AWS Security Audit: What It Is, Why You Need One and How to Get Started

AWS is the most used cloud platform on the planet. It offers a wide range of solutions and services such as cloud computing, relational database, simple storage solutions, Amazon PPC tools,  and the list goes on. Organizations use these services to fulfil their IT needs and run their businesses online. However, hackers have always tried to disrupt these services and tried to hack into the network of these worldwide organizations. To prevent hacking attempts and network compromise scenarios, organizations perform periodic security audits of their AWS environments. This makes sure their assets running on AWS are safe and secure. In this post, I will explain what AWS security audit is, why you need one and how to get started with it. So, let’s get started!

What is AWS Security Audit?

An AWS security audit is a process to ensure that the AWS environment of an organization is secure and safe from all kinds of vulnerabilities. As we know, AWS offers services such as ECM, DMS, SNS etc., which are complex in nature and come with multiple features and functionalities. It becomes difficult for organizations to manage these services efficiently without any issues or errors. So the only way out is performing AWS security audits periodically to make sure your AWS environment meets standards set by IT policies and industry regulations like PCI-DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard), HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act) etc.

Why Do You Need An AWS Security Audit?

You need an AWS security audit because it helps you identify flaws and loopholes in your AWS environment. In other words, AWS security audits help you find out what is not working correctly and how to fix it efficiently. It also helps organizations set up a proper AWS infrastructure for their IT needs including all the required tools and services that are compliant with industry standards like PCI-DSS etc.

How To Get Started With AWS Security Audit?

Getting started with AWS security audit can be challenging considering the fact that there are several things which need attention while performing this kind of activity on AWS platform such as choosing the right tool, identifying threats/weaknesses in an AWS system, setting up appropriate policies & procedures, following them during routine activities and so on and so forth. So let’s discuss these issues one by one:

1) Choose The Right Tool

Choosing an AWS penetration testing solution isn’t straight-forward. Dynamic application security testing tools are basically designed to automate the security audit process so that you can save time, effort and money involved in doing them manually. Here is a list of AWS tools that help IT professionals perform AWS security audits effectively.

2) Identify Threats & Weaknesses In An AWS Environment

This step involves performing periodic checks on your AWS environment like checking whether all required settings/policies are enabled or disabled (for example: IAM password policy), check for open ports without any firewall rules (this may allow hackers to compromise your system), verify whether data encryption strategy used by AWS meets industry standards etc.

3) Set Up Appropriate Policies And Procedures To Ensure They Are Followed During Routine Activities

As we know organizations have different AWS environments, some may have a single AWS account while others have multiple AWS accounts with one or more AWS regions. So it is necessary to set up policies and procedures that include all the required details involved in performing security audits of your AWS environment including passwords, roles/permissions etc.

Steps to conduct AWS Security Audit

AWS security audits usually involve four phases:

1) Preparation

2) Assessment/audit itself

3) Follow-ups, and

4) Reporting.

Here’s what they look like (in-detail):

STEP #01 – Preparation & Planning

  • Establishing Internal Processes & Tools
  • AWS Security Audit Requirements
  • AWS Account Setup
  • AWS Internal Access Controls & Roles Review

STEP #02 – Assessment/Audit Itself

  • Scope of the Assessment/Audit
  • Tools to Use for Auditing AWS Configurations
  • Network and Services

STEP #03 – Follow-Ups

Areas that have critical vulnerabilities will need urgent action followed by a plan of how they’ll be remediated or mitigated. All other areas should also get attention at some point but not necessarily all at once. This is why you need an AWS security audit even if your environment has never been breached before!

Step #04 – Reporting & Continuous Monitoring

Reports should be clear and concise so that they are easy to understand. At the same time, reports must provide enough information for AWS account owners or managers to take action on issues found during AWS security audits.

AWS Security Audit Tools

  • AWS Config
  • AWS Trusted Advisor
  • AWS CloudTrail
  • AWS Shield
  • CloudWatch
  • Amazon Inspector
  • Security Hub

Conclusion

With AWS Security assessments, you get a comprehensive view of your security posture and can identify any gaps in protection. It’s never too late to take care of these vulnerabilities before they become an issue for the organization.

Author Bio: Ankit Pahuja is a software engineer turned security evangelist & growth marketer. Ever since his adulthood (literally, he was 20 years old), he began finding vulnerabilities in websites & network infrastructures. Starting his professional career as a software engineer at one of the unicorns enables him in bringing “engineering in marketing” to reality. Ankit is an avid speaker in the security space and has delivered various talks in top companies, early-age startups, and online events.