AWS Security Best Practices: A Comprehensive Guide

Securing your cloud infrastructure is of utmost importance to protect your data and ensure the integrity and availability of your AWS resources. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore AWS security best practices to help you fortify your cloud environment. By implementing these practices, you can enhance the overall security posture of your AWS infrastructure and minimize the risk of security breaches.

To further assist you in your journey towards securing your AWS environment, we recommend downloading the Veeam white paper on secure data protection in AWS. This in-depth resource provides valuable insights and practical tips for ensuring the safety and recoverability of your data in the AWS cloud.

What Is AWS Cloud Security?

AWS cloud security refers to the measures and practices employed to protect your data, applications, and infrastructure in the AWS cloud. It encompasses a range of security controls, mechanisms, and services offered by AWS to secure your resources from unauthorized access, data breaches, and other security threats.

AWS also includes comprehensive tools and best practices for security, identity, and compliance along with detailed documentation that helps customers develop a resilient cloud security model for their applications.

Why Is Strong AWS Security Important?

Securing data and applications in the cloud is a shared responsibility between AWS and its customers.

According to the shared responsibility model stated on AWS’ website, it’s the cloud provider’s responsibility to secure the underlying cloud infrastructure, including the physical data centers, networking, and hardware by implementing robust security measures, such as data encryption, access controls, and network firewalls, to protect the infrastructure from external threats.

On the other hand, as a customer, you are responsible for configuring the security settings of your applications and managing access to your data. This includes implementing proper authentication mechanisms, managing user access privileges, and encrypting sensitive data. Additionally, it is crucial to regularly back up your data to protect against data loss or corruption.

Key Concepts and Terminology

The fundamental principles of cloud security are similar to those for securing traditional on-premises networks. These include the identification of vital systems, a strong protective strategy, constant monitoring for abnormal incidents and an effective and tested response plan. The central difference is that you no longer have a physically contained network and need a cloud asset management strategy that recognizes and adapts to the realities of the cloud.

Important terminologies related to AWS cloud security include:

  • Amazon Elastic Cloud Computing (Amazon EC2): Scalable elastic compute capacity
  • Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS): Fully managed elastic container service
  • Amazon Elastic Block Storage (Amazon EBS): High-performance elastic block store for ECS
  • Amazon Elastic Block Storage Snapshot (Amazon EBS Snapshot): Point-in-time copy of data stored in EBS
  • Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3): Amazon’s simple storage services for medium- and long-term data
  • Amazon Simple Storage Service Glacier (Amazon S3 Glacier services): Archived data storage
  • Amazon Vault Lock: Provides immutable storage for a retention period
  • DMZ: A demilitarized zone, a perimeter network that adds an extra layer of security
  • DDoS: Distributed Denial of Service attack

Design Your Cloud With the AWS Well-Architected Framework

 To ensure security is ingrained in your cloud architecture, it is recommended to follow industry best practices and frameworks. Two frameworks that can guide you in designing a secure AWS infrastructure are:

  • AWS Well-Architected Framework: The AWS Well-Architected Framework is a free tool that provides architectural best practices across various domains, including security. It offers guidance on how to design, deploy, and operate reliable and secure applications on AWS.
  • NIST: The NIST Cybersecurity Framework is a widely recognized framework that provides a set of best practices for managing cybersecurity risks. Leveraging this framework can help you establish a robust security posture in your AWS environment.
  • CIS Benchmarks: These are a set of best practices from the Center for Internet Security that align with NIST and other regulatory frameworks specifically aimed at safeguarding against cyber risks.

Identity and Access Management (IAM) to Control Access

One of the fundamental aspects of AWS security is controlling access to your resources. AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) is a service that enables you to manage user identities and their permissions to securely access AWS resources.

By leveraging the power of CloudFormation and Lambda, you can automate the process of creating and managing IAM roles across your organization’s AWS accounts. This approach ensures consistency, reduces manual effort, and improves security by following best practices for role management.

Implement the Principle of Least Privilege

The principle of least privilege is a security concept that advocates granting users the minimum permissions necessary to perform their tasks. By enforcing least privilege access in your AWS IAM policies, you can reduce the risk of unauthorized access and limit potential damage in the event of a security breach. This means granting permissions based on specific roles and responsibilities, rather than providing broad access to all resources.

