Given the speed of Amazon Web Services (AWS) innovation, it can sometimes be challenging to keep up with AWS Security service and feature launches. To help you stay current, here’s an overview of some of the most important 2021 AWS Security launches that security professionals should be aware of. This is the first of two related posts; Part 2 will highlight some of the important 2021 launches that security professionals should be aware of across all AWS services.
In 2021, the threat detection service Amazon GuardDuty expanded the internal AWS security intelligence it consumes to use more of the intel that AWS internal threat detection teams collect, including additional nation-state threat intelligence. Sharing more of the important intel that internal AWS teams collect lets you quickly improve your protection. GuardDuty also launched domain reputation modeling. These machine learning models take all the domain requests from across all of AWS, and feed them into a model that allows AWS to categorize previously unseen domains as highly likely to be malicious or benign based on their behavioral characteristics. In practice, AWS is seeing that these models often deliver high-fidelity threat detections, identifying malicious domains 7–14 days before they are identified and available on commercial threat feeds.
AWS also launched second generation anomaly detection for GuardDuty. Shortly after the original GuardDuty launch in 2017, AWS added additional anomaly detection for user behavior analytics and monitoring for unusual activity of AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) users. After receiving customer feedback that the original feature was a little too noisy, and that it was difficult to understand why some findings were generated, the GuardDuty analytics team rebuilt this functionality on an entirely new machine learning model, considerably reducing the number of detections and generating a more accurate positive-detection rate. The new model also added additional context that security professionals (such as analysts) can use to understand why the model shows findings as suspicious or unusual.
Since its introduction, GuardDuty has detected when AWS EC2 Role credentials are used to call AWS APIs from IP addresses outside of AWS. Beginning in early 2022, GuardDuty now supports detection when credentials are used from other AWS accounts, inside the AWS