Imagine a dangerous hacker circulating your personal information on the dark web without you having any idea about it. This sounds close to a plot of a psychological thriller. Guess what, it isn’t. In fact, this is a real-life incident based on one of the globe’s leading social media platforms. The platform became susceptible to one of the worst cloud security breaches when 700+ million user profiles were hijacked and posted for sale on the dark web. The hacker got access to the data by simply misusing the company’s APIs and executed data scraping to get a hold of the public information. Breaches like this can make you question the safety of your identity online but it also throws light on another issue: Can the cloud be safe from security threats?
PaaS Security is the Need of the Hour
As the cloud footprint is exploding, security breaches are rising in tandem. If that’s not all, only 5% of the companies that have moved to the cloud know how to secure its infrastructure and applications. This speaks volumes about how businesses are inadequate in managing security on the cloud. To understand cloud security, you need to essentially understand the concept of platform-as-a-service (PaaS). It supports the development, testing, deployment and maintenance of web applications. As businesses want to excel in digital transformation, the PaaS approach can help you deploy innovative apps quickly. Since PaaS works on the principle of shared resources like hardware and networking, it makes it easy for hackers to gain unauthorized access to mission-critical information.
This is why your cloud service provider should support you with guidelines, policies and comply with PaaS security best practices. That being said, if you are running your business on Microsoft Azure, the good news is that it comes with in-built tools and capabilities to secure your PaaS network. Let’s explore this in detail.
How to Apply PaaS Security Best Practices on Azure?
In the beginning, Azure PaaS solutions did not offer any network perimeter security. But as time went by, organizations have realized the importance of implementing an identity-based security perimeter coupled with advanced authorization and authentication best practices. Here are the best PaaS security best practices for adopting and handling the identity perimeter.
- Safeguard your keys and secrets for secured Paas deployments with Azure Key Vault.
- Don’t store your keys and secrets in public code repositories such as GitHub as hackers can easily gain unauthorized access to them.
- Secure your VM management interfaces by enforcing remote management capabilities like SSH, RDP and Powershell Monitoring. This helps you monitor your applications 24*7, fix any issues that cause downtime and keep the applications running.
- Enable platform-based authentication methods instead of custom-code as creating the latter can lead to vulnerabilities.
- Use multi-factor authentication services like Azure AD Multi-factor Authentication and implement stringent security protocols for setting strong usernames and passwords.
Securing PaaS Deployments
The PaaS security model is based on the principles of shared security. Azure can offer provider-level security to its PaaS infrastructure. What’s more, it comes with in-built features to remove the security burden from users. Let’s delve into the effective ways of safeguarding and securing applications for any Azure PaaS service.
Safeguard your PaaS Using Azure App Services
Azure App Services enables you to develop web and mobile applications for any device or platform and deploy them to an agile Cloud platform. Here is the PaaS security checklist to protect your mobile and web applications
Validate through Azure Active Directory
Azure Active Directory (AAD) deploys OAuth 2.0 to grant access to web and mobile applications. OAuth2.0 stands for open authorization that allows safe recovery of resources while securing user credentials. You need to authenticate some apps during the configuration process while others may need OAuth2.0 to leverage a particular service.
Leverage Role-based Access
Organizations that want to implement stringent security policies need to place access controls based on roles and who should have access to business information. Enabling Azure role-based access (RBAC) can exactly serve this purpose. You can assign permissions like least privilege security principles to groups, applications, managed identities and users at a particular scope.
Keep your Keys Safe
Losing your subscription keys can be detrimental to your security. Azure Key Vault helps in storing and accessing cryptographic keys and secrets. It consists of two containers: managed Hardware Security Module (HSM) and vaults. The Key Vault implements Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol to secure the data while exchanging it between the key vault and the clients. TLS offers benefits like message privacy, authentication, integrity, seamless deployment and usage. Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS) secures connections between Microsoft Cloud services and customer’s systems. It enables RSA –based 2048-bit encryption key lengths that makes it challenging for anyone to access data in transit.
