Category: Best Practices


The Most Viewed AWS Security Blog Posts in 2016

by Craig Liebendorfer | on | in Announcements, Best Practices, Compliance, Encryption, Federation, How-to guides, Security | | Comments

The following 10 posts were the most viewed AWS Security Blog posts that we published during 2016. You can use this list as a guide to catch up on your blog reading or even read a post again that you found particularly useful.

  1. How to Set Up DNS Resolution Between On-Premises Networks and AWS Using AWS Directory Service and Amazon Route 53
  2. How to Control Access to Your Amazon Elasticsearch Service Domain
  3. How to Restrict Amazon S3 Bucket Access to a Specific IAM Role
  4. Announcing AWS Organizations: Centrally Manage Multiple AWS Accounts
  5. How to Configure Rate-Based Blacklisting with AWS WAF and AWS Lambda
  6. How to Use AWS WAF to Block IP Addresses That Generate Bad Requests
  7. How to Record SSH Sessions Established Through a Bastion Host
  8. How to Manage Secrets for Amazon EC2 Container Service–Based Applications by Using Amazon S3 and Docker
  9. Announcing Industry Best Practices for Securing AWS Resources
  10. How to Set Up DNS Resolution Between On-Premises Networks and AWS Using AWS Directory Service and Microsoft Active Directory

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SAML Identity Federation: Follow-Up Questions, Materials, Guides, and Templates from an AWS re:Invent 2016 Workshop (SEC306)

by Quint Van Deman | on | in Best Practices, Federation, How-to guides | | Comments

As part of the re:Source Mini Con for Security Services at AWS re:Invent 2016, we conducted a workshop focused on Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) identity federation: Choose Your Own SAML Adventure: A Self-Directed Journey to AWS Identity Federation Mastery. As part of this workshop, attendees were able to submit their own federation-focused questions to a panel of AWS experts. In this post, I share the questions and answers from that workshop because this information can benefit any AWS customer interested in identity federation.

I have also made available the full set of workshop materials, lab guides, and AWS CloudFormation templates. I encourage you to use these materials to enrich your exploration of SAML for use with AWS.

Q: SAML assertions are limited to 50,000 characters. We often hit this limit by being in too many groups. What can AWS do to resolve this size-limit problem?

A: Because the SAML assertion is ultimately part of an API call, an upper bound must be in place for the assertion size.

On the AWS side, your AWS solution architect can log a feature request on your behalf to increase the maximum size of the assertion in a future release. The AWS service teams use these feature requests, in conjunction with other avenues of customer feedback, to plan and prioritize the features they deliver. To facilitate this process you need two things: the proposed higher value to which you’d like to see the maximum size raised, and a short written description that would help us understand what this increased limit would enable you to do. (more…)

Now Available: Videos from re:Invent 2016 Security and Compliance Sessions

by Craig Liebendorfer | on | in Announcements, Best Practices, Compliance, Customer stories, Encryption, Enterprise, Security | | Comments

re:Invent stage photo

Whether you want to review a Security and Compliance track session you attended at AWS re:Invent 2016 or you want to experience a session for the first time, videos from the Security and Compliance track and re:Source Mini Con for Security Services are now available.

Note: Slide decks also will be available in the coming days.

Security & Compliance track

SAC201: Lessons from a Chief Security Officer: Achieving Continuous Compliance in Elastic Environments

SAC303: Become an AWS IAM Policy Ninja in 60 Minutes or Less

SAC304: Predictive Security: Using Big Data to Fortify Your Defenses

SAC305: How AWS Automates Internal Compliance at Massive Scale using AWS Services

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In Case You Missed These: AWS Security Blog Posts from March and April

by Craig Liebendorfer | on | in Announcements, Best Practices, Compliance, Encryption, Federation, How-to guides | | Comments

In case you missed any of the AWS Security Blog posts from March and April, they are summarized and linked to below. The posts are shown in reverse chronological order (most recent first), and the subject matter ranges from the AWS Config Rules repository to automatically updating AWS WAF IP blacklists.

