AWS Security Blog

AWS Security Profile: Ritesh Desai, GM, AWS Secrets Manager

AWS Security Profile: Ritesh Desai, GM, AWS Secrets Manager

In the AWS Security Profile series, we interview Amazon Web Services (AWS) thought leaders who help keep our customers safe and secure. This interview features Ritesh Desai, General Manager, AWS Secrets Manager, and re:Inforce 2023 session speaker, who shares thoughts on data protection, cloud security, secrets management, and more.

What do you do in your current role and how long have you been at AWS?

I’ve been in the tech industry for more than 20 years and joined AWS about three years ago. Currently, I lead our Secrets Management organization, which includes the AWS Secrets Manager service.

How did you get started in the data protection and secrets management space? What about it piqued your interest?

I’ve always been excited at the prospect of solving complex customer problems with simple technical solutions. Working across multiple small to large organizations in the past, I’ve seen similar challenges with secret sprawl and lack of auditing and monitoring tools. Centralized secrets management is a challenge for customers. As organizations evolve from start-up to enterprise level, they can end up with multiple solutions across organizational units to manage their secrets.

Being part of the Secrets Manager team gives me the opportunity to learn about our customers’ unique needs and help them protect access to their most sensitive digital assets in the cloud, at scale.

Why does secrets management matter to customers today?

Customers use secrets like database passwords and API keys to protect their most sensitive data, so it’s extremely important for them to invest in a centralized secrets management solution. Through secrets management, customers can securely store, retrieve, rotate, and audit secrets.

What’s been the most dramatic change you’ve seen in the data protection and secrets management space?

Secrets management is becoming increasingly important for customers, but customers now have to deal with complex environments that include single cloud providers like AWS, multi-cloud setups, hybrid (cloud and on-premises) environments, and only on-premises instances.

Customers tell us that they want centralized secrets management solutions that meet their expectations across these environments. They have two distinct goals here. First, they want a central secrets management tool or service to manage their secrets. Second, they want their secrets to be available closer to the applications where they’re run. IAM Roles Anywhere provides a secure way for on-premises servers to obtain temporary AWS credentials and removes the need to create and manage long-term AWS credentials. Now, customers can use IAM Roles Anywhere to access their Secrets Manager secrets from workloads running outside of AWS. Secrets Manager also launched a program in which customers can manage secrets in third-party secrets management solutions to replicate secrets to Secrets Manager for their AWS workloads. We’re continuing to invest in these areas to make it simpler for customers to manage their secrets in their tools of choice, while providing access to their secrets closer to where their applications are run.

With AWS re:Inforce 2023 around the corner, what will your session focus on? What do you hope attendees will take away from your session?

I’m speaking in a session called “Using AWS data protection services for innovation and automation” (DAP305) alongside one of our senior security specialist solutions architects on the topic of secrets management at scale. In the session, we’ll walk through a sample customer use case that highlights how to use data protection services like AWS Key Management Service (AWS KMS), AWS Private Certificate Authority (AWS Private CA), and Secrets Manager to help build securely and help meet organizational security and compliance expectations. Attendees will walk away with a clear picture of the services that AWS offers to protect sensitive data, and how they can use these services together to protect secrets at scale.

I also encourage folks to check out the other sessions in the data protection track.

Where do you see the secrets management space heading in the future?

Traditionally, secrets management was addressed after development, rather than being part of the design and development process. This placement created an inherent clash between development teams who wanted to put the application in the hands of end users, and the security admins who wanted to verify that the application met security expectations. This resulted in longer timelines to get to market. Involving security in the mix only after development is complete, is simply too late. Security should enable business, not restrict it.

Organizations are slowly adopting the culture that “Security is everyone’s responsibility.” I expect more and more organizations will take the step to “shift-left” and embed security early in the development lifecycle. In the near future, I expect to see organizations prioritize the automation of security capabilities in the development process to help detect, remediate, and eliminate potential risks by taking security out of human hands.

Is there something you wish customers would ask you about more often?

I’m always happy to talk to customers to help them think through how to incorporate secure-by-design in their planning process. There are many situations where decisions could end up being expensive to reverse. AWS has a lot of experience working across a multitude of use cases for customers as they adopt secrets management solutions. I’d love to talk more to customers early in their cloud adoption journey, about the best practices that they should adopt and potential pitfalls to avoid, when they make decisions about secrets management and data protection.

How about outside of work—any hobbies?

I’m an avid outdoors person, and living in Seattle has given me and my family the opportunity to trek and hike through the beautiful landscapes of the Pacific Northwest. I’ve also been a consistent Tough Mudder-er for the last 5 years. The other thing that I spend my time on is working as an amateur actor for a friend’s nonprofit theater production, helping in any way I can.

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Roger Park

Roger Park

Roger is a Senior Security Content Specialist at AWS Security focusing on data protection. He has worked in cybersecurity for almost ten years as a writer and content producer. In his spare time, he enjoys trying new cuisines, gardening, and collecting records.

Ritesh Desai

Ritesh Desai

Ritesh is GM of AWS Secrets Manager. His background includes driving product vision and technology innovation for multiple organizations. He focuses on leading security services that provide innovative solutions to enable customers to securely move their workloads to AWS.