Microsoft outage locks users out of Office 365, exposing the need for local, individual control over apps
10/10/2020 // Lance D Johnson // Views

In 2013, Microsoft introduced a subscription-based model for their popular Microsoft Office software. That year Microsoft debuted Office 365, making it available through cloud-based apps that automatically update the newest security measures to protect against phishing.

The downside of subscription-based software compared to licensed software is that the user can get locked out of the software if an outage occurs. This vulnerability was recently observed with Microsoft’s latest Office 365 platform. Millions of users across the globe were locked out of their Microsoft Office, Outlook and Microsoft Teams accounts after an outage occurred at 2:25 p.m. PT on Monday, September 28.

Microsoft outage breaks up team communications for millions around the globe, reveals weakness of cloud-dependent software

The outage lasted for hours, knocking out critical communications for work forces across the world. Microsoft wrote that they experienced an authentication outage that blocked users from their Microsoft products (that they pay an annual subscription for.)

This problem exposes the need for local, individualized control over cloud-based apps, and underscores the durability of licensed software and the privacy and sovereignty that comes with having personal control over the software on an individual computer.

Microsoft 365 subscribers around the world are collectively at the mercy of Microsoft’s security infrastructure and are dependent on the company’s ability to provide and maintain that infrastructure. When the outage occurred, workers around the globe were unable to complete their tasks. Microsoft Teams, for example, has become a primary means of communication for office employees during the pandemic. This platform allows employees to collaborate on files in real time, but relies on Microsoft cloud. When it went down for hours, users around the world were unable to communicate. Government users were greatly impacted, and 911 communications were temporarily disrupted in 14 states. Microsoft had to temporarily reroute traffic to alternate infrastructure while they investigated the issue. (Related: Why does Microsoft control 911 services across dozens of cities?)

With local control, any task carried out in Office 365 wouldn’t be relayed to a vulnerable Microsoft Cloud, that compromises user privacy and makes users collectively dependent on its infrastructure. With local control, tasks could be carried out when the network is down. With local control tasks could be carried out more quickly without depending on the cloud. A system that respects user privacy is more reliable because users are not dependent on Microsoft and their vulnerable, data-gleaning infrastructure. Local control respects individual privacy and gives the user control over the information and data they share through the software.

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