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6 Best Practices for AWS EC2 Security

Best-Practices-for-AWS-EC2-Security
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AWS provides security services and infrastructure, while customers are responsible for configuring and maintaining those services over time.

As businesses move their data and operations to the cloud, security is an important factor to consider. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a commonly used cloud service provider, and Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) is its most popular service. To ensure that your data, applications, and infrastructure remain secure, it is essential to secure your AWS EC2 instance.

To help protect your data, AWS provides a shared responsibility model for security. This model helps customers understand their security responsibilities by dividing them into two categories: AWS’s responsibility and the customer’s responsibility.

Image Source: AWS

The AWS Shared Responsibility Model helps clarify the distinction between the security of the cloud and the security in the cloud. The model states that AWS is responsible for ensuring the security of the underlying infrastructure that powers all cloud services.

At the same time, customers are responsible for protecting their content and applications running on the AWS environment. This includes monitoring and protecting data, configuring firewall rules, securing access control, and more. 

By following these best practices, you can secure your AWS EC2 resources and ensure they remain safe and compliant with industry standards.

Control User Access to EC2 instance with IAM

IAM (identity and access management) roles are an essential component of AWS EC2 security. IAM roles provide a secure way to grant access to AWS services. They allow you to securely give a user or application privileges while controlling access to resources within your AWS environment.

In AWS, IAM roles enable applications to make API requests from instances without having to manage credentials; instead of managing AWS credentials, you may assign permission to make API requests using IAM roles, as seen below.

  • Create an IAM role
  • Specify which accounts or AWS services can take the role
  • Set up which API actions and resources the application can access when taking the role
  • Include the role when launching an instance, or attach the role to an existing instance
  • Let the application get a set of temporary credentials and use them to make requests to AWS

Permission for the following API operations is required to allow an IAM user to create an instance alongside an IAM role or to attach or change an IAM role for an existing instance.

{
  "Version": "2012-10-17",
  "Statement": [
    {
      "Effect": "Allow",
      "Action": [
         "ec2:RunInstances",
         "ec2:AssociateIamInstanceProfile",
         "ec2:ReplaceIamInstanceProfileAssociation"
      ],
      "Resource": "*"
    },
    {
      "Effect": "Allow",
      "Action": "iam:PassRole",
      "Resource": "arn:aws:iam::123456789012:role/DevTeam*"
    }
  ]
}

By creating IAM roles and assigning them to EC2 instances, you can help ensure that only users with the right permissions can access sensitive data and resources.

Restrict Access to AWS EC2 instances with network access controls

One of the best ways to ensure the security of your AWS EC2 instances is to restrict network access. You should only allow access from specific trusted IP addresses and ports when configuring network access for instance. 

Set up a network access control list or security group rules in your Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) to either accept or reject specific IP addresses for your EC2 instances. Security groups and network access controls are effective ways to limit access to your AWS EC2 instances. 

Security groups allow you to specify which IP addresses and ports are allowed to access your EC2 instance. Network access controls can restrict access to specific services and ports within your instance.

network-acl
Image Source: AWS

To set up network ACL, take the following steps.

  • Launch the Amazon VPC console 
  • Choose network ACLs in the navigation pane
  • Select create network ACL
  • Name your network ACL in the create network ACL dialog box, and choose the ID of your VPC from the VPC list. 
  • Select Yes, Create

For each security group, you can configure rules to limit incoming or outgoing traffic. You can specify IP addresses, ports, protocols, and directions (incoming or outgoing). Take the following steps to create a security group. 

  • Launch the Amazon VPC console 
  • Select security groups in the navigation pane
  • Select create a security group
  • Type a name and description for the security group (This process can’t be undone)
  • From VPC, choose the VPC
  • You can add security group rules now or later
  • You can add tags now or later – to add a tag, select add a new tag and enter the tag key and value
  • Select create a security group

When setting up security groups, always be as restrictive as possible. Limit access to only necessary ports and IP addresses, and make sure all other ports are blocked. Additionally, make sure to regularly review the security group rules to ensure they remain effective.

