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Design and Implement an Azure Storage Strategy

Objective 4.4: Manage access

All storage accounts can be protected by a secure HTTPS connection and by using storage account keys to access all resources. In this section, you’ll learn how to manage storage account keys, how to generate shared access keys with more granular control over which resources are accessible and for how long, how to manage policies for issued keys, and how to allow browser access to storage resources.

Generating shared access signatures

By default, storage resources are protected at the service level. Only authenticated callers can access tables and queues. Blob containers and blobs can optionally be exposed for anonymous access, but you would typically allow anonymous access only to individual blobs. To authenticate to any storage service, a primary or secondary key is used, but this grants the caller access to all actions on the storage account.

An SAS is used to delegate access to specific storage account resources without enabling access to the entire account. An SAS token lets you control the lifetime by setting the start and expiration time of the signature, the resources you are granting access to, and the permissions being granted.

The following is a list of operations supported by SAS:

  • Reading or writing blobs, blob properties, and blob metadata
  • Leasing or creating a snapshot of a blob
  • Listing blobs in a container
  • Deleting a blob
  • Adding, updating, or deleting table entities
  • Querying tables
  • Processing queue messages (read and delete)
  • Adding and updating queue messages
  • Retrieving queue metadata

This section covers creating an SAS token to access storage services using the Storage Client Library.

Creating an SAS token (Blobs)

The following code shows how to create an SAS token for a blob container:

string connection = "DefaultEndpointsProtocol=https;AccountName=<ACCOUNTNAME>;AccountKey
=<ACCOUNTKEY>";
CloudStorageAccount account;
if (!CloudStorageAccount.TryParse(connection, out account))
{
 throw new Exception("Unable to parse storage account connection string.");
}
CloudBlobClient blobClient = account.CreateCloudBlobClient();
SharedAccessBlobPolicy sasPolicy = new SharedAccessBlobPolicy();
sasPolicy.SharedAccessExpiryTime = DateTime.UtcNow.AddHours(1);
sasPolicy.SharedAccessStartTime = DateTime.UtcNow.Subtract(new TimeSpan(0, 5, 0));
sasPolicy.Permissions = SharedAccessBlobPermissions.Read | SharedAccessBlobPermissions.
Write | SharedAccessBlobPermissions.Delete | SharedAccessBlobPermissions.List;
CloudBlobContainer files = blobClient.GetContainerReference("files");
string sasContainerToken = files.GetSharedAccessSignature(sasPolicy);

The SAS token grants read, write, delete, and list permissions to the container (rwdl). It looks like this:

?sv=2014-02-14&sr=c&sig=B6bi4xKkdgOXhWg3RWIDO5peekq%2FRjvnuo5o41hj1pA%3D&st=2014
-12-24T14%3A16%3A07Z&se=2014-12-24T15%3A21%3A07Z&sp=rwdl

You can use this token as follows to gain access to the blob container without a storage account key:

StorageCredentials creds = new StorageCredentials(sasContainerToken);
CloudBlobClient sasClient = new CloudBlobClient("https://<ACCOUNTNAME>.blob.core.
windows.net/", creds);
CloudBlobContainer sasFiles = sasClient.GetContainerReference("files");

With this container reference, if you have write permissions, you can create a blob, for example as follows:

ICloudBlob blob = sasFiles.GetBlockBlobReference("note.txt");
blob.Properties.ContentType = "text/plain";
string fileContents = "my text blob contents";
byte[] bytes = new byte[fileContents.Length * sizeof(char)];
System.Buffer.BlockCopy(fileContents.ToCharArray(), 0, bytes, 0, bytes.Length);
blob.UploadFromByteArray(bytes,0, bytes.Length);

Creating an SAS token (Queues)

Assuming the same account reference as created in the previous section, the following code shows how to create an SAS token for a queue:

CloudQueueClient queueClient = account.CreateCloudQueueClient();
CloudQueue queue = queueClient.GetQueueReference("workerqueue");
SharedAccessQueuePolicy sasPolicy = new SharedAccessQueuePolicy();
sasPolicy.SharedAccessExpiryTime = DateTime.UtcNow.AddHours(1);
sasPolicy.Permissions = SharedAccessQueuePermissions.Read |
SharedAccessQueuePermissions.Add | SharedAccessQueuePermissions.Update |
SharedAccessQueuePermissions.ProcessMessages;
sasPolicy.SharedAccessStartTime = DateTime.UtcNow.Subtract(new TimeSpan(0, 5, 0));
string sasToken = queue.GetSharedAccessSignature(sasPolicy);

The SAS token grants read, add, update, and process messages permissions to the container (raup). It looks like this:

?sv=2014-02-14&sig=wE5oAUYHcGJ8chwyZZd3Byp5jK1Po8uKu2t%2FYzQsIhY%3D&st=2014-12-2
4T14%3A23%3A22Z&se=2014-12-24T15%3A28%3A22Z&sp=raup

You can use this token as follows to gain access to the queue and add messages:

StorageCredentials creds = new StorageCredentials(sasToken);
CloudQueueClient sasClient = new CloudQueueClient("https://<ACCOUNTNAME>.queue.core.
windows.net/", creds);
CloudQueue sasQueue = sasClient.GetQueueReference("workerqueue");
sasQueue.AddMessage(new CloudQueueMessage("new message"));

Creating an SAS token (Tables)

The following code shows how to create an SAS token for a table:

