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Azure Security Best Practices – For Compliance (Checklist). Microsoft Azure is the foundation of many enterprises’ cloud infrastructure around the world. Maintaining compliance is an important part of Azure cloud security and it’s critical in providing assurance regarding the protection of your data. Therefore, it is crucial for companies to have a thorough awareness of the Azure security best practices and compliance standards.

Hence, there are a couple of things you need to do in order to achieve that.

So, what’s the first thing you need to do?

First of all, you need to define your compliance objectives. What standards and regulations (for example, PCI-DSS, ISO 27001, and HIPAA) apply to your organization? Answering this question clearly and making sure that your compliance objectives are clearly defined is always the first step.

There are several compliance standards and regulations when it comes to Azure. These standards and regulations depend on your niche industry – i.e., financial services, healthcare, and life services – and your region. There are also compliance standards that are dedicated to making sure that your business is compliant with various US government regulations.

In this article, you should learn how to use the Azure regulatory compliance dashboard to evaluate your regulatory compliance and the best security practices to ensure that you meet most compliance checklist requirements.

8 Azure Best Security Practices for Compliance

Despite the numerous Azure compliance standards available, there are checklist requirements that are present in the majority of standards. Here is a comprehensive analysis of the best practices to follow to ensure that you are in compliance.

1. Perform Regular tests of your Security Systems and Processes

Every security professional out there will advise you to have a regular threat scanning schedule for all of your machines. This is a top checklist requirement for a wide variety of compliance standards, including PCI DSS, ISO 27001, HIPAA, SOC 2, and other compliance standards.

Vulnerabilities are constantly being discovered by malicious individuals and researchers. In this current threat environment, it’s always prudent to assume that no machine is invulnerable to attacks, and therefore a regular testing and scanning strategy must be implemented to ensure security.

It is therefore advisable to make sure that the following practices are implemented in your security strategy:

  • Make sure that all external IPs and domains are regularly scanned. For example, the PCI DSS standard requires that all external IPs and domains exposed in the CDE be scanned at least quarterly by a PCI Approved Scanning Vendor (ASV). 
  • Make sure that all external IPs and domains are subjected to extensive, regular application and network penetration tests. 
  • Have a robust file monitoring strategy. Make sure your system carries out regular file comparisons to detect changes that would otherwise go unnoticed.

2. Have a Consistent Patch Management Strategy

This is a common checklist that needs to be checked off in order to be compliant with several Azure standards and regulations. Old operating systems are very vulnerable to exploitation and attacks. This is why they are outdated in the first place! 

Software companies regularly release new patches for operating systems whenever vulnerabilities are discovered. So, make sure that you have set up automatic system updates for your virtual machines or have a regular manual patching schedule.

3. Use and Regularly update Antivirus Software with strong Firewall Policy

This is a top compliance checklist for most Azure compliance standards. This checklist requirement focuses on system protection against all types of malware

To make sure that you are in compliance, make sure that all systems are equipped with an anti virus solution. This includes workstations, laptops, and mobile devices that employees may use to access the system both locally and remotely.

To make sure that the anti-virus program is effective, you also need to ensure that the anti-virus or anti-malware programs are regularly updated.

Always make sure that your anti-virus mechanisms are always active, generating auditable logs, and are using the latest signatures.

When it comes to having a robust firewall policy, it’s always recommended to always close administrative ports. Access to SSH, RDP, WinRM, and other administrative ports should be restricted unless absolutely necessary. This is vital to protecting your virtual machines.

4. Use Appropriate Encryption Procedures

Even the largest corporations with the largest cybersecurity budgets are victims of data breaches. Therefore, the significance of encryption cannot be overstated. Often, man-in-the-middle attacks occur by exploiting poor or non existent encryption policies.

In Azure, encryption is critical for every business today because it allows them to protect sensitive data by converting it to ciphertext, which is unreadable without an encryption key. This is known as “encoding.” 

Because only those with an encryption key can decipher the data and reveal the true information, encryption makes it nearly impossible for cybercriminals or other unauthorized parties to steal and misuse the data.

So, to make sure that this compliance checklist is checked off, you need to make sure that you:

  • Apply only the latest modern encryption protocols to safeguard your data.
  • Make sure you use TLS over SSL, as SSL contains several exploitable vulnerabilities.
  • Make sure your endpoints are encrypted as well. Yes, encrypt even data that is already stored securely. This renders it useless to attackers in the event that the data is stolen.

5. Maintain Strict Information Confidentiality

Confidential information refers to any information that is deemed sensitive due to its personal nature. Information confidentiality is a top checklist requirement for SOC 2, PCI DSS, and other compliance standards.

To meet this compliance requirement, several security practices need to be implemented. For example, if your company collects sensitive information, you must:

  • Obtain the subject’s permission.
  • As much as possible, limit the amount of private information you collect and only gather it using legal means.
  • Use the data only for the purposes for which it was collected and discard it at the end of a specified data retention period.
  • To prevent leakage and data loss, limit access to that information to as few authorized personnel as possible.

