Category Archives: Azure Security

How to strengthen security posture in the public cloud, in hybrid and multi-cloud environments thanks to Defender for Cloud

The adoption of infrastructures and services in cloud environments, useful for businesses to accelerate the digital transformation process, it requires us to adapt the solutions as well, the processes and practices that are adopted to ensure and maintain a high degree of security of IT resources. Everything must be done independently of the deployment models used, strengthening the overall security posture of your environment and providing advanced threat protection for all workloads, wherever they reside. This article reports how the Defender for Cloud solution is able to control and improve the security aspects of the IT environment where resources are used in the public cloud, in hybrid and multi-cloud environments.

The challenges of security in modern infrastructures

Among the main challenges that must be faced in the security field by adopting modern infrastructures that use components in the cloud we find:

  • Rapid and constantly evolving workload. This aspect is certainly a double-edged sword of the cloud in that, on the one hand, end users have the ability to get more from solutions in cloud environments, on the other hand, it becomes complex to ensure that rapidly and constantly evolving services are always up to their standards and that they follow all security best practices.
  • Increasingly sophisticated security attacks. Regardless of where your workloads are running, security attacks adopt sophisticated and advanced techniques that require reliable protections to be implemented to counter their effectiveness.
  • Resources and expertise in the field of security not always up to par to intervene in the face of security alerts and to ensure that the environments are adequately protected. Indeed, IT security is an ever-changing front and staying up-to-date is a constant and difficult challenge to achieve.

The pillars of security covered by Microsoft Defender for Cloud

The capabilities of Microsoft Defender for Cloud are able to contemplate two great pillars of security for modern architectures that adopt cloud components: Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) e Cloud workload protection (CWP).

Figure 1 – The pillars of security covered by Microsoft Defender for Cloud

Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM)

In the field of Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) Defender for Cloud can provide the following features:

    • Visibility: to assess the current security situation.
    • Hardening Guide: to be able to improve security efficiently and effectively

Thanks to a continuous assessment, Defender for Cloud is able to continuously discover new resources that are distributed and evaluate if they are configured according to security best practices. If not,, the resources are flagged and you get a priority list of advice related to what should be corrected to improve their protection. This list of recommendations is taken and supported by Azure Security Benchmark, the Azure-specific set of guidelines created by Microsoft, this contains security and compliance best practices based on common frameworks, with a focus on cloud-centric security. This benchmark may cover the controls of the Center for Internet Security (CIS) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and it can be customized according to the standards to be respected.

Figure 2 - Examples of recommendations

Defender for Cloud assigns a global score to the environment, defined Secure Score, which allows you to evaluate the risk profile (the higher the score, the lower the level of risk identified) and to take action to take remediation actions.

Figure 3 - Secure score example

Cloud workload protection (CWP)

Regarding this area, Defender for Cloud delivers security alerts based on Microsoft Threat Intelligence. Furthermore, includes a wide range of advanced and intelligent protections for workloads, provided through specific Microsoft Defender plans for the different types of resources present in the subscriptions and in hybrid and multi-cloud environments:

Figure 4 – Workloads protected by Defender for Cloud

Defender for Cloud therefore allows you to meet the following three needs, considered essential when managing the security of resources and workloads residing in the cloud and in on-premises environments:

Figure 5 - Security needs covered by Microsoft Defender for Cloud

Defender for Cloud also includes, as part of the advanced security features, vulnerability assessment solutions for virtual machines, container registry and SQL server. Some scans are done using the Qualys solution, that can be used without specific licenses and without dedicated accounts, but everything is included and managed through Defender for Cloud.

Which environments can be protected with Defender for Cloud?

Defender for Cloud is an Azure native service, which allows you to protect not only the resources present in Azure, but also hybrid and multi-cloud environments.

Figure 6 - Cross protection on different environments

Azure environment protection

  • Azure IaaS and services Azure PaaS: Defender for Cloud can detect threats targeting virtual machines and services in Azure, including Azure App Service, Azure SQL, Azure Storage Account, and others. Furthermore, allows you to detect anomalies in Azure activity logs (Azure activity logs) through native integration with Microsoft Defender for Cloud Apps (known as Microsoft Cloud App Security).
  • Azure data services: Defender for Cloud includes features that allow you to automatically classify data in Azure SQL. Furthermore, it is possible to carry out assessments to detect potential vulnerabilities in Azure SQL and Storage services, accompanied by recommendations on how to mitigate them.
  • Network: the application of the Network Security Group (NSG) to filter the traffic to and from the resources attested on the Azure virtual networks, is essential to guarantee network security. However, there may be some cases where the actual traffic passing through the NSGs affects only a subset of the defined NSG rules. In these cases, the functionality of Adaptive network hardening allows to further improve the security posture by strengthening the NSG rules. Using a machine learning algorithm that takes into account actual traffic, the configuration, threat intelligence and other indicators of compromise, is able to provide advice to adjust the configuration of the NSG to allow only the strictly necessary traffic.

Hybrid Environment Protection

In addition to protecting the Azure environment, Defender for Cloud functionality can also be extended to hybrid environments to protect in particular servers that do not reside on Azure. Through Azure Arc Microsoft Defender plans can be extended to non-Azure machines.

Protection of resources running on other public clouds

Microsoft Defender for Cloud may also include resources present in Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). To protect resources on other public clouds with this solution, a new native mechanism and, through an approach agentless, allows you to connect to AWS and GCP environments. This new method of interfacing take advantage of the AWS and GCP APIs and it has no dependence on other solutions, for example AWS Security Hub.

Real case of protection with Defender for Cloud

Assuming a customer environment with resources located in Azure, on-premises and in AWS, with Defender for Cloud you can extend protection to all resources, independently of where they reside.

