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OVERVIEW

Detection and Response: Threat Detection in the Cloud: Defender vs. GuardDuty vs. Security Command Center

Introduction

In the wake of digital transformation, security remains a core value of each cloud service provider. Most importantly, given the prevalence of threats in many cloud environments, organizations transitioning from on-premises to hybrid or cloud environments must change their threat detection practices by using reliable threat detection tools and platforms. Threat detection is the process of analyzing the security integrity of a virtual or physical environment in terms of searching for and finding any malicious or suspicious activity that can compromise the system. Monitoring and detecting threats can be difficult at times, which is why threat detection tooling exists to make this task easier.

In this article, we’ll look at three well-known cloud-based threat detection tools from the largest cloud service providers: AWS’s Amazon GuardDuty, Azure’s Microsoft Defender, and Google Cloud Platform’s Security Command Center. We will compare and contrast the features of each tool and also explain the key considerations that organizations should take into account when choosing an option based on their use cases.

What Is Amazon GuardDuty and How Does It Work?

Amazon GuardDuty is an AWS-managed threat detection service that constantly scans for potentially harmful activity and unauthorized behavior to safeguard AWS accounts, workloads, and data. Amazon GuardDuty employs threat intelligence to analyze billions of requests from various AWS data sources, including VPC Flow logs, CloudTrail event logs, and DNS logs. It then compares these data logs to multiple security and threat detection feeds, looking for anomalies and known malicious sources like certain IP addresses and URLs.

The Amazon GuardDuty service is powered by machine learning, which allows it to improve continuously by observing and learning from operational behavior within your infrastructure. It can then use this data to look for suspicious patterns in your AWS cloud environment and identify potential threats.

Given that it is very time-consuming to analyze all your cloud data logs and monitor for threats manually, Amazon GuardDuty is a cost-effective and intelligent service for achieving cloud protection. With just a few clicks, you can enable GuardDuty from the AWS Management Console without worrying about the underlying software or hardware deployment. Once it has been integrated into your AWS accounts, workloads, and event management systems, Amazon GuardDuty uses built-in services such as machine learning, anomaly detection, and various integrated threat intelligence techniques to identify and prioritize potential threats. When threats are identified, Amazon GuardDuty examines the detailed findings in the console, integrates them with workflow systems, and launches Amazon Lambda for remediation or prevention.

Amazon GuardDuty detects these primary types of threats on the AWS cloud:

  • Compromised resources – Examples of compromised resources include threats involving resource hijacking (such as unusual spikes in network traffic and access to EC2 instances via an external IP address).
  • Compromised accounts – These are threats involving unauthorized access to accounts, such as an unusual instance deployment, attempts to disable CloudTrail (to prevent data log analysis), or API calls from an odd location.
  • Attacker reconnaissance These are threats involving failed login attempts, unusual API activity, and port scanning.

What Is Security Command Center and How Does It Work?

Google Cloud’s Security Command Center (SCC) is a centralized vulnerability and threat reporting service. Security Command Center improves your security posture by allowing your security teams to collect data, identify threats, and remediate them in the platform. It continuously monitors your Google Cloud environment, allowing you to gain visibility into your cloud assets, identify misconfigurations and vulnerabilities in your resources, report on and maintain compliance, and detect threats targeting your Google Cloud assets.

Some of Security Command Center’s key features and use cases include:

  • Asset discovery and inventory – With SCC, you can discover and view assets such as App Engine, BigQuery, Cloud SQL, Cloud Storage, Compute Engine, Cloud Identity and Access Management, and Google Kubernetes Engine in near real time. You can also review past discovery scans to identify new, modified, or deleted assets.
  • Threat prevention – SCC helps you understand the security state of your Google Cloud assets by uncovering common web application vulnerabilities such as cross-site scripting or outdated libraries running within your web apps, App Engine, GKE, and Compute Engine. Any identified misconfigurations are quickly resolved, which helps with threat prevention.
  • Threat detection – SCC uses logs running at scale in Google Cloud to detect potential issues like crypto-mining threats and the most common container attacks, including suspicious binaries, suspicious libraries, and reverse shells.

What Is Microsoft Defender and How Does It Work?

Microsoft Defender, formerly known as Azure Defender, is a Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) and Cloud Workload Protection Platform (CWPP) for managing overall security and defending against threats within Azure, multi-cloud (AWS and GCP), and on-premises resources and environments.

Microsoft Defender works by utilizing the advanced capabilities of security AI and Microsoft Threat Intelligence to provide contextual security protection and threat detection for anomalous activities within the cloud. When Microsoft Defender detects anomalous activity, it triggers security alerts via Microsoft Defender for Cloud and emails subscription administrators with details about the suspicious activity and recommendations for how to investigate and remediate any threats.

Microsoft Defender for Cloud addresses three critical requirements for managing the security of your cloud and on-premises resources and workloads:

  • Secure Score – Microsoft Defender helps you constantly assess your security posture, track new security opportunities, and generate accurate reports on the progress of your security efforts.
  • Recommendations – Microsoft Defender secures your workloads by taking steps to protect them from known security risks.
  • Alerts – Microsoft Defender defends your workloads in real time, allowing you to respond quickly and prevent security incidents from occurring.

