Archive

Archive for June, 2018

The need and opportunity for adaptive prevention in the cloud

This post is authored by Michael Bargury, Data Scientist, C+E Security.

The need

The cloud introduces new security challenges, which differ from classic ones by diversity and scale. Once a Virtual Machine (VM) is up and running with an open internet port, it is almost instantaneously subject to vulnerability scanning and Brute Force (BF) attacks. These attacks are usually not directed at a specific organizations environment. Instead, they cover a broad range of environments, hoping to infiltrate even a small fraction of them, to be used for their computational power or as part of a botnet.

The agile nature of the cloud allows organizations to build elaborate and highly customized environments. These environments constantly change, as customers utilize the clouds ability to adapt to variations in computational or network communication demands. Although this agility is one of the clouds top offerings, it also makes it harder to apply and maintain security best practices. As your environment changes, the security measurements needed to protect it might change as well. Moreover, while security experts can manually analyze common environment scenarios and offer security recommendations, the huge diversity in the cloud renders these recommendations useless for many organizations, which requires more tailor-suited solutions.

Proper security recommendations have the potential to make a huge impact on an organizations security. They can minimize attack surface, essentially blocking attacks before they occur.

The opportunity

On the other hand, the cloud provides unique opportunities, which are impossible or impractical for most organizations on their own. The broad visibility and the diversity of environments allow statistical models to detect abnormal activities across the cloud. Organizations can anonymously share their security-related data with trusted 3rd parties such as Azure Security Center (ASC), which can leverage this data to provide better detection and security recommendations for all organizations. Essentially, the cloud allows organizations to combine their knowledge in a way, which is much larger than the sum of its parts.

Leveraging these cloud-unique opportunities gives birth to a whole new world of customized security recommendations. Instead of a single one-fits-all best practice, the cloud allows customized best practices to be generated and updated constantly, as a cloud environment is built and evolved. Imagine an agent, which detects a security risk associated with a machine placed under the wrong subnet, or an automatically updating firewall.

Example

Let us dive into a very basic, yet typical scenario. As a developer in a cloud-based organization, I would like to deploy a new SQL-Server on Windows. I deploy a new Windows VM, install SQL-Server and create an inbound rule in my Network Security Group (NSG) to allow for incoming communication in port 1433.

A few months later, the SQL-Server had long been deleted. The VM is being used for something else entirely. The only thing left from my initial deployment is the inbound rule on port 1433, which has been forgotten by the individual who deleted the SQL-Server. This leaves an opening for malicious intenders to gain access to my machine, or simply to cause an overuse of resources by bombarding it with requests. After a while, I get a security alert from ASC. There was a successful BF attack on my machine, and it is now compromised. Looking at the logs, I see that the attack was carried through port 1433.

A good security recommender system would have identified that port 1433 is no longer in use by SQL Server, and prompt me with a recommendation to close it before the machine was compromised.

Learning scenario

Taking the perspective of a cloud provider, we will now devise a way to detect the scenario mentioned above and recommend a mitigation on time.

We can safely assume that most Azure customers use port 1433 for SQL-Server communication, as it is the default port used in SQL-Server software. This reduces our problem to the following goal: find machines with an inbound rule for port 1433, which do not run SQL-Server software.

But wait, how do we know which SQL-Server software to look for the absence of? We can try to manually devise a list of executables with underline SQL-Server, but there must be a better way.

Remember, we have assumed that most Azure customers use port 1433 for SQL-Server communication. Utilizing this assumption, we can learn which executable is unusually common in machines with an inbound rule on port 1433, out of the entire population of Azure VMs.

And so, our final goal becomes: find machines with an inbound rule for port 1433, which do not run common executables within this group.

We can try to reach this goal in several ways. We can take a classification approach. We use two weeks of executable executions, from 30K Azure machines that use ASCs monitoring agent.

First, we devise a list of distinct executables. We are looking for executables of a very common software so we can filter the list by executables that run in more than 10 Azure VMs, to reduce noise. This leaves us with 4,361 distinct executables.

We represent each Azure VM as a vector of indicators of executables run by that VM. For example, consider A, which ran only a single executable. That VM would be represented by zero-vector, with a single coordinate containing a one, which represents that executable. Next, we label each VM by whether or not it has port 1433 open for inbound traffic.

We will treat our dataset as a classification problem: given a binary feature vector for each VM, predict whether its port 1433 is open for inbound traffic. Notice that we already know the answer to this question. Therefore, we will be able to measure the accuracy of our model.

We train a Random Forest (RF) model to solve the classification problem. We use an RF for multiple reasons. First, it forces the model to only consider a small subset of features, which corresponds to a small number of executables which we hope would be SQL-Server related. Second, allowing only a few trees in the RF will yield a simple classification model, easily interpretable and understandable.

To avoid overfitting, we use hypothesis validation. We split our dataset 70-30 percent to train-test dataset. We train the model on the training set and measure its performance on the test set.

// Error = (# wrong classifications) / (# samples)

Train error = 0.00095

Test error = 0.00128

The model performs very well, with low classification error both for the train and test sets.

Lets think about what happened here. The model was able to accurately predict whether a VM has an inbound rule for port 1433, using a small list of executables ran by that VM. This implies that there is some set of executables, which are extremely common among VMs which can be addressed on port 1433. To examine these executables, we can look at the top ten features by importance (significance to classification) provided by our classifier:

  1. \\program files\\microsoft sql server\\mssql_ver.mssqlserver\\mssql\\binn\\sqlagent.exe

  2. \\program files\\microsoft sql server iaas agent\\bin\\ma\\agentcore.exe

  3. \\packages\\plugins\\microsoft.compute.vmaccessagent\\version\\bin\\jsonvmaccessextension.exe

  4. \\program files\\microsoft sql server iaas agent\\bin\\sqlservice.exe

  5. \\program files\\microsoft sql server\\mssqlmssqlserver\\mssql\\binn\\databasemail.exe

  6. \\windows\\microsoft.net\\framework\\version\\ngen.exe

  7. \\program files (x86)\\microsoft sql server\\version\\tools\\binn\\sqlexe

  8. \\packages\\plugins\\microsoft.sqlmanagement.sqliaasagent\\version\\sqliaasextensiondeployer.exe

  9. \\packages\\plugins\\microsoft.enterprisecloud.monitoring.microsoftmonitoringagent\\version\\mmaextensionheartbeatservice.exe

  10. \\program files\\microsoft sql server\\mssqlmssqlserver\\mssql\\binn\\fdhost.exe

This is excellent. Our model found that the best indicators for port 1433 being open, is having SQL-Server related executables running on the VM. This validates our assumption that most Azure customers use port 1433 for SQL-Server communication! Otherwise, our model wasnt able to get such high accuracy scores by using SQL-Server executables as features.

