Azure App Service, Private Endpoint, and Application Gateway/WAF

In this post, I will share how to configure an Azure Web App (or App Service) with Private Endpoint, and securely share that HTTP/S service using the Azure Application Gateway, with the optional Web Application Firewall (WAF) feature. Whew! That’s lots of feature names!

Background

Azure Application (App) Services or Web Apps allows you to create and host a web site or web application in Azure without (directly) dealing with virtual machines. This platform service makes HTTP/S services easy. By default, App Services are shared behind a public/ & shared frontend (actually, load-balanced frontends) with public IP addresses.

Earlier this year, Microsoft released Private Link, a service that enables an Azure platform resource (or service shared using a Standard Tier Load Balancer) to be connected to a virtual network subnet. The resource is referred to as the linked resource. The linked resource connects to the subnet using a Private Endpoint. There is a Private Endpoint resource and a special NIC; it’s this NIC that shares the resource with a private IP address, obtained from the address space of the subnet. You can then connect to the linked resource using the Private Endpoint IPv4 address. Note that the Private Endpoint can connect to many different “subresources” or services (referred to as serviceGroup in ARM) that the linked resource can offer. For example, a storage account has serviceGroups such as file, blob, and web.

Notes: Private Link is generally available. Private Endpoint for App Services is still in preview. App Services Premium V2 is required for Private Endpoint.

The Application Gateway allows you to share/load balance a HTTP/S service at the application layer with external (virtual network, WAN, Internet) clients. This reverse proxy also offers an optional Web Application Firewall (WAF), at extra cost, to protect the HTTP/S service with the OWASP rule set and bot protection. With the Standard Tier of DDoS protection enabled on the Application Gateway virtual network, the WAF extends this protection to Layer-7.

Design Goal

The goal of this design is to ensure that all HTTP/S (HTTPS in this example) traffic to the Web App must:

  • Go through the WAF.
  • Reverse proxy to the App Service via the Private Endpoint private IPv4 address only.

The design will result in:

  • Layer-4 protection by an NSG associated with the WAF subnet. NSG Traffic Analytics will send the data to Log Analytics (and optionally Azure Sentinel for SIEM) for logging, classification, and reporting.
  • Layer-7 protection by the WAF. If the Standard Tier of DD0S protection is enabled, then the protection will be at Layer-4 (Application Gateway Public IP Address) and Layer-7 (WAF). Logging data will be sent to Log Analytics (and optionally Azure Sentinel for SIEM) for logging and reporting.
  • Connections directly to the web app will fail with a “HTTP Error 403 – Forbidden” error.

Note: If you want to completely prevent TCP connections to the web app then you need to consider App Service Environment/Isolated Tier or a different Azure platform/IaaS solution.

Design

Here is the design – you will want to see the original image:

There are a number of elements to the design:

Private DNS Zone

You must be able to resolve the FQDNs of your services using the per-resource type domain names. App Services use a private DNS zone called privatelink.azurewebsites.net. There are hacks to get this to work. The best solution is to create a central Azure Private DNS Zone called privatelink.azurewebsites.net.

If you have DNS servers configured on your virtual network(s), associate the Private DNS Zone with your DNS servers’ virtual network(s). Create a conditional forwarder on the DNS servers to forward all requests to privatelink.azurewebsites.net to 168.63.129.16 (https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/virtual-network/what-is-ip-address-168-63-129-16). This will result in:

  1. A network client sending a DNS resolution request to your DNS servers for *.privatelink.azurewebsites.net.
  2. The DNS servers forwarding the requests for *.privatelink.azurewebsites.net to 168.63.129.16.
  3. The Azure Private DNS Zone will receive the forwarded request and respond to the DNS servers.
  4. The DNS servers will respond to the client with the answer.

