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Top 12 Best Practices for Security in Azure

The advent of and advancements within cloud computing have offered unparalleled benefits to businesses, such as ease of access and integration and cost-effective infrastructure. However, these advancements have also propelled privacy and security as a leading cause of concern for organisations worldwide. Ensuring security in Azure is a feasible approach to address such concerns. 

Organisational and consumer data is paramount to businesses, and they are spending billions to ensure its security and integrity. Recent forecasts have shown that the global cybersecurity market is expected to surpass $300 billion by 2025. Furthermore, the market size is expected to cross $650 billion by 2030.  

Although many providers are available in the market, Microsoft Azure remains the most relied-upon option for businesses due to its competent security posture. However, to harness its full potential, businesses must thoroughly understand the fundamentals and best practices of Azure security. 

Cloud technologies have enabled businesses to gain countless benefits and advantages, yet security and privacy remain major concerns, especially with handling business and consumer data. See how organisations can use various methods, such as access control and encryption, to ensure security in Azure.

Feel free to contact our Microsoft Azure Consultants for expert advice on maximising security in Azure

Understanding Security in Azure 

Security in Azure is enabled by a wide range of features that can be customised as per business needs and requirements. Azure Security refers to a competent mix of security elements, including access control and data encryption, used to secure the Azure cloud environment. Security services within Azure can be deployed across an organisation’s identity, data, network, and applications. These built-in functional capabilities are divided as follows: 

  1. Operations – allows organisations to access intelligent security and threat analytics, ensure visibility and control, and create alerts using Azure Monitor
  2. Applications – helps businesses ensure protection for web applications, provide ease of access, and diagnose login information for web servers and applications.
  3. Storage – enables companies to provide role-based access and ensure the encryption of at-risk and in-transit data. 
  4. Networking – allows organisations to control routing behaviour, implement network access control policies, and enable traffic inspection. 
  5. Compute – helps security teams implement business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) strategies and enables virtual machines (VM) disk encryption.
  6. Identity and Access Management (IAM) – allows businesses to ensure the required level of access to networks, resources, and applications.  

Azure Security Center 

The Azure Security Center provides organisations with security tools such as Azure Active Directory (AD), which enable them to monitor VMs, data and applications. These tools also help deploy detection, response, and prevention measures for potential security threats. In addition, the Azure Security Center allows businesses to configure security policies and gather required data for their implementation. Furthermore, it provides recommendations for security policies based on predefined requirements and allows organisations to create alerts for malicious network activity.

Azure Secure Score 

The secure score is a security analytics tool that enables organisations to visualise their security in Azure. In addition, it also helps organisations identify ways by which they can improve their security posture. It is calculated as a ratio between an organisation’s health resources and total resources and can be found within the security centre. Organisations looking to improve this security score must adhere to the provided recommendations and best practices for Azure security. 

Shared Responsibility Model 

Security for organisational networks, data, and applications with the Azure cloud is deployed based on a shared responsibility model. In essence, this entrails that organisations are able and required to ensure the security of their resources and application using Azure’s capabilities. Whereas Microsoft is liable for ensuring the security of the entire Azure cloud. However, security responsibilities for Microsoft and its users may vary depending on individual cases and requirements. 

Principle of Least Privilege (POLP)

The POLP framework dictates access protocols that should be deployed to gain maximum security. The framework necessitates that access to organisational networks, data, and applications should only be provided to users requiring it to perform their jobs. This approach helps eliminate unauthorised access and reduces troubleshooting and damage potential. The implementation of the approach may vary depending on organisational workloads and programs. 

Key Features of Security in Azure

Security protocols in the Azure cloud can be implemented using various features such as encryption and firewalls. However, the exact feature required to develop and maintain a competent security posture depends on organisational security vulnerabilities and requirements. Some of the key features that allow businesses to achieve maximum security in Azure include: 

1. Collective Resource Management 

Businesses using Azure to migrate the cloud can manage their security protocols using the Azure Resource Manager. The tools provide a seamless experience for the deployment, management, and termination of resource parts of an organisation’s security solution. In addition, it also provides template-based deployment and ensures that standard security protocols can be integrated with these deployments.

2. Layered Security Architecture

Using Azure allows organisations to access an isolated runtime environment for applications deployed into the Azure Virtual Network. This, in turn, allows IT professionals to create a layer security architecture to ensure varying access levels for each application tier. This helps them ensure that each user has the required level of access and can improve an organisation’s security posture. 

3. Private Links and Endpoints

Exposing organisational virtual networks to the public internet can lead to the exploitation of endpoint vulnerabilities. Businesses that improve their security posture with Azure can use private links to access services such as Azure Storage. Such access is provided through virtual networks that use private endpoints. These endpoints use a private IP address to develop connections and provide secure access to services within an organisation’s Azure Virtual Network. 

4. Site Recovery

Organisations that have migrated to the cloud can use Azure Site Recovery to improve their security in Azure. Site recovery is a key feature of Azure security that allows Chief Information Technology Officers (CISOs) to ensure business continuity in the event of a disaster or unplanned outage. This feature allows security teams to replicate, failover, and recover workloads and applications from a secondary location if the primary location is rendered unavailable. 

Best Practices for Security in Azure 

Businesses using Azure Security can utilize various elements to improve their security posture. However, in order to ensure maximum return on investment and security in Azure, they must thoroughly understand and adhere to the best practices of Azure Security. Some of these best practices include: 

Network Security 

Organisations can adhere to many best practices for ensuring maximum network security in Azure. When using Azure, organisations should ensure centralised management and governance of core network functionalities such as subnet provisioning and IP addressing. 

