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Azure Security vs. AWS Security: A Comparative Analysis

To help you make an informed decision, we've crafted a comprehensive comparison of AWS and Azure security, empowering you to select the cloud provider that seamlessly integrates with your unique needs.

Wiz Experts Team
10 min read

Navigating the complexities of cloud security can be daunting, especially when choosing between Azure and AWS. While both providers offer a suite of security features, understanding the subtle differences in their approaches is crucial for aligning your cloud strategy with your specific business goals.

To help you make an informed decision, we've crafted a comprehensive comparison of AWS and Azure security, empowering you to select the cloud provider that seamlessly integrates with your unique needs.

Identity access management

Identity access management (IAM) is a crucial aspect of cloud security that ensures only authorized individuals or systems have access to resources within a cloud environment and that those authorized parties have access only to what they need and nothing additional. AWS and Azure both offer cloud-based IAM solutions that can be configured to meet your organization’s requirements.

AWS Identity and Access Management

AWS uses the concept of IAM roles to define which actions can be performed by identities assigned to specific roles. Roles can be applied to users, groups, applications, or services, and you can create AWS IAM policies to define what actions are allowed on particular AWS resources. Written in JSON, these policies can be attached to users, groups, or roles for fine-grained access. 

AWS IAM basics (Source: AWS)

AWS also offers an identity federation service that helps to integrate with on-premises identity systems. This service supports identity federation for systems using open-identity standards like Security Assertion Markup Language 2.0 (SAML 2.0), OAuth 2.0, and OpenID Connect (OIDC). If you are using any of these identity solutions on-premises or on any other cloud service, you can integrate them using AWS IAM or AWS IAM Identity Center

AWS IAM also has some additional noteworthy security features, such as attribute-based access control (ABAC) in place of role-based access control, multi-factor authentication (MFA), log integration, and out-of-the-box integration with AWS services.

Microsoft Entra ID (IAM in Azure)

Microsoft Entra ID (formerly Azure Active Directory) is the cloud IAM solution in Azure. To manage access to Azure resources, you can leverage role-based access control (RBAC) with identities you’ve created in Microsoft Entra ID. RBAC involves role definition consisting of fine-grained permissions, the scope at which the role needs to be applied, and the security principals to be added to that role. Security principals could be users, groups, or identities associated with an application. You can use predefined Azure roles (such as owner or contributor) or create your own custom roles. 

Microsoft Entra ID Diagram (Source: Microsoft)
Microsoft Entra ID Diagram (Source: Microsoft)

One definite advantage that Azure has over AWS is its first-party on-premises identity ecosystem based on Microsoft Active Directory. For organizations that use Microsoft Active Directory, hybrid integration is seamless using Microsoft Entra Connect, which can be used to synchronize identities from on-premises Active Directory with Azure. You can also integrate other identity management systems based on SAML, OpenID Connect, and OAuth 2.0. And Azure AD B2C helps you develop custom connectors to facilitate integration with other identity providers.

Microsoft Entra ID offers additional enterprise-level capabilities like multi-factor authentication (MFA), SSO, conditional access, and privileged identity management. Another great feature Azure offers is out-of-the-box IAM integration with other Azure services.

Logging and monitoring

Both AWS and Azure provide comprehensive logging and monitoring capabilities to give customers insights into the status and health of hosted workloads. Let’s look at how they stack up.

AWS CloudWatch Logs

AWS CloudWatch workflow (Source: AWS Docs)

AWS offers comprehensive log analytics capabilities through AWS CloudWatch Logs, which can be used for staging and querying logs collated from various AWS resources. (One thing to note: The querying capability can be quite limited and might require integration with additional tools like AWS Elasticsearch for advanced analytics.) 

To provide visibility and help you audit access to various AWS resources, you can use AWS CloudTrail, which can record an audit trail of API calls to AWS resources. Looking for application diagnostics? AWS X-Ray can trace and collect performance data from AWS-hosted applications. For resource monitoring, you can leverage the metrics provided by CloudWatch, which also acts as a central location for consolidation of metrics from different AWS resources. For monitoring network traffic, the VPC Flow Logs service provides visibility into the traffic flow between Amazon VPCs.

Azure Monitor Logs

Azure offers Azure Monitor Logs as a central hub for log analysis. You can use Azure Monitor Logs to run robust queries and conduct in-depth analyses to gain meaningful insights. To get visibility into activities associated with Azure resources, you can use Azure audit logs and activity logs.

Log queries in Azure Monitor (Source: Microsoft)

Azure Diagnostics is a service that is designed to collect data like metrics, logs, and traces for performance monitoring as well as troubleshooting. Azure Application Insights delivers deep insights into the performance and usage of applications hosted in Azure, as well as debugging reports. 

