Microsoft Azure Cloud Security Monitoring: Manual vs. Continuous

Audit & Compliance Cloud Security Governance Automation Skill Level: Technical
Reading Time: 5 minutes
Key differences between manual, periodic audits and continuous audit and why Sonrai Dig enables organizations to achieve continuous monitoring for audit.

The introduction of Azure has led to a profound paradigm shift in how enterprise organizations operate their technology environments. Periodic audits no longer work and instead a new model of continuous monitoring and audit is the way forward for enterprises, as it’s now possible due to elasticity with cloud services. Although there are risks associated such as tens or even hundreds of thousands of computing pieces at one time (depending on the size of your Azure Cloud). non-person identities with which to contend. Identities are now the perimeter. Cloud threats pose complex challenges for organizations, with 68% of business leaders claiming their risk is increasing.

als. Presently, however, organizations struggle to audit their Azure cloud controls effectively. With the old auditing method, we saw periodic auditing happening quarterly, biannually, or – even worse – annually. It’s not enough and will no longer keep your organization secure. The cloud moves much faster than periodic auditing can cover. The solution is continuous monitoring and auditing.

What Is Microsoft Azure Cloud Security Monitoring?

Management teams perform a comprehensive review of an org’s security controls to ensure that they are correctly implemented and functioning as expected. Organizations evaluate the security controls against criteria based on external regulations and established control frameworks. 

Manual SecurityAudits vs. Automated Continuous Audits

Manual Security Audits

Internal security management teams or third-party services perform manual security audits. Auditors first conduct an initial end-to-end security audit, which involves interviewing employees, conducting vulnerability scans, and assessing permissions and policies. Next, they typically deploy periodic testing and evaluation, conducting assessments every three to five days.

Limitations of Manual Auditing

Teams undertake manual security auditing after months of harmful activities have already occurred, making the value of manual efforts debatable in terms of regulatory compliance or assessing real risk. For example, there could have already been an incident in between audits due to risk that went unnoticed.

Assessing past procedures and processes has a positive impact on future activities, of course, and you shouldn’t halt these practices before implementing continuous auditing, which will enable you to take more immediate action against risks. Now we will describe the key difference between periodic audits and continuous audits.

Continuous Security Audits

responsible parties of any deviations from your security baseline. Security management teams use continuous auditing with ongoing monitoring to get an accurate view of actual cloud environment risks. Appropriate teams are automatically alerted when a risk arises. Once alerted, they can immediately remediate issues before they spiral into massive problems. Manual cloud security audits and risk assessments of Azure are already time-consuming under periodic circumstances, and they’ll be impossible to maintain with continuous auditing.

What Are the Requirements for Successful Cloud Monitoring and Continuous Audit?

Continuous audit techniques that are practical include to:

  1. Identify the high priority areas their operation
  2. Determine the rules for continuous auditing
  3. Determine the process frequency
  4. Configure parameters and execute the audit
  5. Manage, analyze, and report the results
  6. Follow up on flagged areas
  7. Identify and assess any emerging risks for addition to future audit and risk assessments

Top Benefits of Continuous Security Audit

The proper continuous audit service can bring considerable benefits to organizations. Automation enables a more hands-off process management approach. Analyzing and reporting, two of the most demanding parts of the process, become straightforward with all the data organized and laid out for review. Teams can quickly gather and analyze data risk on activities while they’re still occurring.

Advanced Insights

Continuous auditing goes beyond simply detecting risk. It provides security management teams with emerging insights into the risk landscape. For example, a company may detect continuous access from an IP address outside of approved regions, implement controls, then continuously monitor for misconfigurations.

Sonrai Security comes out of the box with established frameworks (such as NIST, HIPAA, PCI, and other compliance reporting) and the ability to customize frameworks. Teams will remain empowered to direct policy and stay ahead of the curve. 

Misconfiguration Prevention

According to IBM Security, the top risk factors that organizations face adapting to cloud include fundamental security issues such as governance and misconfigurations. Azure misconfigurations increase risk and occur silently in the background, undiscovered until bad things occur. Organizations should have the ability to identify possible misconfigurations before they get discovered – preventing costly breaches.

Risk and Security Monitoring

Companies should be able to track and manage these identities to prevent data access. It’s easier said than done due to the sheer volume of non-person identities created in most environments. For example, it’s not uncommon for an enterprise to have thousands of person identities and tens of thousands of non-person identities in their environment.

What Kind of Solution Do You Need for Continuous Audit?

Continuous audit entails ongoing monitoring with reporting on the state of security of your environment, based on any change from the state that you set with your security controls, including drift from security posture and threat detection. The tool should have the capability to deconstruct workloads, understand frameworks as they relate to identities and data, and automatically apply remediation and protection controls continuously. The solution should also provide robust reporting, communicating risk widely to security teams and auditors. 

Four Key Steps to Continuous Audit

Discover

Automatically map out and visualize your multi-cloud identities to identify all data stores, services, and resources and the effective permissions of every identity in real-time. Sonrai Security, for example, grabs all the audit logs plus targeted API calls (as necessary) to get more details. Sonrai Dig’s graph with patented analysis provides a comprehensive risk assessment, enabling you to set the security baseline for what you will continuously monitor for continuous audit.

Classify

Describe what your data is specifically. Identify data based on criteria such as sensitivity (credit card numbers) or PII (names, addresses, phone numbers). You should also be able to classify data based on organizational needs with custom classifiers. Establish what crown jewels are in your environment. Ideally, you will be able to normalize, i.e., standardize your data findings, across clouds.  

Lock it Down

Just like you would put your most valuable possessions in a safe, secure your crown jewel data – such as sensitive PII –through lockdown. Taking highly sensitive data and locking it down means you’re setting security controls (policies) that prevent certain behaviors, such as access to crown jewel data by specific roles and identities.

Protect

Through a continuous audit, monitor your environment with change detection for when there is drift or a threat from your security baseline. Sonrai Security, for example, provides a 24/7, 365 timeline of what has changed, so you can set controls to remediate the risk. The responsible team(s) get alerted of such changes.

Achieve Continuous Audit With Sonrai Dig

You no longer need to wait for your next security audit to see what to fix in your infrastructure to continue passing your audits. Today’s leading enterprises use Sonrai Dig to improve Azure security, ensure compliance and increase operational efficiencies for Azure and other cloud platforms with identity, data, application protection.

To learn more about how Sonrai Dig on Azure platform solutions can help your organization continuously reduce risk, request a demo today