To thrive in today’s fast-paced and ever-changing business landscape, many organizations rely on Amazon Web Services (AWS) for its agility and scalability.
AWS allows companies to rapidly deploy and scale technology to meet fluctuating demands without heavy investments in IT infrastructure. It’s an efficient and cost-effective solution that makes it easier for businesses of all sizes to drive innovation.
While the value of AWS is widely recognized, many organizations lack awareness of cloud security. Let’s look at the challenges organizations face when working with AWS and similar cloud services, and how they can protect important data from attacks by focusing on AWS security best practices.
The Biggest Challenges of Working with AWS
Despite all of its undeniable benefits, there are two common challenges organizations face when building on AWS:
- Understanding their cybersecurity role
- Maintaining cloud visibility
Did you know that roughly 99% of cloud security issues are the customers’ fault?
A large portion of these incidents can be prevented by simply understanding the AWS Shared Responsibility Model. It is essential to understand the AWS Shared Responsibility Model, which states that AWS ensures cloud infrastructure security, while customers are responsible for security within their cloud resources.
Customers often mistakenly believe AWS is responsible for other aspects of security, such as access management, safeguarding customer data, and protecting network traffic. These are all responsibilities of the customer. Understanding that your cybersecurity is a shared responsibility is vital for maintaining a secure AWS environment.
The other challenge organizations commonly have is with maintaining visibility within AWS. Visibility is an essential component of a good cloud security strategy — because you can’t secure what you don’t know about. Traditional on-premises security approaches typically are not sufficient for cloud infrastructure.
To keep your cloud environment protected against threats, updating your security policies to your AWS cloud services is a must. Aligning up-to-date security policies with AWS cloud services is necessary to enhance visibility and protect against evolving threats. Let’s look at 9 AWS security best practices to help you accomplish this.
9 AWS Security Best Practices
Familiarize Yourself with the AWS Well-Architected Framework
While AWS isn’t responsible for the security in your cloud environment, they provide ample resources to help you protect your AWS workloads.
For newbies building on AWS, one of the first things to read is the AWS Well-Architected Framework. This will help you learn how to get the most out of your cloud services. The Framework’s Security Pillar is especially important, as it covers a wide range of AWS security best practices to keep you protected from cloud security threats.
Plan Your Cybersecurity Strategy
Constructing a robust cybersecurity strategy is crucial to protect your AWS environment. If you’re new to AWS, it’s important to recognize that traditional security solutions may not adequately protect your cloud assets. So, you need to design a cloud migration security strategy tailored to your unique challenges in the cloud.
If you have experience building on AWS, designing a clear-cut cloud security strategy will help keep your organization protected in the fast-paced world of Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD).
Educate and train everyone within your organization on your AWS cloud security strategy accordingly. This approach lets you bake cloud security into all stages of your development process, ultimately maintaining compliance and establishing proactive preventive measures. When your cybersecurity strategy comes first, security positioning will determine every action you take.
Implement and Enforce Cloud Security Controls
Remember, when it comes to protecting your cloud workloads, the responsibility rests on your shoulders, not AWS. This means it’s up to you to establish effective measures to ensure customer and company data is guarded against malicious attacks. Consider the following cloud security controls and procedures to minimize the risk of data breaches:
- Clearly define user roles: Grant users only the minimal privileges required to perform their tasks, avoiding excessive or redundant access.
- Conduct privilege audits: Regularly review and revoke privileges no longer needed through audits comparing user privileges with current or ongoing assignments.
- Implement a strong password policy: Your password policy should require both strong passwords and password expiration. Enforce the use of strong passwords and set password expiration periods based on your company policy.
- Use multifactor authentication (MFA) and permission time-outs: MFA and session time-outs add an extra layer of security by making it harder for malicious parties to access accounts within your AWS environment.
By implementing these cloud security controls, you can mitigate the risk associated with poor security practices and make it harder for malicious actors to gain access to your data. However, consistent enforcement of these controls across the organization will make or break your policies.
Additionally, best practices for root access require only providing root access when necessary. Safeguard AWS account root user access keys by keeping them in a secure and inaccessible location known only to you.
Make Your AWS Security Policies Accessible
Ensuring everyone is on the same page is the secret to implementing a good cybersecurity strategy. Create a document outlining your security policies and controls and make it readily available on an internal drive accessible to all members of your organization, including stakeholders, external collaborators, and third-party vendors.