To implement the principle of least privilege in your AWS environment, follow these best practices:

  1. Create individual IAM users: Avoid sharing AWS account root user credentials and create individual IAM users for each person accessing your AWS resources. This allows for better accountability and traceability.
  2. Use IAM groups and roles: Group users with similar roles and assign permissions to the group rather than individual users. This simplifies permission management and ensures consistency across users with similar responsibilities.
  3. Regularly review and update permissions: Conduct regular reviews of IAM policies and permissions to ensure they are up to date and aligned with the principle of least privilege. Remove any unnecessary permissions and regularly rotate access keys.
  4. Enable multi-factor authentication (MFA): Require users to authenticate using an additional factor, such as a physical token or a mobile app, when accessing sensitive resources. This adds an extra layer of security and protects against unauthorized access.
  5. Utilize IAM conditions: IAM conditions allow you to specify additional restrictions on IAM policies. For example, you can set conditions to restrict access based on IP addresses or time of day. This provides more granular control over access to your resources.

Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

 Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is a crucial security measure that adds an extra layer of protection to your accounts by requiring multiple forms of authentication. By implementing MFA, you significantly reduce the risk of unauthorized access and protect your sensitive data and resources from potential breaches.

Enabling MFA for AWS accounts is highly recommended to enhance security. AWS provides robust support for MFA, allowing you to enable this additional layer of protection for your AWS IAM (Identity and Access Management) users. By enabling MFA, you require users to provide a second form of authentication, such as a one-time password generated by a virtual or physical MFA device, in addition to their username and password.

To further strengthen your MFA implementation, it is important to follow best practices. This includes implementing AWS IAM Identity Center (successor to AWS SSO), which allows users to access multiple applications and services with a single set of credentials. SSO reduces the risk of weak or reused passwords and simplifies the login process for users. Additionally, requiring strong passwords that are unique and complex for each user account adds an extra layer of protection.

Regularly Review and Rotate Access Credentials

 Regularly reviewing and rotating access credentials is essential for maintaining a high level of security and minimizing the risk of unauthorized access. Access credentials, such as usernames, passwords, and access keys, should be regularly reviewed and updated to ensure that only authorized individuals have access to your systems and data.

The importance of credential rotation lies in mitigating the impact of potential security breaches. By rotating credentials, you invalidate any compromised or outdated credentials, reducing the risk of unauthorized access. This practice is especially important when employees leave the organization or when there is a suspected security breach.

Automating credential rotation with AWS services can help streamline the process and ensure that credentials are regularly updated without manual intervention. AWS provides services such as AWS Secrets Manager and AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) that allow you to automate the rotation of credentials, such as database passwords and access keys.

Monitoring and auditing access key usage is another critical aspect of credential management. By monitoring access key usage, you can identify any suspicious activity or unauthorized access attempts. AWS CloudTrail is a service that enables you to log, monitor, and audit actions taken in your AWS accounts, including access key usage. By regularly reviewing access logs and conducting audits, you can identify and address any potential security vulnerabilities.

Monitoring and Logging to Detect Suspicious Activity

Continuously monitor your cloud networks for abnormal and malicious behavior. This information will provide early warning of system problems and allow you to detect and remediate cyberattacks.

Enable Logging With AWS CloudTrail

To effectively detect, monitor, and eliminate threats in AWS Cloud, it is crucial to enable logging with AWS CloudTrail. CloudTrail provides a comprehensive audit trail of user activity and API calls, allowing you to track and monitor any suspicious or unauthorized actions. By configuring CloudTrail properly, you can ensure optimal security and gain visibility into your AWS environment.

With CloudTrail, you can view important logs, including DNS logs, using AWS CloudWatch. By integrating CloudTrail with CloudWatch, you can set up alarms and notifications to alert you of any suspicious or unauthorized activities. This enables you to take immediate action and mitigate potential security threats.

Leverage Visibility With AWS GuardDuty

Another powerful tool for monitoring and detecting threats in AWS Cloud is AWS GuardDuty. GuardDuty continuously monitors your AWS environment for any malicious activity or unauthorized behavior. It leverages machine learning and threat intelligence to identify potential security risks.

With GuardDuty, you can create custom rules and compliance checks tailored to your specific security requirements. This allows you to detect and respond to anomalies and non-compliant resources effectively. GuardDuty also offers automated remediation actions, helping you eliminate threats and maintain a secure environment.

Other Logging and Monitoring Solutions

 In addition to CloudTrail and GuardDuty, there are other logging and monitoring solutions available to enhance the security of your AWS Cloud environment. AWS Security Hub, for instance, provides a centralized view of your security posture by aggregating and prioritizing findings from multiple security services.

Third-party vulnerability management solutions with built-in misconfiguration detection capabilities can also be integrated into your AWS environment. These solutions offer comprehensive scanning and monitoring capabilities to identify and address security vulnerabilities and misconfigurations.

Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) solutions are another option to consider. These tools provide continuous monitoring, policy enforcement, and compliance checks to ensure that your AWS resources are properly configured and secure.

