Office 365 gets an AI boost

LAN644 Office 365 gets an AI boost

There were many announcements at Microsoft’s annual Ignite event — held this year in Atlanta Georgia — that would have been of interest to users of its products. Not surprisingly many of these related to Office 365 and the software tools available through it, but perhaps none were more important than the new security features.

The title of a blog post on the subject by Alym Rayani, director for Office Security and Compliance, summed up the key news: Applying intelligence to security and compliance in Office 365. As CIO reporter, Blair Hanley Frank observed: “Microsoft is going big on features powered by machine learning in its productivity services, with the announcement of a handful of updates to Office 365.”

Rayani’s blog detailed several enhancements to Office 365 that might be regarded as ‘traditional’ IT security tools, such as URL checking, analysis of suspect software in a sandbox, better reporting. In addition to these, there are two new feature underpinned by machine learning/artificial intelligence that won’t be available until 2013:

Threat Intelligence, which analyses billions of data signals across Office consumer and commercial services and combines these with insights from established cyber threat hunters to create a comprehensive view of malware trends around the world.

Security admins will see a dashboard with insights that will enable them to make deep investigation of malware and the will be able  to integrate data with existing security management tools.

However, Threat Intelligence will go beyond simply providing direct advice on threats. According to Rayani“if analytics show that attacks are happening in the financial industry, the service will alert customers in finance and related areas to the trend [and] will also dynamically create and suggest additional security policies to help protect you before they get to your network.”

AI to help you manage your documents

The second application of machine learning is not to security but to help Office 365 users cope with the ever-growing deluge of documents and data that today’s digital organisations generate.

“You’ll be able to classify, set policy and take action on the data that is most relevant for your organisation and industry with recommendations driven by behavioural analysis and machine learning,” Rayani promises. 

The feature, known as Office 365 Advanced Data Governance, will offer policy recommendations based on machine learning driven insights of “your data, classifications, tenant, organisation, industry, geography and more.” You might be recommended to delete, move, encrypt or share a document.

Advanced Data Governance will “intelligently preserve only what’s important to you by using classifications such as keywords, age, data type, user or group, sensitivity, importance.”

Sounds like data management Nirvana, but I suspect there will need to be some initial user reluctance to trust such recommendations that will need be overcome.

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