Indeed, by connecting an Amazon Web Services account (AWS) to an Azure subscription, it is possible to enable the following protections:

  • The functionalities CSPM di Defender for Cloud are also extended to AWS resources, allowing you to evaluate the resources present in the Amazon cloud, according to AWS specific security recommendations. Furthermore, resources are evaluated for compliance with AWS specific standards such as: AWS CIS, AWS PCI DSS e AWS Foundational Security Best Practices. All of this is considered by influencing the overall security score.
  • Microsoft Defender for Servers offers threat detection and enables advanced defenses for EC2 Windows and Linux instances as well.
  • Microsoft Defender for Kubernetes extends advanced defenses to Amazon EKS Linux clusters and enables the detection of threats on containers present in those infrastructures.

These protections will be added to the features listed above available for Azure environments and for resources residing on-premises.

Conclusions

Defender for Cloud is able to respond effectively to challenges, in the security field, given by the adoption of modern infrastructures. In fact, thanks to the use of Microsoft Defender for Cloud, you have a solution capable of identifying the weaknesses in the security field in cloud configurations, strengthen the overall security posture of the environment and protect workloads in hybrid and multi-cloud environments.

Azure Networking: security services for a Zero Trust approach

There are more and more companies that, in order to sustain the pace dictated by digital transformation and for other specific reasons, undertake a path of adopting cloud solutions and migrating their workloads to the cloud. To ensure that the resources in the cloud environment are secure, it is necessary to adopt a new security model that adapts more effectively to the complexity of the modern environment, contemplating hybrid environments and protecting applications and data no matter where they reside. This article describes some of the key Azure networking security services that help organizations adopt the Zero Trust model, an integrated and proactive approach to security to be applied on different fronts.

The Zero Trust framework developed by Microsoft is based on the following three principles to protect assets:

  • Verify explicitly. Always authenticate and authorize, taking into consideration different aspects such as: the user identity, location, the status of the device, the service or workload, data classification and anomalies.
  • Use least privileged access. Restrict user access through: “just-in-time” access (JIT) and “just-enough-access” (JEA), risk-based adaptive policies and data protection.
  • Assume breach. Minimize exposure and segment accesses by defining granular perimeters. Use end-to-end encryption and scan for: gain visibility, detect threats and improve defenses.

The Zero Trust approach assumes a violation and accepts the reality that bad guys can be anywhere. For this reason, this model recommends checking all access attempts, restrict user access (JIT and JEA) and strengthen asset protection. However, it is important to associate checks on network communications with all these practices, going to segmenting the network into smaller areas and then checking what traffic can flow between them. An approach where network firewalls are implemented exclusively on the perimeter networks, filtering traffic between trusted and untrusted zones becomes limiting for this model. Instead, it is recommended to filter the traffic also between internal networks, hosts and applications.

There are several networking related security services in Azure, described in the following paragraphs, that allow you to filter and control network communications in a granular way, thus supporting the Zero Trust model.

Network Security Group (NSG)

The Network Security Groups (NSG) are the main tool to control network traffic in Azure. Through the rules of deny and permit you can filter communications between different workloads on an Azure virtual network. Furthermore, you can apply filters on communications with systems that reside on-premises, connected to the Azure VNet, or for communications to and from Internet. Network Security Groups (NSG) can be applied on a specific subnet of a Azure VNet or directly on the individual network adapters of Azure virtual machines. NSGs may contain rules with Service Tags, that allow you to group with predefined categories of IP addresses, including those assigned to specific Azure services (ex. AzureMonitor, Appservice, Storage, etc.).

The rules of the Network Security Groups can also be referenced Application Security Groups (ASG). These are groups that contain network adapters of virtual machines on Azure. ASGs allow you to group multiple servers with mnemonic names, useful in particular for dynamic workloads. The Application Security Groups therefore allow you to no longer have to manage the IP addresses of Azure virtual machines in the NSG rules, as long as these IPs are related to VMs attested on the same VNet.

Although there is the option to enable firewall solutions at the guest OS level, Azure NSGs can guarantee protection even if the virtual machine in Azure is compromised. Indeed, an attacker who gains access to the virtual machine and elevates its privileges may be able to disable the firewall on the host. In NSG, being implemented outside the virtual machine, they provide strong guarantees against attacks on the firewalling system on board virtual machines.

Figure 1 - Graphical display of network traffic segregation via NSG

Azure Firewall

Azure Firewall is a network security service, managed and cloud-based, able to protect the resources attested on the Azure Virtual Networks and to centrally govern the related network flows. Furthermore, it has inherent features of high availability and scalability.

Azure Firewall Premium guarantees all the features present in the Azure Firewall Standard tier and in addition adds the following features typical of a next generation firewall.

Figure 2 - Overview of Azure Firewall Premium features

The best practices dictated by the Zero Trust model are to always encrypt data in transit to obtain end-to-end encryption. However, from an operational point of view, often there is a need for greater visibility to apply additional security services to unencrypted data. With the features of Azure Firewall Premium all this is possible. Indeed, the Premium version allows you to obtain an additional level of protection from security threats, through features such as TLS Inspection and IDPS that guarantee greater control of network traffic in order to intercept and block the spread of malware and viruses. For more details regarding the features of Azure Firewall Premium you can consult this article.

DDoS protection

The Zero Trust model aims to authenticate and authorize any component residing on the network. Nevertheless, any system capable of receiving network packets is vulnerable to DDoS attacks, even those that use a Zero Trust architecture. Consequently, It is imperative that any Zero Trust implementation also adopts a DDoS protection solution.

In Azure, DDoS protection is available in two different tiers: Basic oppure Standard.

