Major cloud platforms like Amazon Web Services (AWS) enable organizations to utilize scalable and flexible computing infrastructure at a fraction of the price that a similar deployment would cost in-house. However, while organizations are quick to adopt the use and benefits of cloud-based infrastructure, cloud security often lags behind, leading to widespread cloud data breaches and other cloud security incidents. Filling these knowledge gaps is essential to protecting your organization’s AWS deployment against cyber threats.
Here we’ll discuss the best practices to implement strong AWS security, while establishing and maintaining a consistent security posture in your AWS and public cloud environments. This AWS Security Best Practices list provides the latest guidance for securing your AWS cloud.
Many organizations struggle with implementing strong cybersecurity for cloud environments. Four of the most common challenges for securing cloud infrastructure are:
In the cloud, organizations do not have control over their underlying infrastructure, making traditional approaches to maintaining visibility (accessing log files, using endpoint security solutions, etc.) unusable in many cases. This forces them to rely upon solutions provided by their cloud services provider, which differ from provider to provider, making it difficult to maintain consistent visibility into all of an organization’s cloud-based environments. Companies need to utilize security solutions that can be deployed in any cloud environment and can detect and provide consistent visibility into all of an organization’s cloud-based assets.
Achieving strong cybersecurity in the cloud can seem daunting, but it is not impossible. By following this AWS security best practices checklist, it is possible to improve the security of an AWS deployment.
1. Define and Categorize Assets in AWS: It is impossible to secure systems that you don’t know exist. The first step in improving the security of your AWS deployment is identifying the assets that you have and organizing them into categories based upon their purpose.
2. Create Classifications for Data and Applications: After all AWS assets have been identified, each asset or category of assets should be assigned a security classification based upon the sensitivity and importance of the associated data and capabilities. These classifications help to determine the level of protection and specific security controls that each asset requires.
Cloud-based infrastructure requires different security approaches and tools than traditional, on-premises environments. Deploying security solutions designed for the cloud is essential to effectively protecting an organization’s AWS deployment:
3. Manage Cloud Access: Limiting access to cloud-based infrastructure is essential since cloud-based resources can be accessed directly without sending traffic through an organization’s existing network perimeter (and the security stack deployed there).
4. Use Cloud-Native Security Solutions: In a recent cloud security report, 82% of respondents think that traditional security solutions either don’t work at all or have limited functionality. Cloud-native security solutions are most suitable for securing cloud assets. Additionally, deploying cloud-native security solutions places security functionality next to the assets that they are intended to protect and guarantees that the security solutions will work optimally within their deployment environment.
5. Protect All Your Perimeters and Segment Everything: On-premises security has a single perimeter: the network connection with the outside world. Cloud security has multiple perimeters: one or more for each cloud-native service. Organizations need to ensure that all perimeters are protected, including North-South and East-West traffic. Additionally, the better cloud workloads are segmented and separated, the easier it is to contain the impact of a breach.
Amazon offers a number of different built-in security configurations and tools to help protect their AWS customers against cyber threats. Properly configuring these settings is an important part of ensuring a consistent cloud security posture throughout an organization’s AWS deployments:
6. Manage AWS accounts, IAM Users, Groups, and Roles: Identity and access management (IAM) is a priority for cloud computing since cloud-based infrastructure is accessible directly from the public Internet. Implementing the principle of least privilege – where users are only granted the access and permissions needed to do their jobs – is essential to minimizing the potential of a data breach or other cybersecurity incident within an organization’s cloud-based infrastructure.
7. Manage Access to Amazon EC2 Instances: An attacker with access to an organization’s EC2 instancescould attempt to access sensitive data or functionality within existing applications or to introduce new, malicious applications such as cryptocurrency miners that waste or abuse the organization’s leased computing power. Controlling access to EC2 based upon the principle of least privilege is necessary to minimize cybersecurity risk within an organization’s AWS deployment.
