Azure Security Center: Shielding Your Cloud Infrastructure

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Azure Security Center is a comprehensive set of cloud-native Cyber Security management tools. Made generally available in 2016, Azure Security Center was a powerful platform designed for IT leaders like you to secure their digital workloads across Microsoft and other cloud platforms. By providing IT professionals with a base level of cloud security posture management, the no-cost capabilities of Azure Security Center could be enhanced using the paid Azure Defender solution, which added deeper analytics and monitoring for all virtual and physical servers, app service, storage, and container registries.

However, in 2021 Microsoft changed the Azure Security Center name to Microsoft Defender for Cloud. Much like how the original name of Microsoft Azure was Windows Azure when the cloud service debuted in 2010, the name change from Azure Security Center to Microsoft Defender for Cloud helped to align these Azure-based Cyber Security products with the broader Microsoft brand rather than just the cloud platform they run from. But as the saying goes, "old habits die hard," throughout this blog post, we will refer to Microsoft Defender for Cloud by its original Azure Security Center name.

The following table shows the old and new names for Azure Security Center:

Product Name Prior to 2021

Product Name as of 2023

Microsoft Azure Security Center

Microsoft Defender for Cloud

What Are the Key Features of Azure Security Center?

Key Features of Azure Security Center

One of the key features of Azure Security Center is its ability to collect events from Azure or log analytics agents and correlate them in a security analytics engine. Using this security analytics engine enables Azure Security Center to provide you with tailored recommendations, including hardening tasks. Implementing these recommendations will strengthen your organization's security posture and empower you to gain valuable insights into the security state across hybrid cloud workloads.

Microsoft's Azure Security Center can help you reduce your exposure to attacks and respond to detected threats quickly. For IT leaders invested in the Microsoft software ecosystem, the Azure Security Center offers unified infrastructure security management that strengthens security posture and provides advanced threat protection across workloads running in Azure, on-premises, and other clouds.

The baseline security posture monitoring is arguably the overall top feature of Azure Security Center, but diving deeper, we find four key features of Azure Security Center help make your job easier:

Threat Protection Across Cloud Workloads

Azure Security Center is a unified security management system designed to mitigate threats at various stages in the cyber attack chain. It provides a comprehensive view of your security posture across Azure and non-Azure workloads. Whether your resources are hosted on-premises, in other cloud providers, or within Azure, Azure Security Center ensures they are adequately protected.

Advanced Threat Detection and Response

Azure Defender, an integral part of Azure Security Center, offers advanced threat protection for Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) resources. As part of the Azure Security Center rebranding in 2021, the “Azure Defender” name now refers to the advanced analytics and protections related to specific server workloads. Some of the advanced capabilities of Microsoft Defender for Servers include:

  • Just-In-Time VM Access: This feature limits the time your management ports remain open, reducing the window of opportunity for attackers.
  • Adaptive Network Hardening: By leveraging machine learning, this feature strengthens your network security rules, ensuring only necessary traffic is allowed.
  • Adaptive Application Control: Another machine learning-driven feature, it creates a custom list of applications that can run on your machines, alerting you if any unauthorized applications are detected.
  • Vulnerability Assessments: Microsoft Defender for Servers includes a vulnerability scanner that reports its findings directly to the Azure Security Center. Similarly, Microsoft Defender for SQL offers a built-in vulnerability assessment to ensure databases meet data privacy standards and compliance requirements.

Security Policy and Compliance Management

One of the standout features of Azure Security Center is its ability to assess and ensure regulatory compliance. The platform provides insights into how well your organization meets various industry standards. You can export detailed compliance reports to share with stakeholders, ensuring transparency and adherence to industry best practices. Whether it's SOC TSP, PCI DSS, or any other standard, Azure Security Center provides actionable recommendations to meet and maintain compliance.