The protection Basic is enabled by default in the Azure platform, which constantly monitors traffic and applies mitigations to the most common network attacks in real time. This tier provides the same level of protection adopted and tested by Microsoft's online services and is active for Azure Public IP addresses (Pv4 and IPv6). No configuration is required for the Basic tier.

Typology Azure DDoS Protection Standard provides additional mitigation features over the Basic tier, that are specifically optimized for resources located in Azure virtual networks. The protection policies are self-configured and are optimized by carrying out specific monitoring of network traffic and applying machine learning algorithms, that allow you to profile your application in the most appropriate and flexible way by studying the traffic generated. When the thresholds set in the DDoS policy are exceeded, the DDoS mitigation process is automatically started, which is suspended when it falls below the established traffic thresholds. These policies are applied to all Azure public IPs associated with the resources present in the virtual networks, like: virtual machines, Azure Load Balancer, Azure Application Gateway, Azure Firewall, VPN Gateway and Azure Service Fabric instances.

Azure Firewall Manager

The security model Zero Trust directs us to adopt an approach related to micro-segmentation and the definition of granular perimeters in its network architecture. To facilitate this approach, you can use Azure Firewall Manager, a tool that, providing a single centralized control panel, is able to simplify the configuration and management of network security policies, which often need to be deployed across multiple Azure Firewall instances. In addition to the management of Azure Firewall policies, Azure Firewall Manager allows you to associate a DDoS protection plan to virtual networks.

Furthermore, Azure Firewall Manager allows you to use SECaaS offerings (Security as a Service) third parties to protect users' Internet access.

Synergies and recommendations for the use of the various protection services

In order to obtain effective network protection, some recommendations are given that are recommended to be taken into consideration for the use of the various security components related to Azure networking:

  • Network Security Groups (NSG) and the Azure Firewall are complementary and using them together you get a high degree of defense. The NSGs are recommended to use them to filter traffic between resources residing within a VNet, while the Azure Firewall is useful for providing network and application protection between different Virtual Networks.
  • To increase the security of Azure PaaS services, it is recommended to use Private link, which can be used in conjunction with Azure Firewall to consolidate and centralize access logs.
  • In case you want to make a protected application publication (HTTP/S in inbound) it is advisable to use the Web Application Firewall present in Azure Application Delivery solutions, then placing it alongside Azure Firewall. Web Application Firewall (WAF), provides protection from common vulnerabilities and attacks, such as X-Site Scripting and SQL Injection attacks.
  • Azure Firewall can also be supported by third-party WAF / DDoS solutions.
  • In addition to Azure Firewall, it is possible to evaluate the adoption of Network Virtual Appliances (NVA's) provided by third-party vendors and available in the Azure marketplace.

All these protection services, suitably configured in a Hub-Spoke network topology allow you to perform a segregation of network traffic, achieving a high level of control and security.

Figure 3 - Example of a Hub-Spoke architecture with the various security services

Furthermore, providing for integration with Azure security services, such as Microsoft Defender for Cloud, Microsoft Sentinel and Azure Log Analytics, it is possible to further optimize the management of security postures and the protection of workloads.

Conclusions

The security model defined Zero trust by analysts at Forrester Research is now an imperative for the protection of their environments. Azure provides a wide range of services that allow you to achieve high levels of security, acting on different fronts to support this model. To face this process of adopting the Zero Trust model, a winning strategy in Azure networking can be obtained by applying a mix-and-match of the different network security services to have protection on multiple levels.

How to increase the security of container-based application architectures

Modern applications based on microservices are increasingly widespread and containers are an interesting building block for the creation of agile application architectures, scalable and efficient. Microservices offer great benefits, thanks to the presence of well-known and proven software design models that can be applied, but they also generate new challenges. One of these is certainly linked to the security of these architectures, which require the adoption of cutting-edge solutions to achieve a high level of protection. In this article is reported as the cloud-native solution for container security, called Microsoft Defender for Containers, is able to guarantee the protection of container-based application architectures, offering advanced capabilities for detecting and responding to security threats.

Functionality offered by the solution

Thanks to Microsoft Defender for Containers it is possible to improve, monitor and maintain the security of clusters, of containers and related applications. Indeed, this plan allows you to obtain the following benefits:

  • Hardening of the environment
  • Vulnerability Scanning
  • Run-time threat protection for the cluster environment and for the nodes

The benefits listed above are detailed in the following paragraphs.

Hardening of the environment

Through a continuous assessment of cluster environments, Defender for Containers provides complete visibility into any misconfigurations and compliance with guidelines. By generating recommendations it helps mitigate potential security threats.

Furthermore, thanks to the use of Kubernetes admission control it is possible ensure that all configurations are done in accordance with security best practices. Indeed, adopting the Azure Policy for Kubernetes you have a bundle of useful recommendations to protect the Kubernetes container workloads. By default, enabling Defender for Containers, these policies are automatically provisioned. In this way, every request to the Kubernetes API server will be monitored against the predefined set of best practices, before being made effective on the cluster environment. You can therefore use this method to apply best practices and enforce them for new workloads that will be activated.

Vulnerability Scanning

Defender for Containers includes an integrated vulnerability scanner for analyzing the images present in Azure Container Registry (ACR). Defender for Containers includes an integrated vulnerability scanner for analyzing the images present in:

  • 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, comes analyzes, on a weekly basis, Defender for Containers includes an integrated vulnerability scanner for analyzing the images present in 30 days.
  • When importing: Azure Container Registry has import tools to merge images from Docker Hub into it, Microsoft Container Registry or other ACR. All imported images are readily analyzed by the solution.

