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Cloud Native Security Concepts and Implementation


The advent of the cloud era has revolutionized how businesses operate, ushering in unparalleled agility, scalability, and cost efficiency. But, with great power comes great responsibility — managing security risks. This blog post explores how to implement cloud-native security on Amazon Web Services (AWS) as an example case to ensure your applications and data are secure. Note however, the concepts and principles found here are applicable to all leading Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) providers such as Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.




Cloud-native security involves protecting your applications and data distributed across the cloud. It requires a thorough understanding of the intricacies of the cloud infrastructure and the threats involved. When properly executed, it ensures that every layer of your infrastructure is secure.


As you go through the list of various controls, consider what is new compared to a traditional approach to cybersecurity.


  • Do you see all security controls being focussed on the perimeter or on the workloads themselves?


  • Do you see a focus on continuous monitoring?


  • Do you see a wide range of vendors tools like in the traditional cybersecurity approaches used today in your organization?


  • Do you see vendor services being consumed that may lead to vendor lock-in?


This new approach will require a new skillset for your employees. Our 2-day Cloud GRC course addresses many of the tools discussed in this blog to implement strong governance, risk management and compliance in a cloud environment.


Like other leading IaaS providers, AWS offers a host of services to support cloud-native security, including AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM), Amazon GuardDuty, AWS Shield, and AWS WAF (Web Application Firewall). Let’s delve deeper into each of these components.

1.      Identity and Access Management (IAM)


IAM is crucial for managing identities and access controls in the AWS environment. It allows you to manage users, assign security credentials, organize users in groups, and assign AWS resource permissions.


IAM is the top priority to a strong cloud security posture. Quite simply, if you fail to focus on IAM and get it wrong, everything else discussed in this blog are useless. You will be breached, you will suffer the consequences.


Here’s how to implement IAM effectively:


  • Principle of Least Privilege: Ensure that users are granted the minimum permissions necessary to perform their duties. This mitigates the risk of unauthorized access or actions.


  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Enable MFA for all users who access the management plane (aka metastructure). This adds an extra layer of protection, preventing unauthorized access even if credentials are compromised.


  • IAM Roles: Use IAM roles for AWS services that need to interact with each other. This prevents long-term access keys and simplifies permissions management.



2.      Amazon GuardDuty


GuardDuty is a threat detection service that continuously monitors your environment for malicious or unauthorized activity. It uses machine learning, anomaly detection, and threat intelligence to detect potential threats.


On a somewhat related note, continuous monitoring and detection is also core to a zero trust architecture. You can learn more about zero trust architecture by accessing this free whitepaper on the subject. (pro tip: Zero trust is much more than simple micro segmentation).


Implementing GuardDuty involves:


  • Enable GuardDuty: Activate GuardDuty across all regions to ensure comprehensive protection.


  • Integrate with AWS CloudWatch or AWS Security Hub: Integrating with these services can help in aggregating, analyzing, and prioritizing security alerts.


3. AWS Shield


AWS Shield is a managed Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) protection service. It provides automatic safeguards to protect your web applications running on AWS.


To implement AWS Shield:


  • Enable AWS Shield Advanced: This provides cost protection, DDoS cost protection, 24/7 DDoS response team (DRT) access, and web application firewall integration.


  • Route 53 and CloudFront Integration: Use Route 53 for DNS and CloudFront for CDN. They’re integrated with AWS Shield for DDoS mitigation.



4. AWS WAF (Web Application Firewall)


AWS WAF is a firewall that protects your applications against common web exploits that could compromise security, consume resources, or affect availability.


Implementing AWS WAF involves:


  • Create WebACLs: A Web Access Control List (WebACL) defines a collection of rules to use when deciding whether to allow or block a request.


  • Use AWS Managed Rules: These are pre-configured rule sets for common web application security concerns, like SQL Injection or Cross-Site Scripting (XSS).


  • Monitor WAF Logs: AWS WAF logs provide detailed information about web requests, which can be crucial in identifying patterns and troubleshooting security incidents.

Security Best Practices


Besides these tools, follow these best practices for cloud-native security in AWS:


  • Data Encryption: Use AWS KMS for encryption keys management and ensure data is encrypted at rest and in transit. To learn more about KMS and CloudHSM, you can check out this blog entry.


  • Secure Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC): Incorporate security from the initial stages of the application development process. In fact, a proper Secure SDLC will see security being implemented at all the various phases, starting with a strong qualified workforce. ISC2 has training on this subject in their 5-day Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional (CSSLP) training


  • Network Security: Implement features such as security groups, Network Access Control Lists (NACLs), and AWS PrivateLink which provides private connectivity between VPCs and AWS services to secure network traffic from and to your VPCs.


  • Automated Compliance Checks: Use services like AWS Config and AWS Security Hub for continuous compliance checks and automated remediation. Security Hub will give you a single pane of glass to show clearly what steps must be taken in order to achieve or maintain compliance with a wide range of standards (e.g. PCI, HIPPA, NIST, etc).


  • Automated Security Monitoring and Incident Response: Use AWS CloudTrail, Amazon CloudWatch, and AWS Lambda for log collection, monitoring, and automated responses to security incidents. These automated responses are defined as “Event Driven Security”. Simply put, if an action you don’t want taken is performed, you can run a Lambda function to automatically revert changes. This is referred to by some as “Policy as Code” or “Compliance as Code”.




Cloud-native security requires a shift in approach from traditional security models, focusing on securing each layer of the cloud infrastructure. AWS provides a plethora of services and features that help you achieve robust security for your cloud-native applications. Incorporating security from the ground up and staying abreast of evolving threats and mitigation strategies is crucial for maintaining a secure environment.


Regardless of the IaaS provider you use, the concepts of cloud native architecture are the same. You and your whole team can learn more about this new approach to security in the cloud with the following cloud training and certification options:


Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP) by ISC2.


Certificate in Cloud Security Knowledge (CCSK) by the Cloud Security Alliance.


Blended CCSK and CCSP training week – An Intrinsec Exclusive! Take BOTH leading cloud security training offerings in this ONE week bootcamp!


Intrinsec Cloud GRC training – A 2-day course available as a stand-alone course, or pairs nicely with the 3-day CCSK Plus course to create a powerful Cloud GRC bootcamp.



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Graham Thompson is an Information Security professional with over 25 years of enterprise experience across engineering, architecture, assessment and training disciplines. He is the founder and CEO of Intrinsec Security, a leading training company that is solely focused on delivering leading authorized IT security training from partners such as the Cloud Security Alliance, ISC2, ISACA, EC-Council and CompTIA.

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