Organizations are increasingly implementing cloud-based microservices using serverless and containerized deployments. These unique architectures require security tailored to their needs, such as cloud workload protection:
8. Implement Cloud Workload Protection for Serverless and Containers: Microservice workloads in cloud infrastructure require different security solutions than traditional applications. Deploying cloud workload protection – including observability, least privilege enforcement, and threat prevention functionality – is essential to minimizing potential cyber threats to containerized, serverless, and other microservices.
Many organizations implement a reactive cybersecurity strategy of detection, only responding once a cyber threat is active within their network. However, this puts the organization at risk by delaying incident response activities. An organization can take several steps to implement more proactive security prevention within their cloud-based infrastructure:
9. Subscribe to Threat Intelligence Feeds: Threat intelligence provides valuable information and indicators of compromise for current and ongoing cyber threats. Subscribing to a threat intelligence feed and integrating it into the organization’s cloud-based security solutions can help with early identification and blocking of potential cyber threats.
10. Perform Threat Hunting in AWS: A fully reactive cybersecurity policy, based on identifying and responding to in-progress attacks, places the organization at risk. By the time an attack has been identified, the attacker likely already has access to the organization’s cloud-based infrastructure and is stealing data or causing other harm. Performing proactive threat hunts, where cybersecurity analysts look for signs of potential incursions into their network, enables an organization to identify and remediate threats that slipped past their cybersecurity defenses without detection. This requires deep visibility into the organization’s cloud infrastructure and requires access to threat intelligence feeds and automated data analytics to be scalable and effective.
11. Define Incident Response Policies and Procedures: Many organizations have existing cybersecurity policies and procedures in place. However, these policies and procedures are likely designed for on-premises environments where they have complete visibility into and control over every component of their network infrastructure. Updating and adapting these policies to address the differences between on-premises and cloud-based deployments is essential to effectively responding to cybersecurity threats within an organization’s cloud-based deployment.
Most organizations are subject to a number of regulations that define how they need to protect sensitive customer data in their possession. These regulations also apply to an organization’s cloud infrastructure, so organizations should take steps to help ensure continuous compliance with these regulations in the cloud:
12. Ensure Visibility of Security Controls: Data protection regulations commonly specify that an organization has an array of security controls in place to provide protection of sensitive data against particular attack vectors. Regulatory compliance requires the ability to ensure that security controls are continuously visible and to verify that they are working correctly; this will also improve the organization’s security posture and reduce cybersecurity risk.
13. Continuously Verify Regulatory Compliance: In addition to ensuring that the organization maintains visibility into required security controls, it is also important to verify that the organization’s security deployment meets the needs of applicable regulations. This includes reviewing applicable regulations and the organization’s cloud-based infrastructure, and identifying and closing any identified security gaps.
Cloud security requires different practices and tools than traditional, on-premises environments. Organizations must adapt their approaches to security to the dynamic and agile nature of cloud-based deployments and select cloud-native security solutions to maximize the protection of their AWS deployments against cyber threats.
The first step in improving your organization’s cloud security is to identify the existing security gaps that could leave it vulnerable to attack. This self-guided assessment includes a full security report auditing over 100 compliance requirements, checks for security misconfigurations within your AWS deployment, provides a complete inventory of AWS assets, and generates a prioritized list of actions to take to remediate any identified issues.
Additionally, you can use this instant cloud network security assessment which sends you a report of your vulnerabilities against advanced cloud network security threats. or a limited time Check Point will send you a $100 AWS credit after this assessment is completed.
After identifying potential gaps and issues with your organization’s current AWS security posture, the next step is to fill those gaps. Check Point offers cloud-native solutions that can help to automate your organization’s cloud security, providing comprehensive cloud protection and maximizing the impact of your organization’s security team. You’re also welcome to contact us for more information on how we can help to secure your AWS deployment, and request a demo to see Check Point CloudGuard in action.