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5 Reasons Why Microsoft’s Surface Family is Secure for the Mobile Federal Worker

Tyler Ross, Chief of Staff, Modern Work, Microsoft Federal

April 27, 2021  |  Cyber Security  •  IT Modernization


Because Microsoft has been a household name for decades, the expanse of their product portfolio can understandably be difficult to choose from when the software company has so much to offer under its umbrella. Their Surface product line of personal computers and interactive whiteboards, however, stands out not only because it makes the software company a computer making company now but also meets the performance and security requirements federal users need in today’s age of mobile and remote working.

The Surface family consists of laptops, 2-in-1 books, tablets, a convertible desktop all-in-one, and an interactive whiteboard. For those mobile or remote workers who want a top-of-the-line product with historical reliability and reputation that also complies with the federally-issued mandates and performance requirements, here is a breakdown of the Surface family and the benefits it brings to its customers.

 

  • Surface Pro – most recent models come with Intel’s 11th generation Core™ processor, longer battery life, removable SSDs and LTE advanced capabilities
  • Surface Go – good for the mobile worker, this laptop is a lightweight 2-in-1 with a brighter screen than previous versions
  • Surface Laptop – these lightweight laptops allow for easy traveling and usage with its size, battery life and HD camera
  • Surface Book – Speed, graphics, and long battery life pair with the flexibility of a robust laptop, processor-powered tablet, and portable studio
  • Surface Studio – This is Microsoft’s powerful, all-in-one desktop with blazing graphics, touchscreens, and massive storage capacity
  • Surface Hub – collaboration made easy with these interactive whiteboards
  • Surface Duo – brings together the best of Microsoft and the best of Android

 

It’s obvious the federal government takes security seriously. And for good reason, it’s the largest entity to protect Americans by ensuring no compromising information gets into the wrong hands. With such a large federal workforce (an estimated 2.4 million employees as of 2020, in fact, not including federal contractors), it’s crucial that each employee uses dependable products that reliably meet federally mandated security requirements. Microsoft ensures their products live up to the strict security requirements federal customers need in the following 5 ways.

Reason #1: Smart card reader

To start, the Microsoft Surface Pro and Microsoft Surface Go provide an integrated-like FIPS 201-compliant smart card reader module to help simplify logins and prevent unauthorized access to data on devices or private networks. This case called the Kensington BlackBelt™ Rugged Case with Integrated CAC Reader adds security, protection and convenience to Microsoft Surface Pro and Go devices, its data and the users’ network regardless of location. Additional features of the combined solution include military-grade drop protection, a protective camera cover, openings for the kickstand and all I/O ports, cable lock compatibility, a self-adjusting hand strap, and Trade Agreements Act (TAA) compliance.

Reason #2: TAA compliance

The Trade Agreement Act (TAA) (19 U.S.C. & 2501-2581) was created in 1979 and is intended to foster the growth and maintenance of a fair and open trading system. TAA compliance requires that the U.S. Government (including GSA) acquires only U.S. – made or certain “designated country” end products. This means that all products must be either manufactured or “substantially transformed” in the United States or a TAA compliant country. The significance of the Microsoft Surface family having TAA compliance means that it’s easier for the federal government to purchase, fosters a secure supply chain and guarantees the production of each Surface family member meets the mandates set forth by such agreement.

Reason #3: Firmware

Microsoft writes and manages its own firmware in-house. Firmware is a tangible electronic component with embedded software instructions. Typically, those software instructions are used to tell an electronic device how to operate. The fact that Microsoft handles all its own firmware is important to federal entities because it reduces the amount of vendors needing access to these privileged modules (reduced data access = reduced risk of data leakage or manipulation) and it allows Microsoft to tweak the capabilities or provide rapid response to security events within its Surface family depending on what the federal government needs and when.  For example, in SCIF locations, some federal agencies cannot have cameras enabled on their laptops. Instead of having a third party vendor physically cut the components out of every single laptop for this organization (that could have thousands of employees), a customer can simply apply an update to their firmware and have that capability shut off on every device quickly and without issue. This can save organizations incalculable amounts of time, money, resources and reduce any potential security concerns.

Reason #4: Removable hard drives & Global support

As a direct response to federal customer feedback, the Surface Pro 7+ and Surface Laptop 4 both come with a removable hard drive. Microsoft accomplished this without having to compromise the functionality, design, or native device security for federal customers who need the ability to pull the hard drive for media or data retention. In the event of a service exchange or legal hold, an organization can easily remove the SSD for storage or transfer it to a replacement machine to greatly reduce downtime. For support on other Surface products, Microsoft partners exclusively with ITG, as their authorized federal extended hardware service provider, to offer hard drive retention options, along with a portfolio of services to meet all the federal government’s requirements wherever the federal government has a location globally. ITG is ISO 20001 certified, CMMC Level 5 Compliant and are NIST 800-171 Self Certified and a key partner to Surface in meeting the federal government’s needs.

Reason #5: 1-to-1 device strategy

The 1-to-1 device strategy is most appealing to mobile or remote users because it allows for just one device to integrate or dock to any of their working environments – whether at the office, in a conference room or at home. This flexible experience not only adds convenience to the remote employee’s routine because they only bring one device with them in any given environment but it reduces risk (and expense) for their organization because all the important data is stored on just one device and isn’t shared between networks or various pieces of equipment. With 64% of organizations experiencing one or more endpoint attacks that compromised data or IT infrastructure, security teams understand the urgent need to modernize endpoint security methods. Adding endpoints to sensitive networks only increases chances of cyber-attacks so keeping these access points to a minimum is attractive to federal organizations.

Additionally, this strategy allows organizations to prepare for the future by providing its employees with one device that can go anywhere and do anything their job requires. So in the case of an unforeseen event – like a global pandemic or terrible weather like a tornado, hurricane or snow storm – each employee is already prepared to work from where they are with the equipment they have so the organization doesn’t miss a beat with productivity and continues to work as normal.

For more information on how Microsoft Surface family provides security for its customers, click here. To learn more about the wide variety of contract and service providing vehicles Iron Bow holds to see how we can help your organization, please visit our website.


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