Category Archives: Azure Defender

How to extend Azure Security Center protection to all resources through Azure Arc

Azure Security Center (ASC) was originally developed with the intention of becoming the reference tool for protecting resources in the Azure environment. The much felt need of customers to protect the resources located in environments other than Azure has led to an evolution of the solution that, thanks to integration with Azure Arc, allows you to extend the protection and security management tools to any infrastructure. This article explains how Azure Security Center and Azure Arc allow you to protect non-Azure resources located on-premises or on other cloud providers, as virtual machines, Kubernetes services and SQL resources.

The adoption of Azure Defender using the principles of Azure Arc

Azure Arc allows you to manage workloads residing outside Azure, on the on-premises corporate network or at another cloud provider. This management experience is designed to provide consistency with native Azure management methodologies.

Thanks to the fact thatAzure Security Center and Azure Arc can be used jointly, you have the ability to offer advanced protection for three different scenarios:

Figure 1 - Protection scenarios

By enabling the Azure Defender protection of workloads at the subscription level in the Azure Security Center, it is also possible to consider the resources and workloads residing in hybrid and multicloud environments, all in an extremely simple way thanks to Azure Arc.

Azure Defender for Arc-enabled server systems

By connecting a server machine to Azure via Arc, it is considered to all intents and purposes as an Azure resource. Each connected machine has a specific ID, is included in a resource group and benefits from standard Azure constructs such as Azure Policies and tagging. This applies to both Windows and Linux systems.

To offer this experience, the installation of the specific Azure Arc agent is required on each machine that is planned to connect to Azure ("Azure Connected Machine").

The Azure Arc Connected Machine agent consists of the following logical components:

  • TheHybrid Instance Metadata service (HIMDS) that manages the connection to Azure and the Azure identity of the connected machine.
  • TheGuest Configurationagent that provides in-guest policy and guest configuration features.
  • TheExtension Manageragent that manages installation processes, uninstalling and updating machine extensions.

Figure 2 – Azure Arc Agent Components

The Connected Machine agent requires secure outbound communication to Azure Arc on TCP port 443.

This agent provides no other features and does not replace the Azure Log Analytics agent, which remains necessary when you want to proactively monitor the operating system and workloads running on the machine.

For more information about installing Azure Arc, seethis Microsoft Official Document.

Azure Arc-enabled servers can benefit from several Azure Resource Manager-related features such as Tags, Policies and RBAC, as well as some features related to Azure Management.

Activating Azure Defender for Server with Azure Arc

The projection of server resources in Azure using Arc is a useful step to ensure that all the machines in the infrastructure are protected by Azure Defender for Server. Similar to an Azure VM, it will also be necessary to deploy the Log Analytics agent on the target system. To simplify the onboarding process this agent is deployed using the VM extension, and this is one of the advantages of using Arc.

Once the Log Analytics agent has been installed and connected to a workspace used by ASC, the machine will be ready to use and benefit from the various security features offered in the Azure Defender for Servers plan.

For each resource, it is possible to view the status of the agent and its current security recommendations:

Figure 3 – Azure Arc Connected Machine in ASC

In case there is a need to onboard a non-Azure server in Azure Defender with an operating system version not yet supported by the Azure Arc agent, however, it is possible to perform onboarding by installing only the Log Analytics agent on the machine.

The icons in the Azure portal allow you to easily distinguish the different resources:

Figure 4 - Icons of the different resources present in ASC

 

Azure Defender for Arc-enabled Kubernetes resources

Azure Defender for Kubernetes also allows you to protect clusters located on-premises with the same threat detection features offered for Azure Kubernetes Service clusters (AKS).

For all Kubernetes clusters other than AKS, is necessary connect the cluster environment to Azure Arc. Once the cluster environment is connected, Azure Defender for Kubernetes can be activated as cluster extension on Azure Arc-enabled Kubernetes resources.

Figure 5 - Interaction between Azure Defender for Kubernetes and the Kubernetes cluster enabled for Azure Arc

The extension components collect the Kubernetes audit logs from all the nodes of the cluster control plane and send them to the back-end of Azure Defender for Kubernetes in the cloud for further analysis. The extension is registered with a Log Analytics workspace that is used for the data pipeline, but the audit logs are not stored in the Log Analytics workspace.

The extension also allows you to protect Kubernetes clusters located at other cloud providers, but it does not allow you to contemplate their managed Kubernetes services.

Azure Defender for Arc-enabled SQL Server resources

Azure Defender for SQL allows you to constantly monitor SQL Server implementations for known threats and vulnerabilities. These features are also usable not only for virtual machines in Azure, but also for SQL Server activated in an on-premises environment and in multicloud deployment. Azure Arc-enabled SQL Servers are also part of Azure Arc for servers. To enable Azure services, the’SQL Server instance must be registered with Azure Arc using the Azure portal and a special registration script. After registration, the instance will be represented on Azure as a resource SQL Server – Azure Arc. The properties of this resource reflect a subset of the SQL Server configuration settings.

