For most businesses hosting their infrastructure in the cloud, security should be a top priority. More and more cloud services providers are appearing, but Microsoft Azure is one of the most popular and offers best-in-class cloud security features.
Azure’s cloud security services are broad in scope, but implementing established Azure best practices should be considered compulsory. Here are our top 5 to help you secure your Azure infrastructure now.
1. Ensure “Break-Glass” Accounts for Azure
A break-glass account is a special emergency account with elevated privileges that should only be used in critical situations when normal administrative access is unavailable.
Typically, these accounts are disabled until they are needed and require a stringent authentication process to prevent unauthorized access. Having break-glass accounts in Azure is essential for the following reasons:
- Incident Response and Disaster Recovery
During a cybersecurity emergency, such as a data breach or the unauthorized use of regular administrative accounts, break-glass accounts are a safety measure. They help designated personnel to take back control and begin the incident response protocol.
- Protection against Credential Loss
By keeping break-glass accounts separate from regular accounts, you significantly reduce the risk of losing administrative credentials due to human error or phishing attacks.
- Least Privilege Principle
Regular accounts should have limited privileges, and break-glass accounts should follow the principle of least privilege, granting only the necessary permissions required for specific emergency tasks.
2. Properly Exclude Break-Glass Accounts from Conditional Access
Conditional Access in Azure allows organizations to define access policies based on various conditions, such as user location, device compliance, and risk levels. To maintain security, it’s crucial to exclude break-glass accounts from these policies. Here’s why:
- Unhindered Emergency Access
In emergency scenarios, when break-glass accounts are needed, they should not be restricted by conditional access policies, providing swift access to critical resources.
- Preventing Circumvention
Excluding break-glass accounts from conditional access prevents malicious actors from trying to bypass security measures by exploiting conditional access policies.
3. Limit The Number of Global Administrators in an Environment
Global administrators have the highest level of access in Azure, allowing them to manage all aspects of an organization’s resources. However, granting this privilege to too many individuals increases the risk of unauthorized access and potential security breaches. Limiting the number of global administrators is essential for the following reasons:
- Minimizes the Attack Surface
Fewer global administrators means a reduced number of potential targets for attackers, making it more difficult for malicious actors to compromise these critical accounts.
- Easier Accountability and Auditing
Limiting the number of global administrators improves accountability and simplifies the process of monitoring and auditing administrative actions.
- Implements the Principle of Segregation of Duties
Following the principle of segregation of duties ensures that administrative privileges are distributed among multiple individuals, reducing the risk of internal misuse or errors.
4. Implement Privileged Access in Azure
Privileged Access Management (PAM) allows organizations to grant just-in-time (JIT) access to privileged roles. JIT access reduces the exposure of these permissions and increases overall security. Implementing privileged access in Azure is crucial for the following reasons:
- Reduced Exposure Time
Privileged access is only granted when needed, limiting the window of opportunity for attackers to exploit elevated permissions.
- Regular Access Reviews
With privileged access management, people with elevated privileges must review their access regularly, to make sure they still need it. This practice reduces the risk of accidental or unnecessary access.
- Enhanced Monitoring
With PAM you receive detailed audit logs. These logs let organizations monitor and investigate privileged access actions that aid in detecting suspicious activities.
5. Properly Geo-Fence Azure for Conditional Access
Geo-fencing in Azure is a way to restrict access based on a user’s geographical location. This practice can significantly enhance security and compliance in an organization. Reasons for implementing proper geo-fencing are:
- Compliance and Data Residency
Geo-fencing helps organizations comply with data residency regulations and ensures that sensitive data remains within specified regions or jurisdictions.
- Reduced Exposure to Regional Threats
Limiting access from specific regions can help protect against threats originating from particular geographical locations known for malicious activities.
- Preventing Unauthorized Access
Businesses can use Geo-fencing as an additional layer of security to prevent unauthorized access to resources from unexpected locations.
Implementing these best practices in an Azure environment is more secure, reduces the risk of unauthorized access, and shows a proactive approach to safeguarding critical assets and data.
Benefits to Implementing Azure Best Practices
Safeguarding your Azure environment requires constant vigilance and a proactive approach, but implementing these 5 best practices in an Azure environment makes it more secure and reduces the risk of unauthorized access. It also shows a proactive approach to safeguarding critical assets and data.
By embracing Azure security best practices, your business can build a robust and resilient cloud infrastructure. It ensures your data and applications remain protected from today’s constantly evolving cyber threats.
William Tooley is a seasoned security engineer at Novacoast with two decades’ worth of expertise, specializing in Microsoft Technologies and Information Security.