the focus for most software vendors on cloud and cloud-related technology, the move away from the data center should be a warning sign for admins that can’t move to the cloud. The applications and tools you use will change to focus on the organizations working in the cloud with less development on features that would benefit the on-premises data center.

One of the most critical aspects of this shift will be your monitoring tools. As cloud gains prominence, it will get harder to find tools that will continue to support local Windows Server installations over cloud-based ones. We already see this trend with log aggregation tools that used to be available as on-site installs that are now almost all SaaS-based offerings. This is just the start.

If a tool moves from on premises to the cloud but retains the ability to monitor data center resources, that is an important distinction to remember. That means you might have a workable option to keep production workloads on the ground and work with the cloud as needed or as your tools make that transition.

As time goes on, an evaluation process might be in order. If your familiar tools are moving to the cloud without support for on-premises workloads, the options might be limited. Should you pick up new tools and then invest the time to install and train the staff how to use them? It can be done, but do you really want to?

While not ideal, another viable option is to take no action; the install you have works, and as long as you don’t upgrade, everything will be fine. The problem with remaining static is getting left behind. The base OSes will change, and the applications will get updated. But, if your tools can no longer monitor them, what good are they? You also introduce a significant security risk when you don’t update software. Staying put isn’t a good long-term strategy.

With the cloud migration will come other choices

The same challenges you face with your tools also apply to your traditional on-premises applications. Longtime stalwarts, such as Exchange Server, still offer a local installation, but it’s clear that Microsoft’s focus for messaging and collaboration is its Office 365 suite.

The harsh reality is more software vendors will continue on the cloud path, which they see as the new profit centers. Offerings for on-premises applications will continue to dwindle. However, there is some hope. As the larger vendors move to the cloud, it opens up an opportunity in the market for third-party tools and applications that might not have been on your radar until now. These products might not be as feature-rich as an offering from the larger vendors, but they might tick most of the checkboxes for your requirements.

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Amazon, Intel, NBCUniversal spill buying secrets at HR Tech 2018

LAS VEGAS — Amazon’s talent acquisition organization has more than 3,500 people, including 2,000 recruiters, and is very interested in testing out new technology. That is probably welcome news to vendors here at HR Tech 2018. But Amazon and other big HR technology users warned against being dazzled by vendors’ products and recommended following a disciplined and tough evaluation process.

“I think it’s important to stay abreast with what’s happening in the market,” said Kelly Cartwright, the head of recruiting transformation at Amazon. “I’m really, really passionate about doing experiments and pilots and seeing whether or not something can work,” she said, speaking on a talent acquisition technology panel at HR Tech 2018.

It’s important to “block out time and take those [vendor] calls and listen to what those vendors have to say because one of them actually might have a solution for you that can be a game changer,” Cartwright said.

A warning about new HR tech

But Cartwright also had a clear warning for attendees at the HR Tech 2018. It won’t help to make the investment in a new technology until “you really clarify” what it is you want to use it for, she said.

What has to happen first in investigating HR trends and new technologies is to “start with a clear problem that you’re trying to solve for,” Cartwright said. She illustrated her point with example questions: Is the problem improving diversity in the pipeline? Or is it ensuring that there are enough potential candidates visiting your recruiting website?

Endorsing this approach was Gail Blum, manager of talent acquisition operations at NBCUniversal, who appeared with Cartwright on the panel.

Blum said NBCUniversal may not always have the budget for a particular new HR technology, but vendors increasingly are offering free pilots. Companies can choose to take a particular problem “and see if that new tool or vendor has the ability to solve that,” she said.

Attendees walk through the expo area at the 2018 HR Technology Conference
New HR tech is in abundance at the 2018 HR Technology Conference & Expo

New tech that doesn’t integrate is next to useless

Critical to any new HR technology is its ability to integrate with existing talent systems, such as an applicant tracking system, Blum said. She wants to know: Will the system have a separate log-in? “That’s always something that we ask upfront with all of these vendors.”

“If you are requiring everyone to have to go to two different systems the usage probably isn’t going to be great,” Blum said, who said that was their experience from some previous rollouts. If the systems don’t integrate, a new technology addition “isn’t really going to solve your problem in the end,” she said.      

There was no disagreement on this panel at HR Tech 2018 about the need to be rigorous with vendors to avoid being taken in by a shiny new technology.

