Microsoft Azure’s History With Malware Hosting Continues, Users Struggle For Solution

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Microsoft Azure, the famous cloud computing cum database management platform from the creator of Windows has been longing for stability and security. Azure clients have been subjected to malware and spyware attacks, cloud data compromise, and command and control breach on networks in the past year. Azure offers approx. 600 different services to its clients which include cloud computing, data storage, database management and organization, communication mechanisms, content delivery network, and IoT functions. While Azure has been heavily effective in offering cloud computing solutions to the healthcare and education industry, it has also been catering to major commercial clients like Twitter, CNET, and Verizon, which in turn indicates towards millions of dollars in capitalization.

Microsoft Azure
Image Source: SC Magazine

However, in the past couple of years since the WannaCry Ransomware attack, Azure has been the center of hosting malware and spyware, which has targeted a number of its small-to-medium scale clients. While Azure claims to have a strict theft and malware detection system, a series of bugs have been constantly reported in its services, which have the potential to host malware and command and control infrastructures.

Attacks on Azure Services and Clients

Attacks on Azure Services and Clients

Post-WannaCry, one of the most talked-about malware-hosting report on Azure came back in December 2018, when a malware called Capitalinstall targeted healthcare institutions using Azure services. The malware used Azure to deliver a payload consisting of infected files, which upon download breached data security on Azure and gather information available there. For healthcare institutions, such leaks of data to unknown cyber-assailants is a significant concern. The payloads were able to breach Azure’s defenses as IT administrators handling Azure accounts openly inherent blind trust of IP address blocks used by Azure.

malware hosting
Image Source: TechRepublic

Then, in May this year, it was reported that a bunch of scammers posing as Microsoft Support Partners was trying to infect clients’ systems using Azure with malware. These support scammers were reported to be using paid search over different internet portals and target victims to lure them on their sites. A number of scammers were also reported to be using remote access servicing of client systems to inject malware. However, after multiple reports from clients and a number of reveals from anti-malware research teams across the globe, Microsoft itself stepped in and hurdled raids to shut down such scammers.

anti-malware research
Image Source: Cloud Essentials

And again last month, it was revealed that a command and control type malware was hosted on Azure cloud for injecting malicious files in the systems using Azure services and any other computers working in the same network. Though Azure’s threat detection codes were not able to stop or detect the malware, Windows Defender did recognize it as a potential danger during system scans. This was the reason that system administrators were able to contain the dangers posed by this malware. However, it did reveal a possible flaw in security and safety assurances of Azure.

Possible User Negligence Resulting in Data Breach on Azure

There are chances that Azure or any other cloud data service accounts are exposed to malware-hosting due to certain negligence from the users’ end as well. Here are some factors that users should keep in mind to ensure complete safety and security of their Azure accounts and the systems in their network:

Data Breach on Azure

  • Lower down the number of administrators having complete access to Azure service accounts and their management. No matter how strong your server’s firewall protection is, any rogue administrator having undenied access to your files can easily infuse malware using Azure as a payload delivery. Moreover, the lesser the number of human access, lesser would be the possibility of human error and mismanagement.
  • In case you or any of your colleagues are accessing Azure via Virtual Machine software, ensure that the virtual machine has endpoint protection and that the virtual machine is free of bug or vulnerability.

multi-factor authentication

  • Ensure that every user in the network has enabled multi-factor authentication to login to his/her individual Azure account.
  • Do not allow users to login from any external account that has a different domain than that of the administrative one.
  • Have the administrators ensure that Azure identities and accounts are not used to login any third-party application by the users, as it could jeopardize cloud security.

But, How to Protect Cloud Data

Cloud risks are quite complex to manage and mitigate. Since the data over the cloud is not physically saved on a disk, it becomes highly difficult to retrieve it or regain access to it in case of a breach. It is essential that every user or enterprise contains the confidential documents in physical form over a separate cloud as a backup. It is necessary to ensure that such separate cloud backups are kept confidential and are only accessible by core enterprise members or by the data owner only. Such backups go unnoticed and since they are not frequently used for regular management and retrievals, the data in such backups is far less vulnerable to that stored over an Azure account.

Ransomware Protector

Ransomware Protector is a good choice for backing up crucial files and information, away from the administrative accounts on Azure. In the case of enterprises, Azure is regularly accessed by users and account administrators, which makes it more vulnerable to administrative errors, hacking attempts, and malware hosting. Since Ransomware Protector here acts as a secret vault for important docs and is only accessed by specific users, one can rest assured of its security and safety.

Ransomware Protector offers simple but effective solutions to ensure that in case of any malware-hosting or hacking attempt, you need not worry about any sort of data loss or damage. Its features include:

  • Automated backup of important documents, which can be controlled by the account holder.
  • Encryption of file transfer using SSL. This way, your transfer remains secure from a midway breach.
  • Easy restoration and management of data over the account.
  • Offers document storage of 1 terabyte and more.

To learn how Ransomware Protector works for you, visit here

While Azure is effective in providing real-time cloud computing services, it is also a fact that it is quite vulnerable to malware infestations. As a user, one cannot wait until Azure’s support teams and developers find a permanent patch for its vulnerabilities and are required to take essential measures for his/her data security. In such a scenario, it’s better to use a tool like Ransomware Protector, so that, even while dealing with malware-hosting or cloud data breach, your current work is not hampered and your research and files are not lost in entirety.

If you feel that backing up crucial data is essential to counter hacking attempts, please share your views in the comments section and let us know of any incident where your systems may have been attacked by a potential malware.

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