Twenty-five Microsoft Azure cloud services and ten Office 365 services have been awarded \u2018Protected\u2019 certification by the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD).\nThe listing on the ASD\u2019s Certified Cloud Services List (CCSL) makes it far easier for government agencies to host Protected level data sets on the Microsoft cloud, significantly reducing the procurement effort and associated risk assessment process.\n \nThe certification applies across Microsoft\u2019s four cloud regions in Australia, two of which \u2013 Central 1 and 2 in Canberra \u2013were made available today.\n \nAchieving the award has been hard fought by Microsoft over a number of years, requiring significant investment and the dedication of full time engineering teams assigned to achieving it.\n \n\u201cWe\u2019re pretty excited about it because it\u2019s the culmination of quite a number of years of work to get to this stage where the government is comfortable, and it opens up a broad range of options for government to accelerate and move faster on their adoption of cloud,\u201d explained James Kavanagh, Microsoft Azure Engineering Lead for Australia New Zealand.\n \nThe assessment process for Microsoft\u2019s Protected certification began in 2014, at the same time as for Unclassified certification which was grantedlast year. The assessment involves Microsoft proving its products meet close to a thousand distinct security controls laid out in the ASD-maintainedInformation Security Manual,before the claims are verified by independent IRAP assessors and multiple ASD reviews.\n \nMicrosoft was required to engineer \u201cnew security innovations into our software\u201d as well as enhancements to \u201cpersonnel and physical security\u201d to gain the certification.\nThe pay-off is that Microsoft is the first global cloud provider to be awarded Certification for Protected data in Australia, \u201cdramatically accelerating the opportunity for all levels of Government and National Critical Infrastructure\u201d to advance their use of secure cloud computing, the company said.\n \nThey join a limited number of smaller providers \u2013 namely Dimension Data, Macquarie Government, Sliced Tech and Vault Systems \u2013 in offering Protected classification level cloud services.\n \nThe government\u2019s recently releasedSecure Cloud Strategycalled for increased use of cloud by agencies.\n\u201cAwarding Microsoft the Protected Certification reflects the Turnbull Government\u2019s commitment to prioritise and deliver secure cloud services, ensuring a very high level of security for Australians,\u201d said Minister for Law Enforcement and Cyber Security Angus Taylor.\n \nSteven Worrall, managing director, Microsoft Australia, said the certification created a \u201cclear path\u201d for agencies to host Protected datasets.\n \n\u201cThis injects new opportunities for public sector innovation, transformation and service agility thanks to the range of sophisticated Azure services already available and certified. Office 365 will support the Australian government\u2019s ambitions to streamline government processes and digitally transform public sector workplaces. At the same time agencies can avail themselves of the mature and open ecosystem of partners and developers who build on the Azure cloud.\u201d he said.\n \nRival AWS is closing in on Protected approval for its cloud services. However, certification may be some time off with the company last week announcing it had only finalised its IRAP.