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How to Properly Secure Your Azure Storage Account

Having a storage account in the cloud is one of the essential pieces of the cloud puzzle. You can store specific data pertaining to your resources, such as databases, website data content, backups or just any type of data. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the security facet of Azure storage accounts, specifically discussing the type of supported authentications and when to use them, then we’ll dive into how to properly secure a storage account through different authentication methods. We’ll be focusing on Storage accounts, then blobs within a storage account and Azure File Storage.

Storage authentication types:Azure storage accounts support multiple ways of authentication, SAS, Azure Storage keys and Azure Active Directory.

SAS, Shared Access Signature: allows you to share content of a storage account, or specific services within it(Azure File Shares, Blobs, Tables, Queues) with specific access permissions per service.
You can provide a customer with a SAS URL with specific access, either Read, Create, Write or Delete access, a SAS always has to have a set time for it to expire. In the example below, we generate a SAS for a blob(a picture), you have to define a Start and Expiry time for the SAS, this is a very suitable way to provide a one time access to a customer which doesn’t have to have permanent access to your storage account, once ready, hit the Generate blob SAS token and URL, and you can share it with whomever you want to access that blob.

Generate a SAS & URL for a blob.

Azure Storage Keys: Azure Storage Account Name and key is a crucial credential which must not be compromised or shared, think of it as the password to your storage account, with read, write and delete permissions to all the services in the storage account, it must be properly secured, and a key rotation policy must be in place to secure your account.
This type of authentication provides also all accesses to the services within a storage account, Containers, Azure File share, Queue and Tables.This is where you can locate your Storage account key via Portal :

Storage Access Keys

Azure Active Directory: Authentication via Azure AD currently supports storage accounts, however only Azure Blobs and Queues are supported. Azure Files works only with AAD DS enabled. The below screenshot shows how to provide access to a user, with specific Access roles:

Adding Role Based Access Control to a user in AAD

Azure Storage Firewall:Azure Storage Firewall is one of the best ways to restrict access to your storage accounts based on specific IP addresses, or an IP address range. The only downside to it at the moment is that not all MS Azure services are supported yet, so you might run into services that would be unable to access the storage account from within Azure. Below is a screenshot from portal to allow you to enable the Storage Account firewall: 

Enabling Azure Storage Firewall


UFO Sightings Data Visualization and Analytics, Happy Halloween!

If you grew up watching The X-Files TV show, you most likely wondered and questioned many things about UFOs and possibly Aliens :). Since it’s Halloween, let’s talk about UFO sighting incidents from a data visualization and analytics perspective!

Since the release of official UFO videos from the U.S Navy and Military – see below video from CNN(2019)- a lot of people started to become curious about this phenomenon.
I personally started wondering and asking the questions below:

1- Which state in the US has had the highest number of reported UFO sightings? 
2- Which year has had the highest number of sightings?
3- Which month has the highest number of reported sightings per year ?
4- Could we leverage existing data to forecast future UFO sightings ?


Video:

To answer the above questions, I collected sightings data from The National UFO Reporting Center, while the data structure was mainly via HTML, I was able to organize it, sort it, then run it through multiple processes using Tableau, and below are the results:

1- Which state in the US has had the highest number of reported UFO sightings? 

Based on sightings data recorded from 1950 till 2019 from The National UFO Reporting Center, below are the results:

California State came first with 13,811 sightings in total, then Florida with 6,727 views, closely followed by The state of Washington and Texas with 6,037 and 5,064 respectively, and New York with 4,814 views.

2- Which year has had the highest number of sightings? 
The year 2014 is by far the year with the highest number of sightings ever seen since 1952. There has been 8,701 reported sightings.it’s incredibly surprising though that the sightings did not continue to rise since 2014, the reported sightings continuously diminished ever since, going a bit higher this year, 2019.

3- Which month has had the highest number of reported sightings per year ?

Aggregating the recorded number of sightings per month from 1950 till 2019, July ranked as the highest month of reported UFO sightings, followed by August, June and September. This could in fact be related to people being outside during the warm weather, possibly increasing their chances to stumble across a sighting. When it comes to the winter and fall, they seem not to be far from each other in terms of reported UFO sightings, below are the results: 

4- Could we leverage existing data to forecast future UFO sightings ?
Since The National UFO Reporting Center has recorded UFO sightings since a long time, I tried to utilize a specific forecasting techniques available within Tableau, per their description(2019): “Forecasting in Tableau uses a technique known as exponential smoothing. Forecast algorithms try to find a regular pattern in measures that can be continued into the future”(p. 1).
The results are as below:

While the graph shows a trending up notion till 2029, the prediction based on the algorithm used is restricted within the shadow area, which could either go up or down in the upcoming years.

In conclusion, data without visualization can be hard to interpret and understand,or to even extract information from it. What’s your thoughts about this data and insights ?

References:
How Forecasting Works in Tableau. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://help.tableau.com/current/pro/desktop/en-us/forecast_how_it_works.htm.

Data source: http://www.nuforc.org/