Amazon Machine Images Encryption

Amazon Machine Images (AMI) are virtual machines that provide the information required to launch an instance. To protect your data stored in an instance, it’s essential to encrypt the AMI you use.

ami-to-ami-convert
Image Source: AWS

AWS AMI encryption enables customers to stay compliant with industry-standard encryption such as PCI-DSS, HIPAA, GDPR, APRA, MAS, and NIST4. AMI encryption keys use the AES-256 algorithm, which is known for providing secure cryptographic hash functions for encryption at rest. 

It ensures that the data stored in the AMI is protected from potential attackers and unauthorized access. To protect your data stored in an instance, AWS Key Management Service (KMS) helps you control encryption keys and use them to encrypt data stored in your AWS resources, such as EC2 instances.

KMS also enables you to manage access control, audit logging, and key rotation to secure your data and help you meet your compliance requirements.

Use AWS CloudTrail to track User Activities

CloudTrail is a service that enables users to monitor and audit AWS activity. With CloudTrail, you can track who made changes to your AWS resources and infrastructure. CloudTrail allows you to log all API calls made against your account. It monitors the following:

  • Create, delete, and modify operations on resources such as EC2 instances, S3 buckets, VPCs, and more 
  • Invocation of Lambda functions
  • Other actions are taken in the AWS Management Console 
AWS-CloudTrail_
Image Source: AWS

CloudTrail captures a record of each action taken in the form of an event. This event will be written to a CloudTrail log file, which can then be used for further analysis and auditing. Enabling CloudTrail is an essential security best practice for AWS EC2 environments since it provides an audit trail of all activities related to the environment. 

To enable CloudTrail for an ongoing record of events in your AWS account, navigate to the CloudTrail console, select “Create trail,” and configure the settings. Once you have enabled CloudTrail logging, it is essential to periodically review the logs and check for unauthorized access or suspicious activity. 

You can also use CloudTrail to detect anomalous behaviors within your environment, such as unexpected changes or suspicious activity. By taking the time to configure CloudTrail logging for your AWS EC2 environment correctly, you can ensure that your environment is secure and that all activity is being monitored.

Review Security of EC2 Instance OS

It is important to ensure the security of the operating system running on the AWS EC2 instance. This can be done by configuring the firewall, installing and updating anti-virus software, and patching vulnerabilities. 

  • Firewalls should be configured to allow only necessary ports and protocols 
  • Anti-virus software should be installed and updated regularly to prevent malicious programs from infiltrating the system 
  • Patch management should be employed to ensure that any known vulnerabilities in the system have been addressed 
  • Monitoring should be implemented to detect any suspicious activity. This can include using tools such as LogRhythm to monitor user activity, access, and changes to files and directories. 

By implementing these measures, you can ensure that your AWS EC2 instance remains secure.

Enable Amazon CloudWatch Logs

Amazon CloudWatch Logs are a valuable tool for tracking, storing, and monitoring log data from applications, operating systems, and other resources running on AWS. With CloudWatch Logs, you can easily search, analyze, and set up alarms to monitor your system’s activity.

cloudwatch
Image Source: AWS

CloudWatch Logs’ benefits include increased system performance visibility and the ability to monitor for potential security issues. 

The CloudWatch agent is available for downloading and installation either through the command line or through the Systems Manager Agent (SSM). It can be used to gather metrics and logs from Amazon EC2 instances and on-premises servers.

When configuring the CloudWatch agent, you must decide what types of logs should be collected and stored in CloudWatch Logs. You should also configure IAM roles for the CloudWatch agent so that it has sufficient privileges to access and store the relevant data within CloudWatch Logs. 

Conclusion

Data breaches can happen anytime and have serious financial and reputational implications for businesses. That is why it is essential to take steps to ensure the security of your AWS EC2 environment. 

By proactively following these best practices and implementing effective security measures, businesses can reduce their risk of suffering a data breach. Additionally, educating users about the importance of proper security and good cyber hygiene practices will help ensure everyone in your organization understands their role in keeping systems secure.

You may also explore some best AWS monitoring tools.

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