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10 AWS Security Tools to Implement in Your Environment

Amazon Web Services (AWS) scale very easily and securely with your application of choice. That's not to say it is completely safe against intrusions. At least 70 percent of IT enterprise leaders are concerned about how secure the cloud is according to this report. As time progresses, there will be no end to those looking to exploit whatever loophole they can find in your security.

Account Security vs. Application and Service Security

An AWS account is going to draw unwanted attention due to the amount of raw data you will be working with.  Furthermore, it is all fairly accessible through the native application programming interface (API). AWS does provide a multitude of native tools to help you configure permissions for your users and keeps an active log for all actions taken for review, monitoring, and auditing purposes.

Applications and Services hosted in AWS can still be directly threatened by a variety of different attacks.  Cross-site scripting (referred to as XSS) and general brute-force attacks are aimed at user endpoints while DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks will attempt to overwhelm your environment through a massive wave of simulated interactions with your applications.  Even if such attacks do not have the endgame of stealing your information, there are other ways they can harm your operations.

Both fronts are equally important and minimizing the risk to you and your customers’ data is a constantly changing fight.

AWS Account Security Toolkits

AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM)

The IAM is your bread and butter for controlling access.  The main purpose is for creating roles, adjusting the permissions, and troubleshooting them. It also comes fitted with multi-factor authentication and single sign-on. It is recommended that users should be given the least permissions possible in the case a user is compromised.

 

Amazon Guard Duty

Guard duty logs everything that happens on your application and analyzes all activities continuously for suspicious activity using pattern recognition. It has the capacity to recognize privilege escalation, exposed credentials, communication with malicious IP addresses and domains, and can even tell when an EC2 instance has been hijacked to serve malware or mining bitcoin. Do keep in mind costs will increase based on the amount of data processed.

 

Amazon Macie

Macie proactively searches for vulnerabilities in your AWS S3 buckets. It is designed to sift through your bucket for sensitive data such as personal information and alert the user to what data might be unencrypted, what data is accessible to external factors, and what data has been accessed by other organizations. Do keep in mind costs will increase based on the number of S3 buckets being monitored.

 

AWS Config

The Config continuously evaluates how your AWS resources are configured, including historically.  This is mostly meant to help you continuously meet legal and policy standards set out by your organization. Should the situation require it, Config can also execute remediation actions such as encrypting the volume or deleting it. Configuration is per region, so it’s essential to enable AWS Config in all regions to ensure all resources are recorded.

 

AWS Cloud Trail

CloudTrail is enabled by default in all AWS accounts since August 2017 and is especially useful if your organization wants to use multiple accounts. It tracks all activity in your AWS environments such as command executions on the AWS console and all API calls. You can view and search these events to identify unexpected or unusual requests in your AWS environment.  It even comes with an add-on called CloudTrail Insights for providing further insight into discovered suspicious activity.

 

Security Hub

This is where all the information from the aforementioned services is combined and laid out for the user to easily comprehend and decide on future actions.  Some information is gathered on the side from third-parties to give your team a much more complete picture of your AWS environment.  Security Hub meets some key security industry standards such as the CIS AWS Foundations Benchmark and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).

AWS Application Security Toolkits

Amazon Inspector

Inspector is a security assessment service for applications deployed on EC2. It is designed to evaluate network access, common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs), Center for Internet Security (CIS) benchmarks, and provide common best practices such as disabling root login for SSH and validating system directory permissions on your EC2 instances. It’s best to run Inspector as part of a gated check in your deployment pipeline to assess your applications’ security before deploying to production.

 

AWS Shield

Shield is your first line of defense against DDoS attacks and is enabled for all AWS environments by default.  It continues to work across all endpoints on every account under your organization.  As an added bonus, it works in conjunction with AWS Web Application Firewall to further reinforce against malicious traffic inbound to your websites and applications

 

AWS Web Application Firewall

Web Application Firewall (WAF) is a manually adjustable monitor that protects applications and APIs built on services such as CloudFront, API Gateway, and AppSync. Access to endpoints can be adjusted by a variety of criteria such as the source IP address, the request’s origin country, values in headers and bodies, and other criteria.  The AWS Marketplace also includes a set of managed rules you can associate with your WAF, along with 3rd party managed rules from leading security vendors.

 

AWS Secrets Manager

Secrets Manager is for keeping sensitive information under lock and key, like database credentials and tokens.  Similar to IAM, permissions can be easily constructed and modified to allow for various levels of access at the user level. Through AWS Lambda, secrets for other services can be automatically rotated as well. It is highly inadvisable to store your sensitive information in source control management systems, such as Git.

Dolan Cleary
Dolan Cleary

I am a recent graduate from the University of Wisconsin - Stout and am now working with AllCode as a web technician.

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