If vulnerabilities are detected, a notification will be generated in the Microsoft Defender for Cloud dashboard. This alert will be accompanied by a severity classification and practical guidance on how to correct the specific vulnerabilities found in each image.

Furthermore, Defender for Containers expands these scanning capabilities by introducing the ability to get visibility into running images. Through the new recommendation, called “Vulnerabilities in running images should be remediated (powered by Qualys)", groups running images that have vulnerabilities, providing details on the problems found and how to fix them.

Run-time threat protection for the cluster environment and for the nodes

Microsoft Defender for Containers 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 occurs at several levels:

  • Cluster level: at the cluster level, threat protection is based on the analysis of Kubernetes audit logs. It is a monitor 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.
  • Host level: with over sixty types of analyzes, through artificial intelligence algorithms and with the detection of anomalies on running workloads, the solution is able to detect suspicious activities. A team of Microsoft security researchers constantly monitors the threat landscape and container-specific alerts and vulnerabilities are added as they are discovered. Furthermore, this solution monitors the growing attack surface of multi-cloud Kubernetes deployments and tracks the matrix MITRE ATT&CK for container, a framework developed by the Center for Threat-Informed Defense in close collaboration with Microsoft and others.

The complete list of alerts that can be obtained by enabling this protection can be consulted in this document.

Architectures for the different Kubernetes environments

Defender for Containers can protect Kubernetes clusters regardless of whether they are running on Azure Kubernetes Service, Kubernetes on-premise / IaaS oppure Amazon EKS.

Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) Cluster

When enabling Defender for Cloud for clusters activated through Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS), audit log collection takes place without having to install agents. The Defender profile, distributed on each node, provides runtime protection and collects signals from nodes using the eBPF technology. The Azure Policy add-on for Kubernetes component collects cluster and workload configurations, as explained in the previous paragraphs.

Figure 1 - Defender for Cloud architecture for AKS clusters

Azure Arc-enabled Kubernetes

For all clusters hosted outside Azure it is necessary to adopt the Azure Arc-enabled Kubernetes solution to connect the clusters to Azure and provide the related services, like Defender for Containers. By connecting Kubernetes clusters to Azure, an Arc extension collects Kubernetes audit logs from all cluster control plane nodes and sends them in the cloud to the back-end of Microsoft Defender for Cloud for further analysis. The extension is registered with a Log Analytics workspace used as a data pipeline, but the audit data is not stored in Log Analytics. Information about workload configurations is managed by the Azure Policy Add-on.

Figure 2 – Defender for Cloud architecture for Arc-enabled Kubernetes clusters

Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS)

Also for this type of cluster, activated in the AWS environment, it is necessary to adopt Azure Arc-enabled Kubernetes to be able to project them in the Azure environment. Furthermore, you must connect the AWS account to Microsoft Defender for Cloud. Plans needed are Defender for Containers and CSPM (for the configuration monitor and for recommendations).

A cluster based on EKS, Arc and the Defender extension are the components needed for:

  • collect policy and configuration data from cluster nodes;
  • get runtime protection.

Azure Policy add-on for Kubernetes collects the configurations of the cluster environment and workloads to ensure that all configurations are respected. Furthermore, the AWS CloudWatch solution is used to collect log data from the Control plane.

Figure 3 – Defender for Cloud architecture for AWS EKS clusters

Solution upgrade and costs

This Microsoft Defender plan merges and replaces two existing plans, “Defend for Kubernetes” and “Defender for Container Registries“, providing new and improved features, without deprecating any of the features of those plans. Subscriptions on which previous plans have been activated do not need to be upgraded to the new plan Microsoft Defender for Containers. However, to take advantage of new and improved features, must be updated and to do so you can use the update icon displayed next to them in the Azure portal.

The activation of these protection plans are subject to specific costs that can be calculated using the tool Azure Pricing calculator. In particular, the cost of Microsoft Defender for Containers is calculated on the number of cores of the VMs that make up the AKS cluster. This price also includes 20 free scans for vCore, and the calculation will be based on the consumption of the previous month. Each additional scan has a charge, but most customers should not incur any additional cost for scanning images.

Conclusions

Microservices-based architectures allow you to easily scale and develop applications faster and easier, allowing to promote innovation and accelerate the time-to-market of new features. The presence of a solution such as Microsoft Defender for Containers is essential to enable an adequate level of protection with regards to security threats, more and more advanced to attack these types of application architectures.

The security of AWS environments with Microsoft Defender for Cloud

Microsoft Defender for Cloud, previously known as Azure Security Center and Azure Defender, is a solution of Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) and for the protection of workloads, able to identify security weaknesses in cloud configurations, strengthen the overall security posture of the environment and protect workloads in hybrid and multi-cloud environments. For those who are adopting a multi-cloud strategy and who need high security standards for their environment, it is important to know that Microsoft Defender for Cloud can also include resources present in Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). This article describes how to secure AWS environments using Microsoft Defender for Cloud.

The pillars of security covered by Microsoft Defender for Cloud

The capabilities of Microsoft Defender for Cloud are capable of contemplating two great pillars of cloud security:

  • Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) capable of providing the following features:
    • Visibility: to assess the current security situation.
    • Hardening Guide: to be able to improve security efficiently and effectively

Thanks to a continuous assessment, Defender for Cloud is able to continuously discover new resources that are distributed and evaluate if they are configured according to security best practices. If not,, assets are flagged and you get a priority list of recommendations on what to fix to improve their security. This list of recommendations is taken and supported by Azure Security Benchmark, the Azure-specific set of guidelines created by Microsoft, this contains security and compliance best practices based on common frameworks, with a focus on cloud-centric security. This benchmark may cover the controls of theCenter for Internet Security (CIS) and theNational Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Defender for Cloud assigns a global score to the ambient environment, defined Secure Score, which allows you to evaluate the risk profile (the higher the score, the lower the level of risk identified) and to take action to take remediation actions.

