AWS Security Best Practices

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In today’s interconnected world, data security is of utmost importance. The growing reliance on the cloud for data storage and computing underscores the need for robust security measures, and Amazon Web Services (AWS), as a leading cloud service provider, emphasizes implementing and maintaining effective security practices.

AWS provides a rich set of tools and services to help users secure their data and computing environments. This article delves into some of these best practices, broken down into five categories: Identity and Access Management (IAM)Infrastructure and NetworkingData ProtectionMonitoring and Logging, and Incident Response. Each of these sections covers critical aspects of AWS security, along with actionable steps to leverage these practices.

Identity and Access Management (IAM) Best Practices

The first line of defense in any security strategy is controlling who can do what. In AWS, this is done using Identity and Access Management (IAM). Let’s dive into IAM best practices.

1. Create and Enforce Strong IAM Policies

IAM policies control what actions are allowed or denied for AWS resources. Ensure that policies are written to grant only the necessary permissions. Also, avoid writing overly permissive policies, which can inadvertently allow unauthorized actions.

To create an IAM policy, you can use the AWS Management Console, AWS CLI, or AWS API. Here is an example of a basic IAM policy written in JSON:

    "Version": "2012-10-17",
    "Statement": [
            "Effect": "Allow",
            "Action": "s3:ListBucket",
            "Resource": "arn:aws:s3:::example_bucket"

Related Reading: AWS IAM Best Practices

2. Implement Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

MFA adds an extra layer of protection on top of usernames and passwords. AWS MFA requires users to present two or more separate forms of identification (or factors): something they know (password), something they have (a trusted device), and sometimes something they are (biometric data).

Setting up MFA for a user in the AWS IAM console involves just a few steps detailed here.

3. Enable AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) Access Analyzer

IAM Access Analyzer helps identify resources in your organization that are shared with an entity outside of your account. It analyzes your existing policies and provides detailed findings for any accessible resources. This service can be enabled directly from the IAM console.

4. Grant Least Privilege

Least privilege involves providing only the permissions necessary to perform a task. This practice minimizes the potential damage from accidental or malicious actions. Here’s an article explaining AWS IAM best practices in detail.

5. Rotate Credentials Regularly

Rotating credentials involves creating new security credentials and retiring the old ones. Regular rotation reduces the risk of credentials being misused.

Infrastructure and Networking Best Practices

The next layer of AWS security lies in the design and implementation of your infrastructure and networking setup.

1. Secure VPCs with Security Groups and Network ACLs

Security Groups act as a virtual firewall at the instance level, while Network Access Control Lists (ACLs) provide a firewall at the subnet level. Configuring both correctly is crucial for safeguarding your AWS environment. Learn more about security group management here.

2. Use Dedicated Instances for Enhanced Network Security

Dedicated instances are Amazon EC2 instances that run on hardware dedicated to a single customer, reducing the risk of data leakage between instances.

3. Implement AWS Direct Connect for

Secure Communication

Direct Connect provides a private, high-bandwidth network connection between your network and AWS, bypassing the public internet and enhancing security.

AWS PrivateLink allows you to privately access services hosted on AWS in a secure and scalable manner without using public IPs.

5. Employ AWS Shield for DDoS Protection

AWS Shield is a managed service that provides protection against Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. This is crucial for maintaining the availability of your web applications.

Data Protection Best Practices

Protecting your data in AWS involves various strategies, from encryption to versioning.

1. Encrypt Data at Rest and in Transit

Encryption converts readable data into ciphertext, reducing the likelihood of unauthorized access. AWS provides several services, like AWS KMS and AWS Certificate Manager, to help manage encryption keys and certificates.

Note that while AWS offers specific tools for encryption, understanding broader data security standards is crucial for comprehensive data protection. For a deeper insight into these standards, check out our article on Top 10 Data Security Standards Every Data Professional Must Know.

2. Implement AWS Key Management Service (KMS) for Key Management

KMS makes it easy to create, control, rotate, and use symmetric and asymmetric cryptographic keys.

3. Use AWS CloudHSM for Hardware-based Cryptographic Operations

CloudHSM is a cloud-based hardware security module that provides secure cryptographic key storage and operations within a tamper-resistant hardware device.

