Skip to main content

AWS Security: 5 things you need to check right now

It might be unrealistic to expect your AWS security to be bullet-proof, but there is still a great deal you can do to make things a whole lot better.

AWS Security and more AWS security. We all know it’s important, but if you’re like me, there always seems to be a nagging doubt in the back of your mind that somewhere, there’s a nasty hole in your infrastructure, and that some hacker is prodding and probing away trying to find it. It sometimes seems that keeping everything 100% secure is a losing battle.
However, I do believe there are a few things that can be easily plugged that can make a big difference.

1. AWS security: delete Root Account Keys

This is something about which AWS is constantly trying to remind us – even I’ve written about it before. It’s probably the easiest and most important security move you can make.
1a) What you need to check
Login to your AWS console root account and click on Identity and Access Management. If you see the a nice green tick next to the “Delete your root access keys” box…
AWS Security - IAM
…Then everything is OK and you don’t need to do anything.
However, if you see this:
AWS Security IAM
Do the following:
1b) What you need to do

  1. Click on ‘Manage Security Credentials’.
  2. Click on ‘Access Keys (Access Key ID and Secret Access Key)’.
  3. Delete any Access keys that are still Active like the one below.

AWS Security - credentials
AWS Security - credentials

2. Name everything

I originally left this until the end of the article. However I realised that it makes a lot more sense having it right here, before we remove our unused Security Groups in the next step. This is because having everything correctly named will be easier to actually see which Security Groups should, in fact, be removed.
2a) What you need to check
Go through all your resources and check to see that everything – EC2 Instances, Security Groups, Network Interfaces, Volumes, Snapshots – has a name. Why? Because it will make keeping track of your resources so much easier and make it more likely that you will quickly spot anything being misused.
2b) What you need to do
Give everything a name. More importantly the name should be related to what the resource’s specific function is. Make sure you do this for all your resources in all regions.

Note: If you want to be even more thorough, then TAG everything. So instead of being restricted to just a name, you can add your own key-value pairs.  

3. Remove unused Security Groups

Now, with everything nicely named or tagged, it’s time to get rid of any unused security groups. Cleaning out your security groups eliminates the risk that a forgotten security group policy will be used to accidentally open an attack surface.
3a) What you need to check
Open your EC2 Console and click on ‘Security Groups.’ You should see a list of all your Security Groups
3b) What you need to do
Go through them carefully and delete any that you are certain aren’t being used or don’t belong to a default security group. If you try to delete a group that is being used, you should see a warning pop-up telling you. In any case, review the policies of all groups to make sure there are no unnecessary holes.

4. Restrict SSH access to your IP only

If you are the only one who connects to your instances via SSH, you should restrict access to sessions originating from your IP only.
4a) What you need to check

  1. Open your EC2 Console and click on ‘Security Groups.’
  2. Click on a Security Group and then select ‘Inbound’ in the bottom window.
  3. If you see any SSH connections with a source of like this:

AWS Security - Policy
…Do the following:
4b) What you need to do
Click on ‘edit’ and then select the Source for SSH as MY IP, then save it as follows:
AWS Security - policy SSH
Repeat for all Security Groups in all regions.

5.  Create individual IAM users (especially for yourself)

Avoid using your AWS root account credentials (ie: your original AWS login) to access AWS.
5a) What you need to check

  1. Open the Identity and Access Management console.
  2. Click on Users.
  3. If you have a user for yourself with administrative privileges, then use that to login to AWS from now on (unless you have a really, really good reason not to).
  4. If you don’t have a user for yourself with administrative privileges, then follow these steps:

5b) What you need to do

  1. Create an IAM user for yourself with administrative privileges, and use that IAM user for all your work.
  2. Follow this guide: Create individual IAM users.


AWS Security can be a little overwhelming at times, but if you make sure you get the easy stuff right from the beginning, then you should find yourself ahead of the game.

Written by

Michael Sheehy

I have been UNIX/Linux System Administrator for the past 15 years and am slowly moving those skills into the AWS Cloud arena. I am passionate about AWS and Cloud Technologies and the exciting future that it promises to bring.

