Azure Security vs. AWS Security

Amit Sheps
March 18, 2024

What Is AWS Security? 

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a cloud computing platform that provides scalable computing power, storage, networking and many other capabilities on an on-demand basis. AWS operates data centers in over 20 countries and 100 locations around the world.

AWS security is the practice of protecting workloads and data running in the AWS cloud. It is based on shared responsibility between Amazon, responsible for security “of” the cloud, and the cloud customer, responsible for security “in” the cloud. The AWS security model covers the physical layer (data centers and network architecture), the infrastructure layer (virtualization layer and host operating system), and also the assets running in the cloud (customer instances, applications, and data).

AWS provides several security capabilities and services, including Amazon Identity and Access Management (IAM) for controlling access, Amazon CloudWatch for monitoring cloud resources and applications, AWS Shield for DDoS protection, and AWS Key Management Service (KMS) for managing encryption keys.

What Is Azure Security? 

Microsoft Azure is a cloud computing service for building, testing, deploying, and managing applications and services. It is the world’s largest cloud provider in terms of geographical reach, spanning 60 regions and 300 physical data centers.

Like AWS, Azure’s security model is based on a shared responsibility between Microsoft and the customer. While Microsoft is responsible for securing the underlying infrastructure (physical, network, host), the customers are responsible for securing the resources they deploy and use in Azure.

Azure provides a broad array of configurable security options and tools. These include Azure Active Directory for identity and access management, Azure Security Center for unified security management, Azure Key Vault for managing cryptographic keys, and Azure Information Protection for data classification and protection.

This is part of a series of articles about cloud security

In this article:

Azure Security vs. AWS Security: Key Differences 

Let’s explore the key differences between the security measures provided by Azure and AWS.

1. Data Center Security

When it comes to data center security, both Azure and AWS follow rigorous standards. Azure data centers are designed with multiple layers of security controls, including perimeter fencing, video surveillance, security personnel, and intrusion detection systems. Access to these data centers is strictly regulated and requires multi-factor authentication.

AWS data centers also have robust physical security measures in place. They utilize a layered security model, including safeguards like custom-designed electronic access cards, alarms, vehicle access barriers, perimeter fencing, metal detectors, and biometrics.

2. Identity and Access Management (IAM)

IAM solutions are used by most cloud providers to manage user accounts and control access to cloud resources. Both Azure and AWS offer comprehensive IAM services. Amazon provides its Identity and Access Management service (Amazon IAM) while Azure offers Azure Entra ID (formerly known as Azure Active Directory).

Although they serve a similar purpose, there are differences in their implementation and capabilities. AWS IAM provides a broad range of features like multi-factor authentication, identity federation, and policy-based permissions, whereas Azure Entra provides features such as conditional access, identity protection, and access reviews.

3. Data Encryption

AWS supports encryption at rest and in transit. AWS Key Management Service (KMS) is used to create, control, and rotate encryption keys. AWS also provides automatic encryption for data stored in many of its services, including S3 and Elastic Block Storage (EBS).

Azure uses Azure Key Vault for key management. It also supports encryption at rest and in transit and provides automatic encryption for data stored in services like Azure Storage and SQL Database. However, Azure uniquely offers Transparent Data Encryption (TDE) for SQL Database and Azure Synapse Analytics, which automatically encrypts data at rest, in motion, and in use.

4. Virtual Private Cloud

Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) allows users to create a segregated section of the cloud where they can launch resources in a virtual network that they define. This virtual network closely resembles a traditional network that you’d operate in your own data center, but with the benefit of using scalable cloud infrastructure.

In AWS, the Amazon VPC service enables users to create their own isolated subsection of the AWS cloud. Within this environment, users can define IP address ranges, subnets, route tables, and network gateways. This setup allows for the creation of custom network topologies, such as public-facing subnet for servers that need to be accessible from the internet, and private-facing subnet for backend systems that shouldn’t be accessible from the internet. 

AWS VPC also provides Direct Connect, a secure private link from an on-premise environment to Amazon, and site-to-site VPN connections.

Azure offers a similar capability through Azure Virtual Network (VNet), allowing users to create their own private networks in the cloud. With Azure VNet, users can also define their own IP address ranges, subnets, route tables, and network gateways. In addition, Azure VNet provides advanced networking features such as Azure Private Link, which allows access to Azure service resources over a private endpoint within your virtual network. 

Like AWS, Azure supports site-to-site VPNs, allowing secure connections with your on-premises network, and ExpressRoute, which provides a private connection to Azure datacenters via a connectivity provider.

