Detecting malicious key extractions by compromised identities for Azure Cosmos DB

Azure Cosmos DB is a fully managed NoSQL cloud database service for modern app development. It offers a variety of advanced built-in features, such as automatic worldwide data replication, lightning-fast response types, and a variety of APIs. In this blog post, we describe security practices for securing access to Azure Cosmos DB and show how monitoring relevant control plane operations, when performed by Microsoft Defender for Azure Cosmos DB, can help detect potentially compromised identities.

Authentication and authorization

Operating Azure Cosmos DB databases requires valid credentials to be provided for each request. The main type of credentials is a pair of access keys, known as primary and secondary, which are generated as part of the Azure Cosmos DB account creation and can be retrieved through management API using the ListKeys operation. These keys provide full control over the account, including configuration of databases, deployment of server-side logic, and common read and write data transactions. The keys are generated as a pair to enable continuous availability during key rotations. When the primary key is in use, the secondary key is being rotated, and vice versa.

Another type of authentication and access control supported by Azure Cosmos DB is the role-based access control (RBAC) mechanism based on Microsoft Azure Active Directory (Azure AD).1 Principals authenticated in Azure AD can be assigned distinct roles that grant specific permissions to the databases and various objects in the Cosmos DB account. The roles can be chosen from several built-in alternatives or customized by the account owner.

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