We ask really invasive questions of the vendors.
Allyn Baileytalent acquisition capability adoption transformation leader, Intel

If Intel is going to partner with a talent vendor “it’s a long-term play,” said Allyn Bailey, talent acquisition capability adoption transformation leader at the chipmaker.

“We ask really invasive questions of the vendors,” Bailey said. “The vendors really hate it when we do it,” she said.

But Bailey said they will probe a vendor’s stability, their financing and whether they are positioning themselves to gather some big-name customers and then sell the business. “That freaks me out because my investment with that vendor is around that partnership to build a very customized solution to meet my needs,” she said. 

TechTarget, the publisher of SearchHRSoftware, is a media partner for HR Tech 2018.

Helping customers shift to a modern desktop – Microsoft 365 Blog

IT is complex. And that means it can be difficult to keep up with the day-to-day demands of your organization, let alone deliver technological innovation that drives the business forward. In desktop management, this is especially true: the process of creating standard images, deploying devices, testing updates, and providing end user support hasn’t changed much in years. It can be tedious, manual, and time consuming. We’re determined to change that with our vision for a modern desktop powered by Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus. A modern desktop not only offers end users the most productive, most secure computing experience—it also saves IT time and money so you can focus on driving business results.

Today, we’re pleased to make three announcements that help you make the shift to a modern desktop:

  • Cloud-based analytics tools to make modern desktop deployment even easier.
  • A program to ensure app compatibility for upgrades and updates of Windows and Office.
  • Servicing and support changes to give you additional deployment flexibility.

Analytics to make modern desktop deployment easier

Collectively, you’ve told us that one of your biggest upgrade and update challenges is application testing. A critical part of any desktop deployment plan is analysis of existing applications—and the process of testing apps and remediating issues has historically been very manual and very time consuming. Microsoft 365 offers incredible tools today to help customers shift to a modern desktop, including System Center Configuration Manager, Microsoft Intune, Windows Analytics, and Office Readiness Toolkit. But we’ve felt like there’s even more we could do.

Today, we’re announcing that Windows Analytics is being expanded to Desktop Analytics—a new cloud-based service integrated with ConfigMgr and designed to create an inventory of apps running in the organization, assess app compatibility with the latest feature updates of Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus, and create pilot groups that represent the entire application and driver estate across a minimal set of devices.

The new Desktop Analytics service will provide insight and intelligence for you to make more informed decisions about the update readiness of your Windows and Office clients. You can then optimize pilot and production deployments with ConfigMgr. Combining data from your own organization with data aggregated from millions of devices connected to our cloud services, you can take the guess work out of testing and focus your attention on key blockers. We’ll share more information about Desktop Analytics and other modern desktop deployment tools at Ignite.

Standing behind our app compatibility promise

We’re also pleased to announce Desktop App Assure—a new service from Microsoft FastTrack designed to address issues with Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus app compatibility. Windows 10 is the most compatible Windows operating system ever, and using millions of data points from customer diagnostic data and the Windows Insider validation process, we’ve found that 99 percent of apps are compatible with new Windows updates. So you should generally expect that apps that work on Windows 7 will continue to work on Windows 10 and subsequent feature updates. But if you find any app compatibility issues after a Windows 10 or Office 365 ProPlus update, Desktop App Assure is designed to help you get a fix. Simply let us know by filing a ticket through FastTrack, and a Microsoft engineer will follow up to work with you until the issue is resolved. In short, Desktop App Assure operationalizes our Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus compatibility promise: We’ve got your back on app compatibility and are committed to removing it entirely as a blocker.

Desktop App Assure will be offered at no additional cost to Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Education customers. We’ll share more details on this new service at Ignite and will begin to preview this service in North America on October 1, 2018, with worldwide availability by February 1, 2019.

Servicing and support flexibility

Longer Windows 10 servicing for enterprises and educational institutions
In April 2017, we aligned the Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus update cadence to a predictable semi-annual schedule, targeting September and March. While many customers—including Mars and Accenture—have shifted to a modern desktop and are using the semi-annual channel to take updates regularly with great success, we’ve also heard feedback from some of you that you need more time and flexibility in the Windows 10 update cycle.

