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Microsoft (MSFT) Extends AccountGuard Access Across Europe

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Microsoft MSFT recently broadened the reach of its AccountGuard offering, which is part of its Defending Democracy Program, to 12 new markets in Europe.

The company announced the development via a blog post by the company’s corporate vice president, Customer Security & Trust, Tom Burt.

AccountGuard service, which is already available in the U.K. and Ireland, has now been extended to 12 new European countries, namely Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands, Estonia, Latvia, Finland, Lithuania, Portugal, Spain  and Slovakia.

Notably, the service is accessible across the United States and Canada.

AccountGuard Features & Benefits

Microsoft AccountGuard is developed to provide highly targeted individuals and organizations in the political space with robust protection from cybersecurity threats. The service is free of cost “to eligible organizations” and other enterprises utilizing Office 365 email address.

Per the terms of AccountGuard service, the customers will be notified and provided with recommendations in case a threat is verified. The customers are also anticipated to benefit from security guidance and associated practices, including access to cybersecurity workshops and webinars.

We believe Microsoft’s expansion of AccountGuard offering is well-timed, given the uncertainty regarding Brexit and European Parliament elections around the corner. The fact that selection of the new free service complements Office 365 adoption makes it a smart move.

Into the Headlines

Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit (“DCU”) and Threat Intelligence Center (“MSTIC”) have recently identified “activity targeting democratic institutions in Europe”.

Microsoft notes that the attempts to disrupt elections is broad-based and is not just limited to democratic institutes but also targets education institutes, think tanks and non-profit organizations.

In fact, the company claims to have identified attacks targeting employees of The Aspen Institutes in Europe, The German Marshall Fund and the German Council on Foreign Relations.

Microsoft claims to have notified the concerned organizations of the phishing attempt. The company is of the opinion that the group it calls “Strontium” is behind the cyber attacks which took place “between September and December 2018.”

In this regard it is important to note that in the recent past, Microsoft’s solid execution to thwart Russia’s attempts to disrupt U.S. mid-term elections has been commendable. Notably, Strontium is also suspected to be responsible for the 2016 Democratic National Committee (“DNC”) email leak.

In the past two years, Microsoft has disabled over 84 fake websites connected with the group, known variously as Fancy Bear, APT28 or Strontium.

What the Investors Need To Know?

The growing need for stringent security measures will compel governments and enterprises to increase spending on cyber-security software.

Going ahead, higher spending on defense globally in 2019 as reflected in the latest Deloitte study is anticipated to boost innovative cybersecurity schemes.

Moreover, there is an underlined correlation of increasing cyber attacks and elections primarily in democratic nations. With European Parliament elections around the corner and the Presidential elections in the United States in 2020, demand for cyber security solutions is projected to grow.

In fact, per MarketsandMarkets data, worldwide cyber-security spending is anticipated to reach $231.94 billion by 2022. Microsoft’s initiatives in cybersecurity position it well to capitalize on the alluring prospects.

Microsoft Corporation Price and Consensus


Microsoft Corporation Price and Consensus | Microsoft Corporation Quote

To Conclude

Microsoft is assessing various opportunities wisely and devising strategies to fortify its position in the technology sector. The company’s efforts in digitizing retail outlets, revolutionizing education mechanisms, among others highlight its well-versed technology capabilities.

In fact, its plans to up the ante in cybersecurity with AccountGuard solution are a welcome move. With these initiatives, we believe Microsoft’s brand reputation is likely to get a boost.

Zacks Rank & Key Picks

Microsoft carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

Some better-ranked stocks in the same sector include Benefitfocus, Inc. BNFT, salesforce.com, inc. CRM and MeetMe, Inc. MEET. All the three stocks sport a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks Rank #1 stocks here.

Long-term earnings growth rate for Benefitfocus, salesforce.com and MeetMe is projected to be 25%, 24.2%, and 20%, respectively.

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