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6. Have strong and complex Passwords and enable Multi Factor Authentication (MFA)

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This is always of critical importance, especially if there is inbound traffic to your virtual machines for commercial reasons. For example, this is a top compliance requirement for businesses that provide financial services and need to adhere to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). 

Also, SOC 2 and other compliance standards require that you at least enable two factor authentication for your systems. To make sure that this checklist requirement is ticked off, make sure that every user account that is allowed to access your virtual machines has a complex username and password combination. 

If your virtual machine is also domain-joined, then make sure that every account that is allowed to log into your virtual machine follows this security procedure and also has multi factor authentication.

7. Always have a Backup for your Data

It’s always advisable to have a backup for your data to safeguard against data loss. Data can be lost due to unintentional data mishandling or even a system compromise by attackers. 

The damage that this can cause to your business, both financially and in terms of reputation, can be enormous. This is why most Azure compliance standards require you to always have a reliable backup of your data. 

Fortunately, this is only a click away in Azure. Additionally, Azure provides users with a data backup service that they can use. To use it, you simply need to enable the Azure Backup Service.

8. Make sure your Systems are always available

The concept of availability in computing refers to the guarantee that a computer system can be accessed by an authorized user whenever they require it. A high order of availability of a system guarantees that it will function as expected when called upon. 

It’s no surprise, then, that this is at the top of the compliance checklist for many Azure AD standards.

There are two main threats to the availability of a system, which are either a denial of service or a loss of data processing capabilities. To always be in compliance, it is therefore advisable that you shore up your system’s defences and network infrastructure to make sure your system does not face downtime due to this.

To do so, make sure that you: 

  • Have contingency plans in case of downtime. 
  • Make sure to carry out routine maintenance on the system when traffic is low and always have an alternative system that can be used temporarily.
  • Prevent human error (which is more common) by requiring multiple people to be involved when making key decisions that will affect your system.

Up next with Azure Security Best Practices – For Compliance is to explain Azure Regulatory Compliance Dashboard. 

The Azure Regulatory Compliance Dashboard

To make sure that users are in compliance with various compliance standards, Azure has implemented a regulatory compliance dashboard so that they can evaluate their regulatory compliance and make sure that they are in compliance.

The Regulatory Compliance Dashboard in Azure provides insight into your Azure environment’s position in relation to the currently supported security standards: Azure CIS, SOC TSP, ISO 27001, and PCI DSS 3.2.

Here is a look at the Azure Compliance Dashboard:

Dashboard Controls and Resolution

The Regulatory Compliance feature in Azure carries out assessments to determine your compliance status. The dashboard displays the regulatory compliance assessment score in number of failed and passed assessments and percentage if you hover over the graph colours.

The compliance status of regulatory standards and the number of rules that passed the assessment appear next to the overall score.

All rules in the dashboard’s green control are those that have passed the assessment. The dashboard’s red control indicates at least one rule failed assessment.

If you expand a rule, you can see the individual assessments, type of resource, total resources, and graphical representation of the assessments.

The third color, gray, indicates that the compliance assessment is either not applicable or is not yet supported. To better enhance this dashboard, Microsoft makes sure that the data from the ASC Regulatory Compliance Dashboard is available in the Compliance Manager.


To resolve an issue, just click on the assessment name, and you will be directed to a page where you can resolve it. The issues that need to be resolved for example can be determining which virtual machines need to be updated and installing the necessary updates or installing a monitoring agent on a virtual machine.

The Compliance Manager collects data from Office 365 and Azure environments in one place, from which you improve data protection and compliance by following the recommendations. It’s good to note that Microsoft is rolling out updates to the dashboard, and soon compliance reporting features (a very useful functionality) will be incorporated.

Thank you for reading Azure Security Best Practices – For Compliance (Checklist). We shall conclude this article blog. 

Azure Security Best Practices – For compliance (Checklist) Conclusion

As a Microsoft Azure user, it’s always important to maintain compliance with various compliance standards and regulations. Fortunately, this guide is here to give you a comprehensive analysis of Azure best security practices to ensure that you are in compliance with most compliance standards. 

Microsoft Azure has also rolled out a compliance and regulatory dashboard that you utilize to make sure that you are in compliance with the best security practices. 

Failure to comply with Azure best security practices may result in fines and legal penalties and loss of business opportunities. It can also result to your system being vulnerable to cyber attacks, which may be costly to your company. 

Follow the above practices, utilize the Regulatory Compliance Dashboard in Azure, and educate yourself on the Azure compliance standards and regulations that are specific to you to be on the safe side.


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Josiah Mutuma

Josiah Mutuma

Josiah is a tech security expert and has been a writer for over 5 years. Follow this blog to learn more on Microsoft and Cyber security.

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