Secure Banking on Azure: Lessons from RBC, ING, and Rabobank
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Secure Banking on Azure: Lessons from RBC, ING, and Rabobank

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In the financial sector, specifically in the banking sector but also in the broad financial services space, security remains at the forefront of priorities for all major banks. As financial institutions navigate the complexities of data protection, regulatory compliance, and the need for innovative customer services, the role of robust security solutions becomes paramount. 

Most banks grapple with yet another issue, security in the cloud. While most banks are used to building on legacy on-premise systems, the cloud over the past 10 years has gained significant traction in the sector.

One cloud provider focusing on enabling banks to develop digital solutions safely, deployed in the cloud or in a hybrid setup is Microsoft Azure. With its comprehensive suite of security tools, stands as a beacon of innovation in this sector. Azure Security Solutions, encompassing Azure Arc, Microsoft Sentinel, Azure Confidential Computing, Azure Monitor, and others, offer a holistic approach to safeguarding sensitive banking data while fostering growth and innovation. 

In this post, we delve into how these solutions are revolutionizing security in the banking industry, highlighted by real-world applications from leading financial institutions such as Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), ING, and Rabobank (if you want to skip ahead to the case studies, scroll down or use the table of contents to help guide you!).

Core Azure Security Solutions For Banking

The products highlighted below are only a small sample of the total available products on the Azure cloud that fit the banking sector very well. For a comprehensive list of possible products to explore, visit the Directory of Azure Cloud Services | Microsoft Azure. If you are interested in talking to an expert, check out our Azure Security expertise and schedule a free consultation!

Azure Arc

Azure Arc bridges the gap between on-premises, edge, and multicloud environments, enabling a consistent development, operations, and security model across various platforms​​​​. It is a comprehensive solution by Microsoft that extends Azure services and management capabilities to any infrastructure.

Key Features and Capabilities:

  • Hybrid and Multicloud Management: Azure Arc allows enterprises to manage their resources (servers, Kubernetes clusters, Azure data services) across on-premises, multicloud, and edge environments. It provides a unified approach to catalogue, organize, and enforce policies for different IT resources, regardless of where they are located​​​​.
  • Azure Data Services Anywhere: Azure Arc enables the deployment of Azure data services like SQL and PostgreSQL as cloud-native services in any environment, making it easier for organizations to gain data insights while meeting various regulatory and latency requirements. It allows for consistent data and AI tools, services, and automations across environments​​​​.
  • Integration with Existing Tools: It integrates seamlessly with existing tools and practices, including GitHub, Terraform, and Visual Studio, and supports GitOps and policy-driven deployment across environments​​.
  • Security and Governance: Azure Arc enhances security and governance of applications, data, and infrastructure in diverse environments, providing tools for integrated security and governance​​.
  • Cost Optimization and Azure Hybrid Benefit: Azure Arc optimizes costs with Azure Hybrid Benefit, enabling the running of Azure Kubernetes Service on Windows Server and Azure Stack HCI at no additional cost for certain subscription customers​​.

Use Cases in Banking:

  • Unified Management Across Environments: Banks can manage their IT resources, including servers and Kubernetes clusters, across on-premises, multicloud, and edge environments from a central place. This unified management helps in maintaining regulatory compliance and efficient operations.
  • Data Sovereignty and Compliance: For banks that need to keep data workloads on-premises due to regulations and data sovereignty, Azure Arc brings the latest Azure innovation and cloud benefits like elastic scale and automation on-premises.
  • Security and Governance: Azure Arc's enhanced security and governance capabilities are crucial for banks to protect sensitive financial information and adhere to strict regulatory requirements.
  • Development and Deployment Flexibility: Banks can develop and modernize cloud-native applications on any Kubernetes, maintaining flexibility and consistency across different environments.
  • Cost Efficiency: By leveraging Azure Hybrid Benefit, banks can optimize their costs while deploying modern infrastructure and services.

Azure Arc, thus, provides banks with the tools to innovate with cloud-native applications and services, ensuring security, compliance, and operational efficiency across a hybrid and multicloud environment.

Microsoft Sentinel

Microsoft Sentinel is a cloud-native Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solution that employs artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze large volumes of data across an enterprise. 

It aggregates data from all sources, such as users, applications, servers, and devices, whether on-premises or in any cloud. Microsoft Sentinel offers a comprehensive solution for detecting, investigating, and responding to security threats across your organization​​.

