Amazon Web Services (AWS) Account Hardening Checklist


February 23, 2018


Basic AWS Hardening Checklist

Use this checklist as a guide if the account is for individual or small team use, you are primarily concerned with usability and minimizing spend, or you are not subject to security or compliance frameworks.

  • Hedge against missed alerts by specifying alternate email contacts for security, billing, and operations.
  • Configure security challenge questions that identify you as the account owner if support is needed.
  • Create an Identity and Access Management (IAM) account alias to provide users with a consistent, recognizable login portal.
  • Use a cryptographically strong root password and store it in a secure password manager.
  • Attach a hardware or virtual security token-based multi-factor authentication (MFA) device to the root account.
  • Set a strong IAM password policy that includes mixed-case, symbols, numbers, prevents reuse, and password expiration.
  • At minimum, create an IAM *AllUsers *group that grants the least privilege needed to work in the account and that all users will belong to.
  • Create IAM user(s) for administrators to log in with in lieu of using the root credentials.
  • Delete (or do not create) any AWS access keys or X.509 certificates that belong to the root user.
  • Enable AWS Organizations or attach to an existing organization to facilitate a policy-based expansion of your footprint beyond a single account.

Advanced AWS Hardening Checklist

Use this checklist to establish a security baseline if you process sensitive data, are part of a large team, are subject to compliance frameworks, or must comply with enterprise security guidelines.

  • Leverage AWS Organizations Service Control Policies (SCPs) to deny access to services not in the scope of your compliance programs or internal policies.
  • Using the root account, create an audit key in Key Management Service (KMS) with a key policy that allows CloudTrail to encrypt and decrypt.
  • Create an *audit *CloudTrail that applies to all regions, captures read/write management events, captures all S3 and Lambda activity, utilizes log file validation, and encrypts logs using the KMS key created above.
  • Require MFA Delete in the bucket versioning statement for the S3 bucket that stores CloudTrail logs.
  • Add an S3 bucket policy to the S3 bucket where CloudTrail logs are stored that requires Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and denies all plaintext requests.
  • Enable CloudTrail to send events to a CloudWatch log group and create a set of alerts to notify users of suspicious or abnormal activity.
  • Attach an IAM policy to the *AllUsers *group that forces MFA for all IAM users and prevents access to other AWS services until MFA is enabled.
  • Attach an IAM policy to the AllUsers *group that denies access to your CloudTrail *audit trail, KMS audit key, S3 bucket hosting your CloudTrail logs, and your Organizations roles.
  • Consider enabling AWS Single Sign-On (SSO) to allow federated login from your external identity provider (IdP), e.g., Active Directory.
  • Enable AWS Config rules that continually audit and assess your cloud footprint for potential security vulnerabilities.

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Justin Garrick

Justin Garrick

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