Strengthening security: 5 lessons to learn from Microsoft's recent Azure and Exchange server challenges

The recent data breach of Microsoft’s Azure platform and Exchange servers highlights the importance of proactively preparing for cyberattacks. 

Technology powerhouse Microsoft recently faced a major data breach of its Azure platform and Exchange servers, affecting hundreds of executive accounts. The breach exposed critical vulnerabilities, emphasizing the importance of robust security measures and best practices for cloud services and remote access.

In this blog post, I’ll explore the incident, the vulnerabilities behind it, and five ways that you can safeguard your own digital infrastructure from unauthorized access.

Azure data breach

The breach of Microsoft's Azure platform involved user impersonation, data extraction, and financial fraud. It primarily affected mid- and senior-level executives. Hackers from Nigeria and Russia worked through proxy servers, targeting corporate cloud accounts. The criminals compromised hundreds of executive accounts by embedding documents with malicious links that led to phishing websites.

Microsoft's security faces renewed scrutiny, as this breach resembles a July 2023 incident, when Chinese hackers accessed data on the Azure platform.

Exchange server vulnerabilities

Microsoft disclosed a privilege escalation bug in Exchange servers, CVE-2024-21410, which allowed unauthorized attackers to gain remote access. The bug also allowed attackers to relay Windows NT Lan Manager (NTLM) hashes to steal credentials and impersonate legitimate users.

Two additional zero-day vulnerabilities on Exchange servers were revealed. CVE-2024-21412 contains a security feature bypass, and CVE-2024-21351, a SmartScreen bypass. Both of these vulnerabilities were patched by the February 13 update.

What can organizations do?

Organizations concerned with cyberattacks should act to strengthen their security posture and prepare for remediation efforts. How? Here are five strategies to put in place right now.

  1. Conduct frequent security audits, which will allow you to proactively identify and mitigate potential threats.
  2. Keep software current with timely updates including security fixes, like Microsoft’s February 13 update addressing Exchange server vulnerabilities.
  3. Implement user education and training to help reduce unauthorized access by helping employees recognize phishing attempts, avoid malicious links, and safeguard privileged credentials.
  4. Collaborate with government security agencies to improve threat intelligence, leading to more resilient cybersecurity.
  5. Partner with cybersecurity experts who offer services that let you level up your ability to manage under IT skills gaps and resource constraints.

No one is immune to cyberattacks

Microsoft's recent security incidents are a reminder that even industry giants are not immune to cyber threats. Organizations must prioritize security with a strategic approach that understands the ever-changing cybersecurity landscape.

Learn more about how Imprivata solutions can mitigate ransomware and cyber risks.