The Building Blocks of Zero Trust Security Architectures on AWS

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a leading cloud platform holding a dominant grip of 41.5% of the public cloud market. AWS has over 1 million users worldwide with revenues of 18 billion in the first Q of 2022 alone. A cloud platform of this magnitude needs a solid security framework, and that’s where Zero Trust comes in.

It’s important to understand that the Zero Trust architecture can take time to implement in AWS. It’s not as simple as downloading a program and releasing it into the framework. The good news is that AWS is equipped with tools to help build secure your application architectures with Zero Trust principles implemented.

Before moving forward with any application on AWS, it’s important to fully understand the concept of Zero Trust and the role it plays in securing AWS cloud environments.

Zero Trust and AWS

Traditional firewalls simply do not have the capacity to protect cloud environments. Cloud platforms have the ability to expand at any moment, and firewalls cannot keep up. They need to be updated manually which can cause risk to the cloud. A simple misconfiguration in an AWS S3 bucket can carry significant consequences amounting to a major data breach.  

Applying the principles of Zero Trust on AWS can help create a strong security foundation and limit exposure to potential cloud-based threats. One of the most common risks is password management. Weak passwords accounted for 53% of cloud data breaches. Strict security policies are enforced by implementing the Zero Trust framework, where all users must be identified and authenticated before any access may be given to an AWS cloud environment.

The Zero Trust security model will create a barrier around every valuable asset within the cloud, and the rules can then be customized depending on the organization.

The Six Pillars of an AWS Well-Architected Framework

Before we dive into how to build Zero Trust architectures on AWS, it’s important to understand the six pillars of an AWS Well-Architected Framework. These pillars are essential when designing any cloud-based architecture in AWS.

Operational Excellence

The first pillar focus on how organizations support business objectives and the ability to run workloads efficiently. Review priorities such as evaluating customer needs, compliance requirements, analyzing monitor logs, and continuously improving supporting processes and procedures to deliver the best possible results.     

Security

The Security Pillar focuses on protecting information and systems. Zero Trust plays a significant role as admins must place great emphasis on granting least privilege access across all layers. Eliminate the use of long term credentials using an Identity and Access Management (IAM) and Multi-factor authentication (MFA). Delete all access keys after the initial account setup.

An IAM role assigns temporary AWS credentials for each session to prevent the risk of compromised credentials and the loss of valuable data. 

Reliability

The Reliability Pillar focuses on the ability of a workload to recover from any failures or infrastructure disruptions. A best practice is to test recovery procedures in the event of a data loss situation. Security patching should be performed on a routine basis to address any vulnerabilities in software code early on in the development lifecycle.    

Performance Efficiency

The Performance Efficiency Pillar guides the effectiveness of computing resources to meet system and business requirements. It is highly recommended to make trade-offs to improve performance by monitoring all AWS cloud resources as technologies evolve. 

Cost Optimization

The Cost Optimization Pillar emphasizes the ability to run systems to deliver business value in the most cost-efficient manner. Focus on company goals rather than cost savings. Downsizing on EC2 instances that are inactive can help keep costs down while optimizing performance.

Sustainability

The sixth and final pillar is the Sustainability Pillar. When thinking long term strategic building on AWS, there should be a focus on establishing sustainability goals. Identify the areas of prioritization. Maximize utilization of resources and managed services to reduce the downstream impact of your cloud workloads.

 

Successfully Building Zero Trust Architectures on AWS

Map Out Your Environments

Before you begin, network traffic should be monitored so you have a good understanding of your cloud environment and patterns. An AWS Cloud Map ensures automated health monitoring of cloud resources so that the locations are up-to-date.

Use Data Flows as a Guideline

Take a look at how data is transmitted across your network. Analyze how users and application access information throughout the platform. This will give you a good idea on how to separate your network to create Zero Trust security barriers throughout all AWS cloud environments.

Utilize Advanced Identity Verification

AWS utilizes Multi-factor authentication to verify the identities of each user and device. MFA is a best practice that adds an extra layer of security on top of existing IAM user credentials and should be enforced whenever accessing any type of AWS resource. MFA is also a critical security component of Zero Trust policies.   

Final Thoughts

Building Zero Trust architectures on AWS should go hand in hand with the Six Pillars of an AWS Well-Architected Framework and best security practices. Discover an easier way to protect your AWS resources and minimize cloud-based threats with Perimeter 81’s Zero Trust model.  

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Sponsored by Perimeter 81

PRIYA JAMES is a Cyber Security Enthusiast, Certified Ethical Hacker, Security Blogger, Technical Editor, Author at GBHackers On Cyber Security

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