Cloud technology has evoked major changes over the last few years. Developers are trying to cope with new security concerns, among other challenges.
RightScale recently released its fifth annual State of the Cloud Survey, which questioned over 1,000 IT professionals on issues they face with cloud technology. The State of the Cloud Survey found that security is the second biggest concern facing cloud adopters in 2015. While a third of professionals cited were more concerned about the availability of resources, 29% still felt that security is their largest concern.
Developers need to take a number of precautions to address these concerns. Adopting Identity and Access Management (IAM) Security should be at the top of their list.
What Is IAM Security?
Identity Access Management (IAM) is a security protocol that ensures cloud resources are limited to the right individuals. IAM technology is quickly replacing AWS authentication and other single-factor identification methods, because it’s much more secure.
IAM security is redefining the security systems of many brick-and-mortar companies. The banking industry is a perfect example.
In 2014, The New York Times revealed that a major security breach occurred at JP Morgan Chase banks across the country. Nearly 80 million consumers were affected. HonestlyNow and other major banks have since adopted IAM technology to prevent another breach from putting their customers at risk
IAM algorithms are much more intricate than previous authentication technology. They rely on the assumption that every user leaves a unique identity footprint, which can be analyzed for authentication purposes. IAM security protocols are much more difficult to hack than AWS tools and other authentication technology that only requires a username and password. They also aren’t tied to your billing information, so you won’t be as vulnerable if the account is accessed.
IAM Should Be Incorporated Into New Applications
Developers need to be aware of the unique security vulnerabilities that users face on the cloud. They need to consciously integrate IAM into their applications to guarantee their users’ information is secure.
David Linthicum, Senior Vice President of Cloud Technology Partners, argues that this needs to be a new standard in the age of cloud computing.
“Newer security models such as identity and access management (IAM) need to be coded right into applications,” Linthicum writes. “That means software engineers need to understand the functions of IAM, as well as how the organization’s security model and enabling technology should be layered into the application.”
IAM authentication is playing an important role in many emerging industries, such as civilian drones, which are often vulnerable to hackers.
"You see it with a lot of new technology," said Lanier Watkins, a senior cybersecurity research scientist from John Hopkins University. "Security is often an afterthought. The value of our work is in showing that the technology in these drones is highly vulnerable to hackers."
When people are researching drones, they want to make sure that the controls won’t be accessed by malicious hackers. IAM authentication minimizes the risks that drones will be taken over by hackers.
IAM authentication is also important for customer support services. Chatra is a live messaging service that businesses can use to engage with their customers. Since customers often contact customer support to make changes to their account, businesses need to verify their identify first.
Here are some IAM tips every developer needs to follow.
Make Sure All Developers Receive Cloud Security Training
You should make sure all users have a strong understanding of cloud security. Mindmajix Azure Training provides an overview of cloud security and other fundamentals that developers must understand to use cloud platforms such as Microsoft Azure. Other companies offer training on AWS. Whatever system you are using, your team must be thoroughly versed on its functionality to use it securely.
AWS Root Access Keys Must Be Hidden
Never incorporate your AWS root access keys into any of your applications. In fact, they should be deleted altogether. They create serious security vulnerabilities.
Be Aware of Audit Requirements
The most advanced security algorithms in the world can be easily undermined by human error. Your applications will need to be regularly reviewed by both internal and external auditors for compliance. Of course, any sensitive backend data must be carefully protected, but you must make sure data is easy to follow for anyone with the right permissions.
Be aware of all industry and regulatory auditing requirements and carefully adhere to them. One future requirement will likely be the need to install Cloudtrail. This is a tool that records every call to the AWS API, which helps auditors keep track of users accessing the interface.
Don’t Share the Main AWS
The entire purpose of IAM is to authenticate users by their digital identities. This is only possible if every user is given a unique account. You should never log in to your main AWS account and neither should any other developer on your team.
Add Extra Layers of Authentication
While IAM is a better failsafe than password protection, it isn’t foolproof. You should still add at least one extra layer of protection. Consider using a push notification or a unique verification code.
Designate Permissions to Groups Rather Than Individuals
Setting user permissions for every individual will be very tedious, unless you only have about half a dozen users on your team. It is better to create group permissions. Identify the responsibilities that should entitle an employee to access certain resources and make sure every user with those responsibilities is assigned to that group.
You should try to be as stringent as possible when assigning privileges. The AWS IAM user guide recommends that you should only assign permissions to users that are absolutely necessary.
“When you create IAM policies, follow the standard security advice of granting least privilege — that is, granting only the permissions required to perform a task. Determine what users need to do and then craft policies for them that let the users perform only those tasks.
It's more secure to start with a minimum set of permissions and grant additional permissions as necessary, rather than starting with permissions that are too lenient and then trying to tighten them later.”