AWS is the most used cloud service provider in the world, accounting for 33% of the global cloud computing market. Hence, colossal amounts of sensitive corporate data are stored in the AWS cloud – and they need the best security to avoid massively dangerous attacks and breaches.
In this article, we’ll dive into how AWS security works, its unique features, and what AWS security best practices you, as an AWS customer, should follow to ensure that your data is safe.
Understanding AWS Security
AWS security, in essence, doesn’t differ much from the security features and measures of other platforms. Its main goal is to protect the infrastructure that powers AWS cloud services, and some of its core activities include patch management, device configuration management, and fixing vulnerabilities in the cloud infrastructure. However, despite the similarities, there are still two ways in which the AWS security model majorly differs from its counterparts.
The fact that far from all aspects of environmental security in a cloud are under the control of the cloud service provider is the first unique factor, which is commonly referred to as shared responsibility. According to this shared responsibility approach, AWS is placed in charge of protecting the cloud’s infrastructure – things like hardware upkeep and updates, whereas any items that are placed in AWS environments must be secured by the customer using the infrastructure. That implies that customers are in charge of things like patching and updating operating systems, setting up the AWS services, and managing who has access to them.
Easy creation and deployment of new assets is another distinctive feature of a cloud security system, which can be both a positive and a negative. It means that any system or person with the appropriate credentials can rapidly add new infrastructure to a cloud network. Which, in turn, allows making changes in a cloud network much simpler, but without the proper safeguards and monitoring, it also raises the possibility that new infrastructure won’t be deployed securely.
Importance of AWS Cloud Security
Naturally, strong AWS security is crucial and for the same reasons why cybersecurity in general is crucial too. As a company migrates more and more valuable and sensitive data to the cloud, the significance of having robust AWS security is growing. Otherwise, the reputational harm that can result from a preventable incident can be catastrophic.
Important also is the realization that being in the cloud does not naturally make things 100% secure. According to IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach 2022 research, cloud computing currently accounts for 45% of all cyberattacks. In this research it’s also been noted that AWS, being the most popular cloud service provider on the planet, has also experienced the most breaches.
AWS Security Challenges
One significant AWS security hurdle is potential misconfiguration, where poor settings may unintentionally expose sensitive information or introduce vulnerabilities. That’s why one of the AWS security recommendations is to carefully design security parameters, access controls, and network configurations. It helps avoid unwanted access and potential data breaches.
The aforementioned shared responsibility approach presents another problem. In a model where customers are also accountable for security on their side, breaches are always going to be more likely. So being aware of AWS security best practices and putting in place appropriate security controls for both data and application levels is also vital.
Lastly, managing identification and access can be difficult, particularly in bigger setups. Managing user identities, access privileges, and permissions across numerous AWS services should be treated with great care – it’s crucial to properly set up AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) rules, and routinely review and update access controls.
AWS Security Best Practices
Now that we’ve established that an AWS customer shares the responsibility of securing the system with the system itself, let’s look at how you can achieve the highest security level on your side. Here are the AWS security best practices:
1. Enable Multi-Factor Authentication
One of the most common AWS security recommendations, Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) prevents unwanted access even if passwords are compromised by requiring an extra authentication factor, such as a time-based one-time password or biometric verification. By guaranteeing that only the employees with the proper authorization can access the AWS account, you massively improve your security.
2. Use AWS IAM for Access Control
The Identity and Access Management solution (IAM) solution enables fine control over user rights by establishing roles, groups, and rules, ensuring that people have the right access privileges needed to perform their tasks. You can manage who has access to your AWS resources and what actions they can take by setting up separate user accounts with distinctive credentials and giving them particular permissions depending on their roles and responsibilities.
3. Implement Centralized Logging and Monitoring
You can record in-depth logs of API activity using AWS CloudTrail, creating a trail of events that can be audited and examined. Additionally, Amazon CloudWatch gives you the ability to gather and keep track of logs from multiple AWS services, and allows you to quickly spot and look into any suspicious or odd behavior. You can learn a lot about your infrastructure by centralizing and analyzing these logs, but make sure you are in compliance with all relevant legal requirements.
4. Use Secure Channels for Data Encryption
Secure Sockets Layer/Transport Layer Security (SSL/TLS) protocols can guarantee the confidentiality and integrity of data exchanged between your apps and AWS services. You can also encrypt data at rest using AWS services like Amazon S3 or Amazon EBS to prevent unauthorized access to it while it is being stored. Lastly, you can manage encryption keys securely with the help of AWS Key Management Service (KMS), giving you access control over your encrypted data.