CloudTableClient tableClient = account.CreateCloudTableClient();
CloudTable table = tableClient.GetTableReference("$logs");
SharedAccessTablePolicy sasPolicy = new SharedAccessTablePolicy();
sasPolicy.SharedAccessExpiryTime = DateTime.UtcNow.AddHours(1);
sasPolicy.Permissions = SharedAccessTablePermissions.Query |
SharedAccessTablePermissions.Add | SharedAccessTablePermissions.Update |
SharedAccessTablePermissions.Delete;
sasPolicy.SharedAccessStartTime = DateTime.UtcNow.Subtract(new TimeSpan(0, 5, 0));
string sasToken = table.GetSharedAccessSignature(sasPolicy);

The SAS token grants query, add, update, and delete permissions to the container (raud). It looks like this:

?sv=2014-02-14&tn=%24logs&sig=dsnI7RBA1xYQVr%2FTlpDEZMO2H8YtSGwtyUUntVmxstA%3D&s
t=2014-12-24T14%3A48%3A09Z&se=2014-12-24T15%3A53%3A09Z&sp=raud

Renewing an SAS token

SAS tokens have a limited period of validity based on the start and expiration times requested. You should limit the duration of an SAS token to limit access to controlled periods of time. You can extend access to the same application or user by issuing new SAS tokens on request. This should be done with appropriate authentication and authorization in place.

Validating data

When you extend write access to storage resources with SAS, the contents of those resources can potentially be made corrupt or even be tampered with by a malicious party, particularly if the SAS was leaked. Be sure to validate system use of all resources exposed with SAS keys.

Creating stored access policies

Stored access policies provide greater control over how you grant access to storage resources using SAS tokens. With a stored access policy, you can do the following after releasing an SAS token for resource access:

  • Change the start and end time for a signature’s validity
  • Control permissions for the signature
  • Revoke access

The stored access policy can be used to control all issued SAS tokens that are based on the policy. For a step-by-step tutorial for creating and testing stored access policies for blobs, queues, and tables, see http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/articles/storage-dotnet-shared-access-signature-part-2.

Regenerating storage account keys

When you create a storage account, two 512-bit storage access keys are generated for authentication to the storage account. This makes it possible to regenerate keys without impacting application access to storage.

The process for managing keys typically follows this pattern:

  1. When you create your storage account, the primary and secondary keys are generated for you. You typically use the primary key when you first deploy applications that access the storage account.
  2. When it is time to regenerate keys, you first switch all application configurations to use the secondary key.
  3. Next, you regenerate the primary key, and switch all application configurations to use this primary key.
  4. Next, you regenerate the secondary key.

Regenerating storage account keys (existing portal)

To regenerate storage account keys using the management portal, complete the following steps:

  1. Navigate to the Dashboard tab for your storage account in the management portal accessed via https://manage.windowsazure.com.
  2. Select Manage Access Keys from the bottom of the page.
  3. Click the regenerate button for the primary access key or for the secondary access key, depending on which key you intend to regenerate, according to the workflow above.
  4. Click the check mark on the confirmation dialog box to complete the regeneration task.

Regenerating storage account keys (Preview portal)

To regenerate storage account keys using the Preview portal, complete the following steps:

  1. Navigate to the management portal accessed via https://portal.azure.com.
  2. Click Browse on the command bar.
  3. Select Storage from the Filter By list.
  4. Select your storage account from the list on the Storage blade.
  5. Click the Keys box.
  6. On the Manage Keys blade, click Regenerate Primary or Regenerate Secondary on the command bar, depending on which key you want to regenerate.
  7. In the confirmation dialog box, click Yes to confirm the key regeneration.

Configuring and using Cross-Origin Resource Sharing

Cross-Origin Resource Sharing (CORS) enables web applications running in the browser to call web APIs that are hosted by a different domain. Azure Storage blobs, tables, and queues all support CORS to allow for access to the Storage API from the browser. By default, CORS is disabled, but you can explicitly enable it for a specific storage service within your storage account.

Objective summary

  • You can use SAS tokens to delegate access to storage account resources without sharing the account key.
  • With SAS tokens, you can generate a link to a container, blob, table, table entity, or queue. You can control the permissions granted to the resource.
  • Using Shared Access Policies, you can remotely control the lifetime of a SAS token grant to one or more resources. You can extend the lifetime of the policy or cause it to expire.

Objective review

Answer the following questions to test your knowledge of the information in this objective. You can find the answers to these questions and explanations of why each answer choice is correct or incorrect in the “Answers” section at the end of this chapter.

  1. Which of the following are true regarding supported operations granted with an SAS token? (Choose all that apply.)

    1. You can grant read access to existing blobs.
    2. You can create new blob containers.
    3. You can add, update, and delete queue messages.
    4. You can add, update, and delete table entities.
    5. You can query table entities.
  2. Which of the following statements are true of stored access policies? (Choose all that apply.)

    1. You can modify the start or expiration date for access.
    2. You can revoke access at any point in time.
    3. You can modify permissions to remove or add supported operations.
    4. You can add to the list of resources accessible by an SAS token.
  3. Which of the following statements are true of CORS support for storage? (Choose all that apply.)

    1. It is recommended you enable CORS so that browsers can access blobs.
    2. To protect CORS access to blobs from the browser, you should generate SAS tokens to secure blob requests.
    3. CORS is supported only for Blob storage.
    4. CORS is disabled by default.