Based on that feedback, we’re announcing four changes:

  • All currently supported feature updates of Windows 10 Enterprise and Education editions (versions 1607, 1703, 1709, and 1803) will be supported for 30 months from their original release date. This will give customers on those versions more time for change management as they move to a faster update cycle.
  • All future feature updates of Windows 10 Enterprise and Education editions with a targeted release month of September (starting with 1809) will be supported for 30 months from their release date. This will give customers with longer deployment cycles the time they need to plan, test, and deploy.
  • All future feature updates of Windows 10 Enterprise and Education editions with a targeted release month of March (starting with 1903) will continue to be supported for 18 months from their release date. This maintains the semi-annual update cadence as our north star and retains the option for customers that want to update twice a year.
  • All feature releases of Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Pro, and Office 365 ProPlus will continue to be supported for 18 months (this applies to feature updates targeting both March and September).

In summary, our new modern desktop support policies—starting in September 2018—are:

Windows 7 Extended Security Updates
As previously announced, Windows 7 extended support is ending January 14, 2020. While many of you are already well on your way in deploying Windows 10, we understand that everyone is at a different point in the upgrade process.

With that in mind, today we are announcing that we will offer paid Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESU) through January 2023. The Windows 7 ESU will be sold on a per-device basis and the price will increase each year. Windows 7 ESUs will be available to all Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Enterprise customers in Volume Licensing, with a discount to customers with Windows software assurance, Windows 10 Enterprise or Windows 10 Education subscriptions. In addition, Office 365 ProPlus will be supported on devices with active Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESU) through January 2023. This means that customers who purchase the Windows 7 ESU will be able to continue to run Office 365 ProPlus.

Please reach out to your partner or Microsoft account team for further details.

Support for Office 365 ProPlus on Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2016
Office 365 ProPlus delivers cloud-connected and always up-to-date versions of the Office desktop apps. To support customers already on Office 365 ProPlus through their operating system transitions, we are updating the Windows system requirements for Office 365 ProPlus and revising some announcements that were made in February. We are pleased to announce the following updates to our Office 365 ProPlus system requirements:

  • Office 365 ProPlus will continue to be supported on Windows 8.1 through January 2023, which is the end of support date for Windows 8.1.
  • Office 365 ProPlus will also continue to be supported on Windows Server 2016 until October 2025.

Office 2016 connectivity support for Office 365 services
In addition, we are modifying the Office 365 services system requirements related to service connectivity. In February, we announced that starting October 13, 2020, customers will need Office 365 ProPlus or Office 2019 clients in mainstream support to connect to Office 365 services. To give you more time to transition fully to the cloud, we are now modifying that policy and will continue to support Office 2016 connections with the Office 365 services through October 2023.

Shift to a modern desktop

You’ve been talking, and we’ve been listening. Specifically, we’ve heard your feedback on desktop deployment, and we’re working hard to introduce new capabilities, services, and policies to help you on your way. The combination of Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus delivers the most productive, most secure end user computing experience available. But we recognize that it takes time to both upgrade devices and operationalize new update processes. Today’s announcements are designed to respond to your feedback and make it easier, faster, and cheaper to deploy a modern desktop. We know that there is still a lot of work to do. But we’re committed to working with you and systematically resolving any issues. We’d love to hear your thoughts and look forward to seeing you and discussing in more detail in the keynotes and sessions at Ignite in a few weeks!

Cybersecurity and physical security: Key for ‘smart’ venues

When Boston Red Sox President and CEO Sam Kennedy joined the organization in 2001, the team’s management was facing questions about the then-89-yearold Fenway Park.

There was a campaign to tear down Fenway and build a new baseball stadium elsewhere in the city — a plan that was quickly nixed by Red Sox management in favor of one to preserve, protect and enhance the Boston landmark. One big obstacle they had to consider was how to handle potential threats more dangerous than the New York Yankees.

“Our job is to anticipate threats — probably the biggest threat to the sports industry, in general, would be some type of massive security breach or failure,” Kennedy said. “It’s certainly something that keeps us up at night.”

Kennedy made his remarks during the Johnson Controls Smart Ready Panel last week at Fenway Park, where panelists discussed how venues, buildings and cities are striving to become smarter and more sustainable.

To upgrade the park for the 21st century, the Red Sox organization began a project called Fenway 2.0 that would improve the fan experience via technology upgrades, additional seating and renovations to the area surrounding the park.

Another big part of the Fenway 2.0 project was working closely with city officials to protect fans’ cybersecurity and physical security.

“We have incredible partners at the city of Boston,” Kennedy said. “We work very closely with those guys and the regional intelligence center to make sure we’re doing everything we possibly can … to make sure that Fenway is safe.”