Returning to our initial goal we are looking for machines which do not run executables which are very common within this group. For these machines, there is no way the model can detect that their port 1433 is open, judging from SQL-Server related executables. Hence, these machines should correspond with our models classification errors! More specifically, we are looking for false negatives (FN, the model wrongly classifies the VM to have a closed port 1433).

Let’s examine one of these VMs. Here is its list of ran executables:

  1. \windows\softwaredistribution\download\install\: [exe, windows-ver-delta.exe]

  2. \windowsazure\guestagent_ver\collectguestlogs.exe

  3. \program files\microsoft security client\mpcmdrun.exe

  4. \windows\servicing\trustedinstaller.exe

  5. \windows\winsxs\amd64_microsoft-windows-servicingstack_ver\tiworker.exe

  6. \program files\microsoft office 15\clientx64\officec2rclient.exe

  7. \program files\java\: [jre_ver\bin\jp2launcher.exe, 8.0_144\bin\javaws.exe]

  8. \program files (x86)\common files\java\java update\jucheck.exe

  9. \windows\microsoft.net\framework64\ver\: [exe, ngen.exe]

  10. \windows\microsoft.net\framework\ver\: [exe, ngentask.exe]

  11. \windows\system32\inetsrv\w3wp.exe

  12. \windows\system32\wbem\: [exe, wmiprvse.exe]

  13. \windows\system32\: [taskhostex.exe, mrt.exe, schtasks.exe, taskeng.exe, wsqmcons.exe, rundll32.exe, sc.exe, lpremove.exe, mpsigstub.exe, ceipdata.exe, defrag.exe, sppsvc.exe, cmd.exe, conhost.exe, svchost.exe, aitagent.exe, taskhost.exe, mrt-ver.exe, sppextcomobj.exe, wermgr.exe, werfault.exe, tzsync.exe, slui.exe]

Indeed,we dont see SQL-Server here! Actually, it seems like this VM is running mostly Windows/Azure updates. We can issue a recommendation for this VM to remove its inbound rule for port 1433. Looking at past ASC alerts, we can see that this machine was brute forced on six different days, providing valuable attack surface to malicious intenders. Our model can put an end to that!

Overall, we found five machines which might have port 1433 open for no reason (FN of the classification model).

Generalization

Now that we have a working model and a nice Proof of Concept, we might consider applying it for similar scenarios. After all, why focus only on port 1433 and SQL-Server, when our model didnt depend on either of these as an assumption.

We can generalize our scenario and solution to the following:

  • Goal: find machines with an inbound rule for port X, which do not run executables which are very common within this group.
  • Method: Train an RF to predict whether or not a machine has port X open for inbound traffic, based on the executables ran. Output the machine that was misclassified by the RF.

Conclusions

The scenario developed above is only the tip on the iceberg. The Azure Security Center (ASC) team is working hard on providing adaptive prevention capabilities, to enable better security for Azure customers. For information about the first adaptive prevention feature in ASC, see How Azure Security Center uses machine learning to enable adaptive application control. To learn about the use of Machine Learning in ASC, see Machine Learning in Azure Security Center.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Driving data security is a shared responsibility, here’s how you can protect yourself

June 19th, 2018 No comments

You’re driving a long, dark road on a rainy night. If you’re driving 20 miles over the speed limit and you don’t step on the brakes when the car in front of you comes to a sudden stop, is it your fault or your car manufacturers fault if you rear-end the car that is in front of you?

When we drive, we seamlessly understand that there are some things we depend on the manufacturer to provide (brakes that work, airbags that deploy) and some things we’re responsible for (using the brakes when needed, not turning off the airbag protection).

This is the concept of shared responsibility and was a core topic at this years Cybersecurity Law Institute panel Vendors and Cloud-Based Solutions: How Can All Stakeholders Protect Themselves?

When it comes to cloud computing and data protection, it is a shared responsibility between the cloud service provider (CSP) and the customer that is analogous to the relationship between the car owner and car manufacturer.

While the fundamentals of shared responsibility between drivers and car manufacturers seem relatively straightforward, its not always as clear-cut when analyzing the responsibilities between customers and CSPs for protecting cloud data.

The cloud, as a relatively new architectural model for many organizations, is unique because there are multiple organic models that can shift responsibilities between customers and CSPs. For example, customers can only configure the application layer software in Software as a Service (SaaS) applications. But when moving down the stack to Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), customers have the responsibility for configuring and managing the servers theyve stood up in the cloud.

While on the Georgetown Law Institute panel in D.C., I explained how Microsoft views the shared responsibility model as a working partnership with customers to ensure they are clear on what we provide and what their responsibilities are across the stack. To be sure, there are some perceptible shifts in responsibility, which is illustrated in the graphic below.

The left-most column shows seven responsibilities that customers should consider when using different cloud service models. The model shows how customers are responsible for ensuring that data and its classification is done correctly and that the solution is compliant with regulatory obligations. Physical security falls to the CSP, and the rest of the responsibilities are shared. Note this a general rule of thumb, and every customer should talk to its CSP to ensure and understand the responsibilities are outlined and meet the organizational needs.

Once a customer has a solid handle on what the CSP is providing, consider the three tips below for managing the shared responsibilities. These could include things like network controls, host infrastructure, end-point protection, application level controls, and access management.

Consult the STARs

The CSA STAR registry consists of three levels of assurance, which cover four unique offerings based on a comprehensive list of cloud control objectives. Here customers can see what controls a provider has attested to. STAR also helps customers assess how different providers are using a harmonized model. Its also important to ask the CSP if it has completed a SOC 2 Type 2. This assessment is based on a mature attest standard, and ensure that evaluation takes place over time rather than at a point in time, among other helpful standards.

(Really!) Read the contracts

Yes, it’s tempting to skip over the long legalese, but the nuances of a contract between a customer and CSP can go a long way in helping each side understand its shared responsibilities. For example, if the contract allows for certain levels of transparency between the two in the form of allowing the customer to see an audit or compliance report. However, you should remember that seeing an overview isnt the same as being able to read every page of the report. A customer should know what level of transparency they’re getting. Customers should be certain there are clear roles and escalation paths that make sense, so if something goes wrong or a decision needs to be made about shutting off a service or reporting a breach, it can be done without hesitation. And don’t forget to engage your own counsel during contact review, no one understands legalese as well as a lawyer.

