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There’s no denying the benefits of cloud applications and services. Companies of all sizes turn to Amazon Web Services (AWS) to drive innovation, maximize value, and achieve their business goals. But if you don’t understand the role you play in AWS SaaS security, you could be leaving yourself vulnerable to cyberattacks that undermine those benefits.

In this post, we’re going to look at ways to improve your security positioning and protect the data within your SaaS applications.

First, let’s look at the state of the current threat landscape.

Cyberattacks are on the Rise

The start of the COVID-19 pandemic forced a lot of organizations to accelerate their cloud migration and deployment strategies to accommodate the shift to remote work. As a result, we saw an alarming increase in malicious breaches throughout the global pandemic.

Cybersecurity experts called 2020 the “worst year on record” before it was even over. While attacks can occur for many different reasons, the rapid expansion of cloud services over the past year left many companies vulnerable to breaches. Here’s why.

The majority of incidents can be categorized into one of two buckets:

  1. Targeted malicious attacks
  2. System glitches and human error

Misconfigurations and targeted attacks remain the primary causes of data breaches, but how are attackers gaining access to sensitive data?

According to Verizon’s 2020 Cyber-Espionage Report, web applications made up the majority of compromised assets (43%). This means web applications (including SaaS apps) make up the biggest attack vector used to breach cybersecurity systems.

So, how do you protect your applications from data breaches and other malicious activities? Read on to learn how to create a cloud security strategy that protects your workloads.

AWS SaaS Apps

6 Fundamentals of Successful AWS SaaS Security

With most companies expanding their cloud services, the need for container security is more important than ever. But if you’re new to AWS, developing your first cloud security strategy can be overwhelming and confusing.

That’s why we’ve included the following fundamentals of AWS security. These practices will help you develop an effective AWS SaaS security roadmap that helps prevent threats and minimize the impact of successful attacks.

[Related: 9 AWS Security Best Practices]

1. Understand your role as an AWS customer

The first step in creating a strong AWS SaaS strategy is understanding your responsibility as an AWS customer.

If you’re not familiar with the shared responsibility model, read its description on AWS’ website.

According to this model, AWS is responsible for the security of the cloud and customers are responsible for security in the cloud.

This means that AWS will give you a secure underlying infrastructure that’s capable of running your SaaS application and other cloud services. However, it’s your job to secure everything built within AWS. If an attacker exploits a vulnerability in your application or a misconfiguration you make in a system, such as Amazon S3, and steals customer data, you’re responsible for that attack –– not AWS.

All AWS customers must become familiar with the shared responsibility model, because once your security responsibilities become clear, you can start looking at ways to safeguard your data. The good news is there are many excellent tools within AWS that help with minimizing threats and reducing the impact of successful cyberattacks.

2. Focus on prevention and mitigation

Attacks happen within the blink of an eye. In their report, Verizon found that 70% of systems are compromised in a matter of minutes, but most breaches aren’t discovered until months later.

That’s why it’s important to have an AWS SaaS security strategy that focuses on the following two scenarios:

  • Pre-breach: Looks at various ways to minimize the likelihood of successful attacks by addressing threats, vulnerabilities, and misconfigurations
  • Post-breach: Looks at how to reduce the impact of a successful attack through rapid detection and following a security incident response guide

The truth is you can never be 100% protected from cyberattacks, no matter how robust your security strategy is. Adopting a two-pronged approach that focuses on prevention and incident response enables you to respond to successful attacks more quickly. The sooner you can respond to an attack, the greater your chances of mitigating its impact.

[Related Reading: Create a Comprehensive Automated Incident Response Plan]

3. Assume you’ll be breached

You can’t come up with an effective post-breach strategy until you accept the fact that you’ll likely be breached at some point. This may sound counterproductive, but the assume breach principle is an important cybersecurity strategy. Here’s what it means.

The obvious goal of your cybersecurity strategy is to minimize the likelihood of attacks, but the only way you’ll be equipped to respond to a successful attack is to assume your defenses will be breached. That way, you can be better equipped to recover from an attack.

4. Build security into your pipeline

Security is just as important as other phases in your development pipeline, so don’t treat it as an afterthought. Build security into your pipeline by making it an essential element of your software delivery lifecycle. This means making security just as much of a priority as the applications you’re developing. That way, you create a security-minded culture within your organization that teams follow through every stage of production.

AWS-Checklist-1

5. Build on a secure foundation

The easiest way to protect your AWS applications is to build them on a secure foundation, then actively assess your security posture. One way you can do that is by following the AWS Well-Architected framework. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about building secure applications within AWS.

The security pillar of the framework looks at a wide range of topics pertaining to AWS SaaS security, including:

  • Identity and access management
  • Data protection
  • Infrastructure protection
  • Incident response

If this is the first time you’re building within AWS, we strongly advise you to read through the framework. This will make it easier for you to keep your plans and designs aligned with AWS’ good practices.

6. Monitor threats continuously

A breach can happen in a matter of seconds, and it can go undetected for months. That’s why robust monitoring is critical for detecting vulnerabilities, as well as reducing the time it takes to detect and respond to successful breaches.

The problem is that detecting breaches isn’t easy. There are several security tools on AWS that help with monitoring, but using them correctly requires cloud security expertise — expertise that most companies developing SaaS applications lack.

So, how can you protect your cloud applications from cyberattacks?

We don’t recommend adopting a “roll up your sleeves” approach with cloud security unless you have experience in the field. Instead, consider entrusting your AWS SaaS security to experts that specialize in cloud security. If you don’t know where to start, check out our Managed Detection and Response solution for AWS.

We offer deep integration with AWS services, as well as round-the-clock monitoring of AWS workloads by cybersecurity experts. That way, you can devote your time to developing SaaS applications while experts ensure the security of your cloud workloads.

The Takeaway

With more companies turning to cloud services to minimize costs and increase efficiency, the demand for AWS SaaS security is greater than ever. Attackers are constantly crawling the internet looking for vulnerable web servers to breach. If you’re not careful, you could fall victim to an attack ­–– ­and not even know it until months later.

Learn more about how you can protect your workloads by watching our webinar on AWS SaaS security.

Not sure whether your current cloud security strategy is giving you the protection you need? Download our free AWS Security Checklist to see whether you’re taking the necessary steps to minimize attacks and mitigate damages.

Dan Pitman
About the Author
Dan Pitman

Dan Pitman is a Senior Solutions Architect at Alert Logic and works with customers to develop and design security solutions to fit their needs on-premises, hybrid, and in the cloud. With over 20 years’ experience in technology spanning consumer support, development, infrastructure operations and security, Dan is passionate about technology and leads the way as a Solutions Architect in helping Alert Logic’s customers secure their systems.

Born and raised in South Wales, Dan enjoys returning to Alert Logic’s Cardiff Headquarters on a regular basis, working with the teams there continuously improving the customer experience.

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