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Microsoft Previews Lower-Priced Defender For Endpoint Solution

‘The biggest challenge you run into is just explaining it in terms they can understand, and then helping them to understand that security is a layered approach,’ said Zac Paulson, CEO of Microsoft partner TrueIT. ‘It’s not, “Buy this product and you’re good.” It’s, “Buy this suite of products and then, by the way, in six months, I’m going to have to come back to you with another product because something new came out.”’

Microsoft has launched a public preview of a new Defender for Endpoint plan that omits some capabilities from the tool for a lower price in an effort to increase adoption of the tool.

Defender for Endpoint Plan 1 cuts out capabilities around endpoint detection and response, automated investigation and remediation, threat management, threat analytics, deep analysis and access to Microsoft threat experts, according to a Microsoft statement published Tuesday. The traditional Defender for Endpoint product offering the full set of capabilities is now called Plan 2, or P2.

“Microsoft Defender for Endpoint P1 delivers on our endpoint security promise to help organizations rapidly stop attacks, scale their security resources, and evolve their defenses and is available in preview today,” according to the post. “Our existing endpoint security solution will continue to be offered without changes and named Microsoft Defender for Endpoint Plan 2 (P2).”

[RELATED: Microsoft: Our ‘Holistic’ Approach To Security Is Superior]

P1 gives customers cloud-based anti-malware with built-in artificial intelligence to stop ransomware and other threats, according to a Microsoft post published Tuesday. The solution also comes with attack surface reduction capabilities to give more access and behavior control on the endpoint and device-based conditional access to prevent breaches.

The news comes amid a spate of attacks against Microsoft applications as well as newly discovered vulnerabilities and issues with various Microsoft tools.

On Aug. 25, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella tweeted that Microsoft “will invest $20 billion to advance our security solutions over the next 5 years, $150 million to help US government agencies upgrade protections, and expand our cybersecurity training partnerships,” following a talk on cybersecurity with President Joe Biden that included the CEOs of Amazon, IBM and Google.

Zac Paulson, CEO of TrueIT -- a Fargo, N.D.-based Microsoft partner and member of CRN’s 2021 Managed Service Provider (MSP) 500 -- told CRN in an interview that security is part of every client engagement, with clients willing to spend but seeking education on what to buy.

“The biggest challenge you run into is just explaining it in terms they can understand, and then helping them to understand that security is a layered approach,” Paulson said. “It’s not a, ‘Buy this product and you’re good.’ It’s, ‘Buy this suite of products and then, by the way, in six months, I’m going to have to come back to you with another product because something new came out.’”

Paulson is working to win clients over to Defender from third-party security tools, but one obstacle for his MSP clients is that they need a central method of managing multiple clients’ security positions.

MSPs “need to be able to manage 100 clients with an anti-virus product, whereas Defender’s set up to be managed per client, and that‘s what makes it challenging,” he said.

He compared the experience to TrueIT needing to go into clients’ versions of Office 365 instead of having a single view.

“That‘s not such a big deal, but when you start managing antivirus products, and some of these other products, you need to manage them across one pane of glass for all your clients,” he said.

P1 supports Windows 7, 8.1, 10, 11, macOS, Android and iOS. Customers can try P1 for free for 90 days. It will become generally available later this year, according to the post. Licensed users will have an option to use P1 on up to five concurrent devices. Microsoft 365 E3 and A3 customers will receive an automatic upgrade to P1 once it’s generally available.

Organizations with P2 licenses won’t be eligible for P1. Plan 2 is aimed at enterprises that need solutions with advanced threat prevention, deep hunting capabilities and advanced security and IT operations (SecOps) remediation tools, according to the post.

P1 “includes next generation protection, device control, endpoint firewall, network protection, web content filtering, attack surface reduction rules, controlled folder access, device based conditional access, APIs and connectors, and the ability to bring your own custom TI,” according to the post. “Finally, it includes access to the Microsoft 365 Defender security experience to view alerts and incidents, security dashboards, device inventory, and perform investigations and manual response actions on next generation protection events.”

Microsoft has found a 121 percent increase in organizations that have encountered ransomware from July 2020 to July 2021, going from 1,391 organizations to 3,073, according to the post.

“The level of sophistication of these kinds of attacks and the speed at which they evolve requires a different approach to security, one that is based on cloud native technology, built on deep threat and human intelligence, and that can easily scale,” according to Microsoft. “It requires robust prevention that uses AI and machine learning to rapidly stop threats and a solution that enables a Zero Trust approach.”

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