Cybersecurity a ‘smart’ priority

During the panel, Johnson Controls’ vice president of global sustainability and industry initiatives, Clay Nesler, pointed to a company-issued survey that showed cybersecurity capabilities were among the top technologies that respondents predicted would have the most influence on smart building and smart city development over the next five years.

Cities and large venues like Fenway Park certainly deliver many benefits to patrons through advanced technology, but these amenities also create potential risk, Nesler added. Several questions have to be answered, he said, before making upgrades to tech such as Wi-Fi capabilities: “Can systems be easily updated with the latest virus protection? Do you really limit user access in a very controllable way? Is the data encrypted?”

Our job is to anticipate threats — probably the biggest threat to the sports industry, in general, would be some type of massive security breach or failure.
Sam Kennedypresident and CEO, Boston Red Sox

Questions such as these are exactly why thinking ahead is essential to smart facility development, said panelist Elinor Klavens, senior analyst at Sports Innovation Lab, based in Boston.

“This is an open space that possibly could have Amazon drones flying over soon. What does that mean for the security of the people inside of it?” Klavens said. “We see venues really struggling to figure out how to secure themselves on that cyber level.”

Technology is certainly an enabler to get smarter about cybersecurity and physical security capabilities, Nesler said, but it’s still up to humans to interpret data. For example, new tech allows venues to create a 3D heat map of exactly how many people are in a 10-square-foot area to determine how fast they’re moving and find ways to avoid large groups slowing down during normal ingress and egress times. This information can also prove very valuable to prepare for emergency evacuations, Nesler said.

“We need to be clever about what’s really valuable to both the operations side and the fans and really be smart-ready in putting [in] place the systems and infrastructure to support things we haven’t even thought of yet,” Nesler said. 

The data access conundrum

The new technology offered by smart venues poses other concerns, as well, Kennedy said. For example, fans distracted by looking at their smartphones or digital screens could be putting themselves in danger of being hit by a foul ball at a baseball game, and ones watching events through smart glasses bring up potential legal questions regarding the event’s distribution rights. 

This goes back to the importance of communication for a smart venue to be successful, Kennedy said, with building management working together to ensure all of Fenway’s cybersecurity and physical security bases are covered.

“We need to be very, very careful in terms of providing fan safety,” Kennedy said.

And, of course, taking advantage of these technological advances often requires smart venues and cities to analyze a plethora of consumer-generated data. As a result, they must balance tapping into readily available data to improve amenities, cybersecurity and services with privacy concerns, Klavens said.

“Figuring out how to balance what is good for your fans and what is also your public’s appetite for giving up privacy in a public space is another way which we see venues really helping cities improve their understanding about how these new technologies will be deployed,” Klavens said.

National FFA Organization and Microsoft announce initiative to bring transformational innovation to over 650,000 students nationwide – Stories

FARGO, N.D., and REDMOND, Wash. — July 26, 2018 — The National FFA Organization and Microsoft Corp., on Thursday announced their collaboration to bring innovative technology, science, research and entrepreneurship to the classrooms of the more than 650,000 FFA student members nationwide through an initiative known as Blue 365.

FFA logoFFA members are the future of the food industry, which is relying on this generation to meet unparalleled challenges to feed a growing world population. In a modern world where the food and agriculture industries are reliant on precision agriculture, big data, cloud technology, robotic systems, advanced communications and other sophisticated technologies, Blue 365 will serve as a catalyst for evolving sustainability, innovative efficiency and preparing the future leaders who will solve the world’s critical agricultural challenges. At an event in Fargo today, National FFA CEO Mark Poeschl and Microsoft’s Brad Smith and Mary Snapp were joined by North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, USDA State Director Clare Carlson, and North Dakota State FFA President Brianna Maddock.

“Today’s FFA members are our future industry leaders,” Poeschl said. “The future relies on connecting diversity of innovational approach, solutions-orientation and cutting-edge technology. We are excited that Microsoft shares our vision of Blue 365. Through agricultural education and FFA, our members are evolving their skill sets for the 21st century demands; they will be the change in our industry. Blue 365 can be the spark needed to create the next big idea in agriculture.”

