Securing Amazon Web Services (AWS)

Introduction to Security and Architecture on AWS

Course Link:

AWS Architecture Core Concepts

AWS Shared Responsibility Model: AWS is responsible for the security of the cloud whereas customer is responsible for security in the cloud.

AWS Well-Architected framework: It’s collection of best practices across five key pillars for how to best create systems that create business value on AWS.


Pillars are:

  1. Operational Excellence: Running and monitoring systems for business value
  2. Security: Protecting information and business assets
  3. Reliability: Enabling infrastructure to recover from disruptions
  4. Performance Efficiency: Using resources efficiently to achieve business value
  5. Cost Optimization: Achieving minimal costs for the desired value

Reliability on AWS:

  • Fault Tolerance: Being able to support the failure of components within your architecture
  • High-availability: Keeping your entire solution running in the expected manner despite issues that may occur

Some services can enable fault tolerance in your custom application. Ex: SQS, Route53

Common Compliance standards:

  • PCI-DSS: Compliance for processing credit cards
  • HIPAA: Compliance for healthcare data
  • SOC 1, SOC 2, SOC 3: Third-party reviews of operational processes
  • FedRAMP: Standards for US gov data handling
  • ISO 27018: Standard for handling PII

Compliance services in AWS:

  • AWS Config: Provides conformance packs for standards
  • AWS Artifact: Provides self-service access to reports
  • Amazon GuardDuty: Provides intelligent threat detection

AWS Identities and User Management

IAM supports identity federation through SAML providers including Active Directory

AWS IAM Identities:

  • Users
  • Groups
  • Roles (enables a user or AWS service to assume permissions for a task)

AWS IAM best practices:

  • multi factor authentication (MFA)
  • least privilege access

Amazon Cognito enables you to handles authentication and aspects of authorization for your custom web and mobile applications through AWS.

Amazon Cognito:

  • Its a user directory service for custom applications
  • Provides UI components for many platforms (like Signup/Login UI for iOS/Android app)
  • Provides features to control account access
  • Enables controlled access to AWS resources
  • Can work with social and enterprise identity providers (like Google, Amazon, FB, Active Directory and SAML 2.0 providers)

Data Architecture on AWS

On-prem data integration services:

  • AWS Storage Gateway: Hybrid-cloud storage service
  • AWS DataSync: Automated data transfer service

AWS Storage Gateway:

  • Integrates cloud storage into your local network
  • Deployed as a VM or specific hardware appliance
  • Integrates with S3 and EBS
  • Supports three different gateway types:
    • Tape Gateway: Enables tape backup processes to store data in the cloud on virtual tapes. Tape gateway acts as virtual tape library (VTL).
    • Volume Gateway: Provides cloud based iSCSI volumes to local applications.
    • File Gateway: Stores files in Amazon S3 while providing cached low-latency local access for certain files.

AWS DataSync:

  • Leverages the DataSync agent deployed as a VM on your network
  • Integrates with S3, EFS, and FSx for Windows File Server on AWS
  • Greatly improved speed of transfer due to custom protocol and optimizations
  • Charged per GB of data transferred

Data Processing Services:

  • AWS Glue: Managed Extract, Transform and Load (ETL) service
  • Amazon EMR (Elastic Map Reduce): Big data cloud processing using popular tools
  • AWS Data Pipeline: Data workflow orchestration service across AWS services

AWS Glue:

  • Fully managed ETL (extract, transform and load) service on AWS
  • Supports data in Amazon RDS, DynamoDB, RedShift, and S3
  • Supports a serverless model of execution

Amazon EMR:

  • Enables big-data processing on Amazon EC2 and S3
  • Supports popular open-source frameworks and tools
    • Apache Spark
    • Apache Hive
    • Apache HBase
    • Apache Flink
    • Apache Hudi
    • Presto
  • Operates in a clustered environment without additional configuration
  • Supports many different big-data use cases

AWS Data Pipeline:

  • Managed extract, transform and load (ETL) service on AWS
  • Manages data workflow through AWS services
  • Supports S3, EMR, RedShift, DynamoDB and RDS
  • Can integrate with on-prem data stores