Follow the guides

To help organizations understand ways to protect their data in the cloud, Microsoft has blueprint guides for use cases like FFIEC and HIPAA regulations. We also have tools to help companies manage and improve their cloud controls, including Compliance manager and Secure score. Compliance manager enables organizations to manage their compliance activities from one place. Secure score is an assessment tool designed to make it easier for organizations to understand their security position in relation to other organizations while also providing advice on what controls they should consider enabling.

Microsoft takes its side of the shared responsibility model seriously and is continually looking for ways to help the customer identify weaknesses and put action plans in place to shore them up. Not unlike how car manufacturers continually iterate to make cars safer, safety enhancements are meant to lessen the burden of driver responsibilities, not remove them entirely. When it comes to protecting data, if you keep your eyes on your data road, well make sure the brakes are working.

For more information on shared responsibilities for cloud computing read this comprehensive white paper.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

New FastTrack benefit: Deployment support for Co-management on Windows 10 devices

This blog is part of a series that responds to common questions we receive from customers about deployment of Microsoft 365 security solutions. In this series youll find context, answers, and guidance for deployment and driving adoption within your organization. Check out our last blog Getting the most value out of your security deployment.

We are pleased to announce that FastTrack for Microsoft 365 (a benefit of your Microsoft 365 subscription for planning, deployment and adoption), now provides deployment support for Co-management on your Windows 10 devices. Id like to provide a few highlights on what you can expect.

What is Co-management?

Co-management is the integration between Configuration Manager and Microsoft Intune that enables a Windows 10 device to be managed by Configuration Manager and Intune at the same time. This provides you with an opportunity to enable remote actions that can be taken on the device, like remote factory reset or selective wipe for lost or stolen devices. Some additional advantages include conditional access, enabling you to ensure devices accessing your corporate network are compliant with your company policies and requirements. And, with your Windows 10 device you have Windows AutoPilot which is automatic enrollment that enrolls devices in Intune. This can let you lower your provisioning costs on new Windows 10 devices from the cloud. Co-management empowers you to complement Configuration Manager with Intune and more easily bring all this together where cloud makes sense for your organization as seen in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1: Co-management architecture

What can you expect

As part of our deployment support, the FastTrack team will provide guidance on the following activities:

  • Enabling Active Directory auto enrollment
  • Enabling hybrid Azure Active Directory
  • Enabling the Cloud Management Gateway
  • Enabling Co-management in Configuration Manager
  • Switch over supported device management capabilities from Configuration Manager to Intune:

    • Device conditional access policies
    • Resource Access profiles
    • Windows Update for Business policies
    • EndPoint Protection policies

  • Setting up Intune to deploy the Configuration Manager agent to new devices

FastTrack for Microsoft 365 benefits

FastTrack continues to invest in bringing you end to end services for planning, onboarding and driving adoption of your eligible subscriptions, and comes at no additional charge. It is our commitment to help you to realize the value of your Microsoft 365 investment with a faster deployment and time to value.

FastTrack lets you engage with our FastTrack specialists and provides best practices, tools and resources to help you quickly and easily enable Microsoft 365 in your environment, now including co-management for Windows 10 devices.

Get started

To request assistance from FastTrack, you can get started by going to our FastTrack website. Click on the Sign In prompt, and enter your company or school ID. Go to the dashboard, and from there follow the prompts to access the Request for Assistance form. Your submission will be reviewed and routed to the appropriate team that will address your specific needs and eligibility.

The FastTrack website also provides you with best practices, tools, and resources from the experts to help make your deployment experience with the Microsoft Cloud a great one.


More blog posts from this series:

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Building Zero Trust networks with Microsoft 365

The traditional perimeter-based network defense is obsolete. Perimeter-based networks operate on the assumption that all systems within a network can be trusted. However, todays increasingly mobile workforce, the migration towards public cloud services, and the adoption of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) model make perimeter security controls irrelevant. Networks that fail to evolve from traditional defenses are vulnerable to breaches: an attacker can compromise a single endpoint within the trusted boundary and then quickly expand foothold across the entire network.

In 2013, a massive credit card data breach hit Target and exposed the credit card information of over 40 million customers. Attackers used malware-laced emails to steal credentials from contractors that had remote access to Targets network. They then used the stolen credentials to gain access to the network, effectively evading the perimeter defense mechanisms that Target had in place. Once inside the network, the attackers installed malware on payment systems used in Target stores across the US and stole customer credit card information.

Zero Trust networks eliminate the concept of trust based on network location within a perimeter. Instead, Zero Trust architectures leverage device and user trust claims to gate access to organizational data and resources. A general Zero Trust network model (Figure 1) typically comprises the following:

  • Identity provider to keep track of users and user-related information
  • Device directory to maintain a list of devices that have access to corporate resources, along with their corresponding device information (e.g., type of device, integrity etc.)
  • Policy evaluation service to determine if a user or device conforms to the policy set forth by security admins
  • Access proxy that utilizes the above signals to grant or deny access to an organizational resource

Figure 1. Basic components of a general Zero Trust network model

Gating access to resources using dynamic trust decisions allows an enterprise to enable access to certain assets from any device while restricting access to high-value assets on enterprise-managed and compliant devices. In targeted and data breach attacks, attackers can compromise a single device within an organization, and then use the “hopping” method to move laterally across the network using stolen credentials. A solution based on Zero Trust network, configured with the right policies around user and device trust, can help prevent stolen network credentials from being used to gain access to a network.

Zero Trust is the next evolution in network security. The state of cyberattacks drives organizations to take the assume breach mindset, but this approach should not be limiting. Zero Trust networks protect corporate data and resources while ensuring that organizations can build a modern workplace using technologies that empower employees to be productive anytime, anywhere, any which way.

Zero Trust networking based on Azure AD conditional access

Today, employees access their organization’s resources from anywhere using a variety of devices and apps. Access control policies that focus only on who can access a resource is not sufficient. To master the balance between security and productivity, security admins also need to factor in how a resource is being accessed.

