Security foundations - AWS Prescriptive Guidance

Security foundations

The AWS Security Reference Architecture aligns to three AWS security foundations: the AWS Cloud Adoption Framework (AWS CAF), AWS Well-Architected, and the AWS Shared Responsibility Model.

AWS Professional Services created AWS CAF to help companies design and follow an accelerated path to successful cloud adoption. The guidance and best practices provided by the framework help you build a comprehensive approach to cloud computing across your enterprise and throughout your IT lifecycle. The AWS CAF organizes guidance into six areas of focus, called perspectives. Each perspective covers distinct responsibilities owned or managed by functionally related stakeholders. In general, the business, people, and governance perspectives focus on business capabilities; whereas the platform, security, and operations perspectives focus on technical capabilities.

  • The security perspective of the AWS CAF helps you structure the selection and implementation of controls across your business. Following the current AWS recommendations in the security pillar can help you meet your business and regulatory requirements.

AWS Well-Architected helps cloud architects build a secure, high-performing, resilient, and efficient infrastructure for their applications and workloads. The framework is based on five pillars—operational excellence, security, reliability, performance efficiency, and cost optimization—and provides a consistent approach for AWS customers and Partners to evaluate architectures and implement designs that can scale over time. We believe that having well-architected workloads greatly increases the likelihood of business success.

  • The Well-Architected security pillar describes how to take advantage of cloud technologies to protect data, systems, and assets in a way that can improve your security posture. This will help you meet your business and regulatory requirements by following current AWS recommendations.

Security and compliance are a shared responsibility between AWS and the customer. This shared model can help relieve your operational burden as AWS operates, manages, and controls the components from the host operating system and virtualization layer down to the physical security of the facilities in which the service operates. For example, you assume responsibility and management of the guest operating system (including updates and security patches), application software, server-side data encryption, network traffic route tables, and the configuration of the AWS provided security group firewall. For abstracted services such as Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) and Amazon DynamoDB, AWS operates the infrastructure layer, the operating system, and platforms, and you access the endpoints to store and retrieve data. You are responsible for managing your data (including encryption options), classifying your assets, and using AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) tools to apply the appropriate permissions. This shared model is often described by saying that AWS is responsible for the security of the cloud (that is, for protecting the infrastructure that runs all the services offered in the AWS Cloud), and you are responsible for the security in the cloud (as determined by the AWS Cloud services that you select).

Within the guidance provided by these security foundations, two sets of concepts are particularly relevant to the design and understanding of the AWS SRA: security epics (also called security areas) and security design principles.

Security epics

Both the security perspective of the AWS CAF and the security pillar of Well-Architected outline five core security areas (called epics or areas, respectively) on which you can build your cloud security:

  • Identity and access management forms the backbone of your AWS deployment. In the cloud you must establish an account and be granted privileges before you can provision or orchestrate resources.

  • Detection (logging and monitoring) – AWS services provide a wealth of logging data to help you monitor your activity and changes within each service.

  • Infrastructure security – When you treat infrastructure as code, security infrastructure becomes a first-tier workload that must also be deployed as code.

  • Data protection – Safeguarding important data is a critical piece of building and operating information systems, and AWS provides services and features that give you robust options to help protect your data throughout its lifecycle.

  • Threat detection and incident response – Automating aspects of your incident management process improves reliability, increases the speed of your response, and often creates an environment that is easier to assess in after-action reviews (AARs)

Security design principles

The security pillar of the Well-Architected Framework captures a set of design principles that turn the five security areas into practical guidance that can help you strengthen your workload security. Where the security epics frame the overall security strategy, these Well-Architected principles describe what you should start doing. They are reflected very deliberately in this AWS SRA and consist of the following:

  • Implement a strong identity foundation – Implement the principle of least privilege, and enforce separation of duties with appropriate authorization for each interaction with your AWS resources. Centralize identity management, and aim to eliminate reliance on long-term static credentials.

  • Enable traceability – Monitor, generate alerts, and audit actions and changes to your environment in real time. Integrate log and metric collection with systems to automatically investigate and take action.

  • Apply security at all layers – Apply a defense-in-depth approach with multiple security controls. Apply multiple types of controls (for example, preventive and detective controls) to all layers, including edge of network, virtual private cloud (VPC), load balancing, every instance and compute service, operating system, application configuration, and code.

  • Automate security best practices – Automated, software-based security mechanisms improve your ability to securely scale more rapidly and cost-effectively. Create secure architectures, and implement controls that are defined and managed as code in version-controlled templates.

  • Protect data in transit and at rest – Classify your data into sensitivity levels and use mechanisms such as encryption, tokenization, and access control where appropriate.

  • Keep people away from data – Use mechanisms and tools to reduce or eliminate the need to directly access or manually process data. This reduces the risk of mishandling or modification and human error when handling sensitive data.

  • Prepare for security events – Prepare for an incident by having an incident management and investigation policy and processes that align to your business requirements. Run incident response simulations, and use automated tools to increase your speed for detection, investigation, and recovery.