Microsoft Azure is a powerful cloud platform used for a variety of applications. Today, cloud services host many mission-critical services and huge amounts of data, making them a prime target for cyberattacks. As a cloud service, Azure manages the infrastructure and OS-level security. However, users of the platform will still need to protect their endpoints and data, as we’ll explore in this article. For a more general overview of cloud security, take a look at our cloud security glossary.
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What is Azure security?
Azure security is a term that refers to the precautions taken to protect your systems from common threats and malicious actors. This requires a multipronged approach to protect the data, application endpoints and accounts associated with the platform.
Microsoft Azure is a cloud services platform with a variety of offerings spanning everything from Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), giving organizations the flexibility to pick and choose what they’d like to run on the platform.
Whenever a computer system is connected to the Internet, there’s the risk of cyberattacks. According to one recent survey, 39% of businesses have experienced a data breach in their cloud environment in the last 12 months, and three-quarters of those surveyed said the data they store in the cloud is sensitive. Cloud security breaches are becoming more commonplace, and as companies increasingly store sensitive data in the cloud, the impact of security breaches becomes more serious.
From potential fines for data breaches caused by negligence to the reputational damage caused by a breach taking place and the potential business interruption of ransomware, the impact of a cyberattack can be huge. That’s why it’s so important to invest in data security. Azure Security Center is a useful starting point for securing your Azure systems, offering ongoing monitoring of your environment and alerting you if anything goes outside of normal parameters.
Azure Security Center integrates with other tools, such as Azure Policy, Azure Cloud App Security and Azure Monitor Logs, covering many of the key areas of cloud security. However, it’s useful to have other systems in place to protect your data and endpoints, especially as many cloud security breaches aren’t caused by hardware or software “security holes” but through human error.
Importance of Azure security
Cyberattacks are becoming increasingly commonplace and damaging. In 2022, IT Governance discovered 1,063 security incidents, accounting for more than 480 million leaked records. Around 24% of the cyberattacks included in its list were ransomware attacks.
The list focused on larger organizations, and the leaked datasets ranged from online games to airlines, medical data and credit reference agencies. Data breaches can have a lasting impact on the people whose data is leaked, and governments now take the issue of security breaches very seriously. Fines for companies that fall under the EU GDPR can be in the millions, and HIPAA also sets out fines for failure to comply with privacy and data security requirements.
In addition to these financial penalties, there are other practical issues to consider. Consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about the risks of sharing their data online, and when a company is involved in a data breach, ransomware attack or other cyberattack, it can be incredibly damaging to that company’s reputation.
Having a robust security plan in place that includes prevention, monitoring and remediation helps mitigate the risk of security breaches and ensures that if something does happen, the path to recovery is shorter.
Key principles of Azure security
Azure operates on a shared responsibility model for security. Microsoft is responsible for the infrastructure upon which your cloud environment runs. This is similar to how Microsoft 365 security model works. Users of Azure cloud services are responsible for the security of anything they run in the cloud.
This means Microsoft will manage the security and uptime of the infrastructure, but it isn’t responsible for the security of whatever you run on the server. So, if you spin up a server and install an insecure forum script on it, which is then exploited by a cyberattacker, it isn’t Microsoft’s responsibility. You’re in charge of the applications running on your server.
Layers of security in Azure
When considering security, there are seven “layers” to take into account. These layers include:
- User education
One of the benefits of using Azure is that it frees you from having to worry about the physical and network layers of security. Azure also handles many parts of perimeter security, although it’s possible for users to run their own intrusion detection systems to protect certain internet-facing services.
Azure’s users are responsible for endpoint security (protecting the devices connecting to the cloud services), application security and ensuring any data stored on the servers is properly backed up. It’s also their responsibility to ensure users are following proper security precautions.