It is vital to treat your security strategy as a dynamic and living document — updating it regularly to reflect the ever-evolving technology landscape. With technological advancements come new potential risks and vulnerabilities, necessitating adjustments to your policies to maintain an effective posture.
Always Use Encryption
The importance of encryption cannot be overstated. Not only is it essential for meeting regulatory compliance mandates concerning sensitive data, but it also provides an additional layer of defense, fortifying your overall security stance.
Ideally, you should encrypt all of your data — regardless of compliance obligations. This means using encryption for data in transit and data stored on S3.
AWS makes it easy to encrypt data within their cloud environment. Simply enable their native encryption feature that protects data stored on S3. It’s also a good idea to use client-side encryption to protect your data before it goes to the cloud. That way, you get extra protection by using server-side and client-side encryption.
Within AWS, encrypting data is effortless through the native encryption features provided by AWS (AWS Encryption SDK and AWS KMS). Furthermore, implementing client-side encryption prior to data transfer to the cloud ensures an added level of protection using both server-side and client-side encryption.
AWS KMS gives you centralized control over your encryption keys. Leveraging client-side encryption along with server-side streamlines the key management process, making it convenient and efficient.
[Related: Data Security Best Practices]
Backup Your Data
You never know if you will need to restore data after a breach, so back up your data regularly. AWS Backup provides a simple solution for automating backups throughout your AWS environment, alleviating concerns about potential data loss and seamless restoration when needed.
Also, consider enabling multifactor authentication. This requires users to include two forms of authentication before they delete or modify the versioning state of a bucket in S3.
Keep Your AWS Systems Up to Date
It’s imperative to keep your AWS cloud servers patched at all times — even servers not publicly accessible. Neglecting to update your cloud infrastructure exposes you to various security vulnerabilities which can result in timely and costly incidents for your organization.
Thankfully, there are several options available to streamline the patching process for your AWS servers. You can leverage third-party tools designed specifically for patching AWS servers, or you can use AWS Systems Manager Patch Manager, which makes it easy to automate patches for your cloud systems. Keeping up to date with patches fortifies your security posture and mitigates against potential risks.
Create a Prevention and Response Strategy
This may sound counterintuitive, but part of keeping your cloud systems protected comes with accepting the reality you will be attacked at some point. Of all the AWS security best practices listed, this is the most important to remember.
Often, cybersecurity strategies focus primarily on preventive measures. However, achieving absolute protection against attacks is an unattainable goal. The threat landscape constantly evolves, with threat actors persistently seeking ways to circumvent your security defenses and practices. There may come a time when their efforts bear fruit.
Here’s the problem: When your strategy doesn’t account for what happens in the event of a successful attack, you’ll be ill-prepared to handle post incident remediation. You may not even notice a breach until weeks or months later. That’s why you should assume you’ll be breached and plan how to respond accordingly.
The quicker you respond to a successful attack, the easier it is to reduce the damage. You can identify where and why the breach occurred, what your security vulnerabilities are, and how to solve the problem before it gets worse.
Adopt a Cloud-Native Security Solution
Traditional security solutions weren’t designed to deal with the complexities of the cloud, making them ineffective at securing your cloud assets. Trust your AWS cloud security with a native cloud solution that:
- Offers extensive security capabilities that support continuous delivery practices
- Protects against external threats, hardening the security of your AWS workloads
- Provides enhanced visibility into your cloud infrastructure, enabling comprehensive monitoring and control
What’s more, many effective native cloud security solutions can help you meet various compliance requirements. By strengthening your security posture, it simplifies adherence to the AWS best practices outlined here. Embracing controls purpose-built for the cloud enables you to tackle the unique challenges posed by cloud environments, protecting your valuable assets.
A Better Way to Secure Your AWS Environment
If you’re used to securing on-premises environments, cloud security feels like a whole different ballgame. These 9 AWS security best practices will help you keep up with the fast-paced nature of building on the cloud. But you still need a native solution capable of protecting your AWS deployments against malicious parties.
That’s where Fortra’s Alert Logic MDR for AWS can help. Developed specifically for AWS, our security solution operates seamlessly within the AWS ecosystem. This means you get 24/7 protection from cyberattacks, rapid alerts and responses to incidents and suspicious activity, and security compliance controls for various regulations.