This article is contributed. See the original author and article here.

We are bringing this blog post to continue the learning about the protection that Azure Security Center offers for the SQL IaaS VMs. As you learnt in this blog post,  Azure Security Center protects SQL servers hosted on either Azure VMs, Azure Arc and on-premises.


SQL Server on Azure Arc

While hybrid approaches bring greater power and flexibility, they also present greater complexity.  Azure Arc was announced at Ignite 2019 to better address these challenges. Using Azure Arc, organizations can deliver a broader range of services while simplifying matters of management and security. Azure Arc provides deeper integration across all your Azure environment. Essentially Azure Arc allows organizations to use Azure’s management technologies (“control plane”) to centrally administer public cloud resources along with on-premises servers, virtual machines, and containers. All of Azure’s AI, automation, compliance and security best practices are now available to manage all of their distributed cloud resources, and their underlying infrastructure, which is known as “connected machines.” Additionally, several of Azure’s AI and data services can now be deployed on-premises and centrally managed through Azure Arc, enhancing local and offline management and offering greater data sovereignty.


Utilize Azure Security Center to produce a comprehensive report of vulnerabilities in SQL Servers and get advanced, real-time security alerts for threats to SQL Servers and the OS. Azure Security Center centralizes all security policies and protects the entire managed environment. When Security Center is enabled, the Azure monitoring agents will report data back from the servers, networks, virtual machines, databases, and applications. The Azure Security Center analytics engines will ingest the data and use AI to provide guidance. It will recommend a broad set of improvements to enhance security, such as closing unnecessary ports or encrypting disks and more. Azure Arc extends these security features to connected machines and services to protect all registered resources.


To use this threat detection capability, you need to enable the SQL servers on machine threat bundle in Azure Security Center pricing tier as shown in ‘Image 1’:


Image 1.png

Image 1: Azure Security Center Pricing Tier


If your SQL server is hosted on Azure Arc machine and if you have auto-provisioning option enabled, Log Analytics agent will be automatically installed in your machine. If Otherwise, you can deploy the Log Analytics agent using the Security Center recommendation “Log Analytics agent should be installed on your Windows-based Azure Arc machines (Preview)”. Alternatively, you can install the agent manually in two easy steps by adding the Log Analytics VM extension. Refer to this article for step-by-step procedure to enable extension from portal/JSON/PowerShell.

A PowerShell script was used in this case to simulate a SQL injection attack scenario on the SQL server running on Azure Arc.

Injection flaws allow attackers to relay malicious code through an application to another system. These attacks include calls to the operating system via system calls, the use of external programs via shell commands, as well as calls to backend databases via SQL (i.e., SQL injection). Attackers can go around authentication and authorization of a web page or web application and retrieve the content of the entire SQL database. SQL injection is a particularly widespread and dangerous form of injection. The consequences are particularly damaging, as an attacker can obtain, corrupt, or destroy database contents. Security Center detects unusual and potentially harmful attempts to access SQL servers based on behavior analysis using machine learning.


In this scenario, Azure Security Center detected the threat and provided an alert with details of the machine, attacker activity, host information and more as shown in ‘Image 2 & Image 3’



Image 2: Security Alert, Alert details


Image 3.png

Image 3: Security Alert, Take Action


NOTE: As of June 2020 release, Two new recommendations have been added to help deploy the Log Analytics Agent to your Azure Arc machines and ensure they’re protected by Azure Security Center:

  • Log Analytics agent should be installed on your Windows-based Azure Arc machines (Preview)
  • Log Analytics agent should be installed on your Linux-based Azure Arc machines (Preview)

These new recommendations will appear in the same four security controls as the existing (related) recommendation, Monitoring agent should be installed on your machines: remediate security configurations, apply adaptive application control, apply system updates, and enable endpoint protection.  The recommendations also include the Quick fix capability to help speed up the deployment process.


In the next blog posts, we will discuss on how you can leverage Azure Security Center to protect your SQL IaaS VMs hosted On-premises. Stay Tuned!!


Special thanks to:

Yuri Diogenes, Senior PM, CxE Security – ASC Team for reviewing this post.

Brought to you by Dr. Ware, Microsoft Office 365 Silver Partner, Charleston SC.