App Service

As stated before the App Service must be hosted on a Premium v2 tier App Service Plan. In my example, the app is called myapp with a default URI of https://myapp.azurewebsites.net. A virtual network access rule is added to the App Service to permit access from the subnet of the Application Gateway. Don’t forget to figure out what to do with the SCM URI for DevOps/GitHub integration.

Private Endpoint

A Private Endpoint was added to the App Service. The service/subresource/serviceGroup is sites. Automatically, Microsoft will update their DNS to modify the name resolution of myapp.azurewebsites.net to resolve to myapp.privatelink.azurewebsites.net. In the above example, the NIC for the Private Endpoint gets an IP address of 10.0.64.68 from the AppSubnet that the App Service is now connected to.

Add an A record to the Private DNS Zone for the App Service, resolving to the IPv4 address of the Private Endpoint NIC. In my case, myapp.privatelink.azurewebsites.net will resolve to 10.0.64.68. This in turn means that myapp.azurewebsites.net > myapp.privatelink.azurewebsites.net > 10.0.64.68.

Application Gateway/WAF

  1. Add a new Backend Pool with the IPv4 address of the Private Endpoint NIC, which is 10.0.64.68 in my example.
  2. Create a multisite HTTPS:443 listener for the required public URI, which will be myapp.joeelway.com in my example, adding the certificate, ideally from an Azure Key Vault. Use the public IP address (in my example) as the frontend.
  3. Set up a Custom Probe to test https://myapp.azurewebsites.net:443 (using the hostname option) with acceptable responses of 200-399.
  4. Create an HTTP Setting (the reverse proxy) to forward traffic to https://myapp.azurewebsites.net:443 (using the hostname option) using a well-known certificate (accepting the default cert of the App Service) for end-to-end encryption.
  5. Bind all of the above together with a routing rule.

Public DNS

Now you need to get traffic for https://myapp.joeelway.com to go to the (public, in my example) frontend IP address of the Application Gateway/WAF. There are lots of ways to do this, including Azure Front Door, Azure Traffic Manager, and third-party solutions. The easy way is to add an A record to your public DNS zone (joeelway.com, in my example) that resolves to the public IP address of the Application Gateway.

The Result

  1. A client browses https://myapp.joeelway.com.
  2. The client name resolution goes to public DNS which resolves myapp.joeelway.com to the public IP address of the Application Gateway.
  3. The client connects to the Application Gateway, requesting https://myapp.joeelway.com.
  4. The Listener on the Application Gateway receives the connection.
    • Any WAF functionality inspects and accepts/rejects the connection request.
  5. The Routing Rule in the Application Gateway associates the request to https://myapp.joeelway.com with the HTTP Setting and Custom Probe for https://myapp.azurewebsites.net.
  6. The Application Gateway routes the request for https://myapp.joeelway.com to https://myapp.azurewebsites.net at the IPv4 address of the Private Endpoint (documented in the Application Gateway Backend Pool).
  7. The App Service receives and accepts the request for https://myapp.azurewebsites.net and responds to the Application Gateway.
  8. The Application Gateway reverse-proxies the response to the client.

For Good Measure

If you really want to secure things:

  • Deploy the Application Gateway as WAFv2 and store SSL certs in a Key Vault with limited Access Policies
  • The NSG on the WAF subnet must be configured correctly and only permit the minimum traffic to the WAF.
  • All resources will send all logs to Log Analytics.
  • Azure Sentinel is associated with the Log Analytics workspace.
  • Azure Security Center Standard Tier is enabled on the subscription and the Log Analytics Workspace.
  • If you can justify the cost, DDoS Standard Tier is enabled on the virtual network with the public IP address(es).

And that’s just the beginning đŸ™‚

2 thoughts on “Azure App Service, Private Endpoint, and Application Gateway/WAF”

  1. What advantage does this configuration have over using the Azure App service with Front Door and the WAP attached to the Front Door?

    1. WAF provides load balancing at the regional level. WAF/Gateway provides load balancing and cookie functionality at the local level.

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