Saving your production workload on Azure using Azure Resource Locks

Think of a scenario where you spend hours or maybe days to setup an environment required for a software. This can be couple of VM’s with required resources and parameters. Now consider a scenario someone in your organization who have access to same Azure subscription or even you who accidently ran a PS command and delete that resource group accidently….OUCH!

To prevent some of the above scenarios we have RBAC (Role Based Access Control) and limit who can access resources but it will never eliminate all the possible scenarios. This is where Azure Resource Locks come into the picture. This nighty feature also shines if your organization have proper cloud management policies are in place.

Good thing is Microsoft Azure Team has introduce this feature everywhere in the Azure portal – you can apply at Subscription, Resource Group, and Resource level and there is a hierarchy. If you apply is on the subscription level every resource is protected from this policy. Or better you may only want to apply this to production Resource Groups and exclude rest, yep it’s possible thanks to Azure policies concept.

For deep dive into this feature please referrer to official Microsoft documentation. You can reach there from here.

Of let’s dive in my friends Smile

The Azure locks come in two flavors. Read-Only and Delete. Read-Only option will not allow you to perform and changes to the resources when applied. This is also really useful when you don’t want any changes carried out to the resources. Eg: Changing VM size or adding disks….etc

Whereas on the Delete option you’re prevented from deleting the resources in a resource group. If Read-Only option not combine then you’re allowed to carry out the changes to the resources.  

Note: Only Owner and User Access Administrator roles can create or delete management locks

Ok I mentioned resource lock option is everywhere on Azure portal. Reason being is Azure team allows you to go into object level and provide this feature. That being said let me share few screenshots to prove the point.

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Picture 1: Above picture shows Lock option available for a vNet.

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Picture 2: Above picture shows Lock option available for a virtual disk

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Picture 3: Above pictures shows the Lock option available for Resource Group

Ok I assume you’re satisfied from my point Smile Now let’s dig down to this feature.

On this scenario we’re a Resource Group called “DemoRG001” which hosts one important VM for a organization and it’s associated resources. After creating this RG we want to make sure to protect the RG and it’s objects from accidental damages from internal team members who are supposed to look after the Azure subscription.

As we saw in the first part of this article, Azure locks can be defined by two types: Read-Only and Delete. Using Azure Portal, click on Resource Groups, and then click on the desired resource group, in our case DemoRG001, and then click on locks.

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In the new window that is display provide a name for the Lock name section and Lock type and also Notes which can be useful for later review

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Note: If you’re a PS junkie (who shouldn’t be Smile) below is the command to create the required outcome.

New-AzResourceLock -LockName <lockName> -LockLevel CanNotDelete -ResourceGroupName
<resourceGroupName>

Eg: New-AzResourceLock –LockName LCKRG001 -LockLevel CanNotDelete -ResourceGroupName
DemoRG001

Now we’re setup preventing delete option to the resource group. With this feature activated let’s try to delete one of the resource inside the Resource group and observe the outcome.

I’ve tried to delete the vNet and the outcome is as follows,

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To verify above from PS try Get-AzResourceLock

Error message highlighting the reason as “operation because following scope are locked”

You can try doing this across and object inside the Resource group and the result will be the same.

Audit the actions

If we think carefully about the above scenario we can take into consideration about logs, alerts and security. Think carefully by wearing the security person’s hat. We would like to see who tried to access the resource group and especially try to do malicious activity. Since Activity log capture every activity we can monitor what really happened by observing the logs.

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Azure Resource Lock is a nifty feature and very useful for production environment. Combined this with RBAC will be great combination for granular level control of the resources as well as for security.

Now I know demonstration values more so here goes the video for you Smile

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iy1jtyoP7Ok

Any questions lads?

Azure AD allows collaboration seamless for any user with any account (towards the dream)

In a world where collaboration rocks we always question the security boundary. By now I do hope all agree answer relies on identity. Our application access and controls should follow identity to allow people to truly provide the required flexibility to work from anywhere whilst maintaining the required security.

In Microsoft Azure Active Directory now they are towards to that dream. Today goes the public preview of allowing to share resources (Applications and data) with people from any organization, whether or not they have Azure AD or an IT department. Earlier Microsoft work closely with Google social IDs for this task.

Under this preview mode end user can use any of their e-mail ID type to access resources on another organization for true B2B collaboration. This is happening via email one-time passcodes (OTP).By using this new capability, you allow guest users to use their work email account for authentication while making sure your corporate resources are protected by the same security standards that are mandated by your partner organization. Once end user get the code and verified that session is valid for 24 hours. OTP codes are valid for 30 minutes. These settings carefully applied with security in mind.

In addition, we can apply additional security through conditional access and Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) which available under AAP (Azure Active Directory Premium)

Guest user will get one-time passcode if below scenarios are true,

  • They do not have an Azure AD account
  • They do not have a Microsoft account
  • The inviting tenant did not set up Google federation for @gmail.com and @googlemail.com users

OTP 1
(Picture credits goes to Microsoft Techcommunity)

Ok let’s get into action to enable this feature now.

Log into Azure portal and go to Azure Active Directory –> Organizational relationships –> Users from other organizations –> Settings

select “Enable Email One-Time Passcode for Guests (Preview) after that save the changes.

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Well that’s all you have to do. Head back to “Users from other organizations” and add the users. Once above task completed it might take little time to apply.

