AWS Security Blog

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

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 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.

April 20, Amazon Cognito Announcement: Amazon Cognito Now Provides Sign-Up and Sign-In Functionality for Your Apps (Beta)
Today, Amazon Cognito launched the beta of a new feature that makes it easy for developers to add sign-up and sign-in functionality to mobile and web apps. With this new feature, you get a simple, fully managed service you can use to create and maintain your user pool that can scale to hundreds of millions of users. This new feature also provides enhanced security functionality, such as email verification, phone number verification, and multi-factor authentication. You benefit from the security and privacy best practices of AWS, and retain full control of your user data. To begin using the new beta feature with your user pool, see the Amazon Cognito page.

April 20, Amazon Inspector Announcement: Now Generally Available: Amazon Inspector
Yesterday, AWS announced that Amazon Inspector, an automated security assessment service, is now available to all customers. Inspector helps you improve the security and compliance of your applications running on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) by identifying potential security issues, vulnerabilities, or deviations from security standards. You pay only for the assessments you run, with the first 250 assessments free for your first 90 days.

April 19, HIPAA FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions About HIPAA Compliance in the AWS Cloud
Today, we continue a series of AWS cloud compliance FAQs by focusing on the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and protected health information (PHI). AWS’s Healthcare and Life Science customers are doing important things for their customers in the AWS cloud, and we are excited to work with our partners to help tackle medical advancements at scale. In this blog post, I will share some of the broader questions we hear from customers about HIPAA compliance and PHI in the cloud.

April 14, RDS for SQL Server How-To: How to Enable Windows Integrated Authentication for RDS for SQL Server Using On-Premises Active Directory
If you want to run your SQL Server applications in AWS and secure access with on-premises Active Directory user accounts, this blog post is for you. In this blog post, I walk you through the steps to enable RDS for SQL Server to authenticate with Microsoft AD and configure trusts between Microsoft AD and your on-premises Active Directory. With that configuration in place, you can run your SQL Server databases and applications in AWS, and authenticate access with on-premises Active Directory user accounts.

April 7, AWS Directory Service Announcement: Now Available: Simplified Configuration of Trust Relationships in the AWS Directory Service Console
Today, we made it easier for you to configure trust relationships between AWS Directory Service for Microsoft Active Directory (Enterprise Edition), also referred to as Microsoft AD, and your on-premises Microsoft Active Directory. Establishing trust relationships requires conditional forwarders, which resolve Domain Name System (DNS) queries between the domain names of trusting directories. Now, by completing a single field in the Directory Service console at the same time you create a trust relationship, you can more easily configure conditional forwarders.

April 7, Compliance FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions About Compliance in the AWS Cloud
Every month, AWS Compliance fields thousands of questions about how to achieve and maintain compliance in the cloud. Among other things, customers are eager to take advantage of the cost savings and security at scale that AWS offers while still maintaining robust security and regulatory compliance. Because regulations across industries and geographies can be complex, we thought it might be helpful to share answers to some of the frequently asked questions we hear about compliance in the AWS cloud, as well as to clear up potential misconceptions about how operating in the cloud might affect compliance.


March 29, Amazon CloudWatch Events How-To: How to Detect and Automatically Revoke Unintended IAM Access with Amazon CloudWatch Events
If your account is shared across departments in your organization, monitoring the permissions of your users can become a challenge as the number of users grows. For example, what if a user is granted unintended IAM API access and the user begins making API calls? In this post, I will show a solution that detects API callers who should not have IAM access and automatically revokes those permissions with the help of Amazon CloudWatch Events.

March 28, AWS CloudTrail How-To: How to Easily Identify Your Federated Users by Using AWS CloudTrail
CloudTrail now records two additional AWS Security Token Service (AWS STS) API calls: AssumeRoleWithWebIdentity and AssumeRoleWithSAML. If you already have CloudTrail logging enabled, capturing these AWS STS API calls is enabled by default and requires no additional action from you. If you have not enabled CloudTrail already, see the CloudTrail documentation and AWS CloudTrail FAQs for more information. In this blog post, I will show how you can identify a SAML federated user who terminated an EC2 instance in your AWS account.

March 23, AWS Webinar Announcement: Register for and Attend This March 30 Webinar—Best Practices for Managing Security Operations in AWS
AWS Security Solutions Architect Henrik Johansson will share different ways you can use AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) to control access to your AWS services and integrate your existing authentication system with AWS IAM. You will learn how you can deploy and control your AWS infrastructure as code by using templates, including change management policies with AWS CloudFormation. In addition, you will explore different options for managing both your AWS access logs and your Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) system logs using AWS CloudTrail and Amazon CloudWatch Logs. You will also learn how to implement an audit and compliance validation process using AWS Config and Amazon Inspector.

March 22, AWS Encryption SDK How-To: How to Use the New AWS Encryption SDK to Simplify Data Encryption and Improve Application Availability
The AWS Cryptography team is happy to announce the AWS Encryption SDK. This new SDK makes encryption easier for developers while minimizing errors that could lessen the security of your applications. The new SDK does not require you to be an AWS customer, but it does include ready-to-use examples for AWS customers.

March 16, AD FS Federation How-To: How to Set Up Uninterrupted, Federated User Access to AWS Using AD FS
When the token-signing certificate expires, or is changed, the trust relationship between the claim provider, AD FS, and the relying party, AWS Security Token Service (AWS STS), is broken. Without a valid certificate to prove the calling server’s identity, the receiving party cannot verify the certificate, which terminates the request and thus prevents federated users from being able to access the AWS Management Console. Luckily, this can be avoided! In this blog post, I explain how you can use the AutoCertificateRollover feature in AD FS to enable uninterrupted connections between your claim provider and your relying trust. I also show how to set up a secondary certificate manually in AD FS to avoid service interruption when a server certificate expires.

March 8, AWS WAF How-To: How to Reduce Security Threats and Operating Costs Using AWS WAF and Amazon CloudFront
Successfully blocking bad actors can help reduce security threats to your systems. In addition, you can lower your overall costs, because you no longer have to serve traffic to unintended audiences. In this blog post, I will show you how you can realize these benefits by building a process to help detect content scrapers and bad bots, and then use Amazon CloudFront with AWS WAF (a web application firewall [WAF]) to help block bad actors’ access to your content.

March 7, Restricting VPC Access How-To: How to Automate Restricting Access to a VPC by Using AWS IAM and AWS CloudFormation
Back in September, I wrote about How to Help Lock Down a User’s Amazon EC2 Capabilities to a Single VPC. In that blog post, I highlighted what I have found to be an effective approach to the virtual private cloud (VPC) lockdown scenario. Since that time, I have worked on making the related information easier to implement in your environment. As a result, I have developed an AWS CloudFormation template that automates the creation of the resources necessary to lock down AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) entities (users, groups, and roles) to a VPC. In this blog post, I explain this CloudFormation template in detail and describe its individual sections in order to help you better understand what happens when you create a CloudFormation stack from the template.

March 1, AWS Config Rules Repository Announcement: Announcing the AWS Config Rules Repository: A New Community-Based Source of Custom Rules for AWS Config
Today, we’re happy to release the AWS Config Rules repository, a community-based source of custom AWS Config Rules. This new repository gives you a streamlined way to automate your assessment and compliance against best practices for security of AWS resources. AWS Config Rules is a service that provides automated, periodic security and compliance checking of AWS resources, and affords customers the ability to forego manual inspection of security configurations.

If you have comments  about any of these posts, please add your comments in the “Comments” section of the appropriate post. If you have questions about or issues implementing the solutions in any of these posts, please start a new thread on the AWS IAM forum.

– Craig