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Access Control for Azure Storage: A Comprehensive Guide

June 1, 2023
Written by
Rajesh Kanumuru

Table of Content

  1. Introduction 
  2. Role-based access control (RBAC)
  3. Shared access signatures (SAS)
  4. Other features by Azure
  5. The bottom line


Access control is a crucial aspect of cloud security, and Azure storage offers multiple options for managing access to your resources. In this blog post, we will look at the two primary access control mechanisms available in Azure storage: Role-based access control (RBAC) and Shared access signatures (SAS).

Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)

Role-based access control (RBAC) is a powerful tool that allows you to grant access to specific Azure resources based on a user's role within your organization. 

With RBAC, you can assign specific roles to users or groups, and these roles determine what actions the user can perform. For example, you might assign the "Storage Blob Data Contributor" role to a developer on your team, allowing them to read and write data to specific blobs in your storage account.

RBAC is a flexible system that allows you to grant access to a wide range of Azure resources, including storage accounts, virtual machines, and databases. 

RBAC is also highly customizable, allowing you to create custom roles that align with your organization's needs. This can help you ensure that users have only the access they need to do their job without granting unnecessary permissions that could lead to security issues.

Shared Access Signatures (SAS)

Shared access signatures (SAS) provide a different access control mechanism in Azure storage. SAS provides a URI that grants restricted access to Azure storage resources. This is a useful mechanism when you need to grant temporary access to your storage resources to users who are not part of your organization.

SAS tokens are created with specific permissions, such as read or write access, and can be set to expire after a specified time. This ensures that access to your storage resources is limited to only those users who need it and that the access is only available for the necessary amount of time.

Other Features by Azure

In addition to RBAC and SAS, Azure storage also offers Access Control Lists (ACLs) and container-level public access policies. 

Access Control Lists (ACLs) 

Access Control Lists (ACLs) in Azure storage allow you to manage access at the individual file level, giving you granular control over who can access specific files or directories within your storage account. This can be particularly useful when you need to grant access to specific files to users or groups while restricting access to others.

Each file and directory has an ACL associated with it, specifying the users and groups with permission to perform specific actions on that file or directory. ACLs can control reading, writing, executing, and deleting actions.

When a user tries to operate on files or directories, an ACL check is performed to ensure they have the necessary permissions to perform that action. The operation will be denied if the user does not have the required permissions.

ACLs can be set on individual files or directories or inherited from a parent directory. When an ACL is inherited, the permissions specified on the parent directory are applied to all files and directories contained within that directory.

They can be a powerful tool for managing access to your storage account at a granular level. Still, they can also be complex to manage, particularly in large storage accounts with many files and directories. It is important to carefully consider your access control needs and develop a clear plan for managing ACLs to ensure that your data remains secure and accessible only to those who need it.

Public Access Policies

Public access policies in Azure storage allow you to give public read access to blob data in your storage account. This can be a useful feature when you need to share data with external parties, such as partners or customers, without requiring them to have an Azure account. However, it is important to note that public access policies are disabled by default and should be used cautiously, as they can pose a significant security risk to your data.

When you enable public access policies, you essentially allow anyone with the URL to access the blob data in your storage account. Anyone can access the data, including potentially sensitive or confidential information if the URL is shared or leaked. Enabling public access policies can expose your storage account to denial of service (DoS) attacks or data breaches.

To mitigate the security risks associated with public access policies, it is important to consider your access control needs and configure policies accordingly carefully. For example, you can limit the scope of public access policies to specific containers or blobs rather than allowing access to the entire storage account. You can also set expiration dates for public access policies to limit the duration of access.

Monitor your storage account for unauthorized access or suspicious activity, such as unexpected spikes in traffic or unusual access patterns. This can help you detect and respond to potential security threats before they result in data loss or compromise.

The Bottom Line

Azure storage provides multiple options for managing access to your resources, including RBAC, SAS, ACLs, and container-level public access policies. 

By carefully configuring these access control mechanisms, you can ensure that only authorized users have access to your resources and that access is limited to what is necessary to perform their job. As cloud security becomes increasingly important, it is essential to understand these access control mechanisms and how to use them effectively to protect your organization's data.

If you want to learn more about Azure security, including RBAC and SAS, check out the courses offered by AppSecEngineer. These courses cover various Azure security topics, from introductory courses to more advanced topics like access control for Azure storage and practical Azure Key Vault. 

Investing in your security education can help protect your organization's data and stay ahead of evolving security threats!

Source for article
Rajesh Kanumuru

Rajesh Kanumuru

Rajesh Kanumuru works at we45 as a Cloud Security Lead. Rajesh is a builder and breaker of Cloud applications. He has created some pioneering works in the area of Cloud Security. He is actively researching the effects of emerging technologies on cloud security. Since 2020, Rajesh has mostly been involved with research, development and building solutions around we45 and AppSecEngineer's training offerings. He consults with organizations to help them implement Cloud Security successfully. Rajesh has co-authored and trained a course on Purple Team AWS that was delivered by we45 at BlackHat USA. When AFK, he can be found on the cricket pitch.

Rajesh Kanumuru


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