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The Comprehensive 9-Point AWS Security Checklist


A practical AWS security checklist will help you identify and address vulnerabilities quickly.

In the process, ensure your cloud security posture is up-to-date with industry standards.

This post will walk you through an 8-point AWS security checklist. We’ll also share the AWS security best practices and how to implement them.  

The AWS shared responsibility model

AWS shared responsibility model is a paradigm that describes how security duties are split between AWS and its clients.

This approach considers AWS a provider of cloud security architecture. And customers still protect their individual programs, data, and other assets.

AWS’s Responsibility

According to this model, AWS maintains the safety of the cloud structures.
This encompasses the network, the hypervisor, the virtualization layer, and the physical protection of data centers.
AWS also offers clients a range of safety precautions and services. They include surveillance tools, a load balancer, access restrictions, and encryption.

Customer Responsibility

As a customer, you are responsible for setting up AWS security measures to suit your needs. You also do this to safeguard your information, systems, programs, and operating systems.

Customer responsibility entails installing reasonable access restrictions and maintaining user profiles and credentials.  You can also watch for security issues in your work setting.

Let’s compare the security responsibilities of AWS and its customers in a table:


Comprehensive 8-point AWS security checklist

1. Identity and access management (IAM)

2. Logical access control

3. Storage and S3

4. Asset management

5. Configuration management.

6. Release and deployment management

7. Disaster recovery and backup

8. Monitoring and incidence management

Identity and access management (IAM)

IAM is a web service that helps you manage your company’s AWS access and security.

It allows you to control who has access to your resources or what they can do with your AWS assets. Here are several IAM best practices:

  • Replace access keys with IAM roles. Use IAM roles to provide AWS services and apps with the necessary permissions. 
  • Whenever communicating between a client and an ELB, use secure SSL versions.
  • Use IAM policies to specify rights for user groups and centralized access management.
  • Use IAM password policies to impose strict password restrictions on all users.

Logical access control

Logical access control involves controlling who accesses your AWS resources.

This step also entails deciding the types of actions that users can perform on the resources.

You can do this by allowing or denying access to specific people based on their position, job function, or other criteria.

Logical access control best practices include the following:

  • Separate sensitive information from less-sensitive information in systems and data using network partitioning 
  • Confirm user identity and restrict the usage of shared user accounts. You can use robust authentication techniques, such as MFA and biometrics.
  • Protect remote connectivity and keep offsite access to vital systems and data to a minimum by using VPNs.
  • Track network traffic and spot shady behavior using the intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDS/IPS).
  • Access remote systems over unsecured networks using the secure socket shell (SSH).

Storage and S3

Amazon S3 is a scalable object storage service where data may be stored and retrieved. The following are some storage and S3 best practices:

  • Classify the data to determine access limits depending on the data’s sensitivity.
  • Establish object lifecycle controls and versioning to control data retention and destruction. Use the Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) for this process.
  • Monitor the storage and audit accessibility to your S3 buckets using Amazon S3 access logging.
  • Handle encryption keys and encrypt confidential information in S3 using the AWS Key Management Service (KMS).
  • Create insights on the current state and metadata of the items stored in your S3 buckets using Amazon S3 Inventory.
  • Use Amazon RDS to create a relational database for storing critical asset information. 

Asset management

Asset management involves tracking physical and virtual assets to protect and maintain them.

The following are some asset management best practices:

  • Determine all assets and their locations by conducting routine inventory evaluations.
  • Delegate ownership and accountability to ensure each item is cared for and kept safe.
  • Deploy conventional and digital safety safeguards to stop illegal access or property theft.
  • Don’t use expired SSL/TLS certificates.
  • Define standard settings to guarantee that all assets are safe and functional.
  • Monitor asset consumption and performance to see possible problems and possibilities for improvement.

Configuration management.

Configuration management involves monitoring and maintaining server configurations, software versions, and system settings.

Some configuration management best practices are:

  • Automate configuration updates and deployments to decrease user error and boost consistency.
  • Implement security measures, such as firewalls and intrusion sensing infrastructure. These security measures will help you monitor and safeguard setups.
  • Use configuration baselines to design and implement standard configurations throughout all platforms.
  • Conduct frequent vulnerability inspections and penetration testing. This will enable you to discover and patch configuration-related security vulnerabilities.

Release and deployment management

Release and deployment management involves ensuring the secure release of software and systems.

Here are some best practices for managing releases and deployments:

  • Use version control solutions to oversee and track modifications to software code and other IT resources.
  • Conduct extensive screening and quality assurance (QA) processes. Do this before publishing and releasing new software or updates.
  • Use automation technologies to organize and distribute software upgrades and releases.
  • Implement security measures like firewalls and intrusion detection systems.

Disaster recovery and backup

Backup and disaster recovery are essential elements of every organization’s AWS environment. AWS provides a range of services to assist clients in protecting their data.