  • Cloud workload protection (CWP): Defender for Cloud delivers security alerts based on Microsoft Threat Intelligence. Furthermore, includes a wide range of advanced and intelligent protections for workloads, provided through specific Microsoft Defender plans for the different types of resources present in the subscriptions and in hybrid and multi-cloud environments.

Defender for Cloud therefore allows you to meet the following three needs, considered essential when managing the security of resources and workloads residing in the cloud and locally:

Figure 1 - Security needs covered by Microsoft Defender for Cloud

AWS resource protection

To protect resources on other public clouds with this solution, there has been a mechanism for some time now that involves the use of interfacing connectors with AWS and GCP accounts. The onboarding process of your AWS account was based on the integration of the solution AWS Security Hub, as detailed in this article.

Now a new native mechanism and, through an approach agentless, allows you to connect to AWS environments. This new method of interfacing take advantage of the AWS API and it has no dependence on other solutions, like AWS Security Hub. The onboarding experience is designed to work easily on a large scale, simply by connecting your AWS master account, which allows you to automatically onboard existing and future accounts.

Figure 2 - Connect AWS to Microsoft Defender for Cloud

This mechanism easily extends Defender for Cloud's advanced security capabilities to your AWS resources and includes the following areas.

Figure 3 - Protection plans available

Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) for AWS

Defender for Cloud CSPM capabilities are extended to your AWS resources. This agentless plan evaluates AWS resources against AWS specific security recommendations and these are included in the calculation of the global security score. To provide an overall view on the security status of your multi-cloud environments, AWS security recommendations are also integrated into the Defender for Cloud portal, along with Azure recommendations. Have been implemented by Microsoft beyond 160 ready-to-use recommendations for IaaS and PaaS services and three regulatory standards including AWS CIS, AWS PCI DSS e AWS Foundational Security Best Practices. All this allows you to strengthen your security posture while also contemplating AWS resources in the best possible way. Furthermore, you can customize existing models or create new ones that contain your own recommendations and standards to verify compliance with internal requirements.

Figure 4 - Recommendations for AWS integrated in Defender for Cloud

Cloud workload protection (CWP) for AWS

AWS currently provides enhanced security for the following workloads:

  • Server protection: Microsoft Defender for server offers advanced threat detection and defense for EC2 instances as well, for both Windows and Linux systems. This plan includes the integrated license for Microsoft Defender for Endpoint and several features, including: Security baselines and assessment at the OS level, Vulnerability assessment, Adaptive Application Controls (AAC) and File Integrity Monitoring (FIM).
  • Container protection: Microsoft Defender for Containers extends container threat detection and advanced defenses of Defender for Kubernetes to Amazon EKS Clusters (Elastic Kubernetes Service). For Defender for Kubernetes to be able to protect AWS EKS clusters, Azure Arc-enabled Kubernetes and Defender extension are required.

Figure 5 – Alerts and recommendations for EKS clusters

Note: For those who have already set up an AWS connector using classic cloud connectors, it is recommended to connect the account again using the new mechanism.

The Cost of the Solution

If you decide to activate this integration, the following information on costs applies:

  • The CSPM plan is free. To provide recommendations, the CSPM plan queries the AWS resource APIs multiple times a day. These read-only API calls incur no charge, but they are logged in CloudTrail in case you have enabled the trail for reading events. As noted in the AWS documentation, this does not involve additional costs for maintenance. However, it is necessary to be careful and possibly filter these events if data exports are expected (for example to make them flow into an external SIEM).
  • The Defender for Containers plan will be billed at the same price as the plan Defend for Kubernetes for Azure resources.
  • For each AWS machine connected to Azure through Azure Arc, the Defender per server plan is billed at the same price as the Microsoft Defender for server plan for Azure machines.

Conclusions

Microsoft Defender for Cloud, originally developed with the claim of being the best tool to protect resources in an Azure environment, extend and refine its capabilities to cover other public clouds as well. In particular, Thanks to the new integration mechanism with AWS, you can natively adopt a CSPM solution and enable threat protection for your computing workloads in Amazon Web Services (AWS). This allows to obtain a high degree of security, to improve security postures in multi-cloud environments and to simplify the management of tools useful for governing security.

How to improve security postures by adopting Azure Security Center

Optimal adoption of cloud solutions, useful for accelerating the digital transformation of businesses, must include a process capable of ensuring and maintaining a high degree of security of its IT resources, regardless of the deployment models implemented. Have a single infrastructure security management system, that strengthens your environment's security postures and provides enhanced threat protection for workloads, wherever they reside, becomes an indispensable element. The Azure Security Center solution achieves these goals and can address key security challenges. This article describes the features of the solution that allow you to improve and control the security aspects of the IT environment.

The challenges of cloud security

Among the main challenges that must be faced in the security field by adopting cloud solutions we find:

  • Always rapidly changing workloads. This aspect is certainly a double-edged sword of the cloud in that on the one hand, end users have the ability to get more out of solutions, on the other hand, it becomes complex to ensure that the constantly evolving services live up to their standards and that they follow all the best security practices.
  • Increasingly sophisticated attacks. No matter where your workloads are running, security attacks adopt sophisticated and advanced techniques that require you to implement reliable procedures to counter their effectiveness.
  • Resources and expertise in the field of security not always up to par to address security alerts and ensure that environments are protected. Security is an evolving front and staying up to date is a constant and difficult challenge to achieve.