Key Features – Microsoft Sentinel

  • AI-Powered Threat Detection: Utilizes built-in machine learning to identify real threats quickly and reduce noise from legitimate events. It includes pre-built queries and visualizations for faster threat hunting and analysis.
  • Behavioral Analytics: Detects unknown threats and anomalous behavior, leveraging peer analysis and machine learning for enhanced threat intelligence.
  • Streamlined Data Collection: Simplifies data collection with built-in connectors, enabling integration with Azure, on-premises solutions, and various cloud sources.
  • Comprehensive Security and Compliance: Offers extensive security features and compliance capabilities, backed by Microsoft's investment in cybersecurity.
  • Cost-Effective Solution: Provides predictable billing and flexible commitments, reducing infrastructure costs by scaling resources automatically and only charging for what is used​​​​.

Use Cases in Banking – Microsoft Sentinel

  • Advanced Threat Detection: Banks can leverage Sentinel’s AI and machine learning capabilities to detect sophisticated cyber threats and potential security breaches in real time.
  • Streamlined Compliance Reporting: With its comprehensive compliance features, Microsoft Sentinel assists banks in meeting various regulatory requirements by providing detailed security reports and logs.
  • Efficient Security Data Management: Sentinel's streamlined data collection and integration capabilities allow banks to manage security data efficiently, reducing the complexity of handling multiple data sources.
  • Cost Management: Its flexible pricing model helps banks manage costs effectively, especially important in the financially conscious banking sector.
  • Enhanced Incident Response: The solution offers tools for rapid response to security incidents, crucial for banks to maintain trust and ensure the security of financial transactions.
  • Unified Security View: Microsoft Sentinel provides a unified view of security across on-premises and cloud environments, enabling banks to have a comprehensive understanding of their security posture.

Azure Confidential Computing

Azure Confidential Computing is a set of solutions and technologies offered by Microsoft Azure designed to protect the confidentiality and integrity of data while it is being processed. 

This is particularly important because traditional cloud security has focused mainly on data at rest and in transit. Azure Confidential Computing addresses the third state, data in use.

Key Features and Benefits:

  • Trusted Execution Environments (TEEs): Azure Confidential Computing utilizes TEEs, which are secure areas of a processor. TEEs ensure that data and code are protected and cannot be viewed or tampered with by other software, including the Azure cloud platform itself.
  • Data Security and Privacy: This technology is particularly beneficial for handling sensitive data, such as personal information, financial data, or intellectual property, ensuring that this data remains confidential even during processing.
  • Compliance and Regulatory Requirements: By providing a higher level of data security, Azure Confidential Computing helps organizations meet strict regulatory and compliance requirements, especially in industries like finance and healthcare.
  • Collaboration and Data Sharing: It enables organizations to collaborate and share data more securely and confidently, even across different organizational boundaries.
  • Innovation in Sensitive Fields: Industries that handle sensitive data, like healthcare, finance, and government, can leverage this technology to innovate and compute more sensitive datasets while ensuring privacy and security.

Azure Confidential Computing is part of Microsoft's broader commitment to secure and private cloud services, offering customers new ways to protect data and maintain trust while leveraging the cloud's scalability and efficiency.

Azure Monitor

Azure Monitor is Microsoft's unified observability & monitoring solution that provides full-stack observability across applications and infrastructure. 

It enables the collection, analysis, and action on telemetry data from both cloud and hybrid environments, helping to maximize the performance and availability of resources, and identify and address issues proactively​​​​.

In the context of banking, Azure Monitor can be particularly useful in several ways:

  • End-to-End Observability: Azure Monitor offers visibility across the health of banking applications and infrastructure, allowing for the identification of issues down to specific lines of code. This can help banks quickly address problems in their applications or infrastructure, minimizing downtime and improving customer experience.
  • Continuous Monitoring in DevOps: Azure Monitor can be integrated into DevOps workflows, seamlessly working with tools like Visual Studio and Azure DevOps for release management and issue tracking. This integration supports continuous monitoring throughout the software development and deployment cycles, ensuring the health, performance, and reliability of banking apps and infrastructure​​.
  • Monitoring and Security Compliance: Given the high regulatory requirements in the banking sector, Azure Monitor can assist in ensuring compliance by providing insights and logs from various Azure resources, including virtual machines, containers, and networks. It helps in monitoring the health and performance of the entire hybrid infrastructure, which is crucial for banks that often operate in a complex, regulated environment​​.
  • Actionable Insights and Alerts: Azure Monitor allows the setting up of actionable alerts based on specific failure states or performance thresholds. This feature is essential for banks to respond quickly to potential issues, ensuring the security and reliability of their financial services.
  • Cost Management and Efficiency: By providing detailed insights into the use and performance of applications and infrastructure, Azure Monitor can help banks optimize their resource utilization and reduce costs. This is particularly important in the banking sector, where efficient resource management is key to maintaining competitiveness and profitability​​.
  • Data Protection and Privacy: With Azure Monitor, banks can ensure the protection of sensitive financial data, complying with GDPR and other data protection regulations. Azure Monitor offers data encryption and secure connections, which are crucial for maintaining customer trust and adhering to strict banking privacy standards.

