Cloud security in AWS: an expert guide
Amazon Web Services (AWS) is one of the most popular cloud service providers in the world. As more organizations adopt cloud services and shift to AWS, cloud security becomes a critical issue. While AWS offers excellent features as part of its infrastructure, the ultimate responsibility for security is shared between the provider and its users.
You may have already implemented the basic AWS security practices. But there’s still a lot more you can do to improve your organization’s security posture. That’s especially true if you launch and modify a large volume of resources in your AWS cloud infrastructure on a regular basis. In this scenario, it’s possible that you may have missed some of the key security best practices.
In this article, we take a closer look at cloud security, focusing on AWS and the best practices you should implement to keep your assets fully protected against data leaks or cyberattacks.
Cybersecurity and AWS – the basics
AWS prides itself as a solution architected to be the most secure and flexible cloud computing environment. The core of AWS infrastructure was created to meet the security requirements of global financial services companies, military and defense organizations, as well as other high-sensitivity sectors.
AWS includes around 230 compliance, security, governance services, and features. Moreover, it supports 90 security standards and compliance certifications. All the117 services storing customer data offer the option to encrypt it.
Why is cloud security important?
Cloud data security is a key question for any organization looking to host applications and store data in the public cloud. Company data is much safer in the hands of cloud service providers rather than when stored on-premise or using private clouds.
However, the question of security is still a high priority – especially in scenarios where data is backed up to the cloud rather than stored on site. Many businesses still back their data up locally or store data backups on-site or in nearby off-site locations. If a disaster happens in this area, this could result in both backups being lost. Cloud security helps to prevent this issue by storing data in remote and distributed locations, protecting businesses from data loss, and ensuring business continuity.
Today, it’s always essential for companies to gain the trust of their customers by letting them know that whatever information they share is secure and protected. Businesses also have legal obligations to keep sensitive user data secure – and some sectors such as financial services or healthcare have more demanding rules about data storage localization than others.
How does AWS ensure security?
A company that teams up with AWS gets access to some of the most powerful cloud computing resources in the world. AWS users benefit from multiple data centers and a network that was architected to protect their information, identities, applications, and devices.
Moreover, AWS allows automating many security tasks to allow companies to shift their focus to solving other mission-critical problems and avoiding errors arising from manual work. The pay-as-you-go model that AWS uses means that its customers avoid the risk of overpaying for services that they’re not actually using.
AWS security features you should know
The platform helps to protect data, accounts, and workflows from unauthorized access. Moreover, the AWS data protection services offer encryption key management and threat protection, continuously monitoring and protecting workloads.
Identity and access management
AWS users can easily secure and manage identities, permissions, and resources. Granting access to cloud resources in the safest possible way is possible thanks to these features.
AWS protects web applications with the help of rules created by users to filter traffic. For example, you can filter out web requests based on IP addresses or URI strings. This blocks the most common attack patterns, such as cross-site scripting or SQL injection.
Compliance and data privacy
AWS allows getting a complete overview of your compliance status and always monitors your environment using automated compliance checks.
Threat detection and monitoring
AWS is built to identify threats by continuously monitoring the network activity and account behavior in your cloud environment.
While all these features are impressive, there’s still so much more you can do to make sure that your AWS environment is fully protected. Based on our experience, here are a few best practices for increasing cloud security in AWS.
Cloud security in AWS – best practices
1. Concentrate on developing a security strategy
The cybersecurity field is full of discussions about the question of security strategy and tooling. In its essence, this question is all about whether you should build your strategy around tools or develop a strategy first and then check whether it supports any tools or controls.
The answer to this problem is quite complex, but in our opinion establishing the security strategy first is a smart move. That way, whenever you assess a control or tool, you will be able to instantly evaluate whether or not it supports your strategy – and if so, how well it supports you. This opens the doors to including security in all of the organizational functions, focusing especially on the ones that rely on AWS.
This approach is also very helpful for continuous deployment. For instance, let’s imagine that your organization uses a configuration management tool to automate software updates and patches. A strong security strategy in place is going to help you implement security monitoring throughout your toolset right from the beginning of your process.
2. Aim for consistent cloud security procedures and controls
To ensure the safety of your data in the cloud, create a set of consistent and clearly written security procedures and controls. Define the type of data that can be stored in the cloud, categorize sensitive data and build a hierarchy for it, and determine who can have access to them and when.
3. Implement security on all layers
Implementing just one firewall per infrastructure isn’t enough. Instead, you should have virtual firewalls on all of your virtual networks. They will be there to control and monitor the network traffic and make sure that your infrastructure is fully secured and the operating system is running well. The AWS Marketplace is full of such tools, so it’s enough to choose from them and easily protect your network on all its layers.
4. Take advantage of native cloud security resources
By implementing tools such as Amazon CloudFront, you can boost the security of web applications that are hosted literally anywhere in the world. Native AWS security tools come in many shapes and sizes. And they’re all readily available to help you secure your cloud environment efficiently.
Moreover, you can focus on standards compliance frameworks such as Amazon Machine Images (AMIs) and ISO/IEC 27000. These come pre-configured with many different compliant elements that are built-in, offering solutions to the key security concerns of many types of companies.
5. Build a security culture
Maintaining high security is a priority but keeping your cloud infrastructure secure isn’t only your job. It’s also the responsibility of your employees. This is especially important today when the market suffers from a lack of cybersecurity professionals. It’s very hard to find individuals who know everything about the latest technologies and tools, so you need to make sure that the responsibility for securing your environment is spread around your company.
You might not have a dedicated security team or employees who specialize in this area, but make sure that you train all of your team members about the importance of security. Show how each of them can contribute to strengthening the overall security of your organization. This is key in the context of remote work as remote workers are at a security risk. Educate your workforce about cybersecurity – for example, show them the dangers of using public WiFi and similar issues.
6. Monitor user access to your cloud resources
It’s essential to continually monitor access to your cloud-based database and understand the purpose of this access.
For example, you can start by mapping out all of the administrative tasks that require access. This is how you can ensure that granular or least privilege access controls are implemented after you migrate into the cloud.
And if you’re already using the cloud, your job will be even easier. If your application uses external data resources, you can use controls such as data integrity validation and data-in-motion encryption. This is how you maintain an excellent level of data integrity and confidentiality.
7. Create a password policy
Brute force attacks, credentialed stuffing, and password cracking are some of the most popular security attacks used by cybercriminals to target organizations. By building and enforcing a strong password policy, you can reduce the chances of this type of security breach and ensure that your cloud environment is protected.
Your password policy should include conditions for password creation, deletion, and modification. For instance, you can start by implementing multi-factor authentication, automated lockout following multiple failed login attempts, or a special password renewal policy after a given period of time (for instance, 60 days). Moreover, you can also set policies for what passwords should include or prevent employees from using similar passwords.
The topic of cybersecurity in cloud computing is vast, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. AWS is a robust cloud service provider that offers plenty of helpful security features out-of-the-box. However, there are a lot more things that organizations can still do to ensure that their cloud resources are being used in the most secure way possible and all the data stored in the cloud are fully protected.
We hope that these best practices help you achieve that. Keep a close eye on our blog, where we share more technology insights for enterprises.
And if you have any questions about cybersecurity, get in touch with us. Our experts are experienced in carrying out security audits and have a firm grasp of the latest technologies used in AWS cybersecurity.