Azure Security Center can effectively respond to the challenges listed above by enabling you to prevent, detect and address security threats affecting Azure resources and workloads in hybrid and multicloud environments. Everything runs at the speed of the cloud, as the solution is fully natively integrated into the Azure platform and is able to ensure simple and automatic provisioning.

The security pillars covered by Azure Security Center

Azure Security Center features (ASC) are able to sustain two great pillars of cloud security:

  • Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM): ASC is available for free for all Azure subscriptions. Enabling takes place when you visit the ASC dashboard for the first time in the Azure portal or by enabling it programmatically via API. In this mode (Azure Defender OFF) features related to the CSPM area are offered, including:
    • A continuous assessment that reports recommendations related to the security of the Azure environment. ASC continually discovers new resources that are deployed and assesses whether they are configured based on security best practices. If not,, resources are flagged and you get a priority list of recommendations for what you should fix to get them protected. This list of recommendations is taken and supported by Azure Security Benchmark, the Azure-specific set of guidelines created by Microsoft, this contains security and compliance best practices based on common frameworks. This benchmark is based on the controls of the Center for Internet Security (CIS) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), with a focus on cloud-centric security.
    • Assigning a global score to your environment, that allows you to assess the risk profile and take action to take remediation actions.
  • Cloud workload protection (CWP): Azure Defender is the CWP platform integrated in ASC that offers advanced and intelligent protection of resources and workloads residing in Azure and in hybrid and multicloud environments. Enabling Azure Defender offers a range of additional security features as described in the following paragraphs.

Figure 1 – Pillars of Azure Security Center

What types of resources can be protected with Azure Defender?

Enabling Azure Defender extends the functionality of the free mode, also to workloads running in private clouds, at other public clouds and hybrid environments, providing comprehensive management and unified security.

Figure 2 – Azure Security Center security scopes

Among the main features of Azure Defender we find:

  • Microsoft Defender for Endpoint. ASC integrates with Microsoft Defender for Endpoint to provide comprehensive functionality of Endpoint Detection and Response(EDR). With this integration, you can take advantage of the following features:
    • Automated Onboarding: Once the integration is activated, the Microsoft Defender for Endpoint sensor is automatically enabled for the servers monitored by the Security Center, except for Linux and Windows Server systems 2019, for which it is necessary to make specific configurations. Server systems monitored by ASC will also be present in the Microsoft Defender for Endpoint console.
    • Microsoft Defender for Endpoint alerts will also be displayed in the ASC console, in order to keep all reports in a single centralized console.
  • Vulnerability Assessment for Virtual Machines and Container Registries. Vulnerability scanning included in ASC is done through the solutionQualys, This is recognized as a leader to identify in real time any vulnerabilities present on the systems. No additional license is required to take advantage of this feature.
  • Hybrid cloud and multicloud protection. 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. Furthermore, thanks to the multicloud support of Azure Defender for SQL, it is possible to constantly monitor SQL Server implementations for known threats and vulnerabilities. These features are also usable for SQL Server activated in an on-premises environment, on virtual machines in Azure and also in multicloud deployments, contemplating Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud Platform (GCP).
  • Access and application controls (AAC). It is a solution that can control which applications run on systems, this allows you to do the following:
    • Be alerted to attempts to run malicious applications, that may potentially not be detected by antimalware solutions.
    • Respect corporate compliance, allowing the execution of only licensed software.
    • Avoid using unwanted or obsolete software in your infrastructure.
    • Control access to sensitive data that takes place using specific applications.

All this is made possible thanks to machine learning policies, adapt to your workloads, which are used to create authorization and denial lists.

  • Threat protection alerts. Thanks to the integrated behavioral analysis features, the Microsoft Intelligent Security Graph and machine learning can identify advanced attacks and zero-day exploits. When Azure Defender detects a threat anywhere in your environment, generates a security alert. These alerts describe the details of the affected resources, the suggested correction steps and in some cases the possibility is provided to activate Logic Apps in response. All security alerts can be exported to Azure Sentinel, in third-party SIEM or other SOAR tools (Security Orchestration, Automation and Response) or IT Service Management.
  • Network map. To continuously monitor the security status of the network, ASC provides a map that allows you to view the topology of the workloads and evaluate if each node is configured correctly. By checking how the nodes are connected, you can more easily block unwanted connections which could potentially make it easier for an attacker to attack your network.

Azure Defender dashboard in ASC allows you to have visibility and undertake specific controls on CWP features for your environment:

Figure 3 – Azure Defender Dashboard

Azure Defender is free for the first 30 days, at the end of which if you choose to continue using the service, charges will be charged as reported in this document.

Conclusions

Azure Security Center helps you strengthen the security posture of your IT infrastructure. Thanks to the features offered, it is possible to implement best practices globally and obtain an overview in the security field. The solution combines the knowledge gained by Microsoft in the management of its services with new and powerful technologies suitable for dealing with and managing the issue of security in a conscious and effective way..

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) and Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

The solution calledAzure 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.

Azure Networking: how to monitor and analyze Azure Firewall logs

In network architectures in Azure where Azure Firewall is present, the firewall-as-a-service solution (FWaaS) which allows to secure the resources present in the Virtual Networks and to govern the related network flows, it becomes strategic to adopt tools to effectively monitor the relevant logs. This article explores how to best interpret logs and how you can do in-depth analysis of Azure Firewall, a component that often plays a fundamental role in network architectures in Azure.

An important aspect to check is that the diagnostic settings are correctly configured in Azure Firewall, to flow log data and metrics to an Azure Monitor Log Analytics workspace.

Figure 1 – Azure Firewall diagnostic settings

To get an overview of the diagnostic logs and metrics available for Azure Firewall, you can consult the specific Microsoft documentation.

