How to protect your MSP business and your clients from Azure fraud

Roger Harris, Director of Risk and Anti-Fraud
Pax8 Azure 2024 Blog

Microsoft Azure maintains its presence as one of the leading cloud platforms by offering a wide range of services to meet diverse business needs. Its suite of infrastructure and continuity solutions have enabled small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to build, store, and secure their data at a level that compares with enterprise organizations through the power of Microsoft’s cloud technology. But with the increasing popularity of Azure, the risk of Azure consumption fraud has also grown significantly. And reported cases of Azure fraud have escalated accordingly, posing substantial risks for organizations and individuals.

Below, we’ll detail why this increase in Azure fraud is happening—and what you can do about it as a managed service provider (MSP).

What is Azure consumption fraud and why is it such a problem now?

The global pandemic prompted a rapid shift toward cloud services, including Azure, as businesses increasingly sought flexible and scalable solutions. Unfortunately, cybercriminals capitalized on this trend, targeting the vulnerabilities associated with increased cloud adoption.

This led to an increase in Azure consumption fraud, which refers to unauthorized usage or misuse of Microsoft Azure services, leading to financial losses and security risks. Cybercriminals exploit vulnerabilities in Azure services to carry out fraudulent activities, such as using stolen credit card information, launching phishing campaigns, or hijacking Azure resources for cryptocurrency mining.

Unauthorized individuals or groups can hijack Azure instances, consuming resources and increasing costs for legitimate Azure users. These actions not only result in financial losses but also pose severe security threats, compromising the integrity of Azure services and potentially exposing sensitive data.

How Pax8 helps partners mitigate the damage of Azure fraud

We have seen multiple partners fall victim to consumption issues, including fraud, beginning in 2022 and continuing all the way into the new year. Since our earliest days in business, we have been dedicated to helping our partners be successful, and dealing with Azure consumption fraud is no different. In fact, part of the rationale for my joining the Pax8 team was to find a scalable solution that would protect Pax8 partners from suffering a potentially catastrophic incident.

To address this, we knew that we needed to gather as much information as possible and quickly focused on researching and proposing solutions to the myriad problems that Azure overconsumption and fraud can cause. Then, we built and deployed enhanced monitoring features that flag potential issues in real-time, in an effort to lessen the likelihood of an attack escalating severely before detection.

Outside of our work, Microsoft has also helped partners affected by incidents of fraud through enhanced monitoring and usage alerts within their systems. Ultimately, this is now a known issue, and many within the ecosystem have taken steps to mitigate the worst of an Azure consumption fraud or attack. My team has seen a decrease in both the number and severity of attacks before their detection throughout the past several months, but that doesn’t mean partners don’t need to stay informed of potential risks for themselves and their clients.

What partners must do to prepare and stay secure

Partners are responsible for the consequences of Azure consumption fraud and attacks, and therefore should take steps to prepare accordingly. Alongside our work and that of Microsoft, here are some crucial steps you should implement to protect your business from Azure consumption fraud:

  • Monitor Azure consumption: Regularly review your Azure consumption and billing statements to detect any unauthorized usage or suspicious activities promptly. Implement tools and solutions that provide real-time monitoring and alerts for unusual usage patterns. Azure can quickly become a complex tool, and MSPs need to remain vigilant on how Azure usage is implemented and maintained.
  • Strengthen identity and access management (IAM): Implement robust IAM systems within your Azure environment. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) and other secure access frameworks are paramount to keeping any organization protected from many security threats, Azure fraud included. By properly managing user access and authentication protocols, you can prevent unauthorized individuals from exploiting your cloud resources.
  • Educate your team and your clients: Create awareness among your employees and your clients about the risks associated with Azure consumption fraud. Train them in best practices for securely managing Azure resources, recognizing phishing attempts, and reporting suspicious activities.
  • Leverage security features: Take advantage of the security features and tools provided by Microsoft Azure. Azure Security Center, for instance, helps you detect and prevent fraudulent activities by continuously monitoring your Azure environment and providing actionable insights.
  • Establish frequent reviews: Routinely review and implement Microsoft Azure security best practices to stay on top of developments and adjust your plans as necessary.

Fraud, like many security issues, is not ever a “fixed” problem. There is nothing that can fully protect against the possibility of consumption issues, but there are several ways to mitigate the impact on your business and that of your clients’ businesses.

Although this issue can be vexing for partners and their clients alike, we can help. Schedule a call with a Pax8 representative to discuss how solutions on our Marketplace and our Professional Services team can help you get what you need to effectively combat Azure fraud.

Schedule a call