Continuous Security Monitoring and Assessment

At the heart of Azure Security Center is the Secure Score—a key performance indicator that provides a snapshot of your current security posture. It continuously assesses your resources, subscriptions, and organizations for security issues, offering actionable recommendations to enhance your security stance. The recommendations are grouped into security controls, allowing organizations to focus on specific areas like multi-factor authentication or network security. The platform also offers a visual network topology map, giving users an interactive view of how their network is structured and how resources are interconnected.

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Benefits of Azure Security Center

Benefits of Azure Security Center

Here are the top five ways that Azure Security Center benefits you as an IT leader in your organization:

Unified Security Management

Azure Security Center offers a centralized dashboard for unified infrastructure security management. This dashboard provides a comprehensive view of the security posture across workloads running in Azure, on-premises environments, and other clouds. By consolidating security assessments and monitoring into one platform, Azure Security Centre empowers IT leaders with a holistic view of their organization's security landscape. This unified approach simplifies the task of managing security across diverse environments and ensures consistent application of security policies.

Advanced Threat Detection

Azure Security Center is equipped with enhanced threat protection capabilities that detect and prevent attacks across a broad spectrum of services. From Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) to Platform as a Service (PaaS) resources, Azure Security Center offers protection for various Azure services, including Azure IoT and Azure App Service. The platform also extends its threat protection to on-premises virtual machines, ensuring a comprehensive security blanket. With features like vulnerability assessment support for SQL Server hosted on Azure virtual machines and threat protection for Azure Key Vault, Azure Security Center remains at the forefront of cloud security.

Security Compliance

Misconfigurations are often the leading cause of security breaches in cloud workloads. Azure Security Center provides a bird's eye view of your security posture across the Azure environment, continuously monitoring and suggesting improvements using the Azure secure score. This feature identifies potential misconfigurations and offers actionable recommendations to rectify them. Additionally, Security Center Azure can automatically assess compliance against a range of regulatory standards, ensuring that IT leaders can easily maintain and demonstrate compliance.

Actionable Security Recommendations

One of the standout features of Azure Security Center is its ability to provide actionable security recommendations. These recommendations, derived from hundreds of built-in security assessments, guide you to quickly and efficiently enhance your organization’s overall security posture. Whether it's addressing misconfigurations, implementing best practices, or adhering to compliance standards, Azure Security Center's recommendations are tailored to ensure optimal security for each unique environment.

Integration with Azure Defender (now known as Microsoft Defender for Servers)

Azure Defender, an integral component of Azure Security Center, offers advanced threat protection for all your Windows and Linux machines that run in Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and on-premises—making it useful for hybrid cloud setups. Azure Defender provides multi-layered defense against potential threats, from virtual machines to databases. By integrating with Azure Defender, Azure Security Centre ensures you have the most robust set of tools to combat cyber threats effectively.

Best Practices for Using Azure Security Center

Best Practices for Using Azure Security Center

Azure Security Center can increase your organization’s Cyber Security with these best practices around enhancing security hygiene, leveraging built-in controls, and integrating with Azure Sentinel for advanced threat hunting.

Implementing Security Hygiene

Most IT professionals define security hygiene as the practices a device user takes regularly to ensure IT systems' security and overall health. Much like personal hygiene, the processes of security hygiene are preventative and ongoing. Maintaining good security hygiene is the foundation of a robust security posture. Poor security hygiene can leave businesses vulnerable to attacks. Threat actors often exploit known vulnerabilities, making it crucial for businesses to prioritize security hygiene.

An example of effective security hygiene would be ensuring all servers are hardened, vulnerabilities are patched, and security recommendations are followed. This helps businesses significantly reduce the likelihood of a devastating cyber attack.

Good security hygiene requires a multi-layered approach. By keeping an eye on the potential threats and their common remediation steps as outlined in Azure Security Center, businesses add multiple layers of protection to their resources. In addition, Security Center Azure helps you to implement full defense-in-depth Cyber Security strategies that include data encryption, network security, and more.