One of the most effective ways to view and analyze Azure Firewall logs is to use Workbooks, that allow you to combine text, Log Analytics query, Azure metrics and parameters, thus conseasing interactive and easily searchable reports.

For Azure Firewall there is a specific workbook provided by Microsoft that allows you to obtain detailed information on events, know the applications and network rules activated and view the statistics on firewall activity by URL, ports and addresses.

The import of this workbook can be done via ARM template or Gallery template, following the instructions in this article.

Figure 2 – Azure Firewall Workbook Import

After completing the import process, you can consult the overview an overview of the different events and types of logs present (application, Networks, threat intel, DNS proxy), with the possibility of applying specific filters related to workspaces, time slot and firewalls.

Figure 3 – Azure Firewall Workbook overview

There is a specific section in the workbook for Application rule where are shown sources by IP address, the use of application rules, and FQDNs denied and allowed. Furthermore, you can apply search filters on application rule data.

Figure 4 – Azure Firewall Workbook – Application rule log statistics

Furthermore, in the section Network Rule you can view the information based on the actions of the rules (allow/deny), target ports and DNAT actions.

Figure 5 – Azure Firewall Workbook – Network rule log statistics

If Azure Firewall has been set to work also as DNS Proxy it is possible to view in the tab “Azure Firewall – DNS Proxy” of the Workbook also information regarding the traffic and DNS requests managed.

If it is necessary to carry out further information to obtain more information on the communications of specific resources, you can use the section Investigation going to act on the filters available.

Figure 6 – Azure Firewall Workbook – Investigation

To view and analyze activity logs, you can connect Azure Firewall logs to Azure Sentinel, the service that expands the capabilities of traditional SIEM products (Security Information and Event Management), using the potential of the cloud and artificial intelligence. In this way, through specific workbooks available in Azure Sentinel, you can expand your analytics capabilities and create specific alerts to quickly identify and manage security threats that affect this infrastructure component. To connect Azure Firewall logs to Azure Sentinel you can follow the procedure in this Microsoft's document.

Conclusions

Azure Firewall is a widely used service and is often the centerpiece of your network architecture in Azure, where all network communications transit and are controlled. It therefore becomes important to date yourself with a tool to analyze the metrics and information collected, able to provide valid support in the resolution of any problems and incidents. Thanks to the adoption of these Workbooks you can easily consult the data collected by Azure Firewall, using visually appealing reports, with advanced features that allow you to enrich the analysis experience directly from the Azure portal.

Microsoft Defender ATP: the protection of Linux systems

Many companies have infrastructures consisting of heterogeneous server operating systems and the difficulty of having to adopt and manage different security platforms to ensure protection of the entire machine fleet is known.. Microsoft recently announced the availability of Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP), the security platform for enterprise endpoints designed to prevent, detect, investigate and respond to security threats, also for Linux systems. This article describes how to protect Linux machines with this solution and provides an overview of how Microsoft Defender Security Center enables you to monitor and manage the security of the entire spectrum of client and server platforms in enterprise environments (Windows, Windows Server, macOS and Linux).

Microsoft has steadily evolved its endpoint security platform in recent years Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP), to the point of being recognized as a leader, also getting the highest positioning in the execution capacity, in the last Gartner quadrant of "Endpoint Protection Platforms".

Figure 1 – Gartner Magic Quadrant "Endpoint Protection Platforms" (2019)

The ability to protect Linux systems also makes it an even more complete solution, able to offer:

  • Powerful preventive features. The solution provides real-time protection for the following types of file systems: btrfs, ecryptfs, ext2, ext3, ext4, fuse, fuseblk, jfs, nfs, overlay, ramfs, reiserfs, tmpfs, udf, and vfat.
  • A complete command-line experience to configure and manage the agent, initiate scans and manage threats.
  • An integration into alert monitoring within the Microsoft Defender Security Center.

System Requirements

Before you deploy the solution, you should verify that all the requirements of Microsoft Defender ATP in the Linux environment are met.

The Linux distributions and their versions currently supported are as follows:

  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.2 or higher
  • CentOS 7.2 or higher
  • Ubuntu 16.04 LTS or higher
  • Debian 9 or higher
  • SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 12 or higher
  • Oracle Linux 7.2 or higher

The minimum supported kernel version is the 3.10.0-327 and the feature that must be enabled is fanotify. Fanotify is a file access notification system built into many Linux kernels that allows Microsoft Defender ATP to scan files and, if necessary, block access to threats. The use of this feature must be totally dedicated to Microsoft Defender ATP, as the joint use of this feature by other security solutions, can lead to unpredictable results, including blocking the operating system.

Network Requirements

For Microsoft Defender ATP to work correctly on Linux systems, you must allow proper network communication to specific URLs. In this spreadsheet Microsoft lists the associated services and URLs that the protected system must be able to connect to. For more details on this, see this Microsoft-specific document.

Microsoft Defender ATP uses the following proxy systems:

  • Transparent Proxy
  • Manual configuration of the static proxy

However, are not supported PAC files, WPAD and authenticated proxies. Please also note that SSL inspection mechanisms are not supported for security reasons.

Deployment methods

Microsoft Defender ATP activation on Linux systems can be done manually or through third-party management tools, including Ansible and Puppet, Microsoft documents in detail the steps to follow. Both tools have the following steps::

  • Download the onboarding package from the Microsoft Defender Security Center.

Figure 2 – Download the onboarding package from the Microsoft Defender Security Center portal

  • Creating the manifest (Puppet) or the YAML file (Ansible).
  • Deployment that involves the enrollment of the agent and its configurations.