April

April 28, AWS WAF How-To: How to Import IP Address Reputation Lists to Automatically Update AWS WAF IP Blacklists
A number of organizations maintain reputation lists of IP addresses used by bad actors. Their goal is to help legitimate companies block access from specific IP addresses and protect their web applications from abuse. These downloadable, plaintext reputation lists include Spamhaus’s Don’t Route Or Peer (DROP) List and Extended Drop (EDROP) List, and Proofpoint’s Emerging Threats IP list. Similarly, the Tor project’s Tor exit node list provides a list of IP addresses currently used by Tor users to access the Internet. Tor is a web proxy that anonymizes web requests and is sometimes used by malicious users to probe or exploit websites.

April 27, Federated SSO How-To: How to Set Up Federated Single Sign-On to AWS Using Google Apps
Among the services offered to Google Apps for Work users is a Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) 2.0–based SSO service. You can use this service to provide one-click SSO to your AWS resources by using your existing Google Apps credentials. For users to whom you grant SSO access, they will see an additional SAML app in your Google Apps account, as highlighted in the following screenshot. When your users click the SAML app, Google Apps authenticates and redirects them to the AWS Management Console. In this blog post, I will show you how you can use Google Apps to set up federated SSO to your AWS resources.

April 21, AWS WAF How-To: How to Prevent Hotlinking by Using AWS WAF, Amazon CloudFront, and Referer Checking
You can use AWS WAF to help prevent hotlinking. AWS WAF is a web application firewall that is closely integrated with Amazon CloudFront (AWS’s content delivery network [CDN]), and it can help protect your web applications from common web exploits that could affect application availability, compromise security, and consume excessive resources. In this blog post, I will show you how to prevent hotlinking by using header inspection in AWS WAF, while still taking advantage of the improved user experience from a CDN such as CloudFront. (more…)

In Case You Missed These: AWS Security Blog Posts from January and February

by Craig Liebendorfer | on | in Announcements, Best Practices, Compliance, How-to guides | | Comments

In case you missed any of the AWS Security Blog posts from January and February, they are summarized and linked to below. The posts are shown in reverse chronological order (most recent first), and the subject matter ranges from using AWS WAF to automating HIPAA compliance.

February

February 29, AWS Compliance Announcement: Announcing Industry Best Practices for Securing AWS Resources
We are happy to announce that the Center for Internet Security (CIS) has published the CIS AWS Foundations Benchmark, a set of security configuration best practices for AWS. These industry-accepted best practices go beyond the high-level security guidance already available, providing AWS users with clear, step-by-step implementation and assessment procedures. This is the first time CIS has issued a set of security best practices specific to an individual cloud service provider.

February 24, AWS WAF How-To: How to Use AWS WAF to Block IP Addresses That Generate Bad Requests
In this blog post, I show you how to create an AWS Lambda function that automatically parses Amazon CloudFront access logs as they are delivered to Amazon S3, counts the number of bad requests from unique sources (IP addresses), and updates AWS WAF to block further requests from those IP addresses. I also provide a CloudFormation template that creates the web access control list (ACL), rule sets, Lambda function, and logging S3 bucket so that you can try this yourself.

February 23, Automating HIPAA Compliance How-To: How to Use AWS Config to Help with Required HIPAA Audit Controls: Part 4 of the Automating HIPAA Compliance Series
In today’s final post of this series, I am going to complete the explanation of the DevSecOps architecture by highlighting ways you can use AWS Config to help meet audit controls required by HIPAA. Config is a fully managed service that provides you with an AWS resource inventory, configuration history, and configuration change notifications. This Config output, along with other audit trails, gives you the types of information you can use to meet your HIPAA auditing obligations.   (more…)

New AWS Partner Network Blog Post: Securely Accessing Customers’ AWS Accounts with Cross-Account IAM Roles

by Craig Liebendorfer | on | in Best Practices | | Comments

On the AWS Security Blog, we have talked regularly about following AWS security best practices. For example, we published Adhere to IAM Best Practices in 2016 in January. Best practices can help you keep your AWS resources as secure as possible, and should be applied when you grant access inside and outside your organization.

Building off AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) best practices, the AWS Partner Network (APN) Blog this week published a blog post called, Securely Accessing Customer AWS Accounts with Cross-Account IAM Roles. Written by AWS Partner Solutions Architect David Rocamora, this post addresses how best practices can be applied when working with APN Partners, and describes the potential drawbacks with APN Partners having access to their customers’ AWS resources. Rocamora explains some of the risks of sharing IAM keys, how you can implement cross-account IAM roles, and how cross-account IAM roles mitigate risks for customers and for APN Partners, particularly those who are software as a service (SaaS) providers.

