Securing AWS EC2: Best Practices & more

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Securing AWS EC2 in the Cloud

Written by Supriya Balaiya, Business Analyst

Contributor Rachana Sharma, Specialist – Cloud Services and Software

Why should one follow best practices while using AWS EC2?

There can be multiple dimensions while talking security of the cloud. It is important to strike a good balance between performance, safety, and usage. No doubt, AWS provides excellent security on the cloud, it secures everything from the perspective of multi-tenancy and virtualization. However, users still need to take care of a few things.

When we talk of EC2 best practices, the user responsibilities start from the configuration and management of Operating System. They further increase with all the utilities and software installed on systems by users.

AWS brings lots of new opportunities for the organizations to grow their business to reach new heights, innovate, and get world changing experience – but the major challenge is what about the data in the cloud? Is it secure? 

As more and more of the business are moving from their conventional data centers to public and hybrid cloud, it becomes important that their legacy security model furthermore need to switch to the new Amazon Web Services (AWS) environment. AWS is liable for securing the cloud infrastructure and network, while your organization must do all the things collectively to implement AWS security and safeguard your application workloads.

The “Shared Responsibility Model: What we know, what we don’t.

While Cloud providers themselves offer a number of security controls and tools, they also have the notion of a ‘shared responsibility’ when it comes to security. This means that they are themselves responsible for the so-called ‘security of the cloud’ and the underlying infrastructure, which they do a tremendous job at, but leave it to the application owners to use the controls and tools and be responsible for securing their own environment, aka ‘security in the cloud’.

More often than not, application owners leave gaps in the security policies and therefore leave it exposed to potential access from malicious users. In fact, 73 percent of IT security professionals report that, despite the number of products being used, they lack adequate controls to monitor, filter, and analyze “east-west” traffic across their workloads.

As a part of the Shared Responsibility model, you’re still expected to make sure that your server workloads are all secure and meet the compliance requirements of regulations like PCI DSS, SOC2, HIPAA/HiTECH, and FISMA.

Benefits of shared responsibility model

It helps in relieving the operational burdens of customers as AWS alone operates, manages, and controls the various components of the operating system of the host. The shared responsibility model also helps take care of the virtualization layer and physical security of the facilities where the service remains operational. The nature of the model ensures excellent flexibility and customer control that helps the deployment.

A little about Amazon EC2

As we all by now know, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), one of AWS’ most popular services, offers businesses the ability to run applications on the public cloud with ease.

  • Launch as many or as few virtual servers as you would like, configure security and networking, and simply manage storage.
  • Scale up or right down to handle changes in requirements, or spikes in popularity, reducing your burden to forecast traffic.
  • Allows users to create apps to automate scaling consistent with changing needs and peak periods.
  • Makes it simple to deploy virtual servers and manage storage, lessening the necessity to take a position in hardware and helping streamline development processes.

Features of Amazon EC2

The several benefits and features draw developers to Amazon EC2 for getting started with cloud computing. Here’s a list of a few important one’s:

  • Easy scaling of EC2 terminate development obstruction that occur when applications require more resources.
  • EC2 provides flexibility in configuration, you can create multiple instances with memory size, CPU, network configuration identified as an instance type.
  • EC2 provides IAM roles for your instances access management where you will assign IAM roles to an account for more granular access management.
  • The best part about Amazon EC2 is that it offers affordable hourly rates.

Tips to Safeguard your EC2 Instances

While the benefits are many, its important certain tips are followed to ensure security, performance, and cost implications as well.

  • Make sure any applications or other executable code you deploy on your instance comes from an authorized source to avoid theft of computing resources.
  • Verify that the Amazon Machine Image (AMI) you setup your instances from should also come from authorized source else it may cause vulnerability, slow-going application deployment and put down your application stack upgrade at hazard.
  • Make sure the guest OS on your instance is rightly secured in line with the standard hardening procedures for that specific operating system.
  • Make sure the antivirus you installed should be from a trusted source and running properly.
  • Make sure to keep backup of your EC2 instance on regular basis so that in case of any data breaches you can recover from it quickly.

How Cloud Ensure Helps to Secure EC2 Instances?

CloudEnsure continuously monitors your cloud infrastructure and alerts you if any vulnerabilities present or occurs to make sure that your EC2 instances are properly configured.

  • If EC2 instances are misconfigured, unauthorized actors could gain access to or control of workloads. this might cause a spread of issues from data exfiltration to altering the efforts of systems to maintaining persistent access to direct theft of computing resources.
  • Not utilizing “Golden” approved Amazon Machine Images (AMI) may cause instability, slow application deployment, and put your application stack upgrade in danger.
  • Not applying the AMI naming convention will cause inconsistency within the chosen environment and make it difficult to: Identify the AMI location and usage, distinguish similar resources from each other, avoid naming collisions, and improve clarity.
  • If you are sharing AMIs publicly then it’s possible for anyone to launch instances using your AMI and access this data, as frequently AMIs will contain data that’s certain to your organization.

CloudEnsure allows the user to remediate the vulnerabilities present in EC2 with a single click of a button without having to follow remediation steps. Not just this, there are multiple ways to remediate any issue in your preferred way:

  • Click on “Fix Now” & you are done.
  • You can simply follow the steps given under “follow to fix” category.
  • You can create an ITSM ticket for your cloud managed services team to remediate.
  • Or you can choose “Always fix” which will not let that vulnerability be a threat ever again.

CloudEnsure works across multiple clouds & can help you achieve best practices for your cloud security, automate security assessments, give alerts for security incidents, and assess data security requirements to verify the security and compliance of cloud solutions. While it does much more for all the services, the numerous regulated checks for EC2 give you the edge and space to feel secure & compliant always.

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