Use Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) Solutions

Integrating AWS with Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solutions can further enhance your ability to detect and respond to security threats. SIEM solutions allow for centralized log aggregation and analysis, enabling you to correlate events and identify patterns indicative of malicious activity. They can detect compromised accounts, brute force attacks, security breaches, and malware. Also, it’s possible to integrate third-party SIEM tools like Splunk Cloud and CrowdStrike into your Amazon platform. SIEM solutions provide a centralized platform that logs and analyzes incidents.

Network Security to Protect Infrastructure

Network security is a vital component of cloud infrastructure. A key aspect of network security is continually scanning your network for software and hardware vulnerabilities that could provide opportunities for hackers. This practice, known as vulnerability management, identifies, accesses, and mitigates vulnerabilities within your network, systems, and applications to prevent potential threats and attacks.. By effectively managing vulnerabilities, organizations can reduce the risk of data breaches, DDoS attacks, ransomware, and other cybersecurity risks. Other key steps for improving network security include virtual private clouds, network access control lists and web application firewalls.

Secure Your Virtual Private Cloud (VPC)

 A Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) is a virtual network environment within the AWS cloud. It allows you to provision a logically isolated section of the AWS cloud where you can deploy your resources. This isolation provides enhanced security and control over your infrastructure, and they should also be protected and backed up.

Isolating Resources within VPCs: With VPCs, you can create multiple private networks, each with its own IP address range, subnet, and security group. This allows you to isolate resources such as virtual machines, databases, and containers within separate subnets, providing an additional layer of security.

Network Segmentation and Security Groups: VPCs enable you to segment your resources into different subnets based on their security requirements. By defining security groups, you can control inbound and outbound traffic to your resources at the network level. Security groups act as virtual firewalls, allowing you to specify which protocols, ports, and IP ranges are allowed or denied access.

Implement Network Access Control Lists (ACLs)

Network Access Control Lists (ACLs) complement security groups in AWS by providing an additional layer of control over inbound and outbound traffic to and from your subnets. ACLs operate at the subnet level and can be used to filter traffic based on IP addresses, protocols, and port numbers.

Setting up and managing ACLs involves defining rules that permit or deny traffic based on specific criteria. These rules can be applied to both inbound and outbound traffic, allowing you to create granular access controls for your subnets.

Use cases for ACLs include:

  1. Traffic Filtering: ACLs can be used to restrict traffic to and from specific IP addresses, subnets, or ranges of IP addresses. This helps to prevent unauthorized access and protect sensitive resources.
  2. Protection against DDoS Attacks: ACLs can be configured to block or limit traffic from known malicious IP addresses or sources, providing an additional layer of defense against Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.
  3. Compliance Requirements: ACLs can help organizations meet regulatory compliance requirements by controlling access to sensitive data and ensuring that traffic adheres to specific security policies.

Leverage AWS Web Application Firewall (WAF)

AWS Web Application Firewall (WAF) is a managed service that protects against web application attacks. It helps secure your applications running on AWS by allowing you to define customizable rules to block common attack patterns and malicious traffic. You can use a WAF as an additional layer to supplement endpoint security.

Setting up WAF rules involves defining conditions and actions to be taken when specific conditions are met. For example, you can create rules to block SQL injection attempts, cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks, or known malicious IP addresses.

Integrating WAF with AWS services allows you to protect your applications and infrastructure from common web vulnerabilities and attacks, such as:

  1. SQL Injection: WAF can detect and block SQL injection attacks that attempt to exploit vulnerabilities in your web application’s database layer.
  2. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS): WAF can prevent XSS attacks by blocking malicious scripts injected into your web application that can be executed by users’ browsers.
  3. Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF): WAF can detect and block CSRF attacks that trick users into performing unintended actions on your web application.
  4. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS): WAF can protect your applications from DDoS attacks by blocking traffic from known malicious IP addresses or by limiting the rate of incoming requests.
  5. Bot Traffic: WAF can distinguish between legitimate user traffic and malicious bot traffic, allowing you to block or limit access for bots that may be scraping your website or trying to exploit vulnerabilities.

Data Protection and Privacy

To ensure the security and privacy of data, it is crucial to implement appropriate measures to protect data at rest and data in transit. This particularly applies to best practices for data protection in AWS, focusing on data classification, data encryption, and secure data backups.  Consider also creating a backup DMZ network for the backup account with specific IAM rules to provide secure access to the backup service.

Implement Data Classification

 Data classification involves categorizing data based on its sensitivity and importance. By classifying data, organizations can prioritize their security efforts and allocate resources accordingly. Data lifecycle management is an essential aspect of data classification, as it ensures that data is properly handled throughout its lifecycle, from creation to deletion. This includes defining retention periods, access controls, and disposal procedures for different types of data.