The best practices for backup and disaster recovery on AWS include:

  • Establish recovery point objectives (RPO) and recovery time objectives (RTO). This guarantees backup and recovery operations can fulfill the company’s needs.
  • Archive and back up data using AWS products like Amazon S3, flow logs, Amazon CloudFront and Amazon Glacier.
  • Use AWS solutions like AWS Backup and AWS Disaster Recovery to streamline backup and recovery.
  • Use a backup retention policy to ensure that backups are stored for the proper amount of time.
  • Frequently test backup and recovery procedures to ensure they work as intended.
  • Redundancy across many regions ensures crucial data is accessible during a regional outage.
  • Watch for problems that can affect backup and disaster recovery procedures.
  • Document disaster recovery and backup procedures. This ensures you can perform them successfully in the case of an absolute disaster.
  • Use encryption for backups to safeguard sensitive data.
  • Automate backup and recovery procedures so human mistakes are less likely to occur.

Monitoring and incidence management

Monitoring and incident management enable you to track your AWS environment and respond to any issues.

Amazon web services monitoring and incident management best practices include:

  • Monitoring API traffic and looking for any security risks with AWS CloudTrail.
  • Use AWS CloudWatch to track logs, performance, and resource usage.
  • Set up modifications to AWS resources and monitor for compliance problems using AWS Config.
  • Combine and rank security warnings from various AWS user accounts and services using AWS Security groups.
  • Using AWS Lambda and other AWS services to implement automated incident response procedures.
  • Establish a plan for responding to incidents that specify roles and obligations and define a clear escalation path.
  • Exercising incident response procedures frequently to make sure the strategy works.
  • Checking for flaws in third-party applications and applying quick fixes.
  • The use of proactive monitoring to find possible security problems before they become incidents.
  • Train your staff on incident response best practices. This way, you ensure that they’ll respond effectively in case of an incident.

Top challenges of AWS security

DoS attacks

A Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack poses a huge security risk to AWS systems. 

It involves an attacker bombarding a network with traffic from several sources. In the process, straining its resources and rendering it inaccessible to authorized users.

To minimize this sort of danger, your DevOps should have a thorough plan to mitigate this sort of danger. AWS offers tools and services, such as AWS Shield, to assist fight against DDoS assaults.

Outsider AWS compromise.

Hackers can use several strategies to get illegal access to your AWS account. For example, they may use psychological manipulation or exploit software flaws.

Once outsiders gain access, they may use data outbound techniques to steal your data. They can also initiate attacks on other crucial systems.

Insider threats

Insiders with permission to access your AWS resources often pose a huge risk.
They can damage the system by modifying or stealing data and intellectual property.

Only grant access to authorized users and limit the access level for each user. Monitor the system and detect any suspicious activities in real-time.

Root account access

The root account has complete control over an AWS account and has the highest degree of access.Your security team should access the root account only when necessary.

Follow AWS best practices when assigning root access to IAM users and parties.

This way, you can ensure that only those who should have root access can access the server.

Security best practices when using AWS

Set strong authentication policies.

A key element of AWS security is a strict authentication policy.

Implement password rules, demanding solid passwords and frequent password changes to increase security.

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a recommended security measure for access control.

It involves a user providing two or more factors, such as an ID, password, and token code, to gain access.

Using MFA can improve the security of your account. It can also limit access to resources like Amazon Machine Images (AMIs).

Differentiate security of cloud vs. in cloud

Do you recall the AWS cloud shared responsibility model?

The customer handles configuring and managing access to cloud services. 

On the other hand, AWS provides a secure cloud infrastructure. It provides physical security controls like firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and encryption. 

To secure your data and applications, follow the AWS shared responsibility model.

For example, you can use IAM roles and policies to set up virtual private cloud VPCs.

Keep compliance up to date

AWS provides several compliance certifications for HIPAA, PCI DSS, and SOC 2. The certifications are essential for ensuring your organization’s compliance with industry standards.

While NIST doesn’t offer certifications, it provides a framework to ensure your security posture is current.

AWS data centers comply with NIST security guidelines. This allows customers to adhere to their standards.
You must ensure that your AWS setup complies with all legal obligations as an AWS client.

You do this by keeping up with changes to your industry’s compliance regulations.

You should consider monitoring, auditing, and remedying your environment for compliance.

You can use services offered by AWS, such as AWS Config and AWS CloudTrail log, to perform these tasks.

You can also use Prevasio to identify and remediate non-compliance events quickly. 

It enables customers to ensure their compliance with industry and government standards.

The final word on AWS security

You need a credible AWS security checklist to ensure your environment is secure.

Cloud Security Posture Management solutions produce AWS security checklists.

They provide a comprehensive report to identify gaps in your security posture and processes for closing them.

With a CSPM tool like Prevasio, you can audit your AWS environment. And identify misconfigurations that may lead to vulnerabilities.

It comes with a vulnerability assessment and anti-malware scan that can help you detect malicious activities immediately.

In the process, your AWS environment becomes secure and compliant with industry standards.

Prevasio comes as cloud native application protection platform (CNAPP). It combines CSPM, CIEM and all the other important cloud security features into one tool. This way, you’ll get better visibility of your cloud security on one platform.  

Try Prevasio today

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