blog post cover

Top 10 Microsoft Azure Security Best Practices

Table of contents

Cloud computing has become more popular in recent years, and new players have entered the market. However, most of the market share is still held by a few pioneers. In Q3 '22, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google accounted for two-thirds of cloud infrastructure revenue, according to Statista.

Launched in October 2008, Microsoft Azure has 21% market share now.

In order to sustain network security and maximize the benefits of cloud computing, users must embrace the shared responsibility model. In contrast to on-premise solutions, cloud computing has a shared responsibility model. 

While on-prem solutions require the customer to have the whole responsibility as they own the entire stack, cloud platforms relieve the customer's burden by splitting responsibilities between the customer and the provider. The shared responsibility model varies for each deployment model.

However, the customer retains responsibility for specific points. Knowing that Accounts, Access Management, Endpoints, and Data safety are the customer's responsibility, customers should fully understand the best practices and take the proper actions to mitigate potential risks.

Quick look at the top 5 of Azure security best practices:

  1. Enable MFA
  2. Leverage dedicated workstations
  3. Use role-based access controls
  4. Restrict admin access
  5. Use key management solutions

So let's dive into security best practices for organizations wishing to move their infrastructure to Microsoft Azure cloud technology!

Best Practices for Azure Security

1. Enable multifactor authentication ("MFA")

Data breaches are frequently happening and some of the major breaches affected over 550 million accounts in the past five years. As one of the most significant network security best practices, MFA could prevent most of these breaches. MFA can be applied via mobile applications, SMS, or phone calls in addition to the password.

Microsoft sees over 300 million fraudulent sign-in attempts to cloud services every day. 

To secure authorization and access controls on all accounts, the initial and simplest step that should be taken is turning on MFA on both internal and external accounts. 

microsoft Azure security MFA setup

2. Leverage dedicated workstations 

As users take actions that compromise network integrity, like scrolling through LinkedIn or checking email while working on sensitive data at the same time, companies are at risk of cyberattacks like Ransomware and Malware. 

To secure sensitive data from external attacks, Microsoft Azure offers a separate operating system called Privileged Access Workstations ("PAWs") dedicated to work-related confidential information. PAWs are dedicated systems that provide safety for sensitive accounts and tasks built on trusted hardware. PAWs also provide fast and automated safety updates to ensure system integrity.

It is recommended to use a dedicated workstation with administrative privileges to separate sensitive information from daily activities that may cause cyberattacks. 

3. Use Role-based Access Control

The DevOps approach may grant some users far more control rights than they should have, and this situation may cause potential risks to increase. In this situation, access management for the cloud refers to determining who can log into Azure resources, what he can do, and which areas he can use. 

Azure Role-Based User Access ("RBAC") comes into play to manage these three points. Customers can use Azure RBAC to grant permissions to users, groups, and so on at a particular scope. The scope of the consent can be determined as a subscription model, a resource group, or a single resource. 

RBAC segregates duties within the team. Nonetheless, it is critical to only grant users permission when necessary, limit the number of subscription owners, and assign roles to groups, rather than individuals. 

security concept

4. Restrict administrator access 

Once a customer sets up Azure RBAC, it must be supported by Privileged Identity Management ("PIM"). PIM helps customers to mitigate the risks of excessive and unnecessary access permissions or malicious actors' access to resources and refers to a system that customers can:

  • Provide just-in-time privileged access and assign time-bound access
  • Get notifications and download login history
  • Conduct access reviews periodically to be sure that the user still needs permission

To prevent unnecessary accounts with high fees from using the resources when it is not required, setting up PIM as an administrative system is highly recommended.

5. Use key management solutions

During application development, sensitive materials are not hard-coded within the app itself or the platform. Instead, the keys are transferred from the vault through API calls or other programmatic access, and only the developer who created the key can grant permission. 

As Microsoft Azure offers several key management solutions to ease this process, Azure Key Vault is one of them. With Azure Key Vault, keys can be stored in the cloud and easily accessible when needed. Azure Key Vault helps customers with;

  • Secret Management by storing and controlling access to passwords, API keys, certificates, and other sensitive data. 
  • Key Management by simplifying the process of creating and controlling encryption keys.
  • Certificate Management allows users to provision, manage, and deploy public and private Transport Layer Security/Secure Sockets Layer (TLS/SSL) certificates.

6. Control and limit the network access

Another security practice that needs to be taken into account is protecting systems that are available on the internet. For this purpose, Microsoft Azure provides:

  • Network Security Group ("NSG") utilization to restrict access from all networks to specific points when Azure Resource Manager is being used for deployment. 
  • Site-to-site VPN extends the local network to the cloud. 
  • Point-to-site option gives administrators the option to connect through a VPN to the Azure-hosted workplace from their workstation.