For centralized metrics monitoring, Azure provides Azure Monitor, which also supports collecting metrics from multi-cloud and hybrid environments. Finally, for visibility into network traffic in Azure VNets, you can use Azure Network Watcher service for network diagnostics and visualization capabilities out of the box.

Compliance

Compliance management processes vary across different organizations and are affected by numerous factors, including your industry, geographic location, and the sensitivity of the data you handle. While both AWS and Azure offer comprehensive compliance management capabilities, making a choice between them depends on the specific needs and requirements of your organization.

AWS compliance capabilities

Along with AWS IAM, you can use AWS Organizations for managing and segregating multiple accounts. AWS Control Tower is a service that you can leverage to design an AWS environment aligned with compliance best practices. Additionally, you can take advantage of AWS Config to continuously assess, audit, and evaluate your AWS configuration and ensure alignment with a desired configuration baseline. AWS Config can be used in conjunction with AWS Trusted Advisor, a service that offers best practice recommendations for resource optimization.

AWS config architecture (Source: AWS)

AWS also has you covered when it comes to documentation and compliance reports for leading industry standards, such as GDPR, PCI DSS, and HIPAA. These compliance records, including audit reports and certifications, are accessible through the AWS Artifact portal.

Azure compliance capabilities

To enforce compliance policies in Azure, Azure Policy helps you implement predefined and customizable restrictions. Azure Blueprints lets you create reusable governance artifacts. These services can be used in conjunction with a resource hierarchy you can establish using Azure management groups, subscriptions, resource groups, and resources.

Setting policy definitions in Azure Policy (Source: Microsoft)

Azure Policy along with the Microsoft Defender for Cloud service can continuously assess your Azure environments against defined baselines to ensure compliance. While Azure Policy helps with implementing rules and configurations aligned with compliance standards, Microsoft Defender for Cloud can continuously assess for non-compliant resources and flag them. Azure Trust Center is the one-stop portal for audit compliance reports and certifications in accordance with leading compliance standards.

Threat Detection

The choice of threat detection services in AWS and Azure depends on many factors, such as integration with existing services and specific threat detection and reporting requirements. In addition to threat detection, you also need to evaluate the remediation capabilities required for your organization.

Threat detection in AWS

AWS Config detects non-compliant configurations that could be exploited by threat actors. Still, you should also follow the recommendations from AWS Trusted Advisor to eliminate security loopholes. For dynamic protection from threats, you can take advantage of services like Amazon GuardDuty, which leverages machine learning to analyze inputs from various sources, including VPC Flow Logs, DNS logs, and CloudTrail events to detect potential threats.

AWS Security Hub provides a holistic view of your AWS security posture by consolidating information from various sources. Note that it cannot be considered a security orchestration and event management (SIEM) tool because it cannot collate larger volumes of logs or correlate them. Instead, you’ll have to rely on a third-party/marketplace tool to meet your SIEM needs. 

AWS supports integration with multiple third-party tools and services specializing in threat detection and reporting. Of course, AWS also offers native reporting capabilities available through services like AWS Management Console, AWS CLI, and APIs.

Threat detection in Azure

Microsoft Defender for Cloud offers static threat detection by evaluating resources to prevent misconfigurations while also providing recommendations to remediate them. Microsoft Defender for Cloud can also provide real-time dynamic threat detection by analyzing data from various Azure resources, applications, and network traffic. You can configure remediation in Microsoft Defender for Cloud manually or automate it using Azure Logic Apps.

Wiz integration with Microsoft Sentinel

Microsoft Sentinel offers comprehensive SIEM capabilities natively in Azure. You’ll also find native security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR) capabilities that can be used for detecting attacks, gaining visibility into threats, and facilitating a proactive response.

While Azure offers integration with third-party security services and tools for threat detection and reporting, one of its biggest strengths is its integration with existing Microsoft security solutions.

Security Posture Management

Cloud security posture management (CSPM) is a set of tools, processes, and practices that help you maintain and manage your security posture across cloud infrastructure, apps, and data. Let’s look closer at AWS Security Hub vs. Azure Security Center (now called Microsoft Defender for Cloud). 

AWS Security Hub

The cloud security posture management service offered by AWS is named AWS Security Hub. It checks the status of security best practices, identifies misconfigurations, creates alerts, and carries out automated remediation of security threats across AWS accounts and regions. AWS Security Hub can also check the configuration of your services against industry-standard security benchmarks, such as CIS and PCI.

