Exchange Server 2019: CU13 brings modern OAuth 2.0 to on-premises environments​

With the 2023 H1 Cumulative Update (CU), a new version for the Microsoft mail server software Exchange Server 2019 has been released. As the 13th update of the latest Exchange Server variant, it is given the nickname CU13. In addition to bug fixes and security updates, CU13 brings new authentication options for on-premises environments and is intended to make installation easier for administrators.

Configuration changes made by system administrators themselves had often overwritten previous Exchange server updates. In IT departments, this meant frustration and extra work due to the need to import old backups manually. With CU13, Microsoft now wants to remedy the situation and make the installation process more relaxed. When installing new Exchange Server versions, the setup now automatically creates backups and automatically restores them after a successful update. This should work with 70 configuration settings. For which ones, this is shown by Microsoft’s support wiki entry.

The second major innovation concerns authentication between clients and servers, or between two servers. In the past, Exchange used the earlier industry standard of basic authentication for this – with on-premises versions this was still the case until recently. The basic authentication consisting of username and password is now considered obsolete. In the future, it will also replace the more modern OAuth 2.0-based authentication in locally operated Exchange environments.

The first step is taken by the e-mail client Outlook on Windows systems. The other Outlook clients on Mac and mobile devices will follow later this year. This means that multi-factor authentications as well as smart cards or other token authentications are now also possible in Outlook with appropriately updated systems.

In addition, in the Exchange Team blog post on CU13, Microsoft reminds of the end of support for old Exchange server versions. Exchange Server 2013 has not been supported at all since the beginning of April. Users should switch to a newer Exchange version, not least for security reasons. If you seem to be unteachable, Microsoft will get you going with its mandatory update for on-premises versions.

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