Restrain Incoming Source IP addresses
The Azure Service Environment (ASE) offers a dedicated and isolated environment for securing Azure Service Apps that run at a high scale. It enables you to deploy applications into a network-isolated environment that is already present on a virtual network. In this way, you do not have to configure apps to be on virtual networks. You can even deploy ASE on dedicated hardware. ASE leverages its virtual integration capability to control incoming source IP addresses via network security groups.
Securing Azure Cloud Services (ACS)
Azure Cloud Services helps you to deploy web applications that are reliable, scalable and cost-effective to operate. You can host Azure Cloud Services on a virtual network. With ACS, you do not need to develop separate cloud machines. This is because you get a configuration file that dictates how many instances you would like to build, size of the instances and the platform that will create these instances.
Establish a Web Application Firewall
Did you know that web-based applications, on average, experience 94 security attacks each day? SQL injection and cross- site scripting are two common threats that put web applications at risk. However, mitigating such threats can be time-consuming as it needs patching, maintenance and monitoring of the application. A Web Application Firewall (WAF) can provide centralized protection of your applications against threats and intrusions. It can respond to security vulnerabilities quicker as it patches threats through a centralized interface, rather than spending time on securing each web application.
Enable DDoS Protection
Around 70% of enterprises experience 20 DDoS attacks per month. Azure DDoS protection standard should be implemented on any virtual network as it offers advanced mitigation capabilities to combat DDoS attacks along with enabling application-design best practices.
Apply Threat Modeling During Application Design
Threat modeling helps you to detect threats and vulnerabilities, develop counter measures to mitigate risks and meet organization’s security policies. To assist in threat modeling, Microsoft has developed SDL Threat Modeling Tool to stimulate threats such as Spoofing, Tampering, Repudiation, Information Disclosure, Denial of Service and Elevation of privilege, also known as SRTIDE, across trust boundaries for early identification of errors or flaws in the application design. Based on each threat, Microsoft Azure suggests risk mitigation methods.
Types of Threat
Potential Azure Risk Mitigations
Need HTTPS connections
Authenticate TLS/SSL certificates
Facilitate Azure monitoring and diagnostics
Encrypt sensitive data by leveraging service certificates
Denial of service
Track performance metrics for denial-of-service conditions and deploy connection filters
Elevation of privilege
Enable Privileged Identity Management
Enforce Security Penetration Testing
Penetration testing refers to a process of authorizing cyberattacks into a system or an application to assess the overall security posture of the system. However, this is not to be confused with a vulnerability assessment. Fuzz testing is a process that can identify code errors and failures in your system. It injects malformed input data into the program for analysis and interpretation. Use Microsoft Security Risk Detection to detect bugs and potential threats before deploying the application to Azure. The primary benefit of this tool is that you can resolve security vulnerabilities before the software release. In this way, you don’t have to debug, mitigate crashes or respond to threats once the application goes live.
Track the Performance of your Applications
Having an effective monitoring strategy in place can help you gain information and insights into the health and performance of your applications. Since it helps in the early detection of security-related anomalies, you can achieve uptime by mitigating these threats before they can affect any application. Azure Application Insights can instantly detect and resolve issues in your application, whether it is deployed in the cloud or on-prem. Based on the information that it provides; you can make informed decisions about improving and maintaining your applications. If that’s not all, Application Insights comes with tools that store data in a common repository and offer features like dashboards, alerts and deep analysis with integrated Kusto query language. This helps you to get an end-to-end detailed understanding of your data.
Falling Behind PaaS Security? Get Ahead with Cloud4C
Getting a clear insight into the security challenges of running an application on a PaaS platform can help you address risks with appropriate solutions. Cloud4C offers enterprise-grade database, workloads, platforms, and application security on PaaS. Deploy Managed Cybersecurity services and gain Azure Cybersecurity-as-a-Service and risk management visibility over your PaaS environment. Learn how you can achieve unparalleled security, continuity and uninterrupted growth with Cloud4C’s managed security services. Get in touch with us today!