Blue 365 will be unveiled in Indianapolis, Indiana, this October at the 91st National FFA Convention & Expo, the nation’s largest student convention. With the vision and commitment of title sponsors Microsoft and AgriNovus Indiana, The Blue Room, a 17,000-square-foot interactive space, will showcase the cutting-edge technology, research and innovation happening across the spectrum. Through experiential learning and specific focus on the most critical challenges facing our communities — from respecting the planet to the urgent matter of feeding the world — The Blue Room experience serves to inspire and equip students to activate their potential.

“While digital technology is transforming every part of the American economy, not everyone is acquiring the skills to thrive,” said Brad Smith, president, Microsoft. “As a company, we’re focused on ensuring everyone, regardless of their geography or circumstance, has access to the digital skills they need to compete and prosper. And our partnership with the National FFA will expand this work, helping students across the country prepare for digital jobs and the farms of the future.”

Microsoft’s participation in Blue 365 is part of its commitment to helping people who may be impacted by technological advances and builds on its TechSpark initiative launched last year. TechSpark is a civic program fostering greater opportunity and job creation in smaller metropolitan areas. The initiative is in six regions, including in North Dakota, and focuses on five program areas: digital transformation, digital skills and computer science education, career pathways, rural broadband connectivity, and support for nonprofits.

“Technology is changing every job, every industry and every organization, and agriculture is no exception,” Burgum said. “Today’s announcement from Microsoft and FFA will provide a valuable tool for our educators as they work to equip students with the skills necessary to succeed in a 21st century economy. Given FFA’s long and storied history in North Dakota and Microsoft’s commitment to investing in the future of our young people, Blue 365’s potential to support student learning is undeniable.”

“FFA students across America will lead the food and agriculture industry into the future. They must have opportunities to integrate digital skills into both their classroom studies and project-based learning,” said Mary Snapp, corporate vice president and lead for Microsoft Philanthropies. “Our partnership will help ensure that curriculum is up to date so that these young leaders can use technology to drive innovation in farms of the future, sustain and renew our planet, and enrich their communities.

The National FFA Organization provides leadership, personal growth and career success training through agricultural education to 653,359 student members who belong to one of 8,568 local FFA chapters throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

About National FFA Organization

The National FFA Organization is a national youth organization of 653,359 student members as part of 8,568 local FFA chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The FFA mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. The National FFA Organization operates under a federal charter granted by the 81st United States Congress and it is an integral part of public instruction in agriculture. The U.S. Department of Education provides leadership and helps set direction for FFA as a service to state and local agricultural education programs. For more, visit the National FFA Organization online at FFA.org and on Facebook, Twitter and the official National FFA Organization blog.

About National FFA Foundation

The National FFA Foundation builds partnerships with industry, education, government, other foundations and individuals to secure financial resources that recognize FFA member achievements, develop student leaders and support the future of agricultural education. Governed by a 19-member board of trustees composed of educators, business leaders, individual donors and FFA Alumni, the foundation is a separately registered nonprofit organization. About 82 percent of every dollar received by the foundation supports FFA members and agricultural education opportunities. For more, visit FFA.org/Give.

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

For more information, press only:

Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications for Microsoft, (425) 638-7777,

[email protected]

Kristy Meyer, National FFA Organization, (800) 293-2387, [email protected]

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at http://news.microsoft.com. Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication but may have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://news.microsoft.com/microsoft-public-relations-contacts.

Evaluating CMS platforms, LA County stays on Documentum

TORONTO — It turns out that when you have an organization so big it would be a Fortune 500 company if it were in the private sector, comparables are hard to find when evaluating CMS platforms and a possible rip and replace.

That’s a challenge the tech team including Murtaza Masood, the assistant director of Los Angeles County’s Department of Human Resources, faced when deciding whether to stay with Documentum and its myriad content service tentacles that reached throughout the county’s systems, which serve 110,000 employees. The evaluation came last year after OpenText acquired Documentum from EMC.

In this Pipeline podcast, Masood describes how it took three years to get an HR digital transformation started so they could then move forward and streamline processes.

We embarked on a strategic roadmap to transform all things HR into digital platforms.
Murtaza MasoodLos Angeles County

“We embarked on a strategic roadmap to transform all things HR into digital platforms — self-service HR [or] on-demand HR, if you will,” Masood says in the podcast, which was recorded in July at the OpenText Enterprise World user conference.

Masood added that he then was tapped to rethink the department’s workflows to slash the time it takes to complete common processes such as responding to HR complaints, civil service exams, workforce employee development and executive services.”

