Microsoft tells some employees to replace their Android phones with iPhones in the office

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An internal memo reviewed by Bloomberg revealed that starting in September, Microsoft employees in China will need to use an iPhone for authentication when they sign into company systems. Android phones will not be allowed as multi-factor authentication devices. When signing into Microsoft systems, employees need to use a smartphone and two Microsoft apps to log in. 

When the new rules take effect in less than two months, iPhone handsets will be required to run the two Microsoft apps, the Microsoft Authenticator password manager and Identity Pass app. The software company requires multi-factor authentication to guard against hackers. The new rules will impact hundreds of Microsoft employees who work in Mainland China.

Microsoft’s memo notes that it blocked Android phones from being used for multi-factor authentication because Android phones are not allowed to run Google services in China. That prevents the Microsoft employees from accessing the Google Play Store leaving Apple’s App Store as the only place where these employees can download the required security apps. Android app storefronts are fragmented in China with the ban on Google services forcing phone manufacturers in the country to offer their own app stores. Such manufacturers include Huawei and Xiaomi.
Any members of the Microsoft staff in China owning an Android phone will be forced to purchase an iPhone 15 for a one-time payment. Microsoft will make iPhones available at hubs across China and even in Hong Kong where Google services are allowed. Microsoft employees in China will still be allowed to use Android handsets as their personal phones.

The company has been the target of multiple state-sponsored attacks by hackers. Back in January, an attack linked to Russia affected many U.S. government agencies including the State Department. With U.S. lawmakers putting pressure on Microsoft, the company started the Secure Future Initiative (SFI) company-wide last November. SFI will use AI to help it address vulnerabilities in the cloud faster, make it more difficult for hackers to obtain credentials, and automatically require multi-factor authentication for employees.

And that brings us right back to the internal memo alerting Microsoft workers on the Mainland that they must use an iPhone at work.


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