Keeping up with modern business demands isn’t easy. Organizations of all sizes turn to Amazon Web Services (AWS) and similar platforms for unprecedented levels of scalability and adaptability that come with cloud computing.

Cloud transformation is more than important — it’s essential. It allows organizations to keep up with the rapidly changing technological landscape, but as with most anything, there’s also a downside. Many companies don’t have a cybersecurity strategy that matches the pace of their tech adoption, leaving them open to attacks.

If you haven’t given much thought to your cloud security strategy, you’re not alone. Many companies don’t understand how security with AWS works.

In this post, we’re clearing up a significant misconception about AWS workload security, then look at ways you can strengthen your security posture.

What Is an AWS Workload?

If this is your first experience with Amazon Web Services, you might be wondering what these workloads are. The official AWS workload definition is various “resources and code that deliver business value.”

Here’s an easier definition. In the world of cloud computing, a cloud workload simply refers to the tasks or jobs happening in the cloud at any given time. These tasks can include things like managing containers (a way to run software), handling databases (where data is stored), and using virtual machines (simulated computers). When you put all these activities together, they form the backbone of resources and elements that make cloud applications work smoothly. Think of a cloud workload as the engine under the hood, that powers the different applications we use in the cloud.

Further, an AWS workload is simply a type of cloud workload that’s being run in Amazon Web Services.

Understanding workloads is crucial as they are the driving force behind the services we use in the cloud. Cloud applications rely on various workloads, such as managing containers, handling databased and using virtual machines, to ensure everything functions correctly.

The security of the data moving through your cloud environment is vital for your company’s survival. It’s about making sure that the information processed within the cloud is protected, which is a key priority in today’s digital landscape.

Why Cybersecurity Remains a Top Priority

Most companies rely on public cloud services with 96% of companies using at least one public cloud service.

The global cost of a data breach has shown a consistent trend of remaining costly, with data points indicating it was $4.45 million in 2021, $4.24 million in 2022, and again reaching $4.45 million in 2023. When you factor in regulatory fines and lost business, your organization could end up losing millions of dollars due to a cyberattack.

Organizations commonly identify cybersecurity threats, data privacy, and compliance issues as significant challenges. Both enterprises and small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) ranked security as their biggest cloud challenge.

And that makes sense. The cost of a data breach can cripple even the most successful companies.

Here’s where things get interesting. Ponemon’s findings reveal that fewer than 25% of enterprises have embraced security automation in their defenses against cyberattacks. Consider this: Employing security automation has the potential to slash the cost of a data breach by a substantial 60%. The question then is, what factors are hindering more organizations from adopting automation solutions to safeguard their AWS workloads?

There’s a common misconception that AWS is responsible for the security of your cloud environment, and that’s not entirely true. Here’s how it really works:

  • AWS is responsible for the security of the cloud
  • Customers are responsible for security in the cloud

In other words, AWS is responsible for delivering a secure infrastructure for you to work with, then you’re responsible for the security of everything built within AWS. This is known as the shared responsibility model.

It’s critical for companies using AWS to be cognizant of this shared responsibility because most cloud security threats are avoidable. The majority of cloud security issues can be linked to the customers — not AWS.

When asked about their biggest cloud security threats, companies ranked AWS misconfigurations as their greatest vulnerability. The next greatest threat was insecure APIs and interfaces, followed by poor access controls. All of these issues fall under the customer’s responsibility as per the shared responsibility model.

[Related Reading: AWS Security Best Practices]

How to Provide AWS Workload Security

There’s no denying that strengthening your AWS workload security comes with a unique set of challenges. Some of the biggest cloud security issues companies struggle with include:

Holistic visibility

Gaining comprehensive insight into the security of your infrastructure poses a significant hurdle.

Compliance mandates

Companies grapple with the task of meeting evolving compliance requirements.

Dynamic security practices

Adapting cloud security practices to keep pace with the rapidly changing threat landscape adds an extra layer of complexity.

The good news is that once you have a good understanding of your security role and responsibilities, half the battle is won. Now you can develop a strategy that fills in the gaps, minimizes your chances of attacks, and mitigates the damage of security-related issues.

If you haven’t yet, take a look at the Security Pillar of the AWS Well-Architected Framework. This comprehensive document will help you learn how to apply the best security practices to your cloud environment.

AWS revises their framework when needed. That way, you have access to up-to-date information regarding how to design, deliver, and maintain an effective AWS workload security strategy.

Implement a Strategic Security Framework

After familiarizing yourself with AWS Guidance, your next step should be to implement a series of security best practices. Consider using the NIST Cybersecurity Framework to help you improve your security posture.

By following the NIST framework, your organization will be better equipped to:

  • Strengthen cloud security posture addressing vulnerabilities and misconfigurations
  • Optimize cloud risk management by quickly detect anomalies and cybersecurity threats
  • Respond to cyberattacks and restore all services and capabilities impacted by an incident that occurs

This means you have the groundwork for an effective cybersecurity strategy that focuses on two equally important areas:

  1. Pre-breach: Minimizing the chances of a data breach by addressing vulnerabilities, configuration issues, strict access controls and threats that leave your systems open to attack
  2. Post-breach: Reducing the damage and impact of a successful cyberattack through rapid detection, containment response and clear and transparent communication

Building a Complete AWS Security Strategy

Let’s face it. Cloud security isn’t easy, and companies know it. That’s why most organizations agree that lack of expertise is the biggest barrier preventing them from migrating to cloud-based security.

Too many companies rely on incomplete cloud security solutions that don’t give them the protection they need — either because they’re ineffective or they’re not managed properly.

The answer to this problem is simple — you need a comprehensive AWS security solution that bridges the gaps within the shared responsibility model.

Choose a solution monitored round-the-clock by cybersecurity experts who know how to navigate the complexities of cloud environments and can help you minimize threats and lessen the impact of cyberattacks. Choose Fortra’s Alert Logic.

Additional Resources: 

Key Steps for Defining SSRM Security for AWS

Securing Your AWS Workloads

Zuri Cortez
About the Author
Zuri Cortez
Zuri Cortez is a Solutions Engineer based in Austin, Texas, and has worked for Alert Logic for three years. He previously worked at Logichub, AlienVault, and AT&T as an SE, as well as in Capitol Metro and the US Army as a Network Engineer.

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