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AWS data security comes down to native and third-party tool choices

Cloud security has been a major roadblock to adoption, but a phalanx of tools allows enterprises to customize an AWS security strategy for each situation.

If your organization moves workloads to AWS, security is the first thing to figure out. Enterprises should focus...

on AWS data security from the start of a cloud migration or new deployment to avoid the negative headlines that come with a security breach.

The danger of public cloud, as many perceive it, is that enterprise data will be absconded. With all public cloud providers, including AWS, enterprises need to carefully select services that fit their data security strategies.

Elements of AWS data security

AWS has a few core patterns of supported cloud security. It uses identities to deal with security, including the AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) service. AWS also bundles data encryption services, such as AWS Key Management Service and AWS Certificate Manager. The other option is policy and role management services, such as AWS Organizations.

The best way to define these services and where to use them is via some examples.

If an HR department wants to use AWS to store employee information and make that information accessible using role-based security, it can track roles and enforce policies at the AWS account level using AWS Organizations. This policy enforcement should keep out users who are not authorized to see salary information, simply based on each user's role within the company, which is defined in their AWS account. AWS Organizations is simple and more user-friendly than IAM, but not as powerful.

AWS IAM provides next-level security features. IAM allows an administrator to control access to most native AWS services and resources. When using IAM, the admin can create and manage AWS users and groups, as well as set permissions to allow and deny those persons access to AWS resources, such as Simple Storage Service buckets and Elastic Compute Cloud instances using encryption key management.

Enterprise IT organizations will find IAM a more effective approach to AWS data security than Organizations. Cloud computing systems are widely distributed, and they have many resources and services upon which cloud-based applications rely. IAM allows admins to configure security to meet the workload's exact needs, and specify access based upon each person, device or resource in the business.

But identity management is not enough to protect data. Enterprises should take extra steps to ensure data is properly encrypted.

Encryption is systemic to many higher-level security services, such as IAM. AWS Key Management Service (KMS) is an automated process that allows an admin to establish and manage data encryption. KMS uses Hardware Security Modules to place a layer of security around encryption keys.

Security services on the rise

Third-party security services may offer a more intriguing option than native AWS tools, depending on what the workloads require. Admins can acquire third-party tools in the AWS Marketplace, and the number of available options is on the rise. The global cloud security market will grow to a value of $11.8 billion by 2022 -- a $7.3 billion increase since 2014, states a 2016 study performed by Transparency Market Research. That study concluded banking and financial industries, public utilities, telecommunications, hospitality and healthcare make up particularly large shares of the cloud security market.

To pick the right service, admins must understand their requirements and then investigate if AWS security services will address the workload's needs. The ideal security approach could involve a mix of third-party and native AWS data security services. On average, at least seven security products combined become the final protection scheme. First, determine individual enterprise needs from both vulnerability and compliance perspectives, then start standing up security tools to match.

Next Steps

Manage resource access with AWS IAM permissions

AWS Key Management puts cloud security on lockdown

Let the IT pros ease your security concerns

This was last published in March 2017

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