Data Analysis services:

  • Amazon Athena: Services that enables querying of data stored in Amazon S3
  • Amazon Quicksight: Business intelligence service enabling data dashboards
  • Amazon CloudSearch: Managed search service for custom applications

Amazon Athena:

  • Fully managed serverless service
  • Enables querying of large-scale data stored in Amazon S3
  • Queries are written using standard SQL
  • Charged based on data scanned for query

Amazon Quicksight:

  • Fully managed business intelligence service
  • Enables dynamic data dashboard based on data stored in AWS
  • Charged on per-user and per-session pricing model
  • Multiple versions provided on needs

Amazon CloudSearch:

  • Fully managed search service on AWS
  • Support scaling of search infrastructure to meet the demand
  • Charged per hour and instance type of search infrastructure
  • Enables developers to integrate search into custom applications

AI and Machine Learning services:

  • Amazon Rekognition: Computer vision service powered by machine learning
  • Amazon Translate: Text translation service powered by machine learning
  • Amazon Transcribe: Speech to text solution using machine learning

Amazon Rekognition:

  • Fully managed image and video recognition deep learning service
  • Identifies objects in images
  • Identifies objects and actions in videos
  • Can detect specific people using facial analysis
  • Supports custom labels for your business objects

Amazon Translate:

Amazon Transcribe:

Disaster Recovery on AWS

Disaster Recover architectures:

  • Backup and Restore
  • Pilot Light
  • Warm Standby
  • Multi Site

In the above architectures, cost and complexity increases top to bottom. However, the recovery time decreases from top to bottom.

Backup and Restore:

  • Prod data is backed up into Amazon S3
  • Data can be stored in either standard or archival storage classes
  • EBS data can be stored as snapshots in Amazon S3 also
  • In a disaster recovery event, a process is started to launch a new environment
  • This approach has the longest recovery time but least cost

Pilot Light:

  • Key infrastructure components are kept running in the cloud
  • Designed to reduce recovery time over the Backup and Restore approach
  • Does incur cost of this infra continually running on the cloud
  • AMI’s are prepared for additional systems and can be launched quickly

Warm Standby:

  • A scaled-down version of the full environment is running in the cloud
  • Critical systems can be running on less capable instance types
  • Instance types and other systems can be ramped up for disaster recovery event
  • Does incur cost of this infrastructure continually running in the cloud

Multi Site:

  • Full environment is running in the cloud at all times
  • Utilizes instance types needed for production not just recovery
  • Provides a near seamless recovery process
  • Incurs the most cost over the other approaches

Disaster Recovery Approach considerations:

  • Recovery Time Objective (RTO) - amount of time to recover
  • Recovery Point Objective (RPO) - amount of data loss (in terms of time)

Architecting Applications on Amazon EC2

Scaling EC2 Infra

  • Vertical scaling: “scale up” with larger instances
  • Horizontal scaling: “scale out” add more instances

Horizontal scaling services in AWS:

  • Auto Scaling Group: Set of EC2 instances with rules for scaling & management
  • Elastic Load Balancer: Distributes traffic across multiple targets

Auto Scaling Group:

  • Launch template defines the instance config for the group
  • Defines max, min and desired number of instances required
  • Performs health checks on all instances
  • Exists in one or more availability zones within the same region
  • Works with on-demand and spot instances

AWS Secrets Manager:

  • Secure way to integrate credentials, secrets, etc
  • Integrates natively with RDS, DocumentDB and Redshift
  • Can auto-rotate credentials with integrated services
  • Enables fine-grained access control to secrets

Security in Amazon VPC:

  • Security groups
  • Network ACL’s
  • Amazon VPN

Security Groups:

  • Serve as firewalls to EC2s and are applied at instance level
  • EC2 instances can belong to multiple security groups
  • Must be explicitly associated with instances
  • By default all outbound traffic is allowed

Network ACL:

  • Works at the subnet level with a VPC
  • Enables you to allow or deny traffic
  • Each VPC has a default ACL that allows all inbound and outbound traffic
  • Custom ACLs deny all traffic until rules are added