Azure Security Center’s “single pane of glass” view of multiple sources of security analytics can be very effective at helping to coordinate your strategy to achieve cyber resilience. Pay special attention to these foundational aspects of maintaining security hygiene:

Leveraging Built-In Security Controls

One of the foundational practices of Cyber Security hygiene is ensuring appropriate access control. This means:

  • Establishing the right level of privileges for individuals based on their roles.
  • Regularly reviewing and updating access controls to ensure they remain relevant.
  • Providing the minimum privileges required for an individual to complete their tasks.
  • Extending these controls to employees and to trusted business partners, contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers.
  • Ensuring that only authorized individuals have access to specific assets.

Azure Security Center empowers you with numerous access control options, such as the ability to implement granular user access to minimize the use of admin accounts in your IT environment, suggest which files in your environment should be encrypted, and enforce password complexity.

Understanding and Responding to Risk

Another crucial aspect of security hygiene is identifying and responding to risks. This involves:

  • Framing risk for the organization to understand its implications.
  • Building an incident response plan based on the organization's risk appetite or tolerance.
  • Prioritizing risks to determine which events escalate to incident responses.
  • Informing other Cyber Security practices based on the understanding of risk.

Understanding the Mission and Assets

Before implementing any Cyber Security measures, it's essential to:

  • Understand the mission of the organization.
  • Recognize the assets that are crucial for the organization's functioning.
  • Understand how these assets interplay with the organization's mission and objectives.

With all that in mind, the ways Azure Security Center helps you optimize your IT environment with an effective level of security hygiene include:

  • Address Recommendations: Azure Security Center offers actionable security recommendations based on its assessments. Regularly review and address these recommendations to enhance your security hygiene.
  • Patch Management: Ensure that all your systems, applications, and services are updated with the latest security patches.
  • Limit Exposure: Use Just-In-Time (JIT) VM access to reduce the exposure of your virtual machines by ensuring that management ports are not open when not in use.
  • Regularly Assess: Azure Security Centre helps to continuously assess your organization’s security hygiene scanning your IT environment and providing a Secure Score. Secure Score in Azure Security Centre provides a measurement of an organization's security posture. The higher the score, the better the security posture. Each security recommendation in Azure Security Centre has a scoring impact, showing how addressing that recommendation will affect the overall Secure Score. Understanding this important Cyber Security metric will provide valuable insights into your current security stance.

Azure Security Center's Secure Score plays a pivotal role in prioritizing vulnerabilities. It not only categorizes vulnerabilities by severity but also suggests the order of remediation. This ensures that the most critical vulnerabilities are addressed first, reducing the risk of future attacks.

Best Practices for Improving Secure Score

Best Practices for Improving Secure Score

To improve your overall Secure Score in Azure Security Center, follow these best practices:

  • Gain Upper Management Support: Having the backing of upper management is crucial. They can help spread best practice guidelines and ensure resources are allocated to improve the Secure Score.
  • Assign Remediation Privileges: Ensure that the team managing Azure Security Center has the necessary privileges to remediate issues. If not, establish a process to work with workload owners or teams with the necessary privileges.
  • Automate All The Things: Look for ways to notify workload owners of new recommendations and track Secure Score progress using automation with Microsoft Power Automate.
  • Communicate Between Teams: Ensure that the governance team and the cloud security posture management team communicate effectively. This ensures that security best practices are implemented from the start.
  • Configure For Safety: Implement guardrails to prevent provisioning resources that don't adhere to security best practices. This can prevent sudden drops in Secure Score.
  • Continue User Training: Use Azure Security Center as a tool to learn and improve. Incorporate lessons learned into governance to continually enhance security posture.

In addition to these best practices, there are other considerations you should keep in mind to maximize the security of your environment.

Leveraging Built-In Security Controls

Azure Security Center has a wide array of built-in security controls designed to safeguard your resources:

  • Adaptive Controls: Use features like Adaptive Network Hardening to leverage machine learning to strengthen your network security rules.
  • Role-Based Access Control (RBAC): Ensure only authorized individuals can access specific resources. Implement the principle of least privilege to minimize potential security risks.
  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Enhance the security of user logins by requiring multiple forms of verification.
  • Data Encryption: Use Azure's built-in encryption services to protect data at rest and in transit.