Microsoft has a story and strategy around Zero Trust networking. Azure Active Directory conditional access is the foundational building block of how customers can implement a Zero Trust network approach. Conditional access and Azure Active Directory Identity Protection make dynamic access control decisions based on user, device, location, and session risk for every resource request. They combine (1) attested runtime signals about the security state of a Windows device and (2) the trustworthiness of the user session and identity to arrive at the strongest possible security posture.

Conditional access provides a set of policies that can be configured to control the circumstances in which users can access corporate resources. Considerations for access include user role, group membership, device health and compliance, mobile applications, location, and sign-in risk. These considerations are used to decide whether to (1) allow access, (2) deny access, or (3) control access with additional authentication challenges (e.g., multi-factor authentication), Terms of Use, or access restrictions. Conditional access works robustly with any application configured for access with Azure Active Directory.

Figure 2. Microsofts high-level approach to realizing Zero Trust networks using conditional access.

To accomplish the Zero Trust model, Microsoft integrates several components and capabilities in Microsoft 365: Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection, Azure Active Directory, Windows Defender System Guard, and Microsoft Intune.

Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection

Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) is an endpoint protection platform (EPP) and endpoint detection response (EDR) technology that provides intelligence-driven protection, post-breach detection, investigation, and automatic response capabilities. It combines built-in behavioral sensors, machine learning, and security analytics to continuously monitor the state of devices and take remedial actions if necessary. One of the unique ways Windows Defender ATP mitigates breaches is by automatically isolating compromised machines and users from further cloud resource access.

For example, attackers use the Pass-the-Hash (PtH) and the Pass the ticket for Kerberos techniques to directly extract hashed user credentials from a compromised device. The hashed credentials can then be used to make lateral movement, allowing attackers to leapfrog from one system to another, or even escalate privileges. While Windows Defender Credential Guard prevents these attacks by protecting NTLM hashes and domain credentials, security admins still want to know that such an attack occurred.

Windows Defender ATP exposes attacks like these and generates a risk level for compromised devices. In the context of conditional access, Windows Defender ATP assigns a machine risk level, which is later used to determine whether the client device should get a token required to access corporate resources. Windows Defender ATP uses a broad range of security capabilities and signals, including:

Windows Defender System Guard runtime attestation

Windows Defender System Guard protects and maintains the integrity of a system as it boots up and continues running. In the assume breach mentality, its important for security admins to have the ability to remotely attest the security state of a device. With the Windows 10 April 2018 Update, Windows Defender System Guard runtime attestation contributes to establishing device integrity. It makes hardware-rooted boot-time and runtime assertions about the health of the device. These measurements are consumed by Windows Defender ATP and contribute to the machine risk level assigned to the device.

The single most important goal of Windows Defender System Guard is to validate that the system integrity has not been violated. This hardware-backed high-integrity trusted framework enables customers to request a signed report that can attest (within guarantees specified by the security promises) that no tampering of the devices security state has taken place. Windows Defender ATP customers can view the security state of all their devices using the Windows Defender ATP portal, allowing detection and remediation of any security violation.

Windows Defender System Guard runtime attestation leverages the hardware-rooted security technologies in virtualization-based security (VBS) to detect attacks. On virtual secure mode-enabled devices, Windows Defender System Guard runtime attestation runs in an isolated environment, making it resistant to even a kernel-level adversary.

Windows Defender System Guard runtime attestation continually asserts system security posture at runtime. These assertions are directed at capturing violations of Windows security promises, such as disabling process protection.

Azure Active Directory

Azure Active Directory is a cloud identity and access management solution that businesses use to manage access to applications and protect user identities both in the cloud and on-premises. In addition to its directory and identity management capabilities, as an access control engine Azure AD delivers:

  • Single sign-on experience: Every user has a single identity to access resources across the enterprise to ensure higher productivity. Users can use the same work or school account for single sign-on to cloud services and on-premises web applications. Multi-factor authentication helps provide an additional level of validation of the user.
  • Automatic provisioning of application access: Users access to applications can be automatically provisioned or de-provisioned based on their group memberships, geo-location, and employment status.

As an access management engine, Azure AD makes a well-informed decision about granting access to organizational resources using information about:

  • Group and user permissions
  • App being accessed
  • Device used to sign in (e.g., device compliance info from Intune)
  • Operating system of the device being used to sign in
  • Location or IP ranges of sign-in
  • Client app used to sign in
  • Time of sign-in
  • Sign-in risk, which represents the probability that a given sign-in isnt authorized by the identity owner (calculated by Azure AD Identity Protections multiple machine learning or heuristic detections)
  • User risk, which represents the probability that a bad actor has compromised a given user (calculated by Azure AD Identity Protections advanced machine learning that leverages numerous internal and external sources for label data to continually improve)
  • More factors that we will continually add to this list

Conditional access policies are evaluated in real-time and enforced when a user attempts to access any Azure AD-connected application, for example, SaaS apps, custom apps running in the cloud, or on-premises web apps. When suspicious activity is discovered, Azure AD helps take remediation actions, such as block high-risk users, reset user passwords if credentials are compromised, enforce Terms of Use, and others.

The decision to grant access to a corporate application is given to client devices in the form of an access token. This decision is centered around compliance with the Azure AD conditional access policy. If a request meets the requirements, a token is granted to a client. The policy may require that the request provides limited access (e.g., no download allowed) or even be passed through Microsoft Cloud App Security for in-session monitoring.

Microsoft Intune

Microsoft Intune is used to manage mobile devices, PCs, and applications in an organization. Microsoft Intune and Azure have management and visibility of assets and data valuable to the organization, and have the capability to automatically infer trust requirements based on constructs such as Azure Information Protection, Asset Tagging, or Microsoft Cloud App Security.

Microsoft Intune is responsible for the enrollment, registration, and management of client devices. It supports a wide array of device types: mobile devices (Android and iOS), laptops (Windows and macOS), and employees BYOD devices. Intune combines the machine risk level provided by Windows Defender ATP with other compliance signals to determine the compliance status (isCompliant) of the device. Azure AD leverages this compliance status to block or allow access to corporate resources. Conditional access policies can be configured in Intune in two ways:

  • App-based: Only managed applications can access corporate resources
  • Device-based: Only managed and compliant devices can access corporate resources

More on how to configure risk-based conditional access compliance check in Intune.

Conditional access at work

The value of conditional access can be best demonstrated with an example. (Note: The names used in this section are fictitious, but the example illustrates how conditional access can protect corporate data and resources in different scenarios.)