In the middle of that, the county’s long-used document management platform was acquired by a competitor, which precipitated the process of evaluating CMS vendors — and considering possible replacements — on top of the other updates to the documentation processes that were going on.

In the end, the massive enterprise decided to stay on Documentum and migrate slowly into the cloud instead of going the big-bang route. Why?

“Based on our size and the scale of the process, the business continuity aspect of it,” Masood said.

Five lessons on reaching 1 billion people living with disabilities

Microsoft’s mission is to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more. Whether or not we succeed depends on our ability to create an inclusive company culture, deliver inclusive products for our customers and show up to the world in an inclusive way.

Recently I spoke at Microsoft’s Ability Summit about five lessons we’ve learned (so far) in our journey to inclusive and accessible marketing. I’m sharing here in hopes they will inspire your own thinking. To learn more about a couple employee-driven accessibility projects coming out of Microsoft’s One Week Hackathon, I encourage you to check out The Ability Hacks, which we published today.

1. Recognize the values case and the business case

People typically think about the values case for accessibility, which makes sense — empowering people with disabilities makes the world work better for everyone. But the business case for accessibility is equally important. According to the World Health Organization, more than 1 billion people worldwide experience some form of disability. In the US alone, that’s nearly 1 in 5 people in 1 in 3 households. If our products don’t work for a billion people, we’re not only failing in our mission, we’re also missing an enormous business opportunity.

2. Proximity powers empathy

We’ve learned the incredible value of investing in programs that bring us closer to customers of different backgrounds. We learn so much and do our best work when we commit to seeing the world from their perspectives. For instance, back at our 2015 Hackathon, a team of Microsoft engineers pitched a project with the lofty ambition of making gaming more accessible to gamers with limited mobility, and so began the journey of the Xbox Adaptive Controller. From the earliest moments, the development team reached out to nonprofits like Warfighter Engaged and AbleGamers to partner and learn how the product of their dreams could address the broadest set of needs in the real world. The team increased community engagement at every milestone, from product design and engineering, to prototype testing with gamers living with disabilities, to designing final retail packaging. The empathy we gained forged the path to a product we’re very proud of, that we hope gamers everywhere love when it arrives this September.

3. Accessibility for few becomes usability for many

We see time and again that our accessibility work starts out focused on enabling a specific set of customers but ends up benefiting everyone. For instance, Microsoft events are a major marketing investment each year, so it’s important our events meet the needs of every attendee, including people living with disabilities. A few years ago, we began live-transcribing event keynotes with the goal of helping attendees who are deaf or hard of hearing more easily follow along with keynotes. To our surprise, we ended up getting far more feedback from attendees who speak English as a second language – live transcription helped them navigate highly technical discussions and fast-paced product demos. Now we provide live transcription services in keynotes at all large Microsoft events and open captioning (and in many cases audio description) in company videos. The positive responses we’ve received speak to the broader, unexpected benefits of embracing accessibility.

If you find a Microsoft video missing captions, please contact us via our
Disability Answer Desk.

4. All marketing should be inclusive marketing

There’s value in audience-specific marketing programs, but we’ve learned we get the best results when mainstream marketing programs feature people from a range of audiences, backgrounds and life experiences. For instance, in our most recent AI ad we tell three different customer stories – one on preserving ancient architecture, one on sustainable farming and one on audio visualization AI – all woven together seamlessly as cool examples of how AI is improving lives for people today.

Pro tip: Make your presentations more accessible by adding live subtitles with the
Presentation Translator add-in for PowerPoint.

5. Real people, real stories

A few years back, we shifted our marketing approach to show technology empowering real people to do real things. As a result, we’ve seen far stronger return on investment than we would hiring actors to depict the stories of others. The video below is a powerful example – it features real students from Holly Springs Elementary in Georgia talking about how Microsoft Learning Tools help them overcome obstacles to reading.

Not only is the story more credible coming from real students, it makes the core empowerment message relatable to more people. This shift in philosophy now guides decisions on who represents Microsoft in our ads, on our website and at our events. In each case, real people sharing real stories is the most effective way to bring the impact of technology to life.

Real people sharing real stories is the most effective way to bring the impact of technology to life.

These are just five of many lessons we’ve learned, and our work is only beginning. We’re energized to keep learning and sharing our biggest lessons, because there’s tremendous value in embracing inclusion and accessibility – for your people, your bottom line, your customers and the world.