Read the full blog post to learn more about AWS security best practices as implemented by APN Partners.

– Craig

Adhere to IAM Best Practices in 2016

by Craig Liebendorfer | on | in Announcements, Best Practices | | Comments

As another new year begins, we encourage you to review our recommended AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) best practices. Following these best practices can help you maintain the security of your AWS resources. You can learn more by watching the IAM Best Practices to Live By presentation that Anders Samuelsson gave at AWS re:Invent 2015, or you can click the following links that will take you to IAM documentation, blog posts, and videos.

  1. Create and use IAM users instead of your root account

Do not use your AWS root account to access AWS. Instead, create individual IAM users for access to your AWS account. This allows you to give each IAM user a unique set of security credentials and grant different permissions to each user. Related: Documentation, blog posts, video.

  1. Grant least privilege

Apply fine-grained permissions to ensure that IAM users have least privilege to perform only the tasks they need to perform. Start with a minimum set of permissions and grant additional permissions as necessary. Related: Documentation, blog posts. (more…)

Now Available: Videos and Slide Decks from the re:Invent 2015 Security and Compliance Track

by Craig Liebendorfer | on | in Best Practices, Compliance, Customer stories, Encryption, Enterprise, Federation, Government, How-to guides, Networking | | Comments

Whether you want to review a Security and Compliance track session you attended at re:Invent 2015, or you want to experience a session for the first time, videos and slide decks from the Security and Compliance track are now available.

SEC201: AWS Security State of the Union: How Should We All Think About Security?

SEC202: If You Build It, They Will Come: Best Practices for Securely Leveraging the Cloud

SEC203: Journey to Securing Time Inc.’s Move to the Cloud

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AWS IAM Sessions at re:Invent 2015

by Craig Liebendorfer | on | in Announcements, Best Practices | | Comments

As I said last week, the breakout sessions for the Security & Compliance track have been announced and are shown in the re:Invent 2015 session catalog. If you are going to re:Invent 2015, you can add these sessions to your schedule now.

Today, I will highlight the AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) sessions that will be presented as part of the Security & Compliance track.

SEC302: IAM Best Practices to Live By

In this session, AWS Principal Technical Program Manager Anders Samuelsson will cover IAM best practices, which can help improve your security posture. Anders will cover how to manage users and their security credentials. He’ll also explain why you should delete your root access keys—or at the very least, rotate them regularly. Using common use cases, Anders will demonstrate when to choose between using IAM users and IAM roles, and explain how to set permissions to grant least privilege access control in one or more of your AWS accounts. (more…)

Use AWS Services to Adhere to Security Best Practices—Minus the Inordinate Time Investment

by Jonathan Desrocher | on | in Best Practices | | Comments

As security professionals, it is our job to be sure that our decisions adhere to best practices. Best practices, though, tend to be time consuming, which means we either don’t get around to following best practices, or we spend too much time on tedious, manual tasks. This blog post includes two examples where AWS services can help achieve adherence to security best practices, minus the inordinate time investment.

One AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) best practice is to delete or regularly rotate access keys. However, knowing which AWS access keys are in use has usually involved poring over AWS CloudTrail logs. In my May 30 webinar, I highlighted the then recently launched access key last used feature that makes access key rotation easier. By knowing the date and IP address of the last usage, you can much more easily identify which keys are in use and where. You can also identify those keys that haven’t been used in a long time; this helps to maintain good security posture by retiring and deleting old, unused access keys.

If you have a Windows environment on AWS and need to join each Amazon EC2 instance to the Windows domain, the best practice is to either do it manually, or embed credentials in the Amazon Machine Image (AMI). In this Auto Scaling Lifecycle Policies for Security Practitioners video,I show you how you can use Auto Scaling lifecycle policies to, among other things, join a server to a Windows domain without sharing credentials across instances.

These are just two examples of how using AWS services helps you adhere to best practices, reduce risk, and spend less time on manual tasks. If you have questions or comments, either post them below or go to the IAM forum.

– Jonathan