Related Posts

— February 11, 2019

WaitCondition Controls the Pace of AWS CloudFormation Templates

AWS's WaitCondition can be used with CloudFormation templates to ensure required resources are running.As you may already be aware, AWS CloudFormation is used for infrastructure automation by allowing you to write JSON templates to automatically install, configure, and bootstrap your ...

Read more
  • AWS
— January 24, 2019

The 9 AWS Certifications: Which is Right for You and Your Team?

As companies increasingly shift workloads to the public cloud, cloud computing has moved from a nice-to-have to a core competency in the enterprise. This shift requires a new set of skills to design, deploy, and manage applications in the cloud.As the market leader and most mature p...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS certifications
— November 28, 2018

Two New EC2 Instance Types Announced at AWS re:Invent 2018 – Monday Night Live

The announcements at re:Invent just keep on coming! Let’s look at what benefits these two new EC2 instance types offer and how these two new instances could be of benefit to you. If you're not too familiar with Amazon EC2, you might want to familiarize yourself by creating your first Am...

Read more
  • AWS
  • EC2
  • re:Invent 2018
— November 21, 2018

Google Cloud Certification: Preparation and Prerequisites

Google Cloud Platform (GCP) has evolved from being a niche player to a serious competitor to Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. In 2018, research firm Gartner placed Google in the Leaders quadrant in its Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service for the first time. In t...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Google Cloud
Khash Nakhostin
— November 13, 2018

Understanding AWS VPC Egress Filtering Methods

In order to understand AWS VPC egress filtering methods, you first need to understand that security on AWS is governed by a shared responsibility model where both vendor and subscriber have various operational responsibilities. AWS assumes responsibility for the underlying infrastructur...

Read more
  • Aviatrix
  • AWS
  • VPC
— November 10, 2018

S3 FTP: Build a Reliable and Inexpensive FTP Server Using Amazon’s S3

Is it possible to create an S3 FTP file backup/transfer solution, minimizing associated file storage and capacity planning administration headache?FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is a fast and convenient way to transfer large files over the Internet. You might, at some point, have conf...

Read more
  • Amazon S3
  • AWS
— October 18, 2018

Microservices Architecture: Advantages and Drawbacks

Microservices are a way of breaking large software projects into loosely coupled modules, which communicate with each other through simple Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).Microservices have become increasingly popular over the past few years. The modular architectural style,...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Microservices
— October 2, 2018

What Are Best Practices for Tagging AWS Resources?

There are many use cases for tags, but what are the best practices for tagging AWS resources? In order for your organization to effectively manage resources (and your monthly AWS bill), you need to implement and adopt a thoughtful tagging strategy that makes sense for your business. The...

Read more
  • AWS
  • cost optimization
— September 26, 2018

How to Optimize Amazon S3 Performance

Amazon S3 is the most common storage options for many organizations, being object storage it is used for a wide variety of data types, from the smallest objects to huge datasets. All in all, Amazon S3 is a great service to store a wide scope of data types in a highly available and resil...

Read more
  • Amazon S3
  • AWS
— September 18, 2018

How to Optimize Cloud Costs with Spot Instances: New on Cloud Academy

One of the main promises of cloud computing is access to nearly endless capacity. However, it doesn’t come cheap. With the introduction of Spot Instances for Amazon Web Services’ Elastic Compute Cloud (AWS EC2) in 2009, spot instances have been a way for major cloud providers to sell sp...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Google Cloud
  • SpotInst
— August 23, 2018

What are the Benefits of Machine Learning in the Cloud?

A Comparison of Machine Learning Services on AWS, Azure, and Google CloudArtificial intelligence and machine learning are steadily making their way into enterprise applications in areas such as customer support, fraud detection, and business intelligence. There is every reason to beli...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Google Cloud
  • Machine Learning
— August 17, 2018

How to Use AWS CLI

The AWS Command Line Interface (CLI) is for managing your AWS services from a terminal session on your own client, allowing you to control and configure multiple AWS services.So you’ve been using AWS for awhile and finally feel comfortable clicking your way through all the services....

Read more
  • AWS