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  5. Managing Application Configuration and Secrets in Azure

Course Summary

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Overview
DifficultyIntermediate
Duration1h 14m
Students157
Ratings
4/5
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Description

Configuration is an important aspect of determining an application’s behavior. Settings files often include sensitive information like passwords and API keys. In this course, we will look at how to protect that sensitive information while the app is being developed and when it is in production.

Azure’s App Configuration Service allows you to manage access to settings data and we will see how to use it within a .Net application. We will look at using Azure Key Vault in conjunction with App Configuration Service, and how to access Azure Key Vault directly from your application and from apps running in a container within a Kubernetes cluster.

Next, we look at the idea of shifting left security testing within your development process, and how we can automate security testing as part of implementing a compliant development process. Much of this will involve using extensions from the Azure marketplace within your DevOps build pipeline.

This course contains numerous demonstrations from the Azure platform so that you can get a first-hand look at the topics we will be covering. If you have any feedback relating to this course, please contact us at support@cloudacademy.com.

Learning Objectives

  • Learn about app configuration
  • Run and deploy apps with the Azure App Configuration service
  • Use Azure Key Vault to store secrets and certificates
  • Access Key Vault directly from your apps, including those running within a Kubernetes cluster
  • Create a compliant development process by integrating code analyzers, branch policies, quality gates, open-source library scanning, and automated penetration into a build pipeline

Intended Audience

  • Intermediate-level developers, DevOps engineers, and product managers
  • Anyone interested in learning how to implement secure app configurations and development pipelines

Prerequisites

To get the most out of this course, you should have some pre-existing knowledge of software development and of using Microsoft Azure.

Transcript

We started off this course by looking at how we could use user secrets to prevent sensitive password information from being saved into the repository with the source code. Then we had a look at the App Configuration Service as a central and secure repository for your application settings. App Configuration has filtering mechanisms such as labels and also uses namespace format to allow you to have settings for multiple applications and multiple sections within an application. App Configuration also supports feature flags, which are very important if you're using a release flow deployment strategy.

It has a mechanism called a Sentinel key which your application can monitor for changes, and when it sees a change in that particular key, which doesn't necessarily have to be called Sentinel, it knows to update all the settings and re-pull them without you having to restart your application. App Configuration also seamlessly integrates with Azure DevOps pipelines so you can pull settings directly into your application from App Configuration Service and you can set up a key within App Configuration that references a secret within your Azure Key Vault by giving your app configuration access to the Azure Key Vault.

You can also replace settings in your DevOps pipeline with secrets from the Azure Key Vault. We had quite a detailed look at how you can use managed identities and access secrets from within your Key Vault to use in container apps that will be running on an Azure Kubernetes cluster. We also saw how a secure development build pipeline might look when you are wanting to deploy code and an image to a Kubernetes cluster using secure keys to enforce security between your pipeline, your container registry, and your production cluster.

Next, we looked at other elements that are needed to make up a compliant pipeline, and the concept of DevSecOps and shifting your security left from the deployment end of the pipeline. We started with the integrated development environment, specifically Visual Studio, and saw how we can download extra code analyzer packages to complement the existing Roslyn code analyzer. We can inspect and customize the rules within the code analyzer, and by making the customized rule sets part of the source code, those rules will remain with the project and be incorporated into the build pipeline.

Third-party code analyzers, such as SonarCloud, support a wide variety of languages. SonarCloud can be integrated into the Azure DevOps pipeline via an extension from the marketplace. We saw how we can implement branch policies to prevent the merging of poor quality code. SonarCloud quality gates integrate with the branch policy and we can specify whether a build is valid or not. Open-source libraries, while useful and great time savers, have their own set of issues. This ranges from accepting any vulnerability within the library into your own project and possible fishhooks with the open source license.

WhiteSource Bolt is an extension from the Azure DevOps marketplace that allows you to integrate open source library scanning into your build pipeline. It reports on known security issues and which type of license pertains to each library. Finally, we saw how to incorporate passive penetration testing into your build pipeline, and how you could schedule active or aggressive penetration testing during down times.

About the Author

Hallam is a software architect with over 20 years experience across a wide range of industries. He began his software career as a  Delphi/Interbase disciple but changed his allegiance to Microsoft with its deep and broad ecosystem. While Hallam has designed and crafted custom software utilizing web, mobile and desktop technologies, good quality reliable data is the key to a successful solution. The challenge of quickly turning data into useful information for digestion by humans and machines has led Hallam to specialize in database design and process automation. Showing customers how leverage new technology to change and improve their business processes is one of the key drivers keeping Hallam coming back to the keyboard.