Figure 6 - Diagram illustrating the Azure Arc architecture for SQL Server resources


Conclusions

Manage security and maintain control of workloads running on-premises, in Azure and on other cloud platforms it can be particularly challenging. Thanks to Azure Arc, it is possible to easily extend Azure Defender coverage to workloads residing outside the Azure environment. Furthermore, Azure Security Center allows you to obtain detailed information on the security of your hybrid environment in a single centralized console, useful for effectively controlling the security of your IT infrastructure.

Protection of multi-cloud environments with Azure Security Center

The tendency of companies to adopt a multi-cloud strategy is increasingly widespread, but this operating model makes it particularly challenging to achieve high safety standards for your environment. To meet this need, Microsoft has officially made multi-cloud security support available in the Azure Security Center solution, allowing you to also contemplate amazon web services resources (AWS) and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). this article describes the features of this solution that provides a high degree of security and improves security postures in multi-cloud environments.

Azure Security Center (ASC) was originally developed as the best tool to protect resources in an azure environment. However, the need for customers to protect resources located on multiple public clouds is widespread and for this reason the product team has decided to expand the capacity for action, simplifying security management tools in multi-cloud environments. Azure Security Center can protect not only resources in hybrid environments but also contemplate multi-cloud architectures, including AWS and GCP.

Figure 1 – Multi-cloud and hybrid protection in Azure Security Center

These are the features that are made available to users to cover multi-cloud scenarios:

  • Connecting your AWS or GCP accounts to Azure Security Center provides a unified multi-cloud view of your environment's security postures. In particular, if the solutions AWS Security Hub or GCP Security Command Center detect incorrect configurations, these reports are included in the Secure Score template and in the compliance assessment against specific regulations (Regulatory Compliance), present in Azure Security Center.
  • Thanks to the fact that Azure Defender for Servers take advantage of Azure Arc you can simplify the onboarding process, and enable the protection of virtual machines running in AWS environments, GCP or hybrid cloud. All of which includes several features, including, automatic provisioning of agents, policy management, vulnerabilities and EDR (Endpoint Detection and Response) integrated. In particular, for vulnerability assessment functionality it is possible to perform manual or large-scale scans, and analyze the vulnerabilities detected, on scanned systems, through a unified experience.

These features complement multi-cloud support, also recently announced, of Azure Defender for SQL, this allows you to constantly monitor sql server implementations to detect known threats and vulnerabilities. these features are usable for sql server enabled in an on-premises environment, on virtual machines in Azure and also in multi-cloud deployment, contemplating Amazon Web Services (AWS) e Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

The solutionAzure Arc plays a fundamental role in all this and allows you to extend azure management services and principles to any infrastructure. To achieve this, Microsoft has decided to extend the model Azure Resource Manager to support hybrid and multi-cloud environments, this makes it easier to implement the security features in Azure on all infrastructure components.

Figure 2 – Azure Arc for hybrid and multi-cloud environments

The onboarding process and capabilities offered vary depending on the public cloud you intend to incorporate into Azure Security Center. the following paragraphs provide features for both amazon web services (AWS) that for Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

Amazon Web Services (AWS)

The onboarding process of your AWS account integrates the solution AWS Security Hub with Azure Security Center. In this way it is possible to obtain complete visibility and protection of these cloud environments to provide:

  • Automatic agent provisioning. ASC uses Azure Arc to deploy Log Analytics agent on board AWS instances.
  • Policy management.
  • Vulnerability management.
  • EDR (Endpoint Detection and Response) integrated.
  • Detecting security-impacting configuration errors.
  • A single view that can show ASC recommendations and AWS Security Hub.
  • An ASC score that also includes AWS resources.
  • Regulatory compliance assessments also for AWS resources.

The moment the connection with AWS Security Hub is configured correctly:

  • ASC scans AWS environment for EC2 instances, onboarding is done in Azure Arc, allowing log analytics agent to be installed. This gives you threat protection and gets security advice.
  • The ASC service scans new AWS EC2 instances each 6 hours and integrates them according to the configuration made.
  • The AWS CIS standard is shown in asc's regulatory compliance dashboard.
  • If the AWS Security Hub are enabled, recommendations will appear in the asc portal and regulatory compliance dashboard, after a few minutes after the completion of the onboarding process.

