Securing Your Web App on AWS: A Guide to Protecting Your Data

Securing Your Web App on AWS: A Guide to Protecting Your Data

By Pushkar Thakur

Nowadays, many companies are turning towards cloud infrastructure. In the world of data security plays a crucial role in running the business and keeping their customer’s trust, so security is becoming a more significant challenge. Irrespective of size, organizations are increasingly realizing the importance of having proper cloud security practices in place.

AWS provides services that protect your data and accounts and workload from unauthorized access. In this article, we will be covering a few most essential and best practices that will help you to keep it safe.

Access Control

AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) allows for the specification of access permissions for services and resources in AWS, centralized management of detailed permissions, and the ability to analyze access for the purpose of refining permissions across the platform.

Before IAM in corporate one admin password is used to get shared with the team. That was not secure at all, because anybody could walk by and eavesdrop and then walk away with the password and access to your system and information.

AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) can help secure the login process by providing a variety of authentication options, such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) and temporary security credentials. It also allows for the creation of IAM users and groups, each with its own unique set of permissions and access levels. Additionally, IAM policies can be used to limit access to specific resources and services and to define conditions under which access is granted. This can help prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data and resources.

Network Segmentation

By creating a VPC, subnets, route tables, security groups, and instances, you can segment your resources and control traffic between them. Additionally, VPC allows you to establish a secure and private connection between your on-premises data center and the AWS cloud by creating a Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection. This allows you to extend your existing IT infrastructure into the cloud and access resources over an encrypted connection.

VPC provides the capability to create a private and public subnet, where you can place your private resources and services in the private subnet and public-facing resources like web servers in the public subnet. Overall VPC provides a flexible and secure way to build and run applications in the AWS cloud while maintaining complete control over the virtual networking environment.

In VPC security groups and network access control lists (ACLs) are used to control inbound and outbound traffic.

Security groups act as a firewall for Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instances. They allow you to specify which incoming traffic is allowed to reach your instances, based on a set of rules defined by you. For example, you can allow incoming traffic on port 22 for SSH access but deny all other incoming traffic. Security groups are associated with individual instances, and you can have multiple security groups associated with a single instance.

Load Balancing and Content Distribution

Elastic Load Balancing (ELB) is a service that automatically distributes incoming traffic across multiple Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instances, helping you to scale your application and improve its availability.

Elastic Load Balancing (ELB) can be used for security purposes in a few ways:

  1. SSL/TLS Termination: ELB allows you to terminate SSL/TLS connections at the load balancer, which means that the traffic to and from your instances is transmitted over an unencrypted connection. This can help to improve the performance of your application and offload the CPU-intensive work of encryption and decryption from your instances.

  2. Sticky Sessions: ELB allows you to enable “sticky sessions” which ensures that a user’s request is directed to the same instance for the duration of their session. This can help to maintain the security of user-specific data, such as login information, that is stored on the instance.

  3. Whitelisting IPs: ELB allows you to create security groups and configure the inbound traffic rules. This means you can create a security group that only allows traffic from specific IP addresses, thereby blocking all other incoming traffic.

  4. Authentication and Authorization: ELB supports authentication and authorization for Application Load Balancer (ALB) and Network Load Balancer (NLB) with the help of AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM), and you can use the AWS Certificate Manager to provision and manage free SSL/TLS certificates.

  5. DDoS protection: ELB provides built-in DDoS protection, which automatically detects and mitigates DDoS attacks. This helps to protect your application from being overwhelmed by a flood of traffic.

By using ELB for security purposes, you can improve the performance and security of your application. Additionally, it also provides DDoS protection and the capability of handling Authentication and Authorization.

Encryption and Certificate Management

AWS Key Management Service (KMS) is a service that allows you to create and manage encryption keys used to encrypt and decrypt data.

KMS allows you to create and manage encryption keys, including setting up key rotation schedules, disabling and enabling keys, and tracking key usage. With the help of KMS you can encrypt and decrypt data using the encryption keys managed by KMS. This can be done programmatically using the KMS API or through the AWS Management Console.

KMS stores the encryption keys in a highly secure and durable hardware security module (HSM). This provides an additional layer of security, as the keys are protected against unauthorized access, both physically and logically. KMS provides you with the key usage logs so you can track who accessed the keys and when.

By using KMS, you can centrally manage and secure the encryption keys used to protect your data. Additionally, KMS also provides the capability of handling access control, key storage, and audit logging. With KMS, you can ensure that your data is protected with a high level of security and compliance.

Web Application Firewall

AWS WAF (Web Application Firewall) is a service that allows you to protect your application from common web exploits by inspecting and blocking incoming web traffic.

WAF allows you to create web access control lists (ACLs) that define the rules for incoming web traffic. These rules can be based on conditions such as IP address, request headers, and body content. With WAF you can stop common web exploits such as SQL injection and cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks

Using WAF, it provides the capability of handling pre-built security rules, logging and monitoring, and blocking bots and scrapers. With WAF, you can ensure that your application is protected against common web attacks and improve the security of your application.

Regularly updating and patching systems and applications is also an important aspect of maintaining the security and integrity of your infrastructure. There should be an MFA setup for all users including privileged ones. Regularly rotate the keys, passwords, and certificates.

In conclusion, securing a web application hosted on AWS requires a multi-layered approach that includes proper access control, network segmentation, load balancing and content distribution, data storage and protection, encryption and certificate management, logging and monitoring, and a web application firewall. By implementing these best practices and staying vigilant, you can protect your application and data from potential threats and ensure the security and integrity of your resources on AWS. Remember to regularly update and patch your systems, rotate your keys and certificates, and test your incident response plan. With the right security measures in place, you can confidently host your web application on AWS and focus on growing your business.

Thank you for reading. Signing off. 🙌