5. Cloud Monitoring

Azure provides Azure Monitor and Azure Security Center for cloud monitoring. Azure Monitor collects and analyses log data from your Azure resources, providing insights on the performance and operation of applications and resources. Azure Security Center provides unified security management and advanced threat protection for all Azure resources.

AWS uses Amazon CloudWatch and AWS Security Hub for cloud monitoring. Amazon CloudWatch is a monitoring service for AWS resources and the applications you run on AWS. AWS Security Hub gives you a comprehensive view of your security alerts and security posture across your AWS accounts.

6. Threat Detection

Threat detection in Azure is handled by Azure Security Center. It uses advanced analytics and global threat intelligence to detect incoming threats and post-breach activity. It can also integrate with Microsoft Sentinel (formerly Azure Sentinel), Microsoft’s cloud-native security information and event management (SIEM) service, providing a more comprehensive threat detection solution.

AWS uses Amazon GuardDuty, a threat detection service that continuously monitors for malicious activity and unauthorized behavior. It’s powered by machine learning, anomaly detection, and integrated threat intelligence to identify and prioritize potential threats.

While both platforms offer advanced threat detection, Azure Security Center, in particular when integrated with Microsoft Sentinel and other Microsoft security solutions, is considered to offer more robust threat detection features.

7. Key Management

Key management is another critical aspect of cloud security. Azure uses Azure Key Vault for managing cryptographic keys and other secrets used by cloud applications and services. It provides secure, scalable key management with support for hardware security modules (HSMs) for added security.

AWS uses the Amazon Key Management Service (KMS) for creating and managing cryptographic keys and controlling their use across AWS services. AWS KMS is integrated with AWS CloudTrail to provide you with logs of all key usage to help meet your regulatory and compliance needs.

Azure Security vs. AWS Security: Which Cloud is More Secure? 

The question of whether Azure or AWS is more secure does not have a simple answer, as both platforms provide comprehensive security features designed to meet the needs of a wide range of applications and compliance requirements. The security of a cloud environment largely depends on how these features are implemented and managed by the customer, in accordance with the shared responsibility model.

Both Azure and AWS invest heavily in security, compliance, and privacy. They adhere to global standards and certifications, ensuring that their infrastructure is secure from physical and cyber threats. Each platform offers a variety of tools and services for identity and access management, data encryption, network security, threat detection, and incident response, enabling customers to secure their cloud resources effectively.

The choice between Azure and AWS for security should be based on specific organizational requirements, existing infrastructure, and the specific features or services that align with the organization’s security policies and compliance needs. Factors such as the ease of integration with existing tools, the availability of specific security services, and the level of granularity in security controls might influence the decision.

Organizations should thoroughly assess their security requirements, consider the security features and services offered by both platforms, and possibly leverage the strengths of both through a multi-cloud strategy, if this suits their operational and security needs. Ultimately, the effectiveness of cloud security depends on adopting best practices, continuous monitoring, and regular assessments to adapt to the evolving threat landscape.

Cloud Security with Aqua

With Aqua Security, you get a complete security platform, which secures cloud native applications from start to finish, at any scale. The Aqua platform protects your entire stack, on any cloud, across VMs, containers, and serverless.

Aqua can help you secure your cloud by:

  • Protecting the build with a “shift left” approach to cloud native security that stops threats and vulnerabilities in their tracks — empowering DevOps to detect issues early and fix them fast. Aqua uses a combination of static and dynamic scanning to find vulnerabilities, malware, secrets, and other risks during development and staging. It also allows you to set flexible, dynamic policies to control deployment in your runtime environments.
  • Securing infrastructure, automating compliance and the security posture of your public cloud services, Infrastructure-as-Code templates, and Kubernetes against best practices and standards. This ensures that the infrastructure you run your applications on are securely configured and in compliance.
  • Protect workloads, including VMs, containers, and serverless functions, using granular controls that provide instant visibility and real-time detection and response. Aqua leverages modern micro-services concepts to enforce immutability of your applications in runtime, establishing zero-trust networking, and detecting and stopping suspicious activities, including zero-day attacks.
  • Secure hybrid cloud infrastructure with cloud native security over hybrid-cloud and multi-cloud deployments, with persistent controls that follow your workloads wherever they run.
Amit Sheps
Amit is the Director of Technical Product Marketing at Aqua. With an illustrious career spanning renowned companies such as CyberX (acquired by Microsoft) and F5, he has played an instrumental role in fortifying manufacturing floors and telecom networks. Focused on product management and marketing, Amit's expertise lies in the art of transforming applications into cloud-native powerhouses. Amit is an avid runner who relishes the tranquility of early morning runs. You may very well spot him traversing the urban landscape, reveling in the quietude of the city streets before the world awakes.