Technologies

Securing AWS Environments- Tips and Tools

Securing AWS Environments

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the most extensive cloud service in the world, offering 200+ features and services to create applications and information services of various types. Today, almost every company, from growing startups to the biggest enterprises, is adopting AWS due to its cost-effective, agile, and innovative nature. However, in the world of data breaches and cyber threats, even the AWS environment is prone to security threats and hacking. Since more businesses are now depending on AWS and this cloud service contains sensitive data, securing AWS services and protecting its environment has become crucial.

Although AWS has many built-in security features to ensure its environment's security, its ultimate safety is still left to the user. Managing the security of AWS is not rocket science, no matter if you are a newbie embarking on a cloud journey or a seasoned AWS veteran. You just need the right policies, standards, practices, and tools to improve AWS security and reduce the risk of threats. From AWS security best practices to valuable security tools, in this blog, you will find everything to protect your data from potential threats and defend it against evolving cyber threats.

Cracking the Code: AWS Security Best Practices

If you think AWS is responsible for all aspects of security, including access, customer data, and network traffic, you are highly mistaken. Securing AWS services is the responsibility of the user to maintain a secure AWS environment.Have a look at AWS security best practices to help you mitigate risks and safeguard your data and resources.

Implement and Enforce Cloud Security Controls

Implementing and enforcing cloud security measures is one of the AWS security best practices for protecting your AWS environment from numerous attacks and vulnerabilities. To protect the company and customer data from malicious attacks, you have to implement effective measures and strategies. This includes:

  • Use the principle of least privilege to guarantee that users, roles, and services only have the permissions they require to do their jobs.
  • Use strong passwords, password expiration, and multi-factor authentication to add an extra layer of security and make it difficult for malicious parties to access your AWS accounts.
  • Review the IAM roles and policies from time to time to remove unnecessary permissions and unused credentials.
  • Use IAM conditions to build fine-grained access limits depending on characteristics like IP address, time of day, and encryption status.
  • Create special roles and implement separation of duties and privileges for potentially dangerous actions to prevent excess power to a single account.
  • Rotate the access keys regularly using the Security hub.

Run an AWS Security Assessment

Security scanning by running an AWS security assessment is an important step in securing AWS services. It helps you identify vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and potential security risks in specific features of infrastructure and applications that require security mitigation. Firstly, notify AWS of the planned action to make it understand that the security assessment is not an external attack from the malicious party. Security scanning includes:

  • ASV scanning (VPC and network) using PCI Security Standards Council-certified suppliers
  • Vulnerability scanning using Amazon Inspector or third-party tools
  • Unused credentials, inactive users, and overly permissive permissions scanning using IAM configuration
  • Penetration testing to check AWS weaknesses and potential security vulnerabilities.
  • Review VPS configurations, such as route tables, subnets, open ports, exposure of sensitive services, and unrestricted access.
  • Use Cloud Workload Protection Platform (CWPP) to perform side-scanning vulnerability and attack assessments
  • Check the encryption settings for data at rest and in transit.
  • Address discovered security vulnerabilities by taking the appropriate steps, such as changing IAM policies, activating encryption, establishing security groups, and patching vulnerable systems.

Keep Your AWS Systems Up to Date

Outdated infrastructure provides an opportunity for cybercriminals to enter the AWS environment and access data and controls. Maintaining the most recent versions of AWS systems is essential for safeguarding them against security flaws that could cause expensive and serious problems for your company. For patching AWS services, you have two options: utilize AWS Systems Manager Patch Manager, which makes it simple to automate patches for your cloud systems or use third-party solutions/service providers. Patching regularly strengthens your security posture and reduces potential threats.

Secure Your Data

Securing your data in AWS is another most important AWS security best practice which is critical for safeguarding sensitive information from unwanted access and complying with regulations. Here's how you can protect your data effectively:

  • Use server-side encryption or AWS Key Management Service (KMS) to encrypt data while it's at rest.
  • Implement data classification and tagging to manage access based on sensitivity.
  • Encrypt data in transit via the SSL/TLS protocols to protect it when it moves.
  • Create Timely backups to avoid losing large chunks of important data due to accidental erasing, database corruption, or natural disaster
  • Decommission your data securely after deleting it from AWS, as the files on media are not decommissioned; instead, they are stored in storage blocks that can be accessible by malicious parties.
  • To safeguard your peripheral systems, such as DNS, use Amazon Route 53, a secure DNS service, or create a custom DNS solution built on an Amazon EC2 instance.
  • Build a threat protection layer to secure AWS infrastructure using firewall rules, network access control lists, Amazon VPC, and security groups.
  • Design and use encryption to manage keys and encryption to guarantee that keys and encrypted data are kept apart and under strict, safe rules.