After that when you share the resources with the outside party.

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When the first time user get the email he/she has to go through the redemption procedure and accept the company policies. Once completed when they try to access the company resources they will be request to sign in prompt and request for a code. Below is such example situation,

OTP 2OTP 3
(Picture credits goes to Microsoft Techcommunity)

What is exciting is the new doors this is opening for companies to allow securely access to their resources to external parties knowing the control they have.

How to encrypt disks on Azure VM’s

“Information protection” no wonder this word has been making big buzz around the world regardless of the business size. We have seen major cyber attacks, malware attacks which even cripple the Enterprise companies finically and reputation wise. So in this article I’m looking at one area of prevention solution offered by Microsoft team long time back. Now it’s extended to Microsoft Azure VM’s as well. Disk encryption is not a new term, we always had heard under Information Security practices consultants highlight how vital to back the data and keep them offshore. Same time they request this data to be encrypted in case fall into wrong hand.

But have you thought about how to protect running VM’s in your data-center or on Azure? Actually there are couple of ways you can approach or that. I recommend all of them in phase method based on your budget and time.

Antimalware
Compliance
Hardware Security Module (HSM)
Virtual machine disk encryption
Virtual machine backup
Azure Site Recovery
Security policy management and reporting

List can be going on over the time with new addons Smile. In this article I’ll describe how we can protect virtual machines using disk encryption technology. If you’re a HYPER-V fan then read about Shielded VM’s as an additional information.

Ok back to the main topic. This technology is referred as Azure Disk encryption which leverage Microsoft Bitlocker disk encryption. (I do hope now it makes sense to you all). Azure supports encrypting Windows VM’s using Bitlocker technology as well as Linux VM’s using  dm-crypt feature which provides volume encryption for the OS and the data disks. All the disk encryption keys and secrets saved on Azure Vault on existing subscription. The data (or in our case VHD files) resides safely on the Azure storage. Read about Azure Key Vault technology here.

Disk encryption activity can be approached from several methods,

disk-encryption-fig1
Picture credits to the Azure team Smile

1. In case if you decided to upload a encrypted VM from your HYPER-V environment to Azure make sure to upload the VHD to storage account and copy the encryption key material to your key vault. Then, provide the encryption configuration to enable encryption on a new IaaS VM.
2. If you create the Azure VM from Azure marketplace template then just provide the encryption configuration to enable encryption on the IaaS VM.
3. In case if you’ve already created VM on subscription leveraging the Azure marketplace still you can follow the same steps thanks to Azure Security Center.

So let’s assume you already created the Azure VM using the marketplace and started using that for your requirement. Later stage you found out though Azure Security Center you’ve not followed the industry bet practices and it’s highlighting the potential security risk you’re exposed to. One scenario is disks are not encrypted!

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As you can see I’ve 3 Azure hosted VM’s and they are having potential security issues and not enabling disk encryption is one of them. On this article I’ll focus on one VM (VM01) which is running server 2012 R2 enabling the disk encryption.

First things first you need to get Azure PowerShell modules setup to your desktop / laptop. You can download them from the Azure download page.

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After that you’ll need to get a PowerShell script to do the job. You can get that script from here. Copy the script and save it with any name you prefer. Make sure it’s extension as PS1.

Now you need to open the script using PowerShell ISE.

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When you run the script you need to provide following information (orderly manner)

Resource Group Name – This is the RG name where you’ve hosted your VMs

Key Vault Name – Place where your keys will be saved and protected. During the execution of the script it’ll ask for a Key vault. If you didn’t have one create just proceed and it will create a key vault automatically.

Location – Where you Resource Group location. In my scenario it would be “southeastasia”
Tip: notice there are no space between the name. This is very important to remember.

Azure Active Directory Application Name – This is for the Azure Active Directory application that will be used to write secrets to the Key Vault. If you haven’t created one script will create one for you.

Now you’re aware the information you need to provide. Let’s proceed with the execution of the script under PowerShell ISE

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If you get above screen that mean phase 1 activity is completed Smile 

Now it’s time to get ready to target a VM and encrypt the disks. For this part you need to tell PowerShell which VM you’re targeting. In the PowerShell type below command

$vmName = “<VM name>”

Replace <VM Name> with your VM hosted in that resource group. In my case it’s $vmName = “VM01”

Now in the above PowerShell script line 185 highlight the command to encrypt the disks. Copy that and run it on the PowerShell window. Alternatively you can copy the command mentioned below.

Set-AzureRmVMDiskEncryptionExtension -ResourceGroupName $resourceGroupName -VMName $vmName -AadClientID $aadClientID -AadClientSecret $aadClientSecret -DiskEncryptionKeyVaultUrl $diskEncryptionKeyVaultUrl -DiskEncryptionKeyVaultId $keyVaultResourceId -VolumeType All

If things go smoothly you’ll get below message on your PowerShell window,
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This process will take around 10-15 min time to complete. On above screenshot you can see the command execution and result completion is successful.

After that you can return the VM properties and check the disk status. you can see below both OS and Data disks has been encrypted.

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So any given time you add more VM’s to that resource group all you have to do is target the VM name and run the command line given above.

Note: Disk encryption on Azure is a really good option but need to be weighted carefully. If you want to backup the encrypted VM’s then encrypting need to be completed using KEK method. For more in-depth of Azure IaaS disk encryption refer to this article.