Encrypt Sensitive Data

 Encrypting sensitive data is a critical step in safeguarding it from unauthorized access. AWS provides various options for data encryption, both at rest and in transit. Data at rest refers to data stored in databases, file systems, or data warehouses, while data in transit refers to data being transmitted between systems. AWS offers encryption capabilities that can be applied at different levels, such as the storage layer, database layer, or application layer. Additionally, AWS Key Management Service (KMS) enables organizations to manage encryption keys securely, ensuring that only authorized individuals can access the encrypted data.

Regular Data Backups

Regular data backups are essential for data protection and recovery in the event of data loss or system failures. It is important to establish a backup schedule that aligns with the organization’s recovery point objectives (RPO) and recovery time objectives (RTO). Additionally, it is crucial to periodically test the restoration procedures to ensure that the backup data can be successfully recovered when needed. You can use AWS backup and recovery for AWS services, but Veeam Backup for AWS offers cloud-native protection with additional features including data validation, testing and full disaster recovery.


Apart from keeping your data secure, you also need to be aware of and comply with data compliance requirements. These vary from one jurisdiction to the next and many, like the EU’s GDPR, regulate where and how organizations can store personal data. These requirements should form part of your cloud security governance policies and procedures. Meeting data compliance requirements is important, especially as offenders can face stiff penalties for the unauthorized release of personal data. AWS has some excellent resources that provide information on data compliance programs natively supported by the AWS platform.

Incident Response and Recovery

In the face of increasing cyberattacks, organizations must have a well-defined incident response plan in place, especially when it comes to ransomware recovery. This plan outlines the necessary steps to take when security incidents occur, enabling businesses to respond effectively and minimize the impact of attacks. By following a structured incident response plan, organizations can mitigate risks, protect their data, and recover from security incidents efficiently.

Develop an Incident Response Plan

 Creating an incident response plan is crucial for effectively responding to cyberattacks and ensuring a quick recovery. This plan outlines the necessary steps and procedures to follow when security incidents occur. Here are the key components of creating an incident response plan:

  • Creating an Incident Response Team: Form a dedicated incident response team comprising members from IT, security, legal, and communications departments. Each team member should have defined roles and responsibilities to ensure a coordinated response to security incidents.
  • Preparing for Security Incidents: Implement proactive security measures to mitigate the risk of attacks. This includes regular data backups, network segmentation to limit the spread of malware, and deploying robust endpoint protection solutions.
  • Steps to Follow During an Incident: Outline the step-by-step procedures to be followed when a security incident occurs. This includes detection and analysis of the incident, containment and eradication of the threat, recovery, and restoration of compromised systems, and conducting a thorough post-incident analysis to identify vulnerabilities and update the incident response plan accordingly.

Regularly Test and Update Your Security Measures

 To maintain a robust security posture, it is essential to regularly test and update your security measures. Here are some important steps to consider:

  • Penetration Testing and Red Teaming: Conduct regular penetration testing and red teaming exercises to evaluate the effectiveness of your security measures. These simulated attacks help identify any weaknesses in your systems and processes, allowing you to address them proactively.
  • Staying Current with AWS Security Updates: Stay informed about the latest security updates and patches provided by AWS. Regularly update your security tools and systems to protect against emerging threats and ensure the security of your AWS infrastructure.
  • Post-Incident Analysis and Improvement: After a security incident, perform a thorough analysis to understand how the attack occurred and what steps can be taken to prevent similar incidents in the future. Use the lessons learned to improve your incident response plan and implement additional security measures to enhance your overall security posture.


Always design your systems with security in mind and in line with the six pillars of the AWS Well-Architected Framework. Pay particular attention to IAM principles, especially least privilege access and multifactor authentication. Constantly monitor your network and software for abnormal behavior and vulnerabilities using AWS tools like CloudTrail, GuardDuty and AWS Security Hub. Actively protect your networks by using virtual private clouds, access control lists and web firewalls. Encrypt all your data and backup regularly using immutable backups. Have a rehearsed and comprehensive incident response plan in place.

Remember, AWS security is an ongoing process, and it’s essential to stay vigilant and keep up with the ever-changing threat landscape. By following these best practices and regularly updating your security measures, you can maintain a secure cloud environment.

Find out more about modern data protection for AWS with Veeam with these five secure backup best practices.

Related Content


AWS Data Backup for Dummies
AWS Data Backup for Dummies

Similar Blog Posts
Technical | April 18, 2024
Business | March 29, 2024
Business | March 5, 2024
Stay up to date on the latest tips and news
By subscribing, you are agreeing to have your personal information managed in accordance with the terms of Veeam’s Privacy Policy
You're all set!
Watch your inbox for our weekly blog updates.