5. Regularly Backup Your Data
Depending on your business needs and regulatory requirements, choose the proper backup frequency and retention duration. And to ensure the security of your backup, make use of AWS services like Amazon S3 that offer dependable and scalable storage solutions. It’s also recommended to run tests of the restoration procedure regularly to make sure your backups are trustworthy and that you can easily restore your data when necessary.
6. Continuously Scan for Vulnerabilities
Through running regular vulnerability scans of your AWS resources, you can find and fix flaws, unsafe configurations, and other security threats. You can do that with the help of AWS Inspector – it automates vulnerability scans and gets thorough information on the security status of your resources. You may also boost your security evaluations and stay ahead of potential attacks by combining AWS Inspector with third-party vulnerability scanning tools.
7. Implement Network Security Measures
You can create isolated network environments with fine control over inbound and outbound traffic flow by utilizing the features of yet another AWS service – AWS Virtual Private Cloud . With it, you can define access controls by configuring security groups and network ACLs, which limit traffic to the necessary ports and protocols. Such properties as bastion hosts and private subnets are able to split the network, limiting lateral movement and isolating vital resources, which, in turn, enhances security.
8. Use AWS Shield for DDoS Protection
Built-in DDoS protection capabilities offered by AWS Shield aid in the defense against infrastructure damaging DDoS attacks. AWS Shield instantly detects and mitigates DDoS assaults by utilizing global threat information, which helps maintain the availability and efficiency of your applications.
9. Encrypt Sensitive Data with AWS KMS
AWS Key Management Service (KMS) allows you to create and manage encryption keys, guaranteeing that only permitted parties can access and decrypt the protected data. You can encrypt data at rest, including databases and storage, by easily connecting AWS KMS with different AWS services, offering your infrastructure an extra degree of security.
10. Regularly Review and Update IAM Policies
You can make sure that permissions are in line with your current business requirements and security best practices by routinely reviewing and updating your IAM policies. By removing unused permissions and modifying policies in response to changes in roles and responsibilities, you lessen the risk of illegal actions and potential security vulnerabilities.
11. Patch and Update AWS Resources Regularly
Keep up with any security updates and warnings provided by AWS and other suppliers regarding the services and products you use. Establish a reliable patch management procedure that involves regular testing, monitoring, and update deployment. Swift fixes of known vulnerabilities greatly reduce the risk of exploitation and guarantee the security and reliability of your AWS resources.
12. Limit Public Access to Resources
Set up security groups, network ACLs, and IAM policies to limit inbound access to only relevant ports and protocols – this will help you implement effective access controls. Also make use of the aforementioned private subnets and bastion hosts to enable safe remote access to your resources. Minimizing the surface area accessible to the public will naturally improve the overall security of your infrastructure.
13. Enable Logging for AWS Resources
You can monitor and analyze security incidents by gathering logs from services like Amazon S3, Amazon CloudFront, and Amazon RDS. And like we mentioned before, you can also spot any unusual activity and look into potential threats or unauthorized access attempts by analyzing these logs with tools like Amazon CloudWatch or third-party log management solutions.
14. Use AWS WAF for Web Application Protection
AWS Web Application Firewall (WAF) adds an extra layer to your security by allowing you to create rules and policies that filter and keep an eye on incoming web traffic. It also helps protect your web applications from potential threats by blocking widely used web vulnerabilities like SQL injection and cross-site scripting (XSS). Finally, it provides defense against DDoS attacks at the application layer, thereby boosting the security and availability of your web applications.
15. Monitor and Control Third-Party Data Access
Last but not least of our AWS security recommendations, you should put strict control measures in place to manage and monitor third-party data accesses within your AWS environment. Use AWS IAM roles to grant temporary access with very specific permissions that third-party services need, and only those ones. Also make sure to regularly check and audit their access to verify compliance and reduce any dangers brought on by third parties accessing your data.
The importance of AWS security is, naturally, very critical because of how much sensitive data tends to be stored in the cloud. However, it may be compromised because of the customer’s misunderstanding of shared responsibility or the ease at which major infrastructure changes can be made by anyone with the proper authorization.
To mitigate security risks, you should follow most, if not all of the AWS security best practices mentioned above, such as implementing Multi-Factor Authentication, Identity and Access Management, AWS Shield, AWS KMS and performing regular vulnerability scans, among other things. And if at any point you find it difficult to set up a secure cloud environment, don’t hesitate to contact a team of AWS security experts like OMI for help.