4. Enable Versioning on Amazon S3 Buckets

Versioning allows you to preserve, retrieve, and restore every version of every object in an Amazon S3 bucket. This protects your data from both unintended user actions and application failures. Find more details about this on S3 FTP using EC2.

5. Use Amazon S3 Object Lock for WORM Storage

S3 Object Lock allows you to store objects using a write once, read many (WORM) model, preventing object version deletion during a defined retention period.

Monitoring and Logging Best Practices

Keeping a close eye on what’s happening within your AWS environment is crucial for maintaining security. AWS offers numerous services for this purpose.

1. Enable AWS CloudTrail for API Logging

CloudTrail records AWS API calls, delivering log files for audit and review. This can help identify potentially malicious activity within your AWS environment.

2. Implement Amazon GuardDuty for Threat Detection

GuardDuty is a threat detection service that continuously monitors for malicious or unauthorized activity.

3. Use AWS Security Hub as a Centralized Security Dashboard

Security Hub provides a comprehensive view of your security alerts and security posture across your AWS accounts.

4. Set up AWS Config for Resource Tracking

AWS Config provides a detailed view of the configuration of AWS resources in your account, enabling you to audit and evaluate the configurations of your AWS resources.

5. Establish Amazon CloudWatch Alarms for Security Events

CloudWatch Alarms allow you to monitor log files and trigger notifications in response to specific events or trends.

Incident Response Best Practices

In the event of a security breach or incident, having a robust response plan is crucial.

1. Develop an Incident Response Plan

An incident response plan outlines the steps to take in the event of a security breach or incident, helping minimize damage and recovery time.

2. Perform Regular Drills and Table-Top Exercises

Drills and table-top exercises help prepare your team for potential incidents by simulating real-life scenarios.

3. Automate Response Actions with AWS Lambda and Amazon SNS

Automating responses can help mitigate threats faster. AWS Lambda can be used to automate remediation actions, while Amazon SNS can be used to send immediate notifications.

4. Use AWS Systems Manager for Incident Investigation

AWS Systems Manager provides a unified user interface, allowing you to view operational data and automate operational tasks across

your AWS resources.

5. Implement AWS Organizations for Centralized Policy Management

AWS Organizations allows you to manage policies for multiple AWS accounts centrally. This simplifies managing permissions and ensures consistent policy application across your AWS environment.


In this article, we’ve reviewed various best practices for maintaining AWS security, from IAM to data protection and incident response. Each section provides actionable steps for implementing these best practices.

Staying up to date with AWS security recommendations and understanding how to properly use the available tools and services can significantly improve your cloud security posture. For more on this topic, check out our in-depth guides on AWS VPC best practices and AWS Backup best practices.

Do’s and Dont’s for AWS Security Best Practices


  1. Regularly review and update IAM policies and permissions.
  2. Utilize AWS-native security services for better integration.
  3. Monitor and audit your AWS environment for security threats.
  4. Conduct security training and awareness campaigns for users.
  5. Stay informed about the latest AWS security features, services, and best practices.


  1. Don’t use root credentials for daily tasks.
  2. Don’t store sensitive data in plain text or unencrypted format.
  3. Don’t leave unused resources or unnecessary services running.
  4. Don’t rely solely on defaults for security settings.
  5. Don’t ignore alerts or notifications from AWS security services.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is AWS IAM?
    • AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) is a service that helps securely control access to AWS resources.
  2. What is the principle of least privilege?
    • The principle of least privilege (PoLP) is a computer security concept where a user is given the minimum levels of access necessary to complete his/her job functions.
  3. How does AWS Direct Connect enhance security?
    • AWS Direct Connect provides a private network connection from your network to AWS, reducing exposure to security threats associated with public internet connections.
  4. What is the purpose of AWS CloudTrail?
    • AWS CloudTrail is a service that enables governance, compliance, operational auditing, and risk auditing of your AWS account by logging all activity within your environment.
  5. What is an incident response plan?
    • An incident response plan is a set of instructions to help detect, respond to, and recover from network security incidents.