Gunnebo Business Solutions, Internet of Things (IoT), Microsoft, Microsoft Azure, OpenID Connect, Security, TLS/SSL

Microsoft LEAP: Design for Security

This year is already off to a fantastic start! I am so excited to be here at the LEAP conference at the Microsoft Headquarters in Redmond Seattle. LEAP is a perfect way for me to keep up to date with new technology and how to apply it here at Gunnebo.

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The focus of the day was to Design for Security. The threat of cyber attacks and hackers is still as pressing as ever, so the need for cloud security is crucial. Although technological advancement has triggered an evolution in cloud security over the years, keeping the right level of visibility and control over their applications is still a challenge to many organizations. This means that finding a balance between cloud security and ease of use is a hard nut to crack. Today’s program discusses how Azure can cope up with this issue. Also, speakers are expected to introduce new and updated features Azure brought recently to improve the security of cloud applications.

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The highlight of today’s program consists of five great keynotes. The first on the list was Scott Guthrie, the executive vice president for Microsoft’s Cloud. He is an incredible orator and kept the audience thrilled with his in-depth explanations on how Azure helps organizations to deliver product innovation and better customer experience securely. It was frankly impossible to have been there without taking away more than a few vital points and a better understanding of Azure.

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Then Stuart Kwan, who is a principal program manager at Microsoft, was the next in line. He backed up Scott Guthrie with a great keynote on how authentication works on today’s applications. Stuart has a wealth of experience under his belt, and he has worked on identity and security-related technologies since joining Microsoft in 1996. Few people have more experience in that field. He is the guy to listen to on topics like Active Directory Federation Services and Windows Identity Foundation. The main focus was on OAuth, Open ID Connect, and SAML. OpenID Connect is a simple identity layer built on top of the OAuth 2.0 protocol. OAuth 2.0 defines mechanisms to obtain and use access tokens to access protected resources, but they do not define standard methods to provide identity information. OpenID Connect implements authentication as an extension to the OAuth 2.0 authorization process. It includes information about the end-user in the form of an id_token that verifies the identity of the user and provides necessary profile information about the user.

When Yuri Diogenes took control of the stage, everyone knew that his talk would be primarily based on how cloud security is evolving and becoming more mature. Yuri is a Senior Program Manager at Microsoft for Cloud and AI Security.

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Before Yuri moved on to talk about Azure security, he provided some insights into the problematic scenarios that many companies find themselves. According to him, security hygiene has to be taken seriously or any cloud-based infrastructure would suffer. Basically, organizations have to protect themselves against modern-day threats. He carefully explained that Azure Security Center is a unified infrastructure security management system that strengthens the security posture of your data centers, and provides advanced threat protection across your hybrid workloads in the cloud – whether they’re in Azure or not – as well as on-premises. In simple terms, Azure security is the new security hygiene which you need.

Yuri went further to explain the benefits of Azure security center and Azure Sentinel. It provides all-round security and also affords a degree of customizability. According to him, Azure is capable of protecting Linux and Windows VMs from threats, protecting cloud-native workloads from threats, detecting file-less attacks, cloud workload protection for containers and so on.

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The next person on stage was Nicholas DiCola who was a Security Jedi at Microsoft. He thrilled the audience with his discussions on the Azure Sentinel. He explained to everyone how the Sentinel functions as a cloud-native SIEM for intelligent security analytics for an entire organization. It offers limitless cloud speed and could be used at any scale. It also provides its users with faster threat protection and will easily integrate will all existing tools.

According to him, the Azure Sentinel was designed to collect visibility, helps in detecting analytics and hunting, investigates any incidents and respond automatically to them. Azure Sentinel gets data to function from numerous sources such as Linux Agent, Windows Agent, cloud services, custom app, appliances, azure services and so on. After collating all necessary data, it’s analytics scan for any possible threats. Then, you will now be able to monitor your data and activity.

Last but not least we had a session with Sumedh Barde and Narayan Annamalai. They opened a fascinating discussion on how to secure certificates, connection strings, or encryption keys and new networking capabilities of Azure. Sumedh Barde is Program Manager on the Azure Security team, and Narayan is the leader of the SDN product management group in Microsoft Azure that focuses on virtual networks, load balancing, and network security.

These two gave us great insight into the Azure Key Vault. They explained to us how it functions as a tool for securely storing and accessing secrets. From what I learned from the conference, the secret to tightly controlling and securing access on things API keys, passwords, or certificates is to use a vault. A vault is your very own logical group of secrets.

It was a great day here in Redmond and an excellent opportunity to brush up my knowledge of cloud security. I’m actively looking forward to tomorrow.

Business Intellegence (BI), DevOps, Gunnebo Business Solutions, Methodology, OpenID Connect

Microsoft LEAP: Deploying for the cloud

The second day of Microsoft LEAP we focused on Deploying for the Cloud. Deploying applications in the cloud and offering Software, Platform and Infrastructure as a Service are hot topics at the moment (Well, it has been a hot topic for some time now). Choosing a good cloud provider is a very important decision to make in this process. Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS are two of the leading cloud service providers. Since this article is based on my visit to Redmond and the LEAP keynotes, I will be looking at some of the services Azure provides.

