Azure security: 7 ways to keep your data safe

The FBI’s 2020 Internet crime report states that the Internet Crime Complaint Center got 791,790 cybercrime complaints in 2020. Some might wonder why this is happening. The significant increase is likely due to threats becoming more sophisticated. Emerging technologies like 5G, machine learning, and artificial intelligence have also played a factor in the onslaught. In 2021, the number of publicly reported US data breaches was up 38% in the second quarter, with 491 compromises compared to the first quarter.

With the number of data breaches increasing, what can you do to protect your Azure environment and keep it safe? Microsoft does its part by spending $1 billion per year on security. However, all it takes is one misconfigured instance created by an admin to thwart all of their protection. Don’t make these same mistakes. Instead, follow these seven things you can do today to make your cloud more secure:

1. Make the most of Azure Security Center

Azure Security Center is a great start when it comes to maintaining Azure security. It offers suggested changes as well as alerts for protecting all of your Azure resources. It’s a good idea to check the portal regularly to see if there are any new alerts and then take prompt action to remediate any problems you may find.

Azure Security Center is offered with the basic level of Azure and provides limited information. However, Azure Security Center Standard will help you find vulnerabilities and then recommend solutions to fix them. You can also get a 60-day trial of Security Center Standard for free.

2. Allow for enough storage for logging retention

You can have multiple logging capabilities in Azure. You should utilize them for both auditing as well as compliance. To make the most of this, you will need to make sure you have enough storage retention. This retention will allow Azure Security to better monitor alerts for different behaviors. Some groups that should have logging include each Network Security Group and each SQL Server database.

Each logging capability requires an encrypted at rest storage account. You should also set your log storage retention to more than 90 days or the number of days that is inline with your compliance requirements.

3. Secure your VMs

Azure allows you to monitor virtual machines using the virtual machine (VM) agent. Having this agent running enables you to get an overview of all of your VMs. Securing your VMs is similar to how you would secure them on-premise. You need to make sure that your operating system and software are up-to-date. After that, you will need proper endpoint protection and disk encryption in case your storage is compromised.

4. SQL Server threat detection

Microsoft SQL Server has threat detection within Azure with the ability to detect SQL injections and more.

Here are some tips for protecting your SQL Server and its data:

  • Set up the SQL Server firewall so that it has the tightest policies
  • Create server-level and database-level firewall rules
  • Enable your audit logs to provide better insights in case a breach occurs
  • Limit your exposure to brute force attacks by limiting the access to RDP and SSH (Never make ports 22 or 3389 open to the internet)

5. Embrace Shared Responsibility

The Shared Responsibility model can be summarized in that cloud security professionals need to understand the responsibility between the Azure consumer and Microsoft. Each Azure service has different responsibilities. However, the gist of it is the consumer is responsible for managing their data and the access to that data.

If an organization chooses to work with a cloud partner, it must be willing to evaluate the cloud partner’s policies regarding security. They need to be clear on what aspects of security the partner will be handling versus which ones are still their responsibility. The Shared Responsibility model provides a clear understanding of who is responsible between the parties and prevents incidents that could happen due to an oversight.

6. Utilize Azure Active Directory

A person’s identity is rapidly becoming the primary security perimeter. This is one of the reasons that Microsoft recommends organizations use secure identity with Azure Active Directory since Azure Active Directory also provides security for Azure cloud.

Microsoft recommends you should centralize identity into a single authoritative source. If you have a hybrid scenario with both cloud and on-premise, you can use your Azure AD Connect to integrate the two. This integration will help increase clarity and reduce the risk of mistakes.

Azure Active Directory offers a single sign-on which allows one identity for accessing all resources. This authentication works for cloud or on-premise. Microsoft recommends that organizations use multi-factor authentication for any user with administrative access to Microsoft Azure.

7. Get a trusted security provider

Another important factor of security is partnering with a service provider you can trust. You need a service provider that provides you with the best protocols that conform to industry standards. This cloud partner will guide you through the journey to cloud adoption and take continuous, proactive security measures.

Let ACTS be your trusted advisor. Learn more about our security expertise by viewing our Cloud Advisory Services and Managed Security Services that we offer.

Lisa Abshire

Cloud Services Manager – Security

Lisa’s LinkedIn

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