A Guide to Securing AWS

Protect your data to protect your business

Pilotcore
Pilotcore
5 min read
A Guide to Securing AWS

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Taking the time to secure your AWS environments is of critical importance in our digital age. As organizations continue moving their workloads and data to the cloud, they must ensure these assets are well protected.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a massive and ever-evolving cloud computing platform that provides tools and services to help customers secure their accounts and workloads.

Here, we'll cover some of the most vital considerations for securing AWS environments.

Security in AWS

From the customer perspective, the cloud is an entirely different beast than on-premises data centers. When you move to the cloud, you essentially entrust your data and applications to a third-party provider. This relationship means you no longer have complete control over the systems storing and processing your data.

Cloud computing security is a vast topic that can't be covered thoroughly in one post. That said, there are some key considerations to keep in mind when securing your AWS environment.

First and foremost, you must understand the shared responsibility model. When you use a cloud service, you're responsible for securing your data and applications (security in the cloud), while the provider is responsible for securing the infrastructure (security of the cloud).

This client responsibility means that you need to have a strong understanding of the security capabilities and tools available to you and how to use them properly.

Next, you need to understand the importance of securing your data. In the cloud, data is often spread across multiple services and locations. This makes it more challenging to protect your data from unauthorized access.

To prevent unauthorized access, you must ensure your data is encrypted at rest and in transit. KMS is central to encrypting data at rest, whether the contents of an S3 bucket or an EBS volume. Using Transport Layer Security (TLS) to encrypt connections within your environments rounds out this principle by ensuring data security in transit.

One of the key benefits of cloud computing is that you can scale your resources up or down as required without having to invest in physical infrastructure. This "pay-as-you-go" model can help save money, but it also means that you must be extra vigilant about securing your assets.

In the traditional data center model, your security perimeter is well-defined. You have complete control over who has access to your data and applications.

In the cloud, however, your security perimeter is more difficult to define. Your data and applications are accessible worldwide, making protecting them from unauthorized access more challenging.

The Well-Architected Framework

The Well-Architected Framework provides a set of best practices for building secure, high-performing, resilient, and efficient systems in the cloud. It can help you make well-informed decisions about designing and operating your AWS environment.

Each pillar contains a set of questions that you can use to assess your environment. The pillars are:

Security

This pillar focuses on the ability to protect information, systems, and assets while delivering business value through risk mitigation strategies. The security pillar of the Well-Architected Framework includes questions about identity and access management, data protection, incident response, and compliance.

Performance

It focuses on using computing resources efficiently to meet system requirements and maintaining efficiency as demands change. The performance pillar includes questions about system architecture, capacity planning, monitoring, and logging.

Reliability

It focuses on building systems that remain operational under both normal and failure conditions. The reliability pillar includes questions about self-healing systems, change management, and backup and recovery.

Cost Optimization

It focuses on reducing costs while still achieving business objectives and maintaining system quality of service. The cost optimization pillar includes questions about cost-effective resources, reserved instances, and tagging.

Operational Excellence

It focuses on the ability to run and manage systems to minimize disruption and maximize opportunity. The operational excellence pillar includes questions about automation, patch management, and logging.

As you build your environments considering all these pillars, keep the security pillar top of mind as you make design decisions. Factor-in security features from the beginning rather than rushing through the build with a plan to go back and improve security later. Leaving security to the end will almost always result in mistakes.

The Shared Responsibility Model

As we mentioned earlier, the shared responsibility model is a crucial consideration for security in AWS. You're responsible for security in the cloud, while AWS is responsible for the security of the cloud.

As you explore the tools available to you in AWS for securing, monitoring and alerting on events in your AWS environments, you can quickly become overwhelmed by AWS's sheer number of security features and services. Thankfully the shared responsibility model ensures that you're only responsible for securing the resources you control. AWS keeps their data centres and computer hardware secure so that you can rely on its infrastructure.

The Key Areas to Focus On

You must focus on several key areas when securing your AWS environment. These include:

Prevention

Your first line of defence is to prevent unauthorized access to your AWS environment. You can do this by using AWS's security features and tools, such as identity and access control, infrastructure protection, configuration management, and data protection.

Identity and Access Management

You must control who has access to your AWS environment and what they can do with that access. Identity and Access Management (IAM) is an essential AWS service that you can use to manage users, groups, and permissions for both authentication and authorization to your accounts.

In addition to this, consider the following:

  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): You can use MFA to add an extra layer of security to your AWS environment.
  • Access Control Lists (ACLs): You can use ACLs to control who has access to your AWS resources.
  • Security Groups: You can use security groups to control traffic to and from your AWS resources.
  • Network Access Control Lists (NACLs): These lists specify which traffic is allowed to reach your AWS resources.
  • Resource Policies: Resource policies allow you to control who has access to your AWS resources.

Infrastructure Protection

You must protect the virtual infrastructure your AWS environment runs on from unauthorized access and misuse. This includes networks and compute resources.

Configuration Management

Configuration management is controlling and managing changes to your AWS environment. You can use configuration management tools, such as AWS Config to automate the process of tracking and auditing changes to your AWS resources.

Data Protection

You must protect your data from unauthorized access, loss, or destruction. Data protection includes encryption, data backups, and disaster recovery. AWS has several features and tools that you can use to protect your data. This includes Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) snapshots, Amazon S3 versioning, and Amazon Glacier.

Detection

If prevention fails, it's essential to have a strategy for detecting and responding to security incidents. This includes logging and monitoring your AWS environment for suspicious activity, as well as having a plan for how to respond to a security incident.

AWS provides numerous tools for detecting attacks. This includes Amazon CloudTrail and Amazon Inspector. You can also use third-party security tools like Splunk to help you detect and respond to security incidents.

Response

If a security incident does occur, it's essential to have a plan in place for how to respond to it. This includes containment, eradication, and recovery. AWS has tools like Amazon CloudWatch alarms, Amazon GuardDuty, and AWS Lambda that can recognize events and help you automate your response to security incidents.

Remediation

After a security incident has been dealt with, it's necessary to take steps to prevent it from happening again. These steps include patch management, vulnerability management, and security hardening.

AWS comes with Security Hub options that help automate identifying and fixing security issues. You can use other tools, such as AWS Systems Manager and Amazon Inspector, to help you automate patch management and vulnerability scanning.

You can also use AWS Config to enforce compliance with your security policies.

Pilotcore is your pilot in the cloud

Securing your AWS infrastructure is essential in keeping your data and workloads safe. It might be a difficult and time-consuming process, but taking the assistance of competent cloud experts can assist you with all aspects of protecting your AWS environment.

That's where Pilotcore comes in. We're here to help you secure your AWS environment so you can focus on running your business. We offer various services, from building and securing single accounts to multi-account, multi-region architectures and disaster recovery plans.

Our certified security experts will work with you to tailor a solution that meets your specific needs and budget. Contact us today to get started.

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