  • Creates an encrypted tunnel into your VPC
  • Can be used to connect your data center or even individual client machines
  • Supported in two services:
    • Site-to-site VPN
    • Client VPN

Security Services:

  • AWS Shield: Managed DDoS protection service for apps on AWS
  • Amazon Macie: Data protection service powered by machine learning
  • Amazon Inspector: Automated security assessment service for EC2 instances

AWS Shield:

  • Provides protection against DDoS attacks for apps running on AWS
  • Enables ongoing threat detection and mitigation
  • Has two service levels:
    • Standard
    • Advanced

Amazon Macie:

  • Utilizes machine learning to analyze data stored in Amazon S3
  • It can detect PII and IP in S3
  • Provides dashboards to show how the data is being stored and accessed
  • Enables alerts if it detects anything unusual about data access

Amazon Inspector:

  • Enables scanning of Amazon EC2 instances for security vulns
  • Charged by instance per assessment run
  • Two types of rules packages:
    • Network reachability assessment
    • Host assessment

Deploying Pre-defined solutions on AWS:

  • AWS Service Catalog
  • AWS Marketplace

AWS Service Catalog:

  • Targeted to serve as an organizational service catalog for the cloud
  • Can include single server image to multi-tier custom applications
  • Enables organizations to leverage services to meet the compliance
  • Supports a lifecycle for services released in the catalog

AWS Developer Services:

  • AWS CodeCommit
  • AWS CodeBuild
  • AWS CodeDeploy
  • AWS CodePipeline
  • AWS CodeStar

AWS CodeCommit:

  • Managed VCS
  • Utilizes git for repos
  • Control access with IAM policies
  • Serves as an alternative to GitHub and Bitbucket

AWS CodeBuild:

  • Fully managed build and CI service
  • Don’t need to worry about maintaining infra
  • Charged per minute for compute resources you utilize

AWS CodeDeploy:

  • Managed deployment service for custom apps
  • Deploys to AWS EC2, Fargate, Lambda and on-premise service
  • Provides dashboard for deployments

AWS CodePipeline:

  • Fully managed continuous delivery service
  • Provides capabilities to automate building, testing and deploying
  • Integrates with other tools and GitHub

AWS CodeStar:

  • Workflow tool that automates the use of other developer services
  • Creates complete continuous delivery toolchain
  • Provides custom dashboards and configurations
  • Charged for the other services you leverage

Security Policies and Standards Automation on AWS for DevOps Engineers

Course Link:


  • IAM User, Group and Role helps in Authentication

  • IAM Policies helps in Authorization

  • IAM Roles: Service roles and Service linked role (predefined roles)

  • IAM Policy:

    • Statement ID (SID)
    • Effect (usually Allow / Deny)
    • Principal
    • Action
    • Resource (optional)
    • Condition (optional)
  • IAM Policy types:

    • Identity based
    • Resource based (not supported by all services)
  • The IAM policies is first evaluated for “Deny” actions. Only if theres no deny and theres an explicit allow, the permission is granted.

IAM Best Practices:

  • Enable MFA
  • Never use AWS root account access
  • Use IAM groups
  • Grant least privilege
  • Rotate credentials
  • Use managed policies (create customer managed policy if required)
  • Review & monitor user activity


  • Can be used in
    • Enterprise Identity Federation and Web Identity Federation
    • Cross account access and giving privs to EC2 instances
  • AWS STS actions:
    • AssumeRole
    • AssumeRolewithSAML
    • AssumeRolewithWebIdentity
  • DecodeAuthorization
  • GetSessionToken
  • GetCallerIdentity
  • GetFederationToken
  • GetAccessKeyInfo

Identity Federation in AWS

  • Supports SAML and non-SAML based identity federation

  • Non-SAML based ID federation is done using AWS managed Microsoft AD (Secure Windows Trusts)

  • AWS recommends Cognito for Web Identity Federation in mobile apps

  • AWS allows Role Switching where the target AWS account needs to trust the source AWS account and assign a policy with the trust. Any IAM user accessing target AWS account should have the permission to sts:AssumeRkeole.

