Keys to Amazon Cloud Security

If you use any of Amazon’s services from across the web (and let’s be honest: most of us do), then you’ve definitely used Amazon web services (AWS) at some point. And that’s just at the consumer level! AWS has practical and useful applications across a wider range of business and industrial needs. It’s versatile, industry-leading, and extremely useful across a broad range of applications. But you also need to keep things secure. Here’s a short guide to Amazon Cloud Security to help you achieve that goal.

AWS Defined

AWS is an abbreviation for “Amazon Web Services.” AWS is a form of IT infrastructure that handles various web services. These web services are colloquially known today as cloud services. Many organizations, small businesses, and entire industries use cloud services for everything from building apps to managing their infrastructure. Cloud services are scalable, secure, and relatively inexpensive, making them ideal for just about any business. AWS specifically offers content delivery services, platform hosting, databases, application hosting, website hosting, backup, storage, and enterprise IT infrastructure. AWS can be deployed via the cloud, on premises, or both through a hybrid method. The service uses its proprietary Simple Storage Service (S3) for data management, storage, and more. An S3 bucket is where the S3 system stores and retrieves data.

Security Risks

So, what kinds of security risks do AWS users face? There are certainly a few. 

Compliance issues can be a source of consternation, but there are several other key risk areas where AWS is concerned. One of the big ones is not using multiple layers of security or multi-factor authentication. A lack of encryption is another security risk when it comes to using AWS services and S3 buckets in particular. Not properly using role-based access or using certain privilege levels to control who can access what is another big security concern. Logins, passwords, and securing your cloud through credentials is another area where hackers or misuse can lead to malware/ ransomware or other significant problems down the line. Finally, misconfiguration (more on that in a moment) can present a massive security risk.

Configuring S3 Buckets

Configuring your S3 buckets is one of the most critical parts of the process to correctly perform every time. A poorly or misconfigured bucket can be catastrophic. For instance, a misconfiguration might lead to public read or write access to your bucket, which in turn can create the opportunity for an attacker to launch malware or ransomware to attack your company. There’s a high probability of misconfiguring buckets, too, as at least 46% of Amazon’s S3 buckets can potentially be misconfigured. It happened to a company handling US Department of Defense files, who ended up leaving almost 60,000 files unsecured on an AWS server. So it’s safe to say configuring buckets properly is critical. 

Securing S3 Buckets

Understanding critical security issues and points of failure is only part of the equation here. You also should know how to secure your S3 buckets within your AWS solution. One of the best things you can do is be very strict about who gets read and write access to your buckets. You can grant permissions to different groups through your access control lists and write identity and user policies for anyone who might need to access them. Other best practices for security are to encrypt your data using the HTTPS encryption protocol. Remember that AWS does offer server-side encryption that you can also set as a default for your buckets. You can also protect your data using client-side encryption, but it does require a bit of legwork on your part. Lastly, be sure to always double check your configurations and to monitor everything as much as possible to prevent any potential issues regarding security.

Keeping Track of Things

Whenever you are dealing with a large number of services or working within the cloud, it’s always a good practice to keep track of files, events, and any other pertinent tasks within your application. The same applies to using the storage functions of an S3 bucket. In AWS, you can monitor things for reliability, functionality, and integrity. Whether it’s through cloud alarms that monitor a single metric over time or analyzing access logs, you can quickly determine if there are any issues by using a few simple S3 tools. Taking full advantage of the resources at your disposal, you can spot and recover from multiple points of failure quickly and debug any issues within your AWS solution. 

Adam Hansen