SurelyMoney is one of the most prestigious financial institutions in the world, helping over a million customers carry out their business transactions seamlessly. The company uses Microsoft 365 E5 suite, and their security enterprise admins have enforced conditional access.

An attacker seeks to steal information about the companys customers and the details of their business transactions. The attacker sends seemingly innocuous e-mails with malware attachments to employees. One employee unwittingly opens the attachment on a corporate device, compromising the device. The attacker can now harvest the employees user credentials and try to access a corporate application.

Windows Defender ATP, which continuously monitors the state of the device, detects the breach and flags the device as compromised. This device information is relayed to Azure AD and Intune, which then denies the access to the application from that device. The compromised device and user credentials are blocked from further access to corporate resources. Once the device is auto-remediated by Windows Defender ATP, access is re-granted for the user on the remediated device.

This illustrates how conditional access and Windows Defender ATP work together to help prevent the lateral movement of malware, provide attack isolation, and ensure protection of corporate resources.

Azure AD applications such as Office 365, Exchange Online, SPO, and others

The executives at SurelyMoney store a lot of high-value confidential documents in Microsoft SharePoint, an Office 365 application. Using a compromised device, the attacker tries to steal these documents. However, conditional access tight coupling with O365 applications prevents this from taking place.

Office 365 applications like Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, and Microsoft Excel allow an organizations employees to collaborate and get work done. Different users can have different permissions, depending on the sensitivity or nature of their work, the group they belong to, and other factors. Conditional access facilitates access management in these applications as they are deeply integrated with the conditional access evaluation. Through conditional access, security admins can implement custom policies, enabling the applications to grant partial or full access to requested resources.

Figure 3. Zero Trust network model for Azure AD applications

Line of business applications

SurelyMoney has a custom transaction-tracking application connected to Azure AD. This application keeps records of all transactions carried out by customers. The attacker tries to gain access to this application using the harvested user credentials. However, conditional access prevents this breach from happening.

Every organization has mission-critical and business-specific applications that are tied directly to the success and efficiency of employees. These typically include custom applications related to e-commerce systems, knowledge tracking systems, document management systems, etc. Azure AD will not grant an access token for these applications if they fail to meet the required compliance and risk policy, relying on a binary decision on whether access to resources should be granted or denied.

Figure 4. Zero Trust network model expanded for line of business apps

On-premises web applications

Employees today want to be productive anywhere, any time, and from any device. They want to work on their own devices, whether they be tablets, phones, or laptops. And they expect to be able to access their corporate on-premises applications. Azure AD Application Proxy allows remote access to external applications as a service, enabling conditional access from managed or unmanaged devices.

SurelyMoney has built their own version of a code-signing application, which is a legacy tenant application. It turns out that the user of the compromised device belongs to the code-signing team. The requests to the on-premises legacy application are routed through the Azure AD Application Proxy. The attacker tries to make use of the compromised user credentials to access this application, but conditional access foils this attempt.

Without conditional access, the attacker would be able to create any malicious application he wants, code-sign it, and deploy it through Intune. These apps would then be pushed to every device enrolled in Intune, and the hacker would be able to gain an unprecedented amount of sensitive information. Attacks like these have been observed before, and it is in an enterprises best interests to prevent this from happening.

Figure 5. Zero Trust network model for on-premises web applications

Continuous innovation

At present, conditional access works seamlessly with web applications. Zero Trust, in the strictest sense, requires all network requests to flow through the access control proxy and for all evaluations to be based on the device and user trust model. These network requests can include various legacy communication protocols and access methods like FTP, RDP, SMB, and others.

By leveraging device and user trust claims to gate access to organizational resources, conditional access provides comprehensive but flexible policies that secure corporate data while ensuring user productivity. We will continue to innovate to protect the modern workplace, where user productivity continues to expand beyond the perimeters of the corporate network.

 

 

Sumesh Kumar, Ashwin Baliga, Himanshu Soni, Jairo Cadena
Enterprise & Security

Updating your cybersecurity strategy to enable and accelerate digital transformation

This post is authored by Cyril Voisin, Cheif Security Advisor, Enterprise Cybersecurity Group.

Nowadays every company is becoming a digital company to some extent. Digital transformation changes the way business is done. For example, it puts more control into the hands of employees, who now demand anytime, anywhere connectivity to the solutions and data they need to accomplish their objectives. Adoption of digital technologies takes place at every level of the organization, and shadow IT reminds us that employees may procure their own IT solutions to be more productive. Solutions require careful security considerations before being approved. Therefore, its important to redefine your strategy to support both security and productivity, based on sound risk management.

Over the last decade, the security landscape has changed dramatically. Therefore, the security approach must be adapted to a new world of constant change and massive digitalization. With dramatic events such as Wannacry or NotPetya, cybersecurity has become a board conversation. Savvy enterprises now consider cybersecurity risks as strategic, the same way they consider financial risks.

Defining a crisp modern security strategy to support business success

A modern security agenda needs to define the purpose of the security team, its vision and mindset. It should also explain the high-level strategies it will employ, and how it will be organized, including the definition of priorities and deadlines and how the results will be measured. The figure below shows an example of a modern security agenda that can be summarized in a single slide for the purpose of sharing with your executive team.

Download the whitepaper on cybersecurity for digital transformation

More detailed information regarding enabling and accelerating digital transformation is available in this whitepaper. It is designed to articulate what a modern security strategy can look like, and is useful for CISOs, CIOs, CDOs, and potentially board members who want to learn more about secure transformation and benchmark their own teams. It was first released as an exclusive distribution in Dubai in October 2017, and now we are making it more broadly available today.

You can download the whitepaper here.

For more information on deployment planning and FastTrack guidance,check out related deployment series blogs.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Machine learning vs. social engineering

Machine learning is a key driver in the constant evolution of security technologies at Microsoft. Machine learning allows Microsoft 365 to scale next-gen protection capabilities and enhance cloud-based, real-time blocking of new and unknown threats. Just in the last few months, machine learning has helped us to protect hundreds of thousands of customers against ransomware, banking Trojan, and coin miner malware outbreaks.

But how does machine learning stack up against social engineering attacks?

Social engineering gives cybercriminals a way to get into systems and slip through defenses. Security investments, including the integration of advanced threat protection services in Windows, Office 365, and Enterprise Mobility + Security into Microsoft 365, have significantly raised the cost of attacks. The hardening of Windows 10 and Windows 10 in S mode, the advancement of browser security in Microsoft Edge, and the integrated stack of endpoint protection platform (EPP) and endpoint detection and response (EDR) capabilities in Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (Windows Defender ATP) further raise the bar in security. Attackers intent on overcoming these defenses to compromise devices are increasingly reliant on social engineering, banking on the susceptibility of users to open the gate to their devices.

