Protect Enterprise Data

Top AWS Cloud Management Practices to Protect Enterprise Data

Unbeknownst to many, a great migration is underway. The share of corporate data in the cloud doubled since 2015—about three-fifths of enterprise data now reside in the cloud. But a cloud hangs over this. The security of data in the cloud has become a pressing concern. 82 percent of breaches involved data in the cloud, with 80 percent of organizations experiencing a serious threat. For startups, the number is sky-high: 89 percent.

The storm clouds are just gathering (forgive the pun, again). As more data move to the cloud, it will become the focal point of security—and its breaches. There is thus an urgent need to adopt and keep up with the best cloud management practices. Dynamic as the weather, the cloud landscape demands strong security practices and policies.

Threats to AWS data security

Protecting data starts with understanding vulnerabilities. And before threats can be assessed and managed, they must be understood. In the case of a security compromise, the implication can be a lot more severe if you are not aware of the breach and patch it quickly. And vulnerabilities, they are aplenty.

  • Security misconfigurations: This is one of the most common sources of vulnerability. Improperly configured security and loosely defined roles and permissions can provide unwarranted access to critical data.
  • Unnecessary access: Granting excessive and unnecessary access controls to apps and users could introduce vulnerabilities. Third-party integrations could be a weak point in your security mechanisms.
  • Insecure APIs: API endpoints without proper authorization and insufficient or absence of authentication of API calls may be exploited to steal data.
  • Social engineering: Phishing, pretexting, tailgating, baiting, and quid pro quo are some social engineering techniques that are often used to sabotage or steal information.
  • Weak identity and access management: Weak or shared (especially the root’s) credentials and inadequate management of Identity and Access Management (IAM) may lead to compromised security.
  • Inadvertent or malicious insider activity: Employees may unwittingly share information via unauthorized cloud applications or fail to take due precautions. Employees may also, for whatever reasons, disclose sensitive information, disrupt systems, or install malware.

These are potent threats that you need to be on guard against. Understanding the nuts and bolts of vulnerabilities, however, is not easy or simple let alone implementing proper security mechanisms against them. You can get an Amazon web services consultant to help you, or you may have onboard some persons who know the nitty-gritty of the job. In any case, don’t let a slip-up cost you dear.

AWS cloud management practices for increased protection of enterprise data

Data security breaches are not questions of if but when. Attacks and sabotages cannot entirely be prevented but businesses can take several measures to shore up the defense and protect their enterprise data—at rest, in transit, and in use.

1. Classify and categorize data based on sensitivity

Not all data are created equal, nor should they be treated equally. They have different significance and sensitivity. Data thus need to be accordingly classified and different degrees of protection accorded to them.

Data classification and categorization

An example of a data classification scale

Data may be classified into various categories and varying degrees of granularity depending on your uses and requirements. Commercial data may be classified into five tiers as under.

  • Sensitive: Data that have or should have the highest degree of integrity and protection. These have the potential to cause the most damage to the organization in the case of disclosure. These could be information about financial records and customer data.
  • Confidential: Less restrictive and damaging if breached than sensitive data but critical. This category may include trade secrets, intellectual property, and internal communications.
  • Private: These can be data that, if leaked, may not do much damage but must be kept private for other reasons. For example, human resource data may be classified as private.
  • Proprietary: Data owned by the organization and used to gain a competitive advantage can be considered proprietary data, and may be shared outside the company on a limited basis. These can be information about a new product or customer lists.
  • Public: These are the least sensitive data and would cause minimal or no damage to the company if disclosed. You can include here information about the number of employees, or website content and social media posts.

A proper classification forms the basis of effective data loss prevention and risk management. This enables you to apply specific data security measures to different data types and ensures more effective data protection.

2. Segment networks to isolate and control access

Network segmentation involves dividing a computer network into sub-networks by employing virtual private clouds or VPCs to enhance security and control access to resources. This helps protect data by isolating different parts of the network. It also helps contain potential breaches and limit the lateral spread of the breach within the network. This can drastically reduce the blast radius, or the area of the impact, leaving the unexposed resources in other networks intact.

Unauthorized lateral movement stoppage

Limiting blast radius with segmentation

You can configure your VPC so that it is not connected to the internet to protect certain types of data. Define strict access controls and limit communication between segments to restrict unauthorized access and minimize lateral movement of risks. Use virtual firewalls, network access control lists, and security groups to control traffic. This adds additional layers of security to your VPC.

The granularity of segmentation depends on factors specific to each organization. There is no one-size-fits-all approach but categorization should focus on distinct business units, assets of identical data, levels of sensitivity of data, or a combination of these.

3. Clearly define identity and access management policies

Accounts with extensive or unauthorized access are a major concern. Such accounts can be points of vulnerability and if compromised, they throw open the door to sensitive data and provide access to critical infrastructure. Use the Identity and Access Management (IAM) features in AWS to control who can access specific resources and perform certain actions.

AWS identity and access management


Grant permissions to different users for different resources, but only for which they need to perform their job—and not more. The principle of least privilege and role-based access control can minimize the possibility of unwanted access and thus potential breaches.

Monitor privileged users and regularly review and update permissions. Also, monitor IAM events and keep track of user activities.

4. Regularly audit and monitor database activity

Effective monitoring of database activity and timely alerting are of utmost importance. This proactive measure enables prompt detection of unusual or suspicious activity. Security incidents can thus be quickly identified and resolved.

Collect monitoring data from across all AWS to get a comprehensive record of activities, including queries, logins, and modifications. This will allow you to more easily detect and debug should a failure occur.

AWS provides several tools for monitoring your resources, and this you should leverage to safeguard your data. This includes among others Amazon CloudWatch Alarms, Amazon CloudTrail Logs, Enhanced Monitoring, Database Logs, and Amazon RDS Event Notification.

Logging can also help you identify security misconfigurations and take preventive steps to patch vulnerabilities. By assisting in the detection of users with unauthorized or excessive privileges, logging helps reduce possible dangers.

5. Encrypt data

Encryption safeguards sensitive data and ensures that only authorized parties can access and understand them, whether they are at rest or in transit. It provides an additional layer of security and also helps compliance with data protection regulations. In the event of a breach, encrypted data remain protected, limiting the potential damage

AWS provides several features that allow you to encrypt data at rest, in motion, or use. It is particularly important to encrypt data in transit as that is when they are most susceptible to attacks. You can use cryptographic protocols like the transport security layer to protect data in transit; for data at rest, volume encryption, object encryption, or database table encryption may be used.

A part of any encryption solution is key management. AWS provides a centralized key management service (KMS) that allows you to create, manage, and control cryptographic keys.

Data encryption in AWS

How AWS KMS works


The cloud offers viable and scalable computer system resources. It is secure, too, but only quiet. You need to thus go beyond the default and be proactive and concerned with security and data integrity, not just reactive. You may do well to get some AWS consulting services to scrutinize your data fortress and fortify it.

Security cannot be taken for granted; you cannot have your head in the clouds. The practices discussed here are a good start—and they’ll give you a strong foothold. They will help reduce unwanted exposure to your data and protect them throughout their lifecycle.

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