Mitigate AWS Security Vulnerabilities and Other Risks

It's critical to take the required action to resolve any dangers and security issues you come across when conducting a security scan. Here are a few things you can do to resolve the issues and vulnerabilities in securing AWS services:

  • Implement zero trust restrictions whenever possible to provide secure access to AWS infrastructure.
  • Install and incorporate a web application firewall into your apps.
  • Automate patch deployment and guarantee timely updatesusing third-party patch management tools or AWS Systems Manager.
  • Modify the permission and authentication processes (e.g., replace IAM User Credentials with one-time tokens).
  • For IAM users, enforce multi-factor authentication (MFA) to prevent unwanted access.
  • Update and make corrections to the traffic filtering rules (Network Access Control Lists and Security Groups).
  • Use secure password policies and strong passwords for databases, application servers, servlet, and other third-party software access.
  • Using OSSEC, provide integrity control at the operating system, configuration file, third-party application, etc.
  • To limit the effect of security problems and respond swiftly, develop and test an incident response plan.

Limit Security Groups

Limiting security groups is one of the AWS security best practices that allow you to enable network access to AWS resources that you have provisioned. It is crucial to confirm that the connection is enabled from known network ranges and that only necessary ports are accessible. To do that:

  1. Use services like AWS config, AWS firewall manager, etc., to add virtual private cloud (VPC) security group configuration.
  2. Follow the rule of least privilege and allow only necessary inbound and outbound traffic to AWS resources.
  3. Restrict inbound traffic and control outbound traffic to allow traffic from trusted sources and minimize the risk of data exfiltration and unauthorized communication.

Manage Third Party Risk

Access to third parties makes your AWS environment vulnerable to security threats as they are hard to track and monitor. Third-party risks include some severe attacks like the SolarWinds attack, one of the most well-known—and damaging—third-party attacks in the recent past. Implement the following measures to minimize third-party risks:

  • Build in Least Privilege: Configure policies with caution and grant your team/vendors only the permissions they actually require to complete the task.
  • Use Permission Boundaries: Add permission boundaries to third-party roles in order to restrict the actions that the user can perform beyond what the policy permissions allow.
  • Ask for External IDs for Third-Party Roles: Set an AWS external ID string for a third-party role to prevent attackers from impersonating as reused account IDs and thereby securing your environments.
  • Track Third-Party Activity:Monitor the activities of all third-party vendors with access to your AWS environment and identify unwanted behaviors. Moreover, make sure to close permissions for inactive parties.
  • Rotate Keys Every: Rotate access keys and secrets on a regular basis to add an additional layer of protection while also preventing and limiting spying.

AWS Security Tools: Empowering Protection of AWS Environment

For securing AWS services, it's crucial to use some valuable AWS security tools that make securing AWS services tasks even more efficient and effective. There are a multitude of AWS security tools that you can use for securing the AWS environment. You can select the tool you need to protect your workloads on AWS, including automated threat detection, tracking all activities in your AWS environment, comprehensive firewall protection, and so on. Some of the most valuable and important tools you should use are -

AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) - Used for creating and managing user access and permissions within your AWS account.

Amazon GuardDuty- For Monitoring AWS accounts and detecting threats using machine learning.

AWS Config - This is for assessing, auditing, and evaluating a complete inventory of AWS resources and tracking configuration changes.

AWS Macie -Identify, classify, and safeguard sensitive user data stored in Amazon S3 buckets.

AWS CloudTrail - Identifying and correcting any inappropriate or suspicious behavior, such as unauthenticated access, incorrect setups, and loose permissions.

AWS Secrets Manager - Storing secrets, such as database credentials and API keys, and managing their life cycles.

AWS Inspector - Evaluates AWS workloads for potential software vulnerabilities or network exposures, then creates reports with priority security improvements.

AWS Security Hub - Brings several security related services together under one roof, giving you a single location to receive security alerts, execute security tests, automate integration and pursue corrective steps.

These tools allow you to create users and roles, help you recognize security threats, protect sensitive data stored in AWS S3 buckets, get a complete overview of security position, and many more.

Conclusion

Whether you are a new business or a veteran in this field, securing an AWS environment is important to protecting sensitive data and preventing the entry of unauthorized users. We have discussed some of the most useful AWS security best practices and AWS security tools to identify potential vulnerabilities, address the reasons and utilize incident response. This can help you prevent customer and company data stealing, expensive data breaches, and exploitation of AWS services. Therefore, if you are reluctant to use AWS or have no idea how to protect your data, these best practices and tools are your saving hand.

Frequently Asked Questions

Get great articles direct to your inbox

The latest Resourcequeue news, articles, and resources, sent straight to your inbox every month.