Azure Security Center and Microsoft Defender ATP Integration

6 min read

Introduction

Within the realm of endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions, Azure Security Center, and Microsoft Defender ATP, I often get asked by customers the following question:

How Azure Security Center integrates with Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) to protect Windows server machines, do we need a separate license, do we still need access to Microsoft Defender Security Center portal?

In this article, I will clarify those frequent questions and share with you how Azure Security Center (ASC) integrates with Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (MDATP) so you can harness the power of these solutions.

Microsoft Defender ATP (MDATP)

Microsoft Defender ATP is a platform designed to help enterprise networks prevent, detect, investigate, and respond to advanced threats. Microsoft Defender ATP is a full endpoint detection and response (EDR) available on a range of operating systems–Windows 10, macOS, Linux (in public preview), iOS and Android (both in private preview). The platform offers preventive protection, post-breach detection, and automated investigation and response. These alerts indicate attacks, compromises, and other threat indicators which can be automatically or manually remediated.

Microsoft Defender ATP provides the following capabilities:

  • Advanced post-breach detection sensors: Microsoft Defender ATP sensors for Windows servers collect a vast array of behavioral signals.
  • Analytics-based, cloud-powered post-breach detection: Microsoft Defender ATP quickly adapts to changing threats. It uses advanced analytics and big data. Microsoft Defender ATP is amplified by the power of the Intelligent Security Graph with signals across Windows, Azure, and Office to detect unknown threats. It provides actionable alerts and enables you to respond quickly.
  • Threat intelligence: Microsoft Defender ATP generates alerts when it identifies attacker tools, techniques, and procedures. It uses data generated by Microsoft threat hunters and security teams, augmented by intelligence provided by partners.

Microsoft Defender Security Center (https://securitycenter.windows.com) is the portal where you can access Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection capabilities. It gives you and your security operations teams a single pane of glass experience to help secure your networks and endpoints.

For more information about Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection, please check Microsoft documentation.

Azure Security Center (ASC)

Azure Security Center gives you complete visibility and control over the security of hybrid cloud workloads, including compute, network, storage, identity, and application workloads. Azure Security Center (ASC) has two mains value proposition:

  1. Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) – Helps you prevent misconfiguration to strengthen your security posture for all different types of cloud workloads and resources in Azure (IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS).
  2. Cloud Workload Protection Platform (CWPP) – Protect against threats for servers whether they are running in Azure, on-premises or different clouds such as Amazon AWS or Google GCP, in additional to cloud-native workloads such as Web Apps, Kubernetes, Key Vaults, as well as for SQL databases (PaaS/VM) and storage accounts.

Azure Security Center is meant to be that one tool that gives you a unified overview of your hybrid cloud environment’s current security configuration and informs you about current threats and attacks against your workloads and services.

For more information about Azure Security Center, please check Microsoft documentation.

ASC and MDATP integration

For Azure Security Center to integrate with Microsoft Defender ATP, you need to make sure that:

  1. Security Center standard tier is enabled.
    • For Azure VMs, you need the standard tier enabled on the subscription level as shown below.
    • For Non-Azure VMs (on-premises / other clouds), you need to enable the standard tier at the workspace level only as shown below.
  2. To enable integration and data collection between ASC and MDATP, you need to allow Defender ATP to access your data in the Security Center | Pricing & Settings page under (Settings->Threat detection) as shown below.
  3. Last, you need to have the (MMA) agent properly installed and configured on each server. Microsoft Defender ATP in Security Center supports detection on Windows Server 2019, 2016, 2012 R2, and 2008 R2 SP1 only. Please check the following article to learn more on how to onboard Windows server machines to Security Center. At the time of this writing, please note that Windows Server 2019 integration with ASC for MDATP is not supported yet. It is on the roadmap.

The good news is from the virtual machine threat detection perspective, Security Center integrates with Microsoft Defender ATP, what that really means is, Security Center will deploy the Microsoft Defender ATP sensor for Windows servers as part of the standard tier, so you don’t have to pay any extra license for Defender ATP, this will enable an entirely new set of capabilities from this powerful EDR solution which is based on behavioral analytics. If the Defender ATP identifies malicious activity, it will then trigger an alert on its own, but the alert goes to Microsoft Defender Security Center portal, and then it’s also showing in Security Center | Security alerts portal, now you can utilize Security Center dashboard as your centralized location for the alerts triage that you usually do, so you will be able to see not only the alerts that generated by Security Center analytics but also the alerts generated by Microsoft Defender ATP.

When you integrate Azure Security Center with Microsoft Defender ATP, you have also connected to your Azure Active Directory tenant, as well as to Azure Security Center. As mentioned above, MDATP gives you the alert in the Azure Security Center dashboard. To uncover more information about a breach, you can explore the details in the interactive Investigation Path within Security Center alerts page as shown in the below figure.

But if you want to dig deeper into these alerts, then you should look at it from the Microsoft Defender Security Center portal. Here is an example of how the ‘Incident graph‘ looks like in the ATP portal to understand this suspicious activity.

You can also drill further and see the ‘Alert process tree‘ in details. This is so powerful.

Please note that having access to the Security Center portal is not enough, you still should have access to the Microsoft Defender Security Center portal to be able to completely manage the virtual machine in there. So, what you get with Azure Security Center is the management configuration and alerts, and not the management portal.

Summary

Microsoft Defender ATP and Azure Security Center are completely two different products, the former is dedicated for endpoint protection and the latter is for Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM), and Cloud Workload Protection Platform (CWPP) scenarios, however, by integrating Security Center with Microsoft Defender ATP it gives you a single pane of management to monitor your servers and to respond and investigate in case of an incident.

Azure Security Center team works closely with the Microsoft Defender ATP team for endpoint protection which is part of the ‘Standard Tier’ of Security Center, so when you pay $15 per server to protect your virtual machines, you also get the Defender ATP license activated on these machines.

Additional resources I highly encourage you to check:

Azure Security Center (ASC) harnesses the power of Microsoft Defender ATP (MDATP) to provide improved threat detection for Windows Servers whether they are running on-premises, on Azure, or in other cloud environments. Microsoft’s vast threat intelligence enables MDATP to identify and notify you of attackers’ tools and techniques, so you can understand threats and respond quickly.

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Thank you for reading my blog.

If you have any questions or feedback, please leave a comment.

-Charbel Nemnom-

About Charbel Nemnom 569 Articles
Charbel Nemnom is a Cloud Architect, Swiss Certified ICT Security Expert, Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP), and Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT), totally fan of the latest's IT platform solutions, accomplished hands-on technical professional with over 17 years of broad IT Infrastructure experience serving on and guiding technical teams to optimize the performance of mission-critical enterprise systems. Excellent communicator is adept at identifying business needs and bridging the gap between functional groups and technology to foster targeted and innovative IT project development. Well respected by peers through demonstrating passion for technology and performance improvement. Extensive practical knowledge of complex systems builds, network design, business continuity, and cloud security.

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