Summary:

Two-factor authentication adds an additional layer of security — and another step — to accessing your data on the Windows Azure cloud.

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Microsoft checked off another checklist item for Windows Azure when it turned on multifactor authentication on Thursday.

Multifactor authentication requires that a user put in her password or code as the first step but then adds another step to the process. One of my credit card companies, for example, requires me to get an additional passcode via voicemail or text, that I must also key in to access my account information.

It’s that extra layer of security that Microsoft is adding here. Per a blog post by Steve Martin, GM for Windows Azure:

Multi-Factor Authentication quickly enables an additional layer security for users signing in from around the globe. In addition to a username and password, users may authenticate via: 1) An application on their mobile device. 2) Automated voice call. 3) Text message with a passcode. It’s easy and meets user demand for a simple sign-in experience.

Microsoft charges either $2 per user per month or $2 per 10 authentications for this service.

Given the concern around data privacy and security, this is an important addition to Microsoft’s public cloud portfolio. Amazon, the leader in public cloud, has offered multifactor authentication for some time and Google added server-side encryption to its Google Cloud Platform earlier this summer.

After some high-profile hacking incidents, the pressure is on even for consumer-oriented services (e.g. Twitter) to add multi-factor encryption going forward, so stay tuned.

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