CISOs must ensure the segmentation of network subnets and the deployment of access control protocols for these subnets. In addition, organisations should also create network security groups to ensure protection against malicious and unauthorised traffic. 

Storage and Database Security 

When considering security protocols for storage and databases, organisations must use the Azure SQL Database. Using the SQL database will allow organisations to choose either SQL authentication protocols or Azure AD authentication protocols. 

SQL authentication protocols allow organisations to use administrative login credentials to access any database. Whereas Azure AD allows organisations to centralise the management of identities of database users. In addition, organisations can also restrict access to unauthorised IP addresses for servers and databases. 

Encryption and Data Protection 

Encrypting organisational data is an effective mechanism that ensures that the information can not be used by those without a decryption key. When implementing data encryption, it is critical that organisations encrypt both at-rest and in-transit data.

To protect at-rest data, organisations should ensure disk encryption prior to storing sensitive data as this helps eliminate unauthorised access. To secure in-transit data, organisations should ensure that SSL/TLS protocols are used when transmitting data from different locations. 

Threat Management 

Organisations should ensure the integration of Microsoft SQL Server as it can drastically improve security in Azure. Doing so allows security teams to enable threat detection protocols that can identify anomalies such as SQL injections. 

In addition, businesses should harness the security potential of Privileged Access Workstations (PAWs) provided by Azure. Using PAWs allows security teams to protect operating systems by neutralising various threats, including phishing attacks and application vulnerabilities. 

Azure Web Security 

Security protocols can also be enhanced using the Azure Web Application Firewall (WAF). The WAF is a security service that provides protection for all of an organisation’s web applications against common vulnerabilities. 

In addition, WAF also provides protection against various malicious attacks, such as SQL injection and cross-scripting. Using WAF allows organisations to create multiple policies, associate them with Azure Application Gateways, and monitor attacks using WAF logs. 

Azure Monitoring, Logging, and Reporting 

Monitoring and logging can provide valuable insight into the health and performance of organisational networks, data, and applications. When implementing such protocols, it’s important for organisations to enable diagnostic logging for Azure resources. 

In addition, security teams can also use Azure Monitor to collect and analyse data, create alerts, and generate performance reports. Insight gathered from the reports can then be used to optimise performance and security in Azure

Workloads and VM Protection 

Organisations should use authorisation and access protection protocols to protect workloads and VMs. It’s preeminent to mention that the policies should be applied to resource groups as VMs within the group inherit its policies. 

In addition, businesses can also use pre-defined access roles to deploy access using a least privilege approach. Each role has a different level which dictates its functionalities. This helps businesses eliminate unauthorised use among users and improve their security posture. 

Identity and Access Integration

Organisations seeking to use both on-premise and cloud infrastructure can use Azure Stack HCI to reduce operational complexity. However, they must integrate both cloud and on-premise directories. This ensures efficient and secure access management, as only one identity will be required to access both infrastructures.

Organisations can also enable conditional access to ensure maximum security in Azure. Conditional access policies can be configured using Azure AD based on location, application sensitivity, and AD-connected apps. 

Boundary Security 

Adopting the Zero Trust approach can help organisations achieve boundary security in Azure. Traditional perimeter security policies allow access to all users with a network. Access acquired from remote locations can leave organisations vulnerable to threats as endpoints used for remote access can be exploited. 

Therefore, it’s essential that organisations adapt to a Zero Trust approach and implement conditional access politics to ensure boundary security. Such access policies can be configured based on device, location, and identity. 

Operational Security 

Operational security in Azure refers to the services and controls available to users to protect their data and applications. To ensure operational security, organisations should monitor suspicious user logins and behaviours using Azure AD security reports. 

In addition, organisations should also use Azure Storage Analytics to monitor storage services for unexpected changes. These analytical insights can be used to track behaviour and usage trends and diagnose potential storage issues. 

Azure Platform as a Service (PaaS) 

Organisations improving security protocols for Azure PaaS deployment must configure identity as a primary security perimeter. To ensure effective deployment, organisations must implement two-factor authentication for granting access. These protocols ensure that credential weaknesses do not limit effective authorisations.

Organisations should also conduct frequent penetrating testing to identify and tackle exploitable open port or endpoint vulnerabilities. In addition, they should also use Azure Key Vault to safeguard cryptographic keys used by applications and services.

Azure Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) 

To maximise IaaS security in Azure, organisations must implement the required protection against malware. Such protocols can be effectively deployed by installing anti-malware solutions and using Microsoft Defender for the Cloud monitor protection status. 

In addition, businesses should ensure that all VMs are frequently updated. This can be done by using the Update Management solution in Azure Automation. The solution can update Windows or Linux operating systems deployed in Azure or on-premise environments. 

Final Thoughts On Security In Azure 

Cloud technologies have enabled businesses to avail countless benefits such as increased functional and compute functionalities. However, protecting business and consumer data in cloud environments is paramount. Therefore, security and privacy remain major concerns for organisations worldwide. 

Security in Azure can be ensured using various tools allowing organisations to secure VMs, implement access control policies, and encrypt both at-rest and in-transit data. However, organisations must thoroughly understand the Azure environment’s security protocols before deployment. 

Get in touch with us now and gain expert advice on maximising your organisation’s security posture in Azure. 

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