Responding to Azure Account Breaches

Estimated read time 5 min read

Cybersecurity incidents, particularly breaches of cloud services like Microsoft Azure, can cause significant disruption and financial impact for businesses. This article provides a step-by-step guide on responding to an Azure account breach where unauthorized virtual machines (VMs) are created, leading to heightened costs.

Step 1: Secure Your Account

Once a breach is detected, the first priority is securing your account. Reset your Azure account’s credentials immediately. Use complex passwords and enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) for an added layer of security. If multiple users have access, make sure they also update their credentials.

Step 2: Assess the Breach

Identify which resources are affected. In the case of unauthorized VM creation, check the Azure portal to view all active VMs. Cross-reference this list with your records to identify any unauthorized machines.

Step 3: Contain the Breach

Stop the unauthorized VMs as soon as possible. Doing this will help mitigate ongoing costs and potentially halt further malicious activity. Remember to keep detailed records of your actions, as they might be necessary for further analysis or potential legal actions.

Step 4: Investigate

Investigate the breach to understand how it happened. Azure provides numerous logging and monitoring features that can assist you. This includes Azure Monitor, Azure Security Center, and Azure Activity Log. Determine if the breach originated from an internal source or from an external hacker.

Step 5: Engage Forensic Experts

If possible, engage a team of cybersecurity forensic experts. These specialists can help analyze the breach, identify the source, and suggest remedial steps. Their report can also be invaluable in dealing with any legal or regulatory issues that may arise.

Step 6: Contact Microsoft Support

Reach out to Microsoft Support. They can provide guidance on resolving the breach and preventing future incidents. Report the incident details, which might help them identify similar patterns in other attacks, contributing to the broader cybersecurity community’s knowledge.

If you have access to your Azure portal:

If you do not have access:

Step 7: Improve Security Measures

After addressing the immediate impact, focus on improving your security posture. This could include reviewing user access rights, ensuring least privilege is practiced, implementing advanced threat protection, and regularly auditing your environment for unusual activity.

Step 8: Employee Training

Educate your employees on cybersecurity best practices. Often, breaches can be the result of phishing or other social engineering attacks. Regular training can help your team recognize and prevent these attacks.

Step 9: Review Billing

Finally, reach out to Microsoft regarding the financial impact of the unauthorized VMs. Microsoft understands that breaches can lead to unplanned costs and, in some instances, might be able to provide assistance or adjustments.

Cybersecurity breaches can be disruptive, but with immediate action and a structured response, the damage can be mitigated. In the evolving digital landscape, a proactive approach to cybersecurity is essential to protect your company’s assets, reputation, and bottom line.

The Aftermath of Azure Breaches

The consequences of Azure account breaches can be extensive and damaging, given the extensive capabilities and resources that Azure provides. Here’s a look at some potential activities cybercriminals can engage in once they have breached an Azure account:

Unauthorized Resource Utilization

Once they’ve gained access, cybercriminals can freely utilize your resources for their own purposes. They could deploy additional services, use your storage, or leverage your processing power. This not only leads to direct financial loss but could also slow down your operations or result in service outages.

Data Theft or Manipulation

A breached Azure account can expose sensitive data stored in Azure databases or other storage services. Cybercriminals can steal this data for malicious purposes like identity theft, corporate espionage, or selling on the dark web. They could also alter or delete data, causing significant operational disruptions.

Infrastructure Abuse

Attackers could use your Azure environment as a launching pad for other attacks. For instance, they might use your resources to conduct DDoS attacks, send spam emails, or host malicious content, which could lead to your IP addresses being blacklisted.


Perhaps one of the most insidious activities that a hacker can engage in is cryptomining. Using your Azure resources, attackers can deploy crypto-mining malware that mines cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin. These operations consume substantial computational power and can result in significant cost spikes for Azure services.

Ransom Attacks

Cybercriminals could also lock your data or services using ransomware and then demand a ransom to restore access. Given the critical role of Azure services in many businesses, this could lead to significant operational disruptions and financial losses.

How do Azure accounts get breached?

Azure accounts, just like any other cloud services, can get breached due to a number of reasons. Here are some possible causes:

  1. Weak or Reused Passwords: Using simple or common passwords, or reusing passwords across multiple accounts, makes it easy for attackers to guess or crack your credentials.
  2. Lack of Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Without MFA, if an attacker obtains your password, they can gain access to your account. MFA adds an extra layer of security by requiring a second form of verification.
  3. Phishing Attacks: Cybercriminals often use phishing emails or websites to trick users into revealing their login credentials.
  4. Malware: Malicious software can be used to steal credentials or gain unauthorized access to your systems.
  5. Insider Threats: Disgruntled employees or those with malicious intent can misuse their access privileges to compromise an Azure account.
  6. Misconfigured Security Settings: Incorrectly configured access controls, network security rules, or storage settings can inadvertently expose your Azure resources to potential attackers.
  7. Outdated Software: Running outdated software can leave your systems vulnerable to exploits that attackers can leverage to gain unauthorized access.
  8. Lack of Regular Auditing: Regular audits help to identify potential security vulnerabilities and fix them before they can be exploited.
  9. API Keys Exposure: If API keys are inadvertently exposed, perhaps in public repositories, configuration files, or logs, they can be exploited to gain access to your Azure account.

Done reading? Read our Cyberattack Defense 101: Essential Tips for Everyone guide.

Reza Rafati

Reza Rafati, based in the Netherlands, is the founder of An industry professional providing insightful commentary on infosec, cybercrime, cyberwar, and threat intelligence, Reza dedicates his work to bolster digital defenses and promote cyber awareness.

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