Top 10 Microsoft Azure Security Best Practices
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.
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. 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.
2. 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. 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.
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. Key Management Solution
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.
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7. Azure Disk Encryption
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.
8. 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
9. 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
10. Cloud Workload Security
Cloud workloads are piling up, and cloud platforms are attracting more hackers. Keeping up with the latest security updates and implementing the latest solutions can reduce the risk of malicious actions in the cloud. This requires much more time and effort to keep up with. However, it is early to feel blue about it because we have yet to say our last 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.
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!