Figure 3 – AWS recommendations displayed in the ASC portal

To view active recommendations for your resources by type, you can use the security center asset inventory page and apply the specific filter for the type of aws resource that interests you:

Figure 4 – Display filters for AWS resources

Google Cloud Platform (GCP)

The onboarding mechanism of your GCP account allows you to integrate GCP Security Command with Azure Security Center and to have complete visibility and protection, in particular by providing:

  • Detecting security-impacting configuration errors.
  • A single view that can show ASC recommendations and GCP Security Command Center.
  • An ASC score that also includes GCP resources.
  • Integration of boards of GCP Security Command Center CIS-based within the Azure Security Center regulatory compliance dashboard.

The moment the connection with GCP Security Command completes:

  • The CIS GCP standard is shown in asc's regulatory compliance dashboard.
  • Security recommendations for resources located in GCP will appear in the Azure Security Center portal and regulatory compliance dashboard within minutes of completing onboarding.

Figure 5 – GCP recommendations displayed in the ASC portal

GCP virtual machine onboarding is currently manual, but you can adopt scripts to do it on a large scale.

On the Azure Security Center recommendations page, you can view all azure resource security recommendations along with AWS and GCP recommendations, thus obtaining a multi-cloud view.

Conclusions

The ability to adopt Azure Security Center as a centralized control solution, where security information from other public clouds also converges, combined with the possibilities given by integration with Azure Arc, to extend the protection of your systems, allows you to achieve a high degree of security and improve security postures in multi-cloud environments. Multi-cloud strategy adoption will become increasingly widespread, and Microsoft will continue to expand Azure Security Center to provide the best solutions to protect Azure, hybrid environments and multi-cloud operating models.

Azure Security: how to secure the Azure Deployment and Resource Management service

To achieve a high level of security in your public cloud environment, you need to provide protection for the individual resources that are activated, however it is also appropriate to monitor the service that allows the distribution and management of the resources themselves. In the Microsoft public cloud, the deployment and management service is defined as Azure Resource Manager, a crucial service connected to all Azure resources, therefore a potential and ambitious target for attackers. Microsoft, aware of this aspect, recently announced Azure Defender for Resource Manager. This article describes the features of this solution that allows you to carry out an advanced security analysis, in order to detect potential threats and be alerted to suspicious activity affecting Azure Resource Manager.

In Azure Defender, there are protections designed specifically for individual Azure services, such as for Azure SQL DB, Azure Storage, Azure VMs, and protections that transversally affect all those components that can be used by the various Azure resources. These include Azure Defender for Azure Network, Key Vault and the availability of Azure Defender for Azure DNS and Azure Resource Manager was also announced recently. These tools allow you to obtain an additional level of protection and control in your Azure environment.

Figure 1 – Azure Defender Threat Protection for Azure Workloads

Azure Resource Manager provides the management layer that allows you to create, update and delete resources in the Azure environment. It also provides specific features for the governance of the Azure environment, such as access control, locks and tags, that help protect and organize resources after they are distributed.

Azure Defender for Resource Manager automatically monitors the organization's Azure resource management operations, regardless of whether these are done through the Azure portal, Azure REST APIs, the command line interface or with other Azure programming clients.

Figure 2 – Protection of Azure Defender for Resource Manager

To activate this type of protection, simply enable the specific Azure Defender plan in the Azure Security Center settings:

Figure 3 - Activation of Azure Defender for Resource Manager

Azure Defender for Resource Manager can enable protection when the following conditions occur:

  • Resource management operations classified as suspicious, such as operations from dubious IP addresses, disabling the antimalware component and ambiguous scripts running through the VM extensions.
  • Use of exploitation toolkits such as Microburst or PowerZure.
  • Lateral shift from the Azure management layer to the Azure resources data plane.

A complete list of alerts that Azure Defender for Resource Manager is able to generate, is located in this Microsoft's document.

Security alerts generated by Azure Defender for Resource Manager are based on potential threats that are detected by monitoring Azure Resource Manager operations using the following sources:

  • Azure Activity Log, the Azure platform log providing information about subscription-level events.
  • Azure Resource Manager Internal Logs, not accessible by customers, but only by Microsoft personnel.

In order to obtain a better and more in-depth investigation experience, it is advisable to merge the Azure Activity Logs into Azure Sentinel, following the steps in this Microsoft's document.

Simulating an attack on the Azure Resource Manager layer using the PowerZure exploitation toolkits, Azure Defender for Resource Manager generates an alert with high severity, as shown in the following image:

Figure 4 – Alert generated by Azure Defender for Resource Manager

For such an alert you can also receive a notification by appropriately setting up an action group in Azure Monitor. Furthermore, if the integration between Azure Security Center and Azure Sentinel has been activated, the same alert would also be present in Azure Sentinel, with the relevant information necessary to start the investigation process and provide a prompt response to a problem of this type.

