Top 5 Security Practices for AWS Backup

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Top 5 Security Practices for AWS Backup

It's not enough just to back up your AWS EC2 data; you have to make sure it's locked down, too.

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Cloud storage has become increasingly popular in recent years. Many companies choose to migrate their workload to the cloud, attracted by the low costs and high-availability. Although the cloud presents many benefits, most companies are concerned about the security of the data stored within. An effective backup service can help organizations protect their data while benefiting from cloud services.

Amazon Web Services (AWS), one of the leading cloud vendors, provides backup services as part of its offering. Users can leverage AWS Backup to centralize and automate the backup of data in the AWS platform.

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In the event of failure or disaster, every minute of downtime counts. An efficient backup system will provide resilience and availability to minimize damage. Organizations should develop a backup strategy to make the most of the backup and disaster recovery options at hand. In this article, we will cover the best security practices you can use to secure your data using AWS cloud backups.

What Is AWS Backup?

AWS Backup is an AWS service that helps organizations automate the backup and storage of data. You can use it to safely store your data in a private or public cloud service. Previously, this required individual configuration within services, such as with EBS snapshots. Now, however, AWS offers a unified service.

With this service, you can control and manage backups across your services from a centralized dashboard. This allows you to better ensure that all of your data is accounted for. It also better allows you to take advantage of built-in AWS security features and interservice communication functionality.

Benefits of AWS Backup

There are some key benefits of using AWS Backup to protect your data. Some of them include:

  • Resilience — AWS S3 makes copies of all the data uploaded, storing it on three different servers within an AWS region.
  • Scalability — You can scale the workloads up or down in minutes.
  • Security — AWS has a built-in security platform with features such as network firewalls for access control and traffic encryption. The system also features auditing and compliance reporting.
  • Centralized backup management — The platform has a central console that enables users to backup and restore data quickly and easily.
  • Automates backup processes — Provides automated backup schedules. You can create and apply backup policies by tagging your AWS resources.

Using AWS Backup

Organizations planning to use AWS Backup should start by adopting a backup strategy according to their needs. AWS supports several backup scenarios, including simple file-level backup and Mac and Linux backup. Some of the most common backup strategies include:

  • 3-2-1 backup — AWS meets the conditions for this strategy, by using replication across the availability zone. To implement the 3-2-1 backup strategy you should have three copies of your data, an original and two clones. Keep the two clones on two different types of media, and store the remaining copy offsite. The amount of copies protects from human error while the offsite storage protects the data in case of a disaster in your region.
  • Image-based backup — This strategy creates a copy of the operating system and the associated data for the virtual machine (VM). AWS enables organizations to restore the data as a virtual machine in the Amazon Elastic Cloud (Amazon EC2).
  • SQL database backup — You can implement full backups, saving all data and logs, or differential backups, only updating the modified blocks. AWS Backup enables you to conduct a full initial backup and then update with automated differential backups.

Security Challenges in AWS Cloud

A Gartner report predicts that by 2022, the majority of the cloud security incidents will be caused by the negligence of the customer in following security practices. Users often think that moving to the cloud means that the cloud provider takes care of all their security needs. It is not exactly like that.

Amazon’s AWS offers its users a model of shared security responsibility. This means that AWS takes responsibility for the security of the infrastructure, but you are responsible for the rest. Your responsibility includes access and authentication, external networks, applications, and third-party integrations. While AWS tools and services help users protect their data, there are some challenges to consider:

  • Access to S3 data buckets — Companies using the AWS platform should control their users' permissions to access the data buckets. An attacker can gain access by using an account’s permissions to perform malicious actions. Assigning users with more permissions than they need presents a risk for insider threats.
  • Lack of visibility — One of the most common concerns amongst AWS users is the difficulty in visualizing logs. Most companies on the AWS platform install applications and resources on top of the platform's built-in features. Controlling the security of all these resources can be complicated as not all the resources activities show in the AWS dashboard. This lack of visibility can be exploited by an attacker.
  • Security group misconfigurations — A security group controls the traffic of a group of instances. You can associate an instance with one or more security groups. An important feature of security groups is that they isolate EC2 instances from the public Internet. An instance assigned to multiple security groups or misconfigured can cause issues such as timeouts.

5 Best Practices for Securing AWS Backup Services

You can achieve effective data security in the cloud by taking responsibility. This involves identifying your security flaws and knowing how to fix them. The following best practices can help you secure your data in AWS Backup.

1. Schedule Frequent Backups

If you are not backing up your data consistently and frequently, it can be almost impossible to restore your data in case of an attack or disaster. In addition, you should leverage AWS availability zones to duplicate your data across regions. While AWS Backup automates this process, you still need to schedule the backup process.

2. Audit Your Resources

Tag your resources during configuration to know what you have and where it is stored. Doing this can help you identify what data is critical or sensitive. You can then prioritize security measures such as access permissions and backup policies.

3. Protect Root Accounts

Sometimes administrators forget to disable the root access for an API after uploading applications. When that happens, an attacker can gain access to the root account, then use it to disrupt operations and or delete data. Root accounts should not be shared across applications. You should give access to on need-to-use basis.

4. Limit Data Access

You should implement the principle of least privileges when configuring access rights and permissions. You can use AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) feature to create and manage access policies. IAM can help you separate management and database administration from the application, further improving security. Avoid assigning general permissions to prevent attacks from compromised credentials.

5. Encrypt Your Data

Encryption can help you protect your data, scrambling it and rendering it unusable for a potential attacker. You can use the AWS Key Management Service (KMS) to create and manage keys, controlling the use of encryption in your applications and backups.

The Bottom Line

With AWS Backup, you can leverage the automation feature to maintain business continuity in case of a security incident. To make the most of AWS security features, you need to fulfill your side of the shared responsibility. This includes verifying your configuration to prevent vulnerabilities and control access to your system. Following the best practices mentioned in this article can ensure your AWS backups stay secure in the cloud and your data remains available.

Further Reading

Assessing Cloud Backup Solutions: AWS vs. Azure vs. Google Cloud

Using AWS S3 for Database Backup Storage

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