One way to protect your data and reduce the risk of malicious or negligent users compromising your security is to take a zero-trust approach to security. Under the zero-trust model, strong authentication and authorization are required for any device and/or user that connects to a service. Rather than assuming that a username and password are enough to verify a person’s identity, zero-trust security takes a more cautious approach. It may require multifactor authentication before allowing a user to perform certain privileged tasks, or it may look for patterns in a user’s behavior and require additional authentication if a user logs in from an unknown location or unrecognized device.
Azure employs these precautions to maintain the security of the cloud environment, making it more difficult for attackers to do damage, even if they get access to a developer or system administrator’s credentials.
Another precaution that Azure takes is to use the Least Privilege Principle through its role-based access control. This ensures users can get their work done effectively and efficiently, without giving people access to parts of the system they don’t need. For example, there’s no reason to give a database administrator access to manage entire containers or configure networking if all they actually do in their day-to-day work is manage existing databases. They should have a database contributor or administrator role instead. In contrast, someone in the finance department may need a billing or cost management role assigned to them.
Role-based access control makes it possible to provide people with exactly the roles they require to do their jobs while limiting the potential for damage if their account is breached or they behave maliciously.
Benefits of Azure security
By default, anything added to your Azure environment is automatically added to Azure Security Center. This offers some protection against attacks by default, as it monitors the resources, alerts you to any potential issues and provides recommendations to improve security.
Azure itself offers many potential benefits compared to running an in-house server:
- Secure data centers and infrastructure maintained by Microsoft.
- Encryption for better data privacy.
- Simplified compliance reporting and auditing.
- Advanced threat detection and prevention, reducing the risk of security breaches.
- Rapid incident response if issues are detected.
- Minimal disruption to your business due to security incidents.
- Build trust with consumers and stakeholders by demonstrating your commitment to data security.
- Reduce costs associated with cyberattacks.
- Reduce downtime/outages caused by cyberattacks.
- Scale in a reliable and cost-effective way.
- Tailor your security to your needs as you grow.
It’s easy to add your own additional security/protection tools to Azure, augmenting the security already provided by Microsoft. At Veeam, we offer the Veeam Backup for Azure tool which helps automate secure, reliable backups. When you choose Veeam’s backup solutions you not only protect your data from outages and hardware failure, but you also benefit from protection against data loss caused by ransomware and other cyberattacks.
Security threats and challenges in Azure
While Microsoft offers a lot of tools to protect Azure users from common cyberattacks, no cloud service is immune to digital threats. Azure deployments are at risk of unauthorized access, data breaches and DDoS attacks in the same way other cloud platforms are.
In addition to this, there’s the risk of data breaches caused by misconfigured services and/or inadequate authentication, as well as insider threats. That’s why it’s so useful to have a business continuity plan including tools such as Veeam Orchestrated Recovery for Azure to reduce any interruption caused by security breaches.
Security services and tools in Azure
We’ve already touched on Azure Security Center and its value for threat detection, vulnerability assessment and security recommendations. There are some other useful tools that Azure users can take advantage of to improve the security of their Azure environment, including:
- Azure Sentinel: a cloud-native SIEM tool for collecting data about security-related events, analyzing it and responding to issues.
- Azure Multifactor Authentication (MFA): an important part of a zero-trust environment, MFA helps enhance security, making it harder for attackers to breach the environment by stealing login credentials.
- Azure Firewall and DDoS Protection: Azure Firewall blocks unauthorized network traffic, reducing the risk of brute-force attacks on servers. It also includes features for mitigating DDoS attacks.
Azure is a powerful platform for cloud services, and it’s useful for large and small businesses alike. Securing applications running in the cloud can be challenging, however. Microsoft offers a variety of tools to help systems administrators and developers secure their Azure environments and handles many layers of security itself. To better protect your users, it’s important to take security seriously and have a recovery plan in place in case a breach does occur.
If you’d like to learn more about Veeam Azure Backup and how it fits into your Azure security plans, contact us today to schedule a demonstration.
- See the following official Azure security documentation:
- Recommended learning materials for continuing education: