AWS offers a wide range of security tools and resources for improving IT security. From automated threat detection to robust firewall protection, users can choose what they need to safeguard their workloads on AWS. The key is knowing what to implement across ever-evolving cloud environments.

In this blog post, we’ll first cover foundational AWS security best practices. Then, we’ll highlight 10 AWS security tools that address different pain points associated with securing cloud infrastructure.

Follow the Principle of Least Privilege

The first AWS security best practice is to follow the principle of least privilege – leaders should define permissions guardrails so that their team members can only make changes to AWS resources within their permissions boundaries. In other words, only give engineers access to the resources and actions they need to do their specific jobs.

Fortunately, AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) makes this easy. AWS IAM is one of the most widely used AWS services today. It is a centralized place for cloud engineers to define access and action permissions across all their AWS resources, including how those resources interact with one another. AWS IAM is where the principle of least privilege gets enforced.

And with AWS IAM Access Analyzer you can scrutinize access levels to your internal AWS resources, identifying instances where access is shared beyond your AWS accounts. Regularly reassessing AWS IAM roles and permissions through tools like Security Hub or open-source alternatives like Prowler provides the transparency required to ensure adherence to your Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC) policies.

Multi-factor Authentication

Another security best practice on AWS involves implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA) whenever possible. MFA uses multiple factors to determine if someone is who they say they are. It typically requires users to supply a password and a code that is delivered to a device that they own. This is much more secure than requiring a password alone.

AWS users can implement MFA in several places – to protect Amazon S3 buckets from being deleted, to keep unauthenticated users from logging into the AWS console, to safeguard APIs, and more. In general, when setting up AWS environments, implement MFA.

Use NACLs and Security Groups

Furthermore, it’s important to use network access control lists (NACLs) and security groups to prevent unwanted traffic from reaching AWS resources. Security groups are a key method for facilitating network access to resources deployed on AWS. Ensuring that only the required ports are accessible and the connections are enabled from known network ranges is a fundamental security approach.

Database engineers may want to put database instances in private subnets that can only be reached by EC2 instances and not by the public internet. This is in addition to adding firewall solutions, which we’ll cover in the next section. Whatever the architectural design, traffic should only flow through known, narrowly defined pathways.

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10 Essential AWS Cloud Security Tools

Keeping these baseline practices in mind, here are 10 AWS security services you can layer on top of your cloud architecture to maximize cloud security.

AWS CloudTrail

AWS CloudTrail is a monitoring service that enables cloud engineers to track and analyze all user API calls made across AWS environments. It’s a useful tool for identifying and remediating issues like unauthenticated access, improper configurations, and loose permissions.

AWS Config

AWS Config is a centralized place for evaluating and managing AWS resource configurations.  Cloud environments can get complex quickly, which is why having one location for viewing and updating configuration settings is valuable.

AWS Web Application Firewall (WAF)

AWS Web Application Firewall (WAF) is a powerful firewall solution for filtering and blocking unwanted traffic to AWS resources. Users can set filtering rules based on IP addresses, HTTP headers, and body content. AWS Network Firewall provides similar functionality for network traffic.

AWS Shield

AWS Shield is a free service that gives users the ability to prevent sophisticated DDoS attacks. Organizations can also pay to upgrade to Shield Advanced, which provides managed DDoS protection and enhanced services for mitigating attacks.

AWS Firewall Manager

AWS Firewall Manager couples nicely with AWS WAF, Network Firewall, and AWS Shield. AWS Firewall Manager provides a single place for managing all firewalls deployed across AWS accounts, a useful tool for those with vast AWS ecosystems.

AWS GuardDuty

AWS GuardDuty provides intelligent threat detection through the power of machine learning. As the name implies, GuardDuty is always on the watch for malicious activity across workloads, server instances, and even serverless architecture.

However, you must take proactive measures when GuardDuty detects something. The specific response actions should align with your established incident response policy.

AWS Inspector

Similarly to AWS GuardDuty, AWS Inspector constantly evaluates AWS workloads for potential software vulnerabilities or possible network exposures. The tool will automatically discover AWS resources, so users don’t have to provide a list of resources to monitor.

AWS Macie

AWS Macie also uses machine learning to identify sensitive user information stored in Amazon S3 buckets. For organizations that store sensitive user data or private health information, AWS Macie helps minimize auditing risk significantly.

AWS Secrets Manager

AWS Secrets Manager is a centralized repository for storing secrets, like database credentials and API keys, as well as managing the lifecycles of those secrets. One of the advantages of AWS Secrets Manager over a service like AWS Systems Manager Parameter Store is that it will automatically rotate secrets on your behalf.

AWS Security Hub

Finally, AWS Security Hub brings many of these services together under one roof and gives teams one place to collect security alerts, perform security checks, and pursue remediation actions. It provides the bird’s-eye view that leaders need to diagnose their overall security posture at any given time.

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Upgrade AWS Cloud Security with ClearScale

Just knowing about the AWS security services above isn’t always enough. Organizations can benefit from bringing in a cloud security expert, like ClearScale, who knows how to design resilient, secure, and scalable cloud architectures for the modern age.

When it comes to optimizing AWS cloud security, we’ve worked with organizations in many industries, including healthcare and finance, where robust IT security is paramount. We design our solutions with security in mind from the beginning. However, we can also bring existing cloud architectures up to par with current security best practices.

In one example, we helped Decisiv – a provider of asset service management solutions for the commercial vehicle industry – improve its cloud security posture. Decisiv wanted to improve its security to align with AWS’ Security pillar best practices. We helped the company prioritize security and make crucial changes to bring its cloud environment up to par.

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