Integrating with Azure Sentinel for Advanced Threat Hunting

Azure Sentinel is a cloud-native Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solution that integrates with Azure Security Center. The primary function of Azure Sentinel—which was also renamed to “Microsoft Sentinel” in 2021—is to aggregate logs from various data sources, analyze them for malicious activities, and facilitate investigations and actions based on these analyses.

By integrating Azure Sentinel into Azure Security Center, your security operations can perform advanced threat hunting. The integration of Sentinel and Security Center enables the correlation of data from various sources to provide a holistic view of potential security incidents with speed and accuracy that is not humanly possible. You then get a centralized view of security alerts across your organization, making it easier to spot potential threats. Microsoft Sentinel has tools that empower you to automate responses related to specific security alerts found in Microsoft Defender for Cloud, ensuring swift action against any potential Cyber Security threats.

For example, imagine you see an incident in Sentinel highlighting an anomalous user login. The investigation might reveal related alerts, such as a malicious URL accessed or a suspicious PowerShell command executed. Sentinel provides the context, including the affected user and the virtual machine (VM) involved. Once the investigation in Sentinel identifies a potentially compromised VM, the focus can shift to Azure Security Center. Here, the VM can be analyzed for vulnerabilities and misconfigurations. Recommendations, prioritized by the Secure Score, guide the remediation process.

Azure Security Center: Beyond Alerts

While Azure Security Center sends alerts to Sentinel, its capabilities extend beyond just alert generation. It offers:

  • Cloud Workload Protection Platform (CWPP): This focuses on reducing the attack surface by identifying vulnerabilities in resources and generating alerts.
  • Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM): This provides recommendations on security best practices and identifies potential misconfigurations in resources.

The synergy between Azure Sentinel and Azure Security Centre offers organizations a robust and comprehensive approach to threat detection, investigation, and remediation. By leveraging the strengths of both tools, businesses can enhance their security posture and stay one step ahead of cyber threats.



Free trial

Microsoft Azure Security Center is free for the first 30 days. Any usage beyond the initial 30 days will be automatically charged.

Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM)

Azure Security Center offers foundational and advanced cloud security posture management solutions to protect across your multi-cloud and hybrid environments.

Foundational CSPM (for free)

Provides continuous assessments, security recommendations, Secure Score, and the Microsoft Cloud security benchmark across Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Google Cloud.

Microsoft Defender CSPM

Provides advanced security posture capabilities. Pricing depends on cloud size, with billing based only on the number of servers, amount of storage, and database counts.

Azure Security Center Pricing and Licensing

Azure Security Center, now rebranded as Microsoft Defender for Cloud, provides a complimentary 30-day trial. Following this period, usage will be subject to the stipulated pricing scheme. Upon activation of Microsoft Defender for Cloud, all your resources are automatically enrolled for protection. However, users have the option to opt-out if desired. It's important to note that resources protected by Defender for Cloud will incur charges based on the established pricing model.

Microsoft Defender for Cloud offers foundational and advanced cloud security posture management (CSPM) solutions. These solutions are designed to safeguard multi-cloud and hybrid environments. The complimentary Foundational CSPM delivers continuous assessments, security recommendations, a Secure Score, and a benchmark for Microsoft cloud security. This protection extends beyond Microsoft Azure, encompassing Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud.

Microsoft Defender CSPM provides advanced security posture features for those seeking enhanced capabilities. These include agentless vulnerability scanning, attack path analysis, integrated data-aware security posture, and a sophisticated cloud security graph. The bottom line is that Azure Security Center pricing is contingent upon cloud size, with charges primarily based on the number of Servers, Storage accounts, and Databases


Azure Security Center is a robust and comprehensive security solution that offers a range of services to protect your cloud and hybrid environments. Its pricing structure is flexible and can be customized to suit your needs. Amaxra can help you understand the technical, security, and Azure Security Center pricing options tailored to your business needs.

Contact our experts to learn how you can make the most of this powerful service and ensure that it fits within your budget.

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