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Azure Security Center Best Practices: How to Secure Azure. Securing our cloud workloads is paramount in the ever-evolving landscape of digital threats, and Azure Security Center stands as a stalwart guardian in this dynamic realm. This article explores the best practices that empower us to fortify our cloud infrastructure using Azure Security Center. From proactive threat detection to streamlined security management, we’ll explore actionable strategies that shield our assets and ensure a robust and resilient defense against many cyber risks.

Azure Security Center Best Practices: How to Secure Workloads with Azure

Launched in 2016, Azure Security Center offers a robust suite of cloud-native cybersecurity management tools. Tailored for IT leaders, it secures digital workloads across Microsoft and other cloud platforms. To augment the no-cost capabilities, Azure Defender enhances security posture management with deeper analytics and monitoring for virtual and physical servers, app services, storage, and container registries.

In addition, in 2021, Microsoft changed the Azure Security Center name to Microsoft Defender for Cloud. Much like how the original name of Microsoft Azure was Windows Azure when the cloud service debuted in 2010, the name change from Azure Security Center to Microsoft Defender for Cloud helped to align these Azure-based Cyber Security products with the broader Microsoft brand rather than just the cloud platform they run from.

Key Features of Azure Security Center

One of the key features of Azure Security Center is its ability to collect events from Azure or log analytics agents and correlate them in a security analytics engine. Using this analytics engines tailored recommendations, including hardening tasks, it strengthens our organization’s security posture to gain valuable insights into the security state across hybrid cloud workloads.

Moreover, it assist in reducing our exposure to attacks and respond to detected threats quickly

The baseline security posture monitoring is arguably the top feature of Azure Security Center. Still, diving deeper, lets find more strenghts:

Threat Protection Across Cloud Workloads

A comprehensive security management system reduces risks at different points along the cyberattack chain. With a comprehensive view of our security posture across Azure and non-Azure workloads our resources hosted on-premises, in other cloud providers, or within Azure, Azure Security Center are all adequately protected.

Advanced Threat Detection and Response

As part of the Azure Security Center rebranding in 2021, the “Azure Defender” name now refers to the advanced analytics and protections related to specific server workloads. Some of the advanced capabilities of Microsoft Defender for Servers include:

  • Just-In-Time VM Access: This feature limits the time our management ports remain open, reducing the window of opportunity for attackers.
  • Adaptive Network Hardening: this one strengthens our network security rules, ensuring only necessary traffic is allowed.
  • Adaptive Application Control: creates a custom list of applications that can run on our machines, alerting us if any unauthorized applications are detected.
  • Vulnerability Assessments: Microsoft Defender for Servers includes a vulnerability scanner that reports its findings directly to the Azure Security Center. Similarly, Microsoft Defender for SQL offers a built-in vulnerability assessment to ensure databases meet data privacy standards and compliance requirements.

Security Policy and Compliance Management

One of the standout features of Azure Security Center is its ability to assess and ensure regulatory compliance. The Platform provides insights into how well our organization meets various industry standards. Export detailed compliance reports to ensure transparency and adherence to industry best practices. What is more, it gives actionable recommendations to meet and maintain compliance, whether SOC TSP, PCI DSS.

Continuous Security Monitoring and Assessment

Central to Azure Security Center is the Secure Score, a pivotal performance indicator offering a real-time snapshot of our security posture. Continuously evaluating resources, subscriptions, and organizations for security issues, it provides actionable recommendations to fortify our security stance. These security controls, enable organizations to concentrate on specific areas such as multi-factor authentication or network security, while the platform’s visual network topology map offers an interactive overview of network structure and resource interconnections.

Benefits of Azure Security Center

Unified Security Management

Centralized dashboard for unified infrastructure security management. A comprehensive view of the security posture across Azure, on-prem and other clouds. By consolidating security assessments and monitoring into one Platform, Azure Security Centre empowers IT leaders with a holistic view of their organization’s security landscape.

Advanced Threat Detection

With enhanced threat protection capabilities it detect and prevent attacks across various services. All in all, it safeguards multiple Azure services, such as Azure IoT and Azure App Service, from Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) to Platform as a Service (PaaS) resources. The Platform also extends its threat protection to on-premises virtual machines, ensuring a comprehensive security blanket.

With features like vulnerability assessment support for SQL Server hosted on Azure virtual machines and threat protection for Azure Key Vault, Azure Security Center remains at the forefront of cloud security.

Security Compliance

With Azure secure score feature, it identifies potential misconfigurations and offers actionable recommendations to rectify them.

Azure Security Center also automatically assesses compliance against various regulatory standards, ensuring IT leaders easily maintain and demonstrate compliance.

Actionable Security Recommendations

Ability to provide actionable security recommendations derive from hundreds of built-in security assessments. They guide us to quickly and efficiently enhance our organization’s overall security posture. Whether addressing misconfigurations, implementing best practices, or adhering to compliance standards, their recommendations are tailored to ensure optimal security for each unique environment.

Integration with Azure Defender

An essential element of Azure Security Center, Azure Defender (now known as Microsoft Defender for Servers) provides advanced threat protection for our Windows and Linux machines across Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and on-premises, making it valuable for hybrid cloud configurations. Azure Defender provides multi-layered defense against potential threats, from virtual machines to databases. By integrating with Azure Defender, Azure Security Centre ensures we have the most robust tools to combat cyber threats effectively.

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Best Practices for Using Azure Security Center

Azure Security Center can increase our organization’s Cyber Security with these best practices around enhancing security hygiene, leveraging built-in controls, and integrating with Azure Sentinel for advanced threat hunting.

