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Follow this expert advice to improve security in AWS

AWS security encompasses server tools and concepts. Enterprises that use the right services, VPCs, encryption and DevSecOps can avoid major gaffes that can expose valuable data.

Enterprise IT teams have a range of concerns around public cloud, including workload access, security management and network protection. And while many businesses have adopted public cloud, those concerns still exist for many others.

AWS' shared responsibility model can be confusing to cloud newcomers; even some IT veterans have questions about the practical steps needed to secure their environments. Native AWS security tools establish identity access policies, guard against malicious traffic, protect against distributed denial-of-service attacks and enable administrators to create and manage encryption keys. The provider also has a service that scans an environment's existing security posture to compare it against best practices. But none of these tools will protect enterprises with vulnerabilities.

Avoid common mistakes that leave data open for hackers and customize security plans with additional tools and features available in the AWS Marketplace. Ensure security in AWS with these best practices that help protect data and workloads.

Guard access, use logging tools to troubleshoot

Administrators who take an inattentive or haphazard approach to security in AWS can set up their teams for failure.

Administrators who take an inattentive or haphazard approach to security in AWS can set up their teams for failure. AWS has a multitude of security tools for the cloud. To avoid costly mistakes, overcome the learning curve of these tools and remain up to speed on new features.

Admins also must understand the concept of shared responsibility. It's important to know who is responsible -- the cloud provider or the customer -- for different elements of cloud security. AWS provides the tools, but IT teams need to know how to use them. Carefully read your contract and determine what is covered with regards to data and workload protection. Use the AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) service to establish user policies and roles, and follow the policy of least privilege. IAM roles and AWS security groups distinguish access levels and lock out unwanted parties.

It's also imperative to incorporate logging tools to help troubleshoot the system when a problem arises and encryption to create another level of security that renders data inaccessible to persons without keys.

Customize security in AWS with native, third-party tools

IT administrators can implement a variety of tools and security measures through AWS and other software vendors to fit their own specific needs and address their concerns.

AWS tools and services include AWS IAM, AWS Key Management Service, AWS Certificate Manager and AWS Organizations. Admins can bundle these tools to create a secure cloud environment and ensure that data residing in the cloud remains safe. Admins enforce policies across services to generate role-based security and limit access to user groups.

In addition to native AWS tools, a variety of third-party security tools are available in the AWS Marketplace. Be certain of enterprise security and compliance requirements when matching your needs to a security tool.

Use VPCs to protect AWS workloads

An Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) is another standard security tool that separates AWS resources from the public internet. Admins can add subnets and private gateways within the VPC for additional layers of isolation. VPCs have become more commonplace in AWS environments, and admins can configure them to protect a multitude of workloads.

Amazon VPCs offer higher levels of network configuration control and security; VPC network configurations grant an enterprise complete control over the private address of the VPC and multiple interfaces that users access. IT needs basic knowledge of IP network fundamentals for intricate VPC environments.

You can't modify VPCs once they're assigned, so developers should draft a plan for subnets carefully. Avoid standard IP address ranges to personalize the network, and segment the environments on the network to space out compute capabilities.

Use encryption to improve data security in AWS

Data encryption is an added feature on most native and third-party AWS tools. Encryption provides an extra layer of security for administrators, and encryption key management plays a major role in the chain of trust. Most architectures feature multiple clients and servers, which can make it difficult to manage encryption and data security. Admins need to establish a proper encryption protocol and system for applications, especially as internet-connected devices proliferate.

Amazon Web Services security quiz

With the increasing number of public cloud security breaches, it's important to make sure your AWS account is protected. Take our 10-question security quiz to find out how much you know about protecting your data and which security tools are offered by Amazon Web Services.

Admins can allow AWS to control and store application encryption keys. In this case, they define the key management infrastructure according to their needs and trust in the cloud provider.

But administrators should look at encryption on a service-by-service basis. Select tools that correspond with enterprise storage services to properly secure the correct number of storage devices. Admins can also use open source or third-party tools to apply block-level encryption across Elastic Block Store volumes. After determining where it will manage encryption keys, admins choose their desired level of encryption for data.

Write a DevOps plan that includes security in AWS

Don't let a difference of opinion between DevOps teams and security teams negatively affect your IT strategies. Combine DevOps and security at scale to form a DevSecOps approach that focuses on testing code, automation and software releases. Automate and streamline security in the DevOps pipeline for a faster and well-rounded approach.

Developers can automatically initiate a build after committing code to version control, which is the first step to build a DevOps pipeline. Unit and integration tests flesh out problems as they arise, and DevSecOps validates each stage as it arrives without slowing deployment. Secure the pipeline through AWS IAM and implement security automation with open source tools. This enables IT to perform deeper security checks and analysis to vulnerabilities before full enterprise adoption.

To automate and assess security in AWS, developers can use services such AWS Config, Amazon Inspector and AWS CloudTrail and then trigger CloudWatch Events and AWS Lambda functions to fix problems. Tie together these services to handle security threats according to AWS best practices.

Next Steps

How AWS IAM tools eliminate unwanted access to resources

Enterprise IT plays a key role in guarding AWS resources

Learn how to manage access and shared responsibility in AWS

This was last published in May 2017

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