Microsoft Defender for Cloud also includes a set of advanced, intelligent workload protections tailored to the resources in your subscriptions. For example, you can configure Microsoft Defender for Storage to notify you of any suspicious activity involving your storage resources. There are several Microsoft Defender workload options available, including Microsoft Defender for Azure VMs, Microsoft Defender for Key Vault, Microsoft Defender for Azure Kubernetes, Microsoft Defender for Azure App Service, Microsoft Defender for Azure SQL, and Microsoft Defender for Managed Instance.

The Comparison: Microsoft Defender vs. AWS GuardDuty vs. Security Command Center

Security Level

Microsoft Defender for Cloud provides advanced security protection for Azure as well as all public and hybrid cloud environments. It also provides Cloud Security Posture Management and functions as a Cloud Workload Protection Platform (CWPP), which enhances its security.

Amazon GuardDuty employs machine learning to improve threat intelligence. As a result, it increases security by increasing alert accuracy.

Security Command Center serves as a platform for security and risk management for Google Cloud. It ensures security and compliance, and it also makes sure that detected threats are resolved, which increases its security.

Cloud Security Features

The key cloud security features offered by Microsoft Defender for Cloud include:

  • Managing and improving the security configurations of your cloud resources.
  • Managing compliance against critical industry and regulatory standards.
  • Adding threat protection to workloads in Azure, AWS, Google Cloud Platform, and on-premises.
  • Detecting vulnerabilities to protect your multi-cloud and hybrid workloads from malicious attacks.
  • Maintaining cloud security posture via CSPM.
  • Protecting cloud workloads via CWPP.

The key cloud security features offered by Amazon GuardDuty include:

  • Providing accurate, account-level threat detection.
  • Continuous monitoring of the entire AWS cloud environment for any suspicious activity.
  • Prioritizing threats based on severity levels for focused remediation.
  • Automating threat response.
  • Supporting one-click deployment for high availability and efficiency.

The key cloud security features offered by Security Command Center include:

  • Real-time discovery and maintenance of Google Cloud assets and resources.
  • Offering threat prevention by monitoring and remediating vulnerabilities.
  • Ensuring threat detection using logs running at scale in Google Cloud.
  • Ensuring observability and visibility of cloud assets.

Integrations

GuardDuty can be integrated with other AWS security services that help ingest data from GuardDuty for log analysis. GuardDuty integration options include the following:

  • Integrating GuardDuty with AWS Security Hub, which collects data from various AWS accounts, services, and supported third-party products to assess the security state of your cloud environment.
  • Integrating GuardDuty with Amazon Detective, which uses log data from across your AWS accounts to generate data visualizations for your resources and IP addresses interacting with your environment.

Like GuardDuty, Security Command Center can be integrated with other Google Cloud services for analysis, like BigQuery, the Forseti Security toolkit for Google Cloud, third-party security information and event management (SIEM) applications, and other web app and container security scanners. SCC also contains built-in SIEM and SOAR platforms that can be integrated for further threat analysis and response.

Like GuardDuty and Security Command Center, Defender for Cloud also allows for integrations with third-party services. For instance, Defender for DevOps can be integrated into multi-pipeline environments such as GitHub and Azure DevOps workflows to protect applications and resources from code to cloud. Endpoints, DNS, Cloud Apps, Key Vault, Containers, and other Defender workloads can all benefit from the same integrations.

When it comes to integrations, the main difference between Defender, GuardDuty, and Security Command Center is the breadth of integration options available. Defender integrations are more likely to be substantial since it is multi-platform and offers both CWPP and CSPM capabilities.

Platforms Supported

Microsoft Defender for Cloud is a security solution for multiple clouds. It supports threat protection across Azure, AWS, and Google Cloud environments by providing native CSPM capabilities.

Microsoft Defender supports multi-cloud environments, unlike Google’s Security Command Center and Amazon GuardDuty, which only support their native environments. Additionally, it supports all three types of data workloads – from on-premises to hybrid and pure cloud environments.

Table Comparison: Microsoft Defender vs. Amazon GuardDuty vs. Security Command Center

Amazon GuardDutyMicrosoft Defender for CloudSecurity Command Center
Platforms SupportedAWS-native infrastructure

Azure

Amazon Web Services

Google Cloud Platform

Google Cloud Platform
IntegrationsAWS services – AWS Security Hub, CloudTrail, Amazon Detective

IaaS services from DevOps pipelines, containers, and endpointsGCP services, BigQuery, SIEMs, and SOARs
Security LevelsHighly efficient with Threat Intelligence

Medium efficiency

Powered by Microsoft Threat Intelligence

Slightly efficient – uses logs only for threat detection
Cloud Security FeaturesOffers account-level threat detection security featuresOffers both CWPP and CSPM security features across all platformsSecurity is embedded in threat detection and remediation

Conclusion: Which One Should You Use?

In this guide, we examined how the top three cloud service providers deliver threat detection and security protection to their customers. By comparing and contrasting Amazon’s GuardDuty, Google’s Security Command Center, and Microsoft’s Defender for Cloud, we explored the benefits of their security features and identified individual use cases.

So, which one should you use? It depends on your use cases. For example, if you use multi-cloud environments, you want to choose a centralized threat detection solution like Microsoft Defender to reduce context switching. Defender is also a great go-to solution for most on-prem, hybrid, and cloud infrastructures. But if you use AWS-native infrastructure, you should probably choose Amazon GuardDuty. If your infrastructure is powered natively by Google Cloud Platform, you should probably go with Security Command Center. Of course, as we discussed above, there are many other factors that you should take into consideration when making your decision, including efficiency, security features, supported platforms, and the level of security provided.