Modern social engineering attacks use non-portable executable (PE) files like malicious scripts and macro-laced documents, typically in combination with social engineering lures. Every month, Windows Defender AV detects non-PE threats on over 10 million machines. These threats may be delivered as email attachments, through drive-by web downloads, removable drives, browser exploits, etc. The most common non-PE threat file types are JavaScript and VBScript.

Figure 1. Ten most prevalent non-PE threat file types encountered by Windows Defender AV

Non-PE threats are typically used as intermediary downloaders designed to deliver more dangerous executable malware payloads. Due to their flexibility, non-PE files are also used in various stages of the attack chain, including lateral movement and establishing fileless persistence. Machine learning allows us to scale protection against these threats in real-time, often protecting the first victim (patient zero).

Catching social engineering campaigns big and small

In mid-May, a small-scale, targeted spam campaign started distributing spear phishing emails that spoofed a landscaping business in Calgary, Canada. The attack was observed targeting less than 100 machines, mostly located in Canada. The spear phishing emails asked target victims to review an attached PDF document.

When opened, the PDF document presents itself as a secure document that requires action a very common social engineering technique used in enterprise phishing attacks. To view the supposed secure document, the target victim is instructed to click a link within the PDF, which opens a malicious website with a sign-in screen that asks for enterprise credentials.

Phished credentials can then be used for further attacks, including CEO fraud, additional spam campaigns, or remote access to the network for data theft or ransomware. Our machine learning blocked the PDF file as malware (Trojan:Script/Cloxer.A!cl) from the get-go, helping prevent the attack from succeeding.

Figure 2. Phishing email campaign with PDF attachment

Beyond targeted credential phishing attacks, we commonly see large-scale malware campaigns that use emails with archive attachments containing malicious VBScript or JavaScript files. These emails typically masquerade as an outstanding invoice, package delivery, or parking ticket, and instruct targets of the attack to refer to the attachment for more details. If the target opens the archive and runs the script, the malware typically downloads and runs further threats like ransomware or coin miners.

Figure 3. Typical social engineering email campaign with an archive attachment containing a malicious script

Malware campaigns like these, whether limited and targeted or large-scale and random, occur frequently. Attackers go to great lengths to avoid detection by heavily obfuscating code and modifying their attack code for each spam wave. Traditional methods of manually writing signatures identifying patterns in malware cannot effectively stop these attacks. The power of machine learning is that it is scalable and can be powerful enough to detect noisy, massive campaigns, but also specific enough to detect targeted attacks with very few signals. This flexibility means that we can stop a wide range of modern attacks automatically at the onset.

Machine learning models zero in on non-executable file types

To fight social engineering attacks, we build and train specialized machine learning models that are designed for specific file types.

Building high-quality specialized models requires good features for describing each file. For each file type, the full contents of hundreds of thousands of files are analyzed using large-scale distributed computing. Using machine learning, the best features that describe the content of each file type are selected. These features are deployed to the Windows Defender AV client to assist in describing the content of each file to machine learning models.

In addition to these ML-learned features, the models leverage expert researcher-created features and other useful file metadata to describe content. Because these ML models are trained for specific file types, they can zone in on the metadata of these file types.

Figure 4. Specialized file type-specific client ML models are paired with heavier cloud ML models to classify and protect against malicious script files in real-time

When the Windows Defender AV client encounters an unknown file, lightweight local ML models search for suspicious characteristics in the files features. Metadata for suspicious files are sent to the cloud protection service, where an array of bigger ML classifiers evaluate the file in real-time.

In both the client and the cloud, specialized file-type ML classifiers add to generic ML models to create multiple layers of classifiers that detect a wide range of malicious behavior. In the backend, deep-learning neural network models identify malicious scripts based on their full file content and behavior during detonation in a controlled sandbox. If a file is determined malicious, it is not allowed to run, preventing infection at the onset.

File type-specific ML classifiers are part of metadata-based ML models in the Windows Defender AV cloud protection service, which can make a verdict on suspicious files within a fraction of a second.

Figure 5. Layered machine learning models in Windows Defender ATP

File type-specific ML classifiers are also leveraged by ensemble models that learn and combine results from the whole array of cloud classifiers. This produces a comprehensive cloud-based machine learning stack that can protect against script-based attacks, including zero-day malware and highly targeted attacks. For example, the targeted phishing attack in mid-May was caught by a specialized PDF client-side machine learning model, as well as several cloud-based machine learning models, protecting customers in real-time.

Microsoft 365 threat protection powered by artificial intelligence and data sharing

Social engineering attacks that use non-portable executable (PE) threats are pervasive in todays threat landscape; the impact of combating these threats through machine learning is far-reaching.

Windows Defender AV combines local machine learning models, behavior-based detection algorithms, generics, and heuristics with a detonation system and powerful ML models in the cloud to provide real-time protection against polymorphic malware. Expert input from researchers, advanced technologies like Antimalware Scan Interface (AMSI), and rich intelligence from the Microsoft Intelligent Security Graph continue to enhance next-generation endpoint protection platform (EPP) capabilities in Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection.

In addition to antivirus, components of Windows Defender ATPs interconnected security technologies defend against the multiple elements of social engineering attacks. Windows Defender SmartScreen in Microsoft Edge (also now available as a Google Chrome extension) blocks access to malicious URLs, such as those found in social engineering emails and documents. Network protection blocks malicious network communications, including those made by malicious scripts to download payloads. Attack surface reduction rules in Windows Defender Exploit Guard block Office-, script-, and email-based threats used in social engineering attacks. On the other hand, Windows Defender Application Control can block the installation of untrusted applications, including malware payloads of intermediary downloaders. These security solutions protect Windows 10 and Windows 10 in S mode from social engineering attacks.

Further, Windows Defender ATP endpoint detection and response (EDR) uses the power of machine learning and AMSI to unearth script-based attacks that live off the land. Windows Defender ATP allows security operations teams to detect and mitigate breaches and cyberattacks using advanced analytics and a rich detection library. With the April 2018 Update, automated investigation and advance hunting capabilities further enhance Windows Defender ATP. Sign up for a free trial.

