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AWS CloudTrail Best Practices

Most frequently, cyber threats and data breaches are commonly caused by customers’ inadequate security measures or due to their negligent or indiscreet ways of working. They are either found to be exploiting the AWS services or underutilizing the safety aspects it offers. Despite the statement that business-licensed cloud services are developed to be heavily immune to breaches and violations, the customer’s limited awareness or incompetency would only worsen the situation in the long run.

Enterprises exploring to underprop their AWS infrastructure protection must initially try and achieve full visibility into the AWS users’ activities. Any changes made in the existing AWS settings, configurations, and services should be audited and to do so, Amazon web services renders its clients with one of its most leading cloud-based security services named, CloudTrail.

What are AWS CloudTrail Services?

The AWS CloudTrail enables structured governance, compliance, and operations of AWS accounts.  It helps conduct regular monitoring, risk-auditing, and post-incident forensic analysis across the entire operations of the AWS architecture. An audit trail allows viewing, recording, and tracking of the complete log of API calls made to AWS accounts where an action taken by any user or AWS service are recorded as events in the CloudTrail. All the log files of CloudTrail get saved in a predefined S3 bucket. Creating a trail helps organizations effectively govern, operate, and become compliant on the cloud.

Benefits of using the AWS CloudTrail service are:

Structured Activity Monitoring – CloudTrail services offer unprocessed elements to be utilized in conjunction with a cloud access security broker solution that permits customers to monitor user activities and inspect the resources employed by business employees. It helps detect inappropriate or uncertain modifications to resources or services besides providing the means to automate the entire security misconfiguration settings.

Streamlined Compliance – The Amazon CloudTrail service streamlines a company’s compliance demands by automating collect operations and applying additional logic to store, monitor, and analyze activities and action logs in an AWS tenant. This allows better visibility into cloud accounts from a security and operations point of view. Trail insights help identify and respond to events that do not match the set compliance standards, covering both external and internal regulations.

Data Security Auditing – This useful feature enables consumers to get modifications made in AWS accounts. Data security audits help trigger alerts and detect prohibited access using the who, what, and when in CloudTrail events. In response to events, administrators can analyze the operations by integrating AWS CloudTrail with EventBridge alerts to facilitate automated rulesbased workflows.

AWS CloudTrail Best Practices

Enable CloudTrail in AWS, globally – Enable global CloudTrail logging to originate logs for all the AWS services instead of specific ones. This allows users to have complete control over all AWS account activities.

Use CloudTrail Log File Validation – When the log file validation is activated, any modifications made within the log file itself after it’s been submitted to S3 buckets, are going to be detectable. This operation provides an additional protection layer and assures the log files’ integrity.

Use CloudTrail Multi-region Logging – The API call history rendered by multi-region logging supports multiple trails. CloudTrail is able to provide log files from across all regions. It enables a user to track changes made in business resources, investigate incidents, perform audit compliance, and confirm that security and safety measures are appropriately implemented.

Combine CloudTrail with CloudWatch – CloudWatch can be integrated with CloudTrail, EC2 instances, and other sources to ensure monitoring, storage, and access of log files. With this combination, historic activity and real-time logging based upon the API, resource, IP address, and users are facilitated.

Enable MFA to Delete CloudTrail Buckets – When the AWS tenant is breached, the very first step would be for attackers to delete the CloudTrail logs to cover their tracks and postpone detection. By configuring MFA delete, users can add an additional layer of security when there is a compromise. In case of an attack, MFA delete helps in getting rid of the S3 bucket instantly, enabling CloudTrail logs to stay hidden and safe.

Conclusion

If validated correctly, CloudTrail can hold activity logs of everything that happens in a cloud account followed by storing all the information in dedicated S3 buckets. Integrity and completeness of data is often critical for compliance and forensic purposes, failing which, the information becomes vulnerable to cyber-attacks, allowing assailants to:

  • Examine and identify the accounts, users and roles that can be easily exploited
  • Cover their tracks by deleting or modifying logs
  • Destroy critical evidence as well as compliance data

Thus, it is important to understand the interpretation of AWS CloudTrail audit logs and look at how each event type functions to determine and implement best practices holistically.

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