DevOps with Microsoft Azure

Jessica Deen, the Deen of DevOps, had a great session on how DevOps is about people, process, and products. Getting it all right requires effort, but the benefits to your organization and customers can be huge. The aim of DevOps is to merge Developments, Operations and Quality Assurance for continuous delivery. DevOps is not a process or a job role. It is a total culture. You live in it. Your application lives in it.

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Why DevOps was created? How DevOps increase the profit of a company? DevOps mostly focus on three main areas: Reducing human errors, reduce downtime and increase productivity. With proper DevOps processes you can reduce costs and increase productivity.

There are 3 main sections in DevOps. Continuous Integration, Continuous Deployment, and Continuous learning and monitoring. Azure has a very broad ecosystem to support that. There are 5 main tools in Azure DevOps ecosystem. Those are:

  • Azure Boards
  • Azure Pipelines
  • Azure Repos
  • Azure Test Plans
  • Azure Artifacts

You can track all the development stages, from idea to release, with Azure Boards. Azure Boards gives you Kanban boards, backlogs, team dashboards, and custom reporting to track all works. This helps to keep your team aligned with all the code changes throughout the development life cycle. Azure Pipelines are available for Linux, Windows, and MacOS. It supports any language. You can build, test and deploy apps written from Java, Net, PHP, NodeJS, C/C++, Ruby, Android, iOS etc. Also, it is easily extensible. With Azure Pipelines, you can easily build and push images to container registries like docker hub and Aure container Registry.

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Azure is integrated with GitHub now, and with Azure Repos, now you can have Unlimited private Git repo hosting and support for TFVC that scales from a hobby project to the world’s largest Git repositories. Azure Test Plan is expected to give you end-to-end traceability. You can Run tests and log defects from your browser. Track and assess quality throughout your testing lifecycle. Finally, with Azure Artifacts, you can Create and share Maven, npm, and NuGet package feeds from public and private sources – fully integrated into CI/CD pipelines.

Vulnerabilities and Azure Monitor

Barry Dorrans, author of “Beginning ASP.NET Security” had a great session on the vulnerabilities of applications. OWASP illustrates that developers keep making the same mistakes over and over again, but what about more esoteric vulnerabilities. Actually, Microsoft releases a report called Microsoft Bulletin about their vulnerabilities. Microsoft has particularly mentioned about 8 vulnerabilities and their actions and process to fix them in one of their latest conferences. Some of them are:

  1. Hash DoS
  2. Padding Oracle
  3. SharePoint ViewState RCE
  4. Exchange RCE
  5. Infinite Regex DoS

It’s not the time for a detailed study of them. But it’s good to have some understanding of it. Let’s discuss a couple of them.

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Hash DoS is a denial of service attack caused parsing to form inputs. Let’s take an example to understand it. Assume a scenario where all form fields with A would go into slot A. To get a value back you go to the slot and look through everything. The more A fields there are the longer it takes. If you can force everything into a single slot then lookups will take more and more CPU which leads to DoS. Microsft advice not to use user inputs as dictionaries unless the user input is a string or a Hash Code for the user input is strong and you implement a session key. In the Padding Oracle, there will be a cryptographic attack to disclose information. You can avoid it by Not exposing padding oracles and Not returning detailed errors.

Azure Monitor service gives you full visibility across your App & your Infrastructure Health. Catherine Wang and Michael Milirud took us through how Azure Monitoring helps us discovering and fix issues with Diagnostics and Analytics tools. That’s not all. It tracks KPIs and proactively optimizes end-user experience. It is built around three concepts.

  • Unified Monitoring – A common platform for all metrics, logs, and another monitoring telemetry.
  • Data-Driven Insights – Advanced diagnostics and analytics powered by machine learning capabilities
  • Partner Integration – the Rich ecosystem of popular DevOps, issue management, SIEM, and ITSM tools

Power BI

Sergei Gundorov took us through a great keynote on Business Decisions and reminded us how most decisions are made from data. If you have better ways to analyze and present data, you can make better decisions. Microsoft introduced Power BI for business analytics. It is intended to be for both small and big businesses. But Power BI is not just a self-service tool for business analysts. Power BI has introduced many tools which enable you to analyze and visualize data very quickly. A striking feature of Power BI is its Ability to create and share reports.

With the introduction of Power BI embedded in Azure, now you can integrate power BI capabilities with your cloud application ever so smoothly. It drastically simplifies creating reports, visuals, dashboards in your app. Meanwhile, Power BI Embedded API allows developers to customize how intelligence is added to their applications.

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Let’s see how Power BI Embedded have made integration easier. Power BI contents can be embedded in any application. It relies on web standards such as HTML5 and JavaScript. It works in web applications, mobile applications, and even thick client applications. SDK resources support many development platforms such as C#, JavaScript, TypeScript.

We discussed DevOps, Monitoring and Power BI here. There are more to add. Deploying your application in a good cloud service provider will make life easier. This article intended to give you an explanation about the current trends in the cloud world. Particularly, how Microsoft has improved their cloud business. There are other cloud services who provide similar functionalities. For example, Google and Amazon that also have a huge set of services.  I look forward to the next LEAP sessions, and as always – If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at bjorn.nostdahl@gunnebo.com