  • AWS Trusted Advisor Categories:

    • Basic (Security & Service limits)
    • Enterprise/Business (Cost-optimization, Fault tolerance and Performance)
  • Cloudwatch alerts can be setup in two ways:

    • Simple alarms (for specific metrics)
    • Composite alarms (for combining two or more alarms)

AWS Organizations

  • AWS Organizations have Service Control Policies (SCP) that specify maximum permission for an entity
  • Features:
    • Consolidated billing and account management
    • Hierarchical groupings as Organizational Units (OU)
    • Centrally control member accounts using SCPs
    • IAM integration and support
    • Integration with other AWS services

Service Control Policies

  • Needs to be explicitly enabled in an organization

  • Organizational policies to manage permissions

  • Can be applied in root level, OU level or individual account level

  • Don’t affect resource-based policies

  • Access control to users that are part of the organization

  • Don’t affect service linked roles

  • SCPs allowed at the root level is inherited by the child entities

  • Tag policies help standardize tags on all tagged resources across organization. Ex: Set values of “environment” key as one in “dev”, “stag” or “prod” values only.

AWS re:Inforce 2019: The Fundamentals of AWS Cloud Security (FND209-R)

Patterns to know:

  • Permissions management - AWS IAM
  • Data Encryption - AWS KMS
  • Network Security controls - Amazon VPC

Two patterns for cross account access:

  • Create policies in both the accounts (source & destination) with the same resource & permissions but in destination account policy, add “Principal” JSON object with the “AWS” account to trust
  • For services that don’t support resource based policies (like DynamoDB), create policy in destination account only with required permissions and create a separate role with trust policy which trusts the source AWS account. Then create a new role in source AWS account that can assume role in the destination account.

AWS Organizations - lets to organize accounts

AWS re:Inforce 2019: Security Best Practices the Well-Architected Way (SDD318)

What should you do first?

  • IAM
  • Use automation
  • Enable detection
  • Prepare for an incident

Incident Response: Use Amazon GuardDuty as a starting point.

Some GuardDuty docs:

Permission Boundaries for IAM:

Automate credential management:

  • Disable/delete unused access keys
  • Cleanup after federation
  • Regularly remind people for having an access key
  • Remove leavers
  • Constantly reduce permissions

Account & IAM:

  • AWS Organizations
  • IAM
  • MFA
  • AWS Secrets Manager


  • AWS CloudFormation
  • AWS Systems Manager
  • AWS Code Services
  • Event


  • Amazon GuardDuty
  • Cloudtrail
  • Cloudwatch
  • AWS Config

Infrastructure and data:

  • AWS Inspector
  • AWS Security Hub
  • AWS Certificate Manager (Private Certificate Authority)
  • Amazon Macie

Automate detection of data leaks:

  • Consider all sources of data!
  • Interesting API calls
    • Any service that hosts data
    • Pre-signed URL generation
  • S3 access logs
    • Custom access log information
    • Data classification code for analysis

Switch on default Amazon EBS encryption -

Links to learn more:

Notes for each service

Cloud HSM

  • Cloud-based Hardware Security Module
  • Compliant with HIPAA, PCI and FedRAMP
  • Usually deployed as cluster with >= 2 HSMs spread across different availability zones in same region
  • Automatically load balanced and keys synced across HSMs in cluster
  • Automatically backup HSMs to S3 bucket in same region
  • AWS has no visibility/access to encryption keys
  • No vendor lock-in. Keys can be exported to other commercial HSMs if required
  • AWS KMS can be configured to use CloudHSM as custom key store (along with storing master keys)
  • Charged per hour

AWS Inspector

  • Agent based scanning (with awsagent having sudo privs)
  • Checks vulnerabilities using CVE database
  • Has package rules
    • CVE
    • CIS Benchmark
    • Security Best Practices
    • Runtime Behaviour Analysis
    • Security Levels (High, Medium, Low, Informational)
  • Has supported regions and OS
  • Supports roles and instance tagging. You need to tag the instances that needs to be included in the assessment.