At the end of the installation process, you can fully manage the Microsoft Defender ATP component directly through bash.

Figure 3 – Running the mdadp command from a Linux machine with the component installed

Once the onboarding process is complete, you can manage Linux machines from the Microsoft Defender Security Center portal, as is the case with other operating systems.

Figure 4 – Linux devices in the Microsoft Defender Security Center portal

In the face of malware detections, alerts are reported within the Microsoft Defender Security Center:

Figure 5 – Detection timeline with Eicar test file on Linux machine

Software updates

Microsoft regularly publishes software updates to improve performance, security and provide new features for Microsoft Defender ATP for Linux. One thing to watch out for is that each version of Microsoft Defender ATP for Linux has an expiration date, after which it will no longer continue to protect the system, therefore, you must update the product before that date. For the procedure to update the solution, you can consult this document of Microsoft.

When you upgrade your Linux operating system to a new major release, you must first uninstall Microsoft Defender ATP for Linux, install the update and then reconfigure Microsoft Defender ATP on the system.

Configuring the solution

In enterprise environments that have multiple systems, Microsoft Defender ATP for Linux can be easily managed through configuration profiles. The configuration profile is nothing more than a file with an extension ".json" composed of different voices, identified by a key (denoted the name of the preference) followed by a value. Values can be simple, as a numeric value, or complex, as a nested list of preferences.

These profiles can be distributed by the management tool available to you, going to manage it centrally. Distributed preferences will take precedence over locally set preferences on the system so that you can better govern the different settings. For more details on the structure of this profile and the methodologies to be used for its distribution, see this article of Microsoft.

Conclusions

Although there are those who say that Linux machines do not need security solutions, I personally believe that linux systems should also be properly protected as with any other operating system. Microsoft Defender ATP for Linux is constantly expanding and exciting new features are expected in the coming months to enrich the solution with new and advanced protection features. The addition of Linux to the platforms natively supported by Microsoft Defender ATP marks an important turning point for all customers who need to also include these systems in a unified protection strategy. The Microsoft Defender Security Center provides a centralized solution for monitoring and managing the security of the entire server and client machine fleet.

Azure Security Center: Azure Storage protection

Azure Security Center, the cloud solution that allows you to prevent, detect and respond to security threats affecting hybrid architectures, it also provides enhanced protection for storage resources in Azure. The solution detects unusual and potentially harmful attempts to access or use Azure Storage. This article describes how to effectively protect storage in Azure with this solution, looking at the news recently announced in this area.

Azure Security Center (ASC) is possible to activate it in two different tiers:

  • Free tier. In this tier ASC is totally free and performs a continuous assessment, providing recommendations relating to the security of the Azure environment.
  • Standard tier. Compared to tier free adds enhanced threat detection, using behavioral analysis and machine learning to identify zero-day attacks and exploits. Through machine learning techniques and through the creation of whitelist is possible to control the execution of applications to reduce exposure to network attacks and malware. Furthermore, the standard level adds the ability to perform in an integrated manner a Vulnerability Assessment for virtual machines in Azure. Azure Security Center Standard supports several resources including: VMs, Virtual machine scale sets, App Service, SQL servers, and Storage accounts.

Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) for Azure Storage, it is one of several features in Azure Security Center Standard.

Figure 1 – Comparison of the features of the different tiers of ASC

Enabling the Security Center Standard tier is strongly recommended to improve security postures in your Azure environment.

The Advanced Threat Protection feature (ATP) for Azure Storage was announced last year, allowing you to detect common threats such as malware, access from suspicious sources (including TOR nodes), data exfiltration activities and more, but all limited to blob containers. Support for Azure Files and Azure Data Lake Storage Gen2 has also been included recently. This also helps customers protect data stored in file shares and data stores designed for the analysis of corporate big data.

Enabling this feature from the Azure portal is very simple and can be done at the Security Center-protected subscription level or selectively on individual storage accounts.

To enable this protection on all storage accounts in your subscription, you must go to the "Pricing & Settings” of Security Center and activate the protection of Storage Accounts.

Figure 2 – ATP activation for Azure Storage at the subscription level

If you prefer to enable it only on certain storage accounts, you need to activate it in the respective settings of Advanced security.

Figure 3 – ATP activation on the single storage account

When anomaly occurs on a storage account, security alerts are sent by email to Azure subscription administrators, with details of detected suspicious activity and related recommendations on how to investigate and resolve threats.

Details included in the event notification include::

  • The nature of the anomaly
  • The name of the storage account
  • The time of the event
  • The type of storage
  • Potential causes
  • The recommended steps to investigate what has been found
  • The actions to be taken to remedy what happened

Figure 4 – Example of a security alert sent in the face of a detection of a threat

In this example, the EICAR test file was used to validate that the solution was working correctly.. This is a file developed by the’European Institute for Computer Anti-Virus Research (EICAR) which is used to securely validate security solutions.

Security alerts can be viewed and managed directly from Azure Security Center, where details and actions to investigate current threats and address future threats are displayed..

Figure 5 – Example of a security alert in the ASC Security alerts tile

To get the full list of possible alerts generated by unusual and potentially malicious attempts to log in or use storage accounts, you can access the Threat protection for data services in Azure Security Center.

This protection is very useful even if you have architecture that uses the service Azure File Sync (AFS), which allows you to centralize the network folders of your infrastructure in Azure Files.

Conclusions

Business companies are increasingly moving their data to the cloud, looking for distributed architecture, high performance and cost optimization. All features offered by the public cloud require you to strengthen cybersecurity, particularly given the increasing complexity and sophistication of cyberattacks. By adopting Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) for Azure Storage, you can increase the level of storage security used in your Azure environment easily and effectively.