In summary, Azure Monitor can play a critical role in the banking industry by enhancing operational efficiency, ensuring compliance with regulatory standards, improving data security and privacy, and enabling better resource management and customer service.

ING Leverages Microsoft Security Solutions to Transform Banking for the Digital Era

As one of the top 15 banks in Europe, ING operates in 40 countries and serves 38 million customers.

Historically, ING's corporate IT team faced challenges in coordinating independently-operated IT departments worldwide, affecting their ability to stay ahead of cyber threats and compliance in a regulated space.

ING embarked on a data center consolidation program about a decade ago, aiming to eliminate legacy systems and move towards unified environments.

Microsoft Security Solutions Implementation

  • Defender for Cloud and Azure Arc is used for managing security posture, unhealthy resources, and system hardening in multicloud environments.
  • Microsoft 365 Defender aids ING in threat hunting by combining data from various sources, significantly reducing false positives and identifying genuine threats.
  • Microsoft Sentinel serves as a central platform for analyzing security alerts from various sources, improving the efficiency and effectiveness of ING's security posture.

Results and Benefits

  • Enhanced Security: The implementation of Microsoft solutions has allowed ING to more effectively detect and respond to security incidents.
  • Operational Efficiency: The new system has freed up time for IT teams to engage in more advanced work.
  • Consolidation and Unification: ING has significantly consolidated its IT infrastructure, resulting in a more agile and effective organization.

Future-Proofing and Compliance

  • SaaS-Based Security Vision: ING is moving towards a software as a service (SaaS)-based security model with Microsoft.
  • Compliance Management: The bank is looking to deploy Microsoft Purview Data Loss Prevention and Compliance Manager to enhance its compliance capabilities.

ING’s focus on cybersecurity is evident in its choice of technology and the continuous evolution of its security measures – moving from dealing with fragmented IT operations and legacy systems to adopting a centralized, efficient, and future-ready cybersecurity posture. 

The bank's shift towards a fully digital, cloud-based approach is indicative of its ambition to be the digital bank of the future, meeting customer needs anytime, anywhere.

Link to the full case study on the Microsoft Customer Stories site.

Rabobank Enhances Its Global IT Infrastructure's Safety Using Microsoft Security Solutions

Rabobank operates in 38 countries and is the second-largest bank in the Netherlands and the second-largest agricultural bank globally.

The bank's vast and diverse IT estate, including long-standing legacy systems and a multicloud strategy (using Azure, AWS, and Google Cloud), posed significant security challenges.

With security operation centers (SOCs) in the Netherlands, the USA, Brazil, and Australia, the Cyber Defense Center faced the daunting task of safeguarding over 40,000 employees and contract workers globally.

Implementation of Microsoft Security Solutions

Rabobank shifted from a diverse set of over 20 security vendors to Microsoft Security solutions, significantly enhancing its cybersecurity management.

  • Microsoft Sentinel for integrating insights across the company.
  • Microsoft Defender for Cloud for threat detection and response across hybrid and multicloud environments.
  • Azure Arc to organize and manage the complex hybrid, multiclouds environment, expecting significant cost savings.
  • Microsoft Defender for Endpoint and Identity to protect desktop environments and on-premises Active Directory.
  • Microsoft Defender for Cloud Apps for cloud access security and visibility over cloud estate.

Benefits and Impact

  • Improved Visibility and Threat Detection: The transition to Microsoft Security solutions markedly enhanced visibility and threat detection capabilities.
  • Cost Savings and Vendor Reduction: The consolidation to Microsoft solutions reduced the number of security vendors from 20 to four, leading to significant licensing savings and expected savings from Azure Arc deployment.
  • Enhanced Compliance: The use of Microsoft's compliance center module in Defender for Cloud aids in meeting cybersecurity best practices and regulatory compliance.

Future Outlook and Training Initiatives

  • Ongoing Training and Development: Rabobank emphasizes training its security personnel, including Microsoft Ninja training and an extended Rabobank-specific 'Samurai' training program.
  • Focus on Security Over Cost: While cost savings are significant, the primary focus remains on enhancing security, particularly in mitigating threats like ransomware attacks.

The case study demonstrates Rabobank's commitment to securing its extensive and complex IT estate through a strategic shift to Microsoft Security solutions, resulting in improved threat detection, streamlined operations, cost efficiencies, and strong compliance posture.

Link to the full case study on the Microsoft Customer Stories site.

Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) Accelerates On-Premises Innovation with Azure Arc-Enabled Data Services for Database as a Service (DBaaS)

The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), known for its high standards of excellence, is the largest bank in Canada, serving over 17 million customers, and a significant player in the global financial services industry.