You might also like; A Closer Look At The Multicloud Adoption Trend

7. Implement network security

Network security is crucial in protecting your Azure environment. Ensure that you implement network security groups, virtual network gateways, and VPNs to secure network traffic. When it comes to network security in Azure, there are several best practices that you should follow to ensure that your cloud networks are secure:

  • Encrypt data in transit: As mentioned in the data encryption section, it's important to encrypt all network traffic using modern encryption protocols to prevent unauthorized access.
  • Implement zero trust: With zero trust architecture, network policies should deny access by default unless there is an explicit allow rule. This means that only authorized traffic is allowed, and everything else is blocked.
  • Limit open ports and Internet-facing endpoints: It's important to restrict access to open ports and Internet-facing endpoints unless there is a well-defined business reason for them to be open. This reduces the attack surface and makes it harder for attackers to gain access to your network.
  • Monitor device access: Monitoring access to your workloads and devices is essential for proactively detecting threats. By using a SIEM or Azure Monitor, you can monitor access to your network and identify suspicious activity.
  • Segment your networks: Logical network segmentation can help improve visibility, make your networks easier to manage, and limit east-west movement in the event of a breach. By segmenting your network, you can reduce the potential impact of a security breach.

8. Encrypt the virtual disk

If there is a virtual machine in the cloud, customers need to encrypt the virtual disk to protect the data. Microsoft Azure uses BitLocker in Windows for encryption, and this is directly integrated with Azure Key Vault, so it can be managed via the keys generated. 

Since data on a lost or stolen computer are vulnerable to unauthorized intrusion, BitLocker helps mitigate unauthorized data access by strengthening system protections. It also helps make data inaccessible when the computer is decommissioned or recycled. 

code on laptop screen

9. Monitor the Centralized Security Management System

In order to track unexpected behaviors and preserve data integrity, activities, corrective updates, configurations and other actions regarding security issues should be monitored. 

Azure Security Center continuously monitors Azure resources to detect potential vulnerabilities. Its results are represented as a list of recommendations for implementing safety checks correctly. Thus, Azure Security Center or a tool that allows customers to monitor resources is highly recommended for monitoring all actions that could threaten cloud security. At this point, Resmo provides a comprehensive set of features, including monitoring and alerting when security threats arise.

Suggested reading: Cybersecurity Asset Management

10. Ensure operating system security 

In an IAAS deployment, the shared responsibility model always places responsibility on the customer for the management of the operating system they deploy. So, we recommend you to:

  • Follow the IAAS provider's security rules
  • Run anti-malware software
  • Keep up with the latest security updates
  • Always have a backup solution 

11. Pay attention to cloud workload security

Ensuring cloud workload security is a critical Azure security best practice because it protects your organization's applications, data, and infrastructure in the cloud from various security threats.

Cloud workload security involves implementing security measures at every stage of the cloud workload lifecycle, including development, deployment, and maintenance. This includes applying security controls such as:

  • Access management
  • Identity and access management
  • Network security
  • Encryption
  • Logging and monitoring

Suggested reading: IAM security best practices to secure your organization

12. Maintain compliance

Maintaining continuous compliance is a crucial aspect of security in the Azure cloud. Compliance helps organizations meet legal, regulatory, and contractual obligations related to the protection of sensitive data. As a security expert, it's important to understand why maintaining compliance is essential and how to achieve it.

Define your compliance objectives: You must determine what data and workloads are in scope from a compliance perspective and identify the relevant standards and regulations that apply to your organization. This includes understanding the specific requirements for standards such as PCI-DSS, ISO 27001, and HIPAA. (See our free guide on popular security and compliance frameworks and regulations)

Leverage the Azure Security Center's regulatory compliance dashboard and Azure Security Benchmark: This can help you ensure that you're meeting your compliance requirements. The compliance dashboard provides visibility into how close you are to achieving compliance based on a wide range of standards. Azure Security Benchmark provides recommendations that you can follow to move closer to full compliance. Using these tools can help you simplify compliance in the cloud.

Final words

As each day brings new updates to implement and workload sizes increase, tracking operations and identifying potential cyber threats to cloud security becomes time-consuming. At this point, the most recommended way to ensure cloud security is using a third-party monitoring tool. 

Azure security rules on Resmo

Through Resmo, you can collect and query your Azure resources in one place and gain visibility into them. Additionally, you can receive alerts about security breaches and query your assets with custom and managed queries. There are also a variety of tools integrated with Resmo to simplify your operations, and the list is constantly growing!

Take a closer look at Resmo's key features and let Resmo do the work for you! Sign up for a free trial today! 

You might also like:

Continue Reading

next article

17 Best SIEM Tools to Try in 2024

Sign up for our Newsletter