From Authentication to Threat Detection: 5 Azure Security Features Locking Down Your Cloud

Liz Alton

In a recent piece, Microsoft noted that COVID-19 accelerated two years of digital transformation into a two-month span, as organizations moved fast to take key processes and workloads digital. One of the most critical areas under scrutiny is cybersecurity, as new threats emerge and the diversity of scams and hacking attempts scales rapidly. In their study, Microsoft found that while 58% of organizations planned to raise security budgets to adapt to new challenges, a staggering 81% of IT leaders were under pressure to reduce costs. Microsoft Azure offers a variety of built-in security features that are helping organizations tighten up their cloud security, while taking advantage of automated tools to keep costs and team workloads in check. Here’s a closer look at eight key Azure security features that should be part of your cybersecurity arsenal.

Implement Multi-factor Authentication

If an employee loses a device or their credentials become compromised, they could be handing someone else the keys to your company’s most sensitive proprietary data. As a result, administrators are buttoning up access and ensuring the highest levels of security with multi-factor authentication. Microsoft notes that secure access to applications and data is the number one cited challenge IT teams have faced during the pandemic: “This paradigm shift has been most acute in the limitations of basic username/password authentication. As a result, when asked to identify the top security investment made during the pandemic the top response was multi-factor authentication (MFA).” Azure’s multi-factor authentication capabilities allow you to require two or more methods of verification—such as a password, trusted device access, and biometrics. Administrators can choose to require the highest level of authentication with every access or set rules-based scenarios that identify potential threats and require more rigorous verification for granting access.

Improve Centralized Visibility with Security Center

With the sudden spike in the number of employees working remotely, network administrators have suddenly found themselves faced with much larger and more complex networks to manage and monitor. Many are leveraging Microsoft Security Center to give them greater visibility across the network to identify issues and stop potential threats.

For many administrators, the greatest benefit of Security Center is the ongoing automated monitoring of cloud environments. The system continuously assesses the status of assets and notifies you immediately if it identifies a potential threat. It also monitors workloads and quickly throws up a flag if abnormalities are detected. With detection and security capabilities native to the cloud, security response happens fast and efficiently.

Take Advantage of Threat Intelligence Detection and Containment

Microsoft Azure’s threat intelligence database is one of the most sophisticated systems in the world. As the pandemic continues to unfold, Microsoft reports that it has tracked more than 8 trillion daily global threats. By blending automated tools with cybersecurity talent oversight, the system has been able to identify new threats before they impact customers. At other times, the system’s automated tools helped alert managers to potentially harmful behavior. In an environment where 54% of security leaders told Microsoft they’ve experienced an increase in phishing threats, having this kind extensive data set at your disposal helps you eliminate known threats and quickly identify newly emerging issues.

Secure the Network

Azure’s toolkit includes solutions that can help you better secure the virtual machines you’re using within Azure. The tools available include software-defined networking rules that help control access to the network, define traffic routing, and much more. With network layer control, virtual machines are only able to make connections that support their workloads, while other communication attempts are blocked, effectively locking them as access points for hackers. Service end points allow you to define what external devices and points your virtual machines can connect to. Finally, Azure networking allows you to define routing at a granular level to keep information safe. If routing is configured incorrectly, applications and services hosted on your virtual machine might connect to unauthorized devices, including systems owned and operated by potential attackers. With multiple layers of network control, you’re better secured and protected from risks.

Support Remote Work Security with VPN

A critical consideration emerged early in the pandemic. Businesses needed a way for remote workers to securely assess critical applications and key data. With Microsoft Azure VPN Gateway, administrators had access to several tools to support remote workers. With VPN Gateway, you’re able to create a connected encryption between Azure and an on-premises (or remote) location. Data is secured, while taking advantage of the available bandwidth teams need to access vital applications, data, and environments.

Eliminate Denial of Service Attacks

Azure DDoS protection is an important service that can help protect your organization from distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. A DDoS attack uses compromised computers to create a massive flood of traffic to a destination, effectively taking it offline. Azure DDoS protection helps eliminate these attacks by constantly monitoring traffic pattens. If a threat is identified, the solution allows organizations to scrub traffic at the network edge before it can impact availability of service. In addition to automation detection and deflection, Azure uses innate intelligence to constantly learn from events and reconfigure protections to better customize your protection against future attacks.

Secure Documents and Emails with AIP

Azure Information Protection (AIP) is another important tool that brands can leverage to increase Azure security. It enables organizations to classify documents and emails—and increase their levels of protection—by applying labels. As part of your document management strategy, labels can be applied manually or using a rules-based approach. From there, the labels allow you to detect potential breaches, audit a document’s history, track access, and more. AIP integrates with Azure Rights Management Service (RMS) and adds the ability to tie encryption, identity, and authorization policies to your labels. How might your organization use this? Certain documents might be created and labeled C-suite, and only be accessible by members of your executive team, for example.

Systematize Monitoring of Azure and Cross-Platform Environments

It’s also important to note that Microsoft’s Threat Protection cloud service can isn’t just for cloud deployments; it can help defend enterprise hybrid environments from multiple attacks and threats. Microsoft Threat Protection is described as “a unified pre- and post-breach enterprise defense suite that natively coordinates detection, prevention, investigation, and response across endpoints, identities, email, and applications to provide integrated protection against sophisticated attacks. As an end-to-end holistic tool that works with Azure and other connected Microsoft solutions, it’s an important solution in your protection arsenal to defending against attacks that impact applications, endpoints, identity management, and email and collaboration systems from detection through response and mitigation.

Meanwhile, at the Azure level, Azure Sentinel provides visibility across the organization, allowing you to see and stop threats throughout your environment. The solution builds on Microsoft’s threat detection capabilities, and then enhances threat detection and response with artificial intelligence. Not only does this increase speed and accuracy, but it helps reduce many of the cybersecurity costs that firms struggle with today.

Cybersecurity remains a top concern for companies, whether they are updating their security posture to better serve a remote workforce or finding agile solutions to fast-changing threat landscapes. For organizations with Microsoft Azure, the ability to integrate advanced security monitoring, threat detection, and environment visibility has been a vital asset in keeping up with risks while keeping costs down. Whether you are interested in learning more about Microsoft Azure or have an existing deployment that needs security optimization, we can help. Contact Connection today for more information.

Liz Alton is a B2B technology and digital marketing writer and content strategist. She has worked with a variety of brands including Google, Twitter, Adobe, Oracle, and HP, and written for publications including Forbes. She is a regular contributor to Connected, Connection’s official blog.