Conclusions

Protecting resources effectively in the Azure environment also means adopting the appropriate tools to deal with potential attacks that can exploit the distribution and management mechanisms of the resources themselves. Thanks to the new tool Azure Defender for Resource Manager it is possible to take advantage of effective protection in a fully integrated way in the Azure platform, without having to install specific software or enable additional agents.

How to increase the security of Azure Kubernetes-based microservices architectures

The spread of new application architectures based on microservices requires the adoption of cutting-edge solutions that ensure a high level of protection and that allow you to detect and respond to any security threats. Azure Defender is able to offer advanced and targeted protection of resources and workloads in hybrid environments and in Azure. This article describes how Azure Defender is able to guarantee the protection of instances of Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) and scan the images in Azure Container Registry to detect any vulnerabilities.

Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) is the fully managed Azure service that allows the activation of a Kubernetes cluster, ideal for simplifying the deployment and management of microservices-based architectures. Thanks to the features offered by AKS it is possible to scale automatically according to the use, use controls to ensure the integrity of the services, implement load balancing policies and manage secrets. In microservices-based architectures, it is also common to adopt the Azure Container Registry that allows you to create, store and manage container images and artifacts in a private registry. The use of this managed service is integrated with the container development and deployment pipelines.

Figure 1 – Example of an Azure Kubernetes-based microservices architecture

Azure Defender for Kubernetes

Through continuous analysis of the AKS environment, Azure Security Center (ASC) provides real-time threat protection for containerized environments and generates alerts if threats or malicious activity are detected, both at the host level and at the AKS cluster level.

Protection from security threats for Azure Kubernetes Service takes place at different levels:

  • Host level (provided by Azure Defender for servers): the Linux nodes of the AKS cluster are monitored through the Log Analytics agent. In this way the solution is able to detect suspicious activities such as connections from particular IP addresses and web shell detection. The agent is also able to monitor specific activities related to containers, such as creating privileged containers, access to API servers and the presence of SSH servers running inside a Docker container. The complete list of alerts that can be obtained by enabling Host level protection can be consulted in this document.
  • AKS cluster level (provided by Azure Defender for Kubernetes): at the cluster level, threat protection is based on the analysis of Kubernetes audit logs. It is a monitor that does not require the presence of specific agents and that allows you to generate alerts, monitoring AKS managed services, such as the presence of exposed Kubernetes dashboards and the creation of roles with elevated privileges. To see the complete list of alerts generated by this protection, you can access this link.

In an AKS environment it is recommended by best-prectices to also enable theAzure Policy add-on for Kubernetes as well as Azure Defender threat protection services. In this way, thanks to the iteration between the various platform components, in Azure Security Center you can analyze the following:

  • Audit logs from API servers
  • Raw security events (row) by the Log Analytics agent
  • Information on AKS cluster configuration
  • Workload configurations

Figure 2 – High-level architecture showing the interaction between ASC, AKS and Azure Policy

Azure Defender for container registry

The protection service Azure Defender for container registries allows you to evaluate and manage the presence of vulnerabilities in the images present in Azure Container Registry (ACR). Qualys' scanning tool allows you to perform an in-depth scan of images that takes place in three moments:

  • In case of push: each time an image is sent to the ACR, scan is automatically performed.
  • In case of recent extraction: because new vulnerabilities are discovered every day, it also analyzes any image for which an extraction has been made in the last 30 days.
  • When importing: Azure Container Registry has import tools to merge images into it from Docker Hub, Microsoft Container Registry or other ACR. All imported images are promptly analyzed.

During the scan, Qualys extracts the image and runs it in an isolated sandbox to track down any known vulnerabilities.

If any vulnerabilities are found, a notification will be generated in the Security Center dashboard. This alert will be accompanied by a severity classification and practical guidance on how to correct the specific vulnerabilities found in each image. To verify the images supported by the solution, you can access this link.

Figure 3 – High-level diagram showing ACR security using ASC

Activation and costs

The activation of these Azure Defender threat protection services can be done directly from the Azure portal:

Figure 4 – Enabling Kubernetes and ACR Azure Defender Security Services

Azure Defender modules in Azure Security Center are subject to specific costs that can be calculated using the tool Azure Pricing calculator. In particular, the cost of Azure Defender for Kubernetes is calculated on the number of cores of the VMs that make up the AKS cluster, while the cost of Azure Defender for Container registries is calculated based on scanned images.

Conclusions

Thanks to the coverage offered by ASC's Azure Defender services, it is possible to obtain a high degree of protection for application architectures based on microservices, that use Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) and Azure Container Registry. Microsoft proves to be a provider capable of offering effective services for container execution in the cloud environment, flanked by modern and advanced security tools, useful both to quickly solve any problems in this area and to improve the security postures of your environment.