RBC uses a mix of public cloud, private cloud, and on-premises resources to deliver digital experiences and maintain client trust. The bank operates its own modern datacenter and is committed to innovative cloud engineering to maintain excellence in financial services.

Due to this complexity, RBC was looking for a solution to manage and secure its applications across environments while maintaining compliance with stringent security standards – enter Azure Arc.

Implementation of Azure Hybrid Cloud Solutions

  • Azure Arc-Enabled Data Services: These services allow RBC to manage its servers, clusters, and SQL Server instances from a single control plane, streamlining database deployments and management.
  • Kubernetes Integration: Azure Arc integrates with Kubernetes, which RBC uses to host agile, microservices-based applications, enabling scalability and automation.
  • Database as a Service (DBaaS): Azure Arc enables RBC to provide on-premises DBaaS, complete with cloud features like automated deployments and elastic scale.

Operational Improvements and Cost Savings

  • Enhanced Speed and Efficiency: The adoption of Azure Arc-enabled data services has significantly reduced the time required for database provisioning, improving time to market for RBC's services.
  • Reduction in Operational Overhead: By offloading operations to Azure, RBC anticipates substantial savings in capital expenditures annually.
  • Self-Service Capabilities: Application teams at RBC can now leverage self-service capabilities for faster and more efficient infrastructure management.

Future Outlook and Strategic Benefits

  • Innovation and Scalability: Azure Arc paves the way for RBC to bring public cloud capabilities to its on-premises systems, enhancing its ability to innovate.
  • Hybrid Cloud as a Key Strategy: RBC views hybrid cloud computing as a vital part of its future strategy, aiming to provide a blend of on-premises and cloud services.
  • Positive Impact on Customers: The bank anticipates that the new infrastructure will enable faster deployment of new capabilities across its product portfolio, directly benefiting its customers.

Thanks to Azure Arc-enabled data solutions & services, RBC can enhance its operational efficiency and innovation, aligning with its goal to consistently deliver superior digital experiences in the competitive and highly regulated world of financial services.

Link to the full case study on the Microsoft Customer Stories site.

RBC Develops Tailored Personalized Offers Safeguarding Data Privacy Through Azure Confidential Computing

As Canada's largest bank, RBC serves 17 million clients across various countries, offering a range of financial services. 

The bank has prioritized integrating data and digital experiences to provide personalized services. RBC aims to leverage its rich client data in banking and combine it with retail data for more personalized offerings, while adhering to strict privacy and data protection standards – which is where Azure’s Confidential Computing capabilities come in.

Implementation of Azure Confidential Computing

  • Virtual Clean Room (VCR): RBC developed VCR, a privacy-preserving multiparty data sharing platform built on Microsoft Azure confidential computing. VCR uses secure enclave technology to protect data privacy.
  • Personalized Client Offers: VCR enables RBC to provide real-time, personalized offers to clients by safely combining banking and retail data, maintaining confidentiality and data security.
  • Azure Services Utilization: RBC leverages various Azure services like Always Encrypted with secure enclaves, Azure Attestation, and Intel SGX-enabled virtual machines, ensuring comprehensive data protection.

Benefits and Impact

  • Enhanced Personalization and Client Value: Clients receive relevant offers and discounts, improving their banking experience and value from RBC services.
  • Robust Data Privacy and Security: Azure confidential computing allows RBC to protect data privacy throughout its lifecycle, adhering to high standards of client data protection.
  • Transparency and Consent: RBC maintains transparency in data usage and ensures client consent for additional data uses beyond existing agreements.

Broader Applications and Future Outlook

  • Expanding Use Cases: Beyond retail, RBC sees potential in applying VCR to sectors like automotive, travel, and hospitality.
  • Proof of Concept Success: A successful proof of concept with Microsoft Store demonstrates the effectiveness of VCR in delivering relevant offers to clients.

RBC's adoption of Azure confidential computing signifies its commitment to delivering innovative digital experiences that clients can trust, without compromising on privacy or security.

Link to the full case study on the Microsoft Customer Stories site.


The banking sector's journey towards digital transformation is laden with challenges, especially in the realm of cybersecurity. 

However, the integration of Azure Security Solutions – Azure Arc, Microsoft Sentinel, Azure Confidential Computing, and Azure Monitor – has proven to be a game-changer. The case studies of RBC, ING, and Rabobank serve as testaments to the efficacy and versatility of these solutions in addressing diverse security needs. 

By leveraging Azure’s advanced tools, the above-mentioned behemoths have not only fortified their defenses against evolving cyber threats but have also stepped into a new era of personalized, efficient, and secure banking services.

The success stories underscore the critical role that Azure Security Solutions play in safeguarding the banking industry's future, making it an indispensable asset for any financial institution aiming to thrive and scale its operations.

Talk to our Azure Security experts and schedule a free consultation!

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