AWS Security Hub CIS controls (Source: AWS)

AWS Security Hub provides limited integration with on-premises and other clouds through its hybrid activation capability. Other important integration capabilities include the ability to consolidate security findings by integrating third-party security products with AWS. Furthermore, AWS Security Hub can enrich any findings with contextual information, remediate threats, or forward information to third-party ticketing systems. Auto-remediation is done through integration with Amazon Eventbridge, where you can automate how different AWS services respond to flagged system events. AWS Security Hub also offers a centralized dashboard that helps consolidate findings from different sources for easy visibility and reporting.

Microsoft Defender for Cloud: Azure’s CSPM solution

Microsoft Defender for Cloud is Azure’s cloud security posture management service. In addition to providing visibility into the status of your security posture and flagging misconfigurations, it also provides hardening guidance. While some of these foundational features are free, Microsoft also offers capabilities for compliance management, attack path analysis, and advanced threat hunting in a Defender CSPM pricing tier. Microsoft Defender for Cloud is flexible: The service can also extend protection to Microsoft and Linux servers running in Azure, AWS, GCP, as well as on-premises environments. 

Microsoft Defender for Cloud has regulatory and compliance benchmarking enabled for leading security standards and can also be used to check compliance of resources in AWS and GCP in addition to Azure. The centralized dashboard view provides visibility into the security and compliance status of multiple environments. And automated remediation is a streamlined process: You can configure workflow automation using Azure Logic Apps for Microsoft Defender for Cloud findings.

Key management and encryption

Key management and encryption are essential means of securing sensitive data and safeguarding the confidentiality and integrity of information stored in the cloud. 

AWS Key Management Service

AWS Key Management Service (KMS) lets you create encryption keys and manage their lifecycle. KMS can be used for server-side encryption of various AWS services, such as AWS RDS, Amazon EBS, and Amazon S3. For enabling client-side encryption, you can leverage AWS KMS together with AWS Encryption SDK.

As a native AWS service, integrating KMS with other AWS services is fairly seamless. You can use it in conjunction with AWS CloudTrail to monitor and audit key usage. AWS KMS supports automatic key rotation for all AWS-managed keys, and automatic key rotation is available as an optional feature for customer-managed keys.

Azure Key Vault

The native key management service in Azure is called Azure Key Vault, which allows you to create, manage, and store cryptographic keys and secrets at scale. Azure Key Vault supports server-side encryption for services such as Azure Storage, Azure Managed Disks, and Azure SQL Database. Azure also offers client-side encryption.

Azure Key Vault integrates out of the box with most Azure services, including Azure Monitor, which can help with logging and auditing key access. Finally, Azure Key Vault supports automated key rotation policies, providing customers with more control over the encryption-key lifecycle.

Network Security

Making informed cloud security decisions relies on a clear understanding of AWS and Azure network security services. Let’s dive in.

AWS network security

Network segregation in AWS is done using Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC). To isolate cloud resources, it offers features such as subnets, route tables, security groups, and network access control lists (ACLs), controlling the network traffic flow between different components. AWS PrivateLink is another service that strengthens network security by enabling secure access to AWS services over the AWS global network without exposure to the internet.

AWS also offers Web Application Firewall (WAF) to protect applications from common exploits in addition to the firewall-like capabilities offered by network ACLs at the network layer. AWS Shield provides managed DDoS protection service, keeping you safe from volumetric and application-layer DDoS attacks.

Azure network security

Azure Virtual Network (VNet) is the logical network construct that offers network segregation in Azure, with features such as subnets, route tables, and network security groups (NSGs). NSGs and Azure Firewall control inbound and outbound traffic for Azure resources. NSGs also act as a distributed firewall to control traffic at network-interface level or subnet level. 

Azure Virtual Network service endpoints and Azure Private Link facilitate secure access to Azure services without exposing them to the public internet. And the Azure DDoS Protection service, available through a tiered pricing plan, helps shield Azure applications from DDoS attacks.

Enhancing cloud native security with Wiz

Whether you choose Azure or AWS to meet your cloud needs, it’s essential to keep security best practices in mind. As cyber threats intensify, a key best practice is enhancing native security standards with specialized tools aligned with business objectives, especially if you have multi-cloud environments.

Wiz offers comprehensive cloud security through a portfolio of enterprise-class services that include CSPM, vulnerability management, data security posture management (DSPM) and cloud infrastructure entitlement management (CIEM).

Our cloud native application protection platform (CNAPP) offers 100% visibility into workloads distributed among different clouds through our graph-based, agentless solution, which leads the industry in prioritizing and resolving security issues. Wiz's real-time threat detection and end-to-end visibility enable you to track and eliminate attack vectors, helping you augment the native capabilities available in Azure and AWS.

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