Implementing Security Hygiene

Security hygiene as the practices a device user takes regularly to ensure IT systems’ security and overall health. Much like personal hygiene, the processes of security hygiene are preventative and ongoing. Maintaining good security hygiene is the foundation of a robust security posture.

An example would be ensuring all servers we can harden, vulnerabilities we can patch, and security recommendations that we follow. This process reduces the likelihood of a devastating cyber attack.

Good security hygiene requires a multi-layered approach. By keeping an eye on the potential threats and their common remediation steps as outlined in Azure Security Center, businesses add multiple layers of protection to their resources. In addition, Security Center Azure helps us to implement complete defense-in-depth cybersecurity strategies that include data encryption, network security, and more.

Leveraging Built-In Security Controls

One of the foundational practices of cybersecurity hygiene is ensuring appropriate access control. This process means:

  • Establishing the right level of privileges for individuals based on their roles.
  • Regularly reviewing and updating access controls to ensure they remain relevant.
  • Extending these controls to employees, trusted business partners, contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers.
  • Only authorized individuals have access to specific assets.

Azure Security Center empowers us with numerous access control options, such as implementing granular user access to minimize the use of admin accounts in our IT environment, suggesting which files in your environment should be encrypted, and enforcing password complexity.

Azure Security Center has a wide array of built-in security controls designed to safeguard our resources:

  • Adaptive Controls: Use features like Adaptive Network Hardening to leverage machine learning to strengthen network security rules.
  • Role-Based Access Control (RBAC): Ensure authorized individuals access specific resources. Implement the principle of least privilege to minimize potential security risks.
  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Enhance the security of user logins by requiring multiple forms of verification.
  • Data Encryption: Use Azure’s built-in encryption services to protect data at rest and in transit.

Understanding and Responding to Risk

This aspect involves:

  • Framing risk for the organization to understand its implications.
  • Building an incident response plan based on the organization’s risk appetite or tolerance.
  • Prioritizing risks to determine which events escalate to incident responses.
  • Informing other cybersecurity practices based on the understanding of risk.

Understanding the Mission and Assets

It’s essential to:

  • Understand the mission of the organization.
  • Recognize the assets that are crucial for the organization’s functioning.
  • Understand how these assets interplay with the organization’s mission and objectives.

With all that in mind, the ways Azure Security Center helps us optimize our IT environment with an adequate level of security hygiene include:

  • Address Recommendations:  Regularly review and address these recommendations to enhance our security hygiene.
  • Patch Management: Ensure all systems applications are updated with the latest security patches.
  • Limit Exposure: Use Just-In-Time (JIT) VM access to reduce the exposure of our virtual machines by ensuring that management ports are not open when not in use.
  • Regularly Assess: Continuously assess our organization’s security hygiene, scanning our IT environment and providing a Secure Score, which measures an organization’s security posture. A more excellent score indicates an improved security stance. Each security recommendation has a scoring impact, showing how addressing that recommendation affects the overall Secure Score. 

Azure Security Center’s Secure Score plays a pivotal role in prioritizing vulnerabilities. It not only categorizes vulnerabilities by severity but also suggests the order of remediation. This ensures the most critical vulnerabilities are addressed first, reducing the risk of future attacks.

Best Practices for Improving Secure Score

  • Gain Upper Management Support:
  • Assign Remediation Privileges: 
  • Automate All The Things: 
  • Communicate Between Teams: 
  • Configure For Safety: 
  • Continue User Training:

Integrating with Azure Sentinel for Advanced Threat Hunting

Azure Sentinel is a cloud-native Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solution that integrates with Azure Security Center. The primary function of Azure Sentinel is to aggregate logs from various data sources, analyse them for malicious activities, and facilitate investigations and actions based on these analyses.

Our security operations perform advanced threat hunting by integrating Azure Sentinel into Azure Security Center. The integration of Sentinel and Security Center enables a holistic view of potential security incidents with speed and accuracy not humanly possible. We then get a centralized idea of security alerts across our organization, making it easier to spot potential threats.

Microsoft Sentinel has tools that empower us to automate responses related to specific security alerts found in Microsoft Defender for Cloud, ensuring swift action against potential cybersecurity threats. For example, imagine an incident in Sentinel highlighting an anomalous user login. The investigation might reveal related alerts, such as a malicious URL accessed or a suspicious PowerShell command executed.

Sentinel provides the context, including the affected user and the virtual machine (VM) involved. Once the investigation in Sentinel identifies a potentially compromised VM, the focus shifts to Azure Security Center. Here is the VM that we analyse for vulnerabilities and misconfigurations. Recommendations, prioritized by the Secure Score, guide the remediation process.

Azure Security Center Best Practices: How to Secure Azure Conclusion

As we conclude our exploration into Azure Security Center best practices, it’s evident that safeguarding our cloud workloads demands a proactive and strategic approach. By implementing the insights and recommendations discussed, we enhance the security posture of our Azure environment and foster a culture of resilience against emerging threats. In the ever-evolving cybersecurity landscape, staying one step ahead is not just a choice—it’s a necessity. With Azure Security Center as our ally and these best practices as our guide, we confidently navigate the digital realm, knowing that our cloud workloads fortify against today’s challenges and tomorrow’s uncertainties.

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Marion Mendoza

Marion Mendoza

Windows Server and VMware SME. Powershell Guru. Currently working with Fortune 500 companies responsible for participating in 3rd level systems support across the enterprise. Acting as a Windows Server engineer and VMware Specialist.

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