Microsoft and Imperva Collaboration Bolsters Data Compliance and Security Capabilities


This article explains how Imperva SecureSphere V13.2 has leveraged the latest Microsoft EventHub enhancements to help customers maintain compliance and security controls as regulated or sensitive data is migrated to Azure SQL database instances.

Database as a Service Benefits

Platform as a Service (PaaS) database offerings such as Azure SQL are rapidly becoming a popular option for organizations deploying databases in the cloud.  One of the benefits of Azure SQL, which is essentially a Relational Database as a Service (RDaaS), is that all of the database infrastructure administrative tasks and maintenance are taken care of by Microsoft – and this is proving to be a very compelling value proposition to many Imperva customers.

Security is a Shared Service

What you should remember with any data migration to a cloud service, is that while hardware and software platform maintenance is no longer your burden, you still retain the responsibility for security and regulatory compliance.  Cloud vendors generally implement their services in a Shared Security Model.  Microsoft explains this in a whitepaper you can read here.

To paraphrase in the extreme, Microsoft takes responsibility for the security of the cloud, while customers have responsibility for security in the cloud.   This means Microsoft provides the services and tools (such as firewalls) to secure the infrastructure (such as networking and compute machines), while you are responsible for application and database security.   Though this discussion is about how it works with Azure SQL, the table below from the Microsoft paper referenced above shows the shared responsibility progression across all of their cloud offerings.

Figure 1:  Shared responsibility model from the Microsoft Whitepaper Shared Responsibilities for Cloud Computing

Brief Description of How Continuous Azure SQL Monitoring Works

SecureSphere applies multiple services in the oversight of data hosted by Azure SQL.  The Services include but are not limited to the following:

  • Database vulnerability assessment
  • Sensitive data discovery and classification
  • User activity monitoring and audit data consolidation
  • Audit data analytics
  • Reporting

The vulnerability assessment and data discovery are done by scanning engines that have some kind of service account access to database interfaces.  The activity monitoring is done by a customizable policy engine, pre-populated with compliance and security rules for common compliance and security requirements such as separation of duties – but fully customizable for company or industry-specific requirements.

With Azure SQL, SecureSphere monitoring and audit activity leverages the Microsoft EventHub service.  Recent enhancements to EventHub, on which Microsoft and Imperva collaborated, provide a streaming interface to database log records that Imperva SecureSphere ingests, analyzes with its policy engine (and other advanced user behavior analytics), and then takes appropriate action to prioritize, flag, notify, or alert security analysts or database administrators about the issues.

Figure 2:  Database monitoring event flow for a critical security alert

Benefits of Imperva SecureSphere for Azure SQL Customers

A Key benefit that a solution such as SecureSphere Database Activity Monitoring (DAM) provides is integrating the oversight of Azure SQL into a broad oversight lifecycle all enterprise databases.  With SecureSphere, here are some things you can do to ensure the security of your data in the cloud:

  • Secure Hybrid enterprise database environments: While many organizations now pursue a “cloud first” policy of locating new applications in the cloud, few are in a position to move all existing databases out of the data center, so they usually maintain a hybrid database estate – which SecureSphere easily supports.
  • Continuously monitor cloud database services: You can migrate data to the cloud without losing visibility and control. SecureSphere covers dozens of on-premises relational database types, mainframe databases, and big data platforms.  It supports Azure SQL and other RDaaS too – enabling you to always know who is accessing your data and what they are doing with it.
  • Standardize and automate security, risk management, and compliance practices: SecureSphere implements a common policy for oversight and security across all on-premises and cloud databases.  If SecureSphere detects that a serious policy violation has occurred, such as unauthorized user activity,  it can immediately alert you.  All database log records are consolidated and made available to a central management console to streamline audit discovery and produce detailed reports for regulations such as SOX, PCI DSS and more.
  • Continuously assess database vulnerabilities: SecureSphere Discovery and Assessment streamlines vulnerability assessment at the data layer. It provides a comprehensive list of over 1500 tests and assessment policies for scanning platform, software, and configuration vulnerabilities. The vulnerability assessment process, which can be fully customized, uses industry best practices such as DISA STIG and CIS benchmarks.

It’s critically important that organizations extend traditional database compliance and security controls as they migrate data to new database architectures such as Azure SQL. Imperva SecureSphere V13.2 provides a platform to incorporate oversight of Azure SQL instances into broad enterprise compliance and security processes that include both cloud and on-premises, and data assets.