AWS Government, Education, & Nonprofits Blog

Automating Governance on AWS

IT governance identifies risk and determines the identity controls to mitigate that risk. Traditionally, IT governance has required long, detailed documents and hours of work for IT managers, security or audit professionals, and admins. Automating governance on AWS offers a better way.

Let’s consider a world where only two things matter: customer trust and cost control. First, we need to identify the risks to mitigate:

  • Customer Trust: Customer trust is essential. Allowing customer data to be obtained by unauthorized third parties is damaging to customers and the organization.
  • Cost: Doing more with your money is critical to success for any organization.

Then, we identify what policies we need to mitigate those risks:

  • Encryption at rest should be used to avoid interception of customer data by unauthorized parties.
  • A consistent instance family should be used to allow for better Reserved Instance (RI) optimization.

Finally, we can set up automated controls to make sure those policies are followed. With AWS, you have several options:

Encrypting Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) volumes is a fairly straightforward configuration.  However, validating that all volumes have been encrypted may not be as easy.  Despite how easily volumes can be encrypted, it is still possible to overlook or intentionally not encrypt a volume. AWS Config Rules can be used to automatically and in real time check that all volumes are encrypted. Here is how to set that up:

  • Open AWS Console
  • Go to Services -> Management Tools -> Config
  • Click Add Rule
  • Click encrypted-volumes
  • Click Save

Once the rule has finished being evaluated, you can see a list of EBS volumes and whether or not they are compliant with this new policy. This example uses a built-in AWS Config Rule, but you can also use custom rules where built-in rules do not exist.

When you get several Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances spun up, eventually you will want to think about purchasing Reserved Instances (RIs) to take advantage of the cost savings they provide.  Focus on one or a few instance families and purchase RIs of different sizes within those families.  The reason to do this is because RIs can be split and combined into different sizes if the workload changes in the future. Reducing the number of instance families used increases the likelihood that a future need can be accommodated by resizing existing RIs. To enforce this policy, an IAM rule can be used to allow creation of EC2 instances which are in only the allowed families. See below:

It’s just that simple.

With AWS automated controls, system administrators don’t need to memorize every required control, security admins can easily validate that policies are being followed, and IT managers can see it all on a dashboard in near real time – thereby decreasing organizational risk and freeing up resources to focus on other critical tasks.

To learn more about Automating Governance on AWS, read our white paper, Automating Governance: A Managed Service Approach to Security and Compliance on AWS.


A guest blog by Joshua Dayberry, Senior Solutions Architect, Amazon Web Services Worldwide Public Sector