Machine learning also powers Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection to detect non-PE attachments in social engineering spam campaigns that distribute malware or steal user credentials. This enhances the Office 365 ATP comprehensive and multi-layered solution to protect mailboxes, files, online storage, and applications against threats.

These and other technologies power Microsoft 365 threat protection to defend the modern workplace. In Windows 10 April 2018 Update, we enhanced signal sharing across advanced threat protection services in Windows, Office 365, and Enterprise Mobility + Security through the Microsoft Intelligent Security Graph. This integration enables these technologies to automatically update protection and detection and orchestrate remediation across Microsoft 365.

 

Gregory Ellison and Geoff McDonald
Windows Defender Research

 

 

 

 


Talk to us

Questions, concerns, or insights on this story? Join discussions at the Microsoft community and Windows Defender Security Intelligence.

Follow us on Twitter @WDSecurity and Facebook Windows Defender Security Intelligence.

Cybersecurity Reference Architecture: Security for a Hybrid Enterprise

June 6th, 2018 No comments

The Microsoft Cybersecurity Reference Architecture describes Microsofts cybersecurity capabilities and how they integrate with existing security architectures and capabilities. We recently updated this diagram and wanted to share a little bit about the changes and the document itself to help you better utilize it.

How to use it

We have seen this document used for several purposes by our customers and internal teams (beyond a geeky wall decoration to shock and impress your cubicle neighbors).

  • Starting template for a security architecture – The most common use case we see is that organizations use the document to help define a target state for cybersecurity capabilities. Organizations find this architecture useful because it covers capabilities across the modern enterprise estate that now spans on-premise, mobile devices, many clouds, and IoT / Operational Technology.
  • Comparison reference for security capabilities – We know of several organizations that have marked up a printed copy with what capabilities they already own from various Microsoft license suites (many customers don’t know they own quite a bit of this technology), which ones they already have in place (from Microsoft or partner/3rd party), and which ones are new and could fill a need.
  • Learn about Microsoft capabilities – In presentation mode, each capability has a “ScreenTip” with a short description of each capability + a link to documentation on that capability to learn more.

  • Learn about Microsoft’s integration investments – The architecture includes visuals of key integration points with partner capabilities (e.g. SIEM/Log integration, Security Appliances in Azure, DLP integration, and more) and within our own product capabilities among (e.g. Advanced Threat Protection, Conditional Access, and more).
  • Learn about cybersecurity – We have also heard reports of folks new to cybersecurity using this as a learning tool as they prepare for their first career or a career change.

As you can see, Microsoft has been investing heavily in security for many years to secure our products and services as well as provide the capabilities our customers need to secure their assets. In many ways, this diagram reflects Microsoft massive ongoing investment into cybersecurity research and development, currently over $1 billion annually (not including acquisitions).

What has changed in the reference architecture and why

We made quite a few changes in v2 and wanted to share a few highlights on what’s changed as well as the underlying philosophy of how this document was built.

  • New visual style – The most obvious change for those familiar with the first version is the simplified visual style. While some may miss the “visual assault on the senses” effect from the bold colors in v1, we think this format works better for most people.
  • Interactivity instructions – Many people did not notice that each capability on the architecture has a quick description and link to more information, so we added instructions to call that out (and updated the descriptions themselves).
  • Complementary content – Microsoft has invested in creating cybersecurity reference strategies (success criteria, recommended approaches, how our technology maps to them) as well as prescriptive guidance for addressing top customer challenges like Petya/WannaCrypt, Securing Privileged Access, and Securing Office 365. This content is now easier to find with links at the top of the document.
  • Added section headers for each grouping of technology areas to make it easier to navigate, understand, and discuss as a focus area.
  • Added foundational elements – We added descriptions of some core foundational capabilities that are deeply integrated into how we secure our cloud services and build our cybersecurity capabilities that have been added to the bottom. These include:

    • Trust Center – This is where describe how we secure our cloud and includes links to various compliance documents such as 3rd party auditor reports.
    • Compliance Manager is a powerful (new) capability to help you report on your compliance status for Azure, Office 365, and Dynamics 365 for General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), NIST 800-53 and 800-171, ISO 27001 and 27018, and others.
    • Intelligent Security Graph is Microsoft threat intelligence system that we use to protect our cloud, our IT environment, and our customers. The graph is composed of trillions of signals, advanced analytics, and teams of experts hunting for malicious activities and is integrated into our threat detection and response capabilities.
    • Security Development Lifecycle (SDL) is foundational to how we develop software at Microsoft and has been published to help you secure your applications. Because of our early and deep commitment to secure development, we were able to quickly conform to ISO 27034 after it was released.

  • Moved Devices/Clients together – As device form factors and operating systems continue to expand and evolve, we are seeing security organizations view devices through the lens of trustworthiness/integrity vs. any other attribute.

    • We reorganized the Windows 10 and Windows Defender ATP capabilities around outcomes vs. feature names for clarity.
    • We also reorganized windows security icons and text to reflect that Windows Defender ATP describes all the platform capabilities working together to prevent, detect, and (automatically) respond and recover to attacks. We added icons to show the cross-platform support for Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) capabilities that now extend across Windows 10, Windows 7/8.1, Windows Server, Mac OS, Linux, iOS, and Android platforms.
    • We faded the intranet border around these devices because of the ongoing success of phishing, watering hole, and other techniques that have weakened the network boundary.

  • Updated SOC section – We moved several capabilities from their previous locations around the architecture into the Security Operations Center (SOC) as this is where they are primarily used. This move enabled us to show a clearer vision of a modern SOC that can monitor and protect the hybrid of everything estate. We also added the Graph Security API (in public preview) as this API is designed to help you integrate existing SOC components and Microsoft capabilities.
  • Simplified server/datacenter view – We simplified the datacenter section to recover the space being taken up by duplicate server icons. We retained the visual of extranets and intranets spanning on-premises datacenters and multiple cloud provider(s). Organizations see Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) cloud providers as another datacenter for the intranet generation of applications, though they find Azure is much easier to manage and secure than physical datacenters. We also added Azure Stack capability that allows customers to securely operate Azure services in their datacenter.
  • New IoT/OT section – IoT is on the rise on many enterprises due to digital transformation initiatives. While the attacks and defenses for this area are still evolving quickly, Microsoft continues to invest deeply to provide security for existing and new deployments of Internet of Things (IoT) and Operational Technology (OT). Microsoft has announced $5 billion of investment over the next four years for IoT and has also recently announced an end to end certification for a secure IoT platform from MCU to the cloud called Azure Sphere.
  • Updated Azure Security Center – Azure Security Center grew to protect Windows and Linux operating system across Azure, on-premises datacenters, and other IaaS providers. Security Center has also added powerful new features like Just in Time access to VMs and applied machine learning to creating application whitelisting rules and North-South Network Security Group (NSG) network rules.
  • Added Azure capabilities including Azure Policy, Confidential Computing, and the new DDoS protection options.
  • Added Azure AD B2B and B2C – Many Security departments have found these capabilities useful in reducing risk by moving partner and customer accounts out of enterprise identity systems to leverage existing enterprise and consumer identity providers.
  • Added information protection capabilities for Office 365 as well as SQL Information Protection (preview).
  • Updated integration points – Microsoft invests heavily to integrate our capabilities together as well as to ensure use our technology with your existing security capabilities. This is a quick summary of some key integration points depicted in the reference architecture:

    • Conditional Access connecting info protection and threat protection with identity to ensure that authentications are coming from a secure/compliant device before accessing sensitive data.
    • Advanced Threat Protection integration across our SOC capabilities to streamline detection and response processes across Devices, Office 365, Azure, SaaS applications, and on Premises Active Directory.
    • Azure Information Protection discovering and protecting data on SaaS applications via Cloud App Security.
    • Data Loss Protection (DLP) integration with Cloud App Security to leverage existing DLP engines and with Azure Information Protection to consume labels on sensitive data.
    • Alert and Log Integration across Microsoft capabilities to help integrate with existing Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solution investments.

Feedback

We are always trying to improve everything we do at Microsoft and we need your feedback to do it! You can contact the primary author (Mark Simos) directly on LinkedIn with any feedback on how to improve it or how you use it, how it helps you, or any other thoughts you have.

 

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Virtualization-based security (VBS) memory enclaves: Data protection through isolation

The escalating sophistication of cyberattacks is marked by the increased use of kernel-level exploits that attempt to run malware with the highest privileges and evade security solutions and software sandboxes. Kernel exploits famously gave the WannaCry and Petya ransomware remote code execution capability, resulting in widescale global outbreaks.

Windows 10 remained resilient to these attacks, with Microsoft constantly raising the bar in platform security to stay ahead of threat actors. Virtualization-based security (VBS) hardens Windows 10 against attacks by using the Windows hypervisor to create an environment that isolates a secure region of memory known as secure memory enclaves.

Figure 1. VBS secure memory enclaves

An enclave is an isolated region of memory within the address space of a user-mode process. This region of memory is controlled entirely by the Windows hypervisor. The hypervisor creates a logical separation between the normal world and secure world, designated by Virtual Trust Levels, VTL0 and VT1, respectively. VBS secure memory enclaves create a means for secure, attestable computation in an otherwise untrusted environment.

VBS enclaves in Microsoft SQL Server

A key technology that will leverage VBS secure memory enclaves is Microsoft SQL Server. The upcoming SQL Server secure enclave feature ensures that sensitive data stored in an SQL Server database is only decrypted and processed inside an enclave. SQL Servers use of secure enclaves allows the processing of sensitive data without exposing the data to database administrators or malware. This reduces the risk of unauthorized access and achieves separation between those who own the data (and can view it) and those who manage the data (but should have no access). To learn more about the use of secure enclaves in SQL Server, see the blog post Enabling confidential computing with Always Encrypted using enclaves.

Data protection

One of the major benefits of secure memory enclaves is data protection. Data resident in an enclave is only accessible by code running inside that enclave. This means that there is a security boundary between VTL0 and VTL1. If a process tries to read memory that is within the secure memory enclave, an invalid access exception is thrown. This happens even when a kernel-mode debugger is attached to the normal process the debugger will fail when trying to step into the enclave.

Code integrity

Code integrity is another major benefit provided by enclaves. Code loaded into an enclave is securely signed with a key; therefore, guarantees can be made about the integrity of code running within a secure memory enclave. The code running inside an enclave is incredibly restricted, but a secure memory enclave can still perform meaningful work. This includes performing computations on data that is encrypted outside the enclave but can be decrypted and evaluated in plaintext inside the enclave, without exposing the plaintext to anything other than the enclave itself. A great example of why this is useful in a multi-tenant cloud computing scenario is described in the Azure confidential computing blog post. This move allowed us to continually make significant innovations in platform security.

Attestation

Attestation is also a critical aspect of secure memory enclaves. Sensitive information, such as plaintext data or encryption keys, must only be sent to the intended enclave that must be trusted. VBS enclaves can be put into debug mode for testing but lose memory isolation. This is great for testing, but in production this impacts the security guarantees of the enclave. To ensure that a production secure enclave is never in debug mode, an attestation report is generated to state what mode the enclave is in (among various other configuration and identity parameters). This report is then verified by a trust relationship between the consumer and producer of the report.

To establish this trust, VBS enclaves can expose an enclave attestation report that is fully signed by the VBS-unique key. This can prove the relationship between the enclave and host, as well as the exact configuration of the enclave. This attestation report can be used to establish a secure channel of communication between two enclaves. In Windows this is possible simply by exchanging the report. For remote scenarios, an attestation service can use this report to establish a trust relationship between a remote enclave and a client application.

One feature that relies on secure memory enclave attestation is Windows Defender System Guard runtime attestation, which allows users to measure and attest to all interactions from the enclave to other capabilities, including areas of runtime and boot integrity.

Figure 2. Windows Defender System Guard runtime attestation

Elevating data security

There are many secure memory enclave technologies in the industry today. Each have pros and cons in capabilities. The benefit of using a VBS secure memory enclave is that there are no special hardware requirements, only that the processor supports hypervisor virtualization extensions:

Additionally, VBS enclaves do not have the same memory constraints as a hardware-based enclave, which are usually quite limited.

VBS secure memory enclaves provide hardware-rooted virtualization-based data protection and code integrity. They are leveraged for new data security capabilities, as demonstrated by Azure confidential computing and the Always Encrypted feature of Microsoft SQL Server. These are examples of the rapid innovation happening all throughout Microsoft to elevate security. This isnt the last youll hear of secure memory enclaves. As Microsoft security technologies continue to advance, we can expect secure memory enclaves to stand out in many more protection scenarios.

 

 

Maxwell Renke, Program manager, Windows

Chris Riggs, Principal Program Manager, Microsoft Offensive Security Research