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The Top 10 Security Tools for Your AWS Environment

Amazon Web Services (AWS) enables organizations to build and scale applications quickly and securely. However, continuously adding new tools and services introduces new security challenges. According to reports, 70 percent of enterprise IT leaders are concerned about how secure they are in the cloud and 61 percent of small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) believe their cloud data is at risk.

AWS provides many different security tools to help customers keep their AWS accounts and applications secure. In fact, there was significant focus on AWS security best practices at re:Invent 2020. See the Best practices with Amazon S3 recap and Jeremy Cowan's Securing your Amazon EKS applications: Best practices session for some of the details.

In this article, we’ll review the top ten AWS security tools you should consider using to improve your security posture in 2021 and beyond. Before we do that, we will briefly explain AWS account security versus application and service security.  Organizations must focus on keeping both secure to protect against different types of attacks.

Account Security Versus Application and Service Security

AWS provides security tools designed to improve both account security and application and service security.

An AWS account is an attack vector, as resources and data are accessible through the public application programming interface (API). Implementing a secure identity and access management strategy helps prevent leaking data — such as in S3 buckets — to the public. AWS’s many tools provide insights into your configured permissions and access patterns, and record all actions for compliance and audit purposes.

Applications and services hosted in AWS are susceptible to different kinds of threats from the outside. Cross-site scripting (XSS), SQL injection, and brute-force attacks target public endpoints. Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks may attempt to bring down your services, potentially compromising your architecture security. Without proper management, sensitive information — such as database credentials — may leak.

Therefore, it's critical that organizations migrating to the cloud focus on minimizing risk and improving their overall security posture by addressing both account security as well as application and service security. The following AWS services lock down your cloud security, helping keep your customer data and systems safe from attack.

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Top 6 AWS Account Security Tools

1. AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM)

AWS IAM is essential for controlling access to your AWS resources. It enables you to create users and roles with permissions to specific resources in your AWS environment. Always assigning least-privilege permissions to these users and roles minimizes the impact of a breach where an attacker has gained access. AWS IAM also has multi-factor authentication and supports single sign-on (SSO) access to further secure and centralize user access.

Use the IAM policy simulator to test and troubleshoot the extent of permissions you assign to your users and roles, and make sure you're following the principle of least privilege when configuring your IAM permissions.

2. Amazon GuardDuty

Amazon GuardDuty uses machine learning to look for malicious activity in your AWS environments. It combines your CloudTrail event logs, VPC Flow Logs, S3 event logs, and DNS logs to continuously monitor and analyze all activity. GuardDuty identifies issues such as privilege escalation, exposed credentials, and communication with malicious IP addresses and domains. It can also detect when your EC2 instances are serving malware or mining bitcoin.

In addition, GuardDuty can detect anomalies in your access patterns such as API calls in new regions. Pricing is based on the amount of data analyzed, so costs will increase linearly as your AWS environments grow.

3. Amazon Macie

Amazon Macie discovers and protects your sensitive data stored in AWS S3 buckets. It first identifies sensitive data in your buckets, such as personally-identifiable information or personal health information, through discovery jobs. You can schedule these jobs to monitor new data added to your buckets. After it finds sensitive data, Macie continuously evaluates your buckets and alerts you when a bucket is unencrypted, is publicly accessible, or is shared with AWS accounts outside of your organization.

Macie’s pricing scales with the amount of data it processes and the number of S3 buckets it monitors.

4. AWS Config

AWS Config records and continuously evaluates your AWS resource configuration. This includes keeping a historical record of all changes to your resources, which is useful for compliance with legal requirements and your organization’s policies. AWS Config evaluates new and existing resources against rules that validate certain configurations. For example, if all EC2 volumes must be encrypted, AWS Config can detect non-encrypted volumes and send a notification. In addition, it can also execute remediation actions such as encrypting the volume or deleting it.

Config is configured per region, so it’s essential to enable AWS Config in all regions to ensure all resources are recorded, including in regions where you don’t expect to create resources.

5. AWS CloudTrail

AWS CloudTrail tracks all activity in your AWS environment. It records all actions a user executes in the AWS console and all API calls as events. You can view and search these events to identify unexpected or unusual requests in your AWS environment.

AWS CloudTrail Insights is an add-on to help identify unusual activity. It automatically analyzes your events and raises an event when it detects abnormal activity.

CloudTrail is enabled by default in all AWS accounts since August 2017. If you also use AWS Organizations to manage multiple accounts, you can enable CloudTrail within the organization on all existing accounts.

6. Security Hub

AWS Security Hub combines information from all the above services in a central, unified view. It collects data from all security services from multiple AWS accounts and regions, making it easier to get a complete view of your AWS security posture. In addition, Security Hub supports collecting data from third-party security products. Security Hub is essential to providing your security team with all the information they may need.

A key feature of Security Hub is its support for industry recognized security standards including the CIS AWS Foundations Benchmark and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).

Combine Security Hub with AWS Organizations for the simplest way to get a comprehensive security overview of all your AWS accounts.

Now that we have addressed the top account security tools, let’s focus on the top four AWS application sSecurity tTools you should consider.

Top 4 AWS Application Security Tools

1. Amazon Inspector

Amazon Inspector is a security assessment service for applications deployed on EC2. These assessments include network access, common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs), Center for Internet Security (CIS) benchmarks, and common best practices such as disabling root login for SSH and validating system directory permissions on your EC2 instances.

Based on data provided on an agent application you can install on your EC2 VMs, Inspector generates a report with a detailed list of security findings prioritized by severity. Run Inspector as part of a gated check in your deployment pipeline to assess your applications’ security before deploying to production.

2. AWS Shield

AWS Shield is a fully-managed distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) protection service. Shield is enabled by default as a free standard service with protection against common DDoS attacks against your AWS environment. 

Shield Advanced goes a step further by integrating with AWS WAF to prevent a wide variety of malicious traffic from reaching your websites and applications. It can cover multiple accounts under an organization to ensure that all of your organization's internet-facing endpoints are protected from attackers. 

3. AWS Web Application Firewall

AWS Web Application Firewall (WAF) monitors and protects applications and APIs built on services such as CloudFront, API Gateway, and AppSync. You can block access to your endpoints based on different criteria such as the source IP address, the request’s origin country, values in headers and bodies, and more (i.e, you can enable rate limiting, only allowing a certain number of requests per IP

The AWS Marketplace also includes a set of managed rules you can associate with your WAF, along with 3rd party managed rules from leading security vendors. 

4. AWS Secrets Manager

AWS Secrets Manager is a managed service where you can store and retrieve sensitive information such as database credentials, certificates, and tokens. Use fine-grained permissions to specify exact actions an entity can perform on the secrets, such as creating, updating, deleting, or retrieving secrets. 

Secrets Manager also supports automatic rotation for AWS services such as Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS). Through Lambda functions, secrets for other services can be automatically rotated as well. Never store your sensitive information in source control management systems, such as Git. Always use a tool like Secrets Manager.


AWS has an abundance of security services, making it a challenge to pick the right one for your specific needs. If you're looking for solutions to specific security use cases, it's worth diving into AWS' cloud security learning resources

Identifying vulnerabilities is only a portion of AWS security. Work with Mission to ensure your cloud assets are properly configured from the start. Enabling these tools will provide valuable insight into your AWS account and application security, but the majority of security incidents stem from misconfiguration. Mission can help you choose the right tools to secure your cloud environment. 

Learn more about our Managed Detection and Response (MDR) service and contact us to discover how to best leverage these AWS security services to improve your security posture.



What are the potential costs of implementing these top security tools in an AWS environment, and how can they vary based on usage or scale?

Navigating the cost implications of implementing top security tools in an AWS environment can seem daunting at first glance. However, understanding the pricing structure of AWS security services is crucial for budget-conscious businesses aiming to bolster their cloud security. AWS generally adopts a pay-as-you-go pricing model, which means the costs are directly tied to the scale of your usage. For instance, services like AWS Shield for DDoS protection offer a basic level free of charge, with the option to upgrade to a more comprehensive, paid tier for enhanced features. Similarly, tools such as Amazon Inspector, which assesses applications for vulnerabilities and deviations from best practices, charge based on the number of assessments run. The cost variability is influenced by factors such as the volume of data processed, the number of assessments conducted, and additional features or support levels chosen. Businesses can leverage AWS's pricing calculator to estimate and optimize their expenditures, ensuring that security enhancements do not come at the expense of financial efficiency. You can also contact us to learn more about optimizing costs for these tools.

How do these AWS security tools integrate with other cloud platforms or on-premises systems to provide a comprehensive security posture?

In the realm of cloud computing, the interplay between various platforms and on-premises solutions is inevitable. AWS recognizes the need for seamless integration, offering mechanisms to ensure its security tools can effectively synchronize with non-AWS environments. This interoperability is facilitated through APIs, SDKs, and management consoles that allow AWS security services to communicate with external systems. For instance, AWS Security Hub can aggregate security alerts and findings from various sources, including third-party security solutions, providing a centralized view of your security posture across AWS and non-AWS environments. Additionally, services like AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) support federation with external identity providers, enabling unified access control across cloud and on-premises resources. AWS aims to provide a cohesive security management experience through these integrations, ensuring that organizations can maintain robust security standards irrespective of the diversity in their IT infrastructure.

To what extent can these AWS security tools be customized or configured to meet specific security requirements or to address unique threats in complex AWS deployments?

Customization and flexibility are at the heart of AWS's approach to cloud security, acknowledging the diverse and evolving threats modern enterprises face. AWS security tools are designed with the adaptability to cater to specific security needs and operational contexts. For example, Amazon GuardDuty allows for the customization of threat detection sensitivity and can suppress findings irrelevant to your environment, enabling a more tailored security monitoring approach. AWS WAF (Web Application Firewall) offers customizable web security rules to block common attack patterns and can be adjusted to the unique security requirements of your applications. Furthermore, AWS's security services are built to work in concert with AWS Lambda, enabling automated responses to security incidents based on custom logic. This level of customization empowers businesses to craft a security posture that not only addresses their immediate needs but also adapts to future challenges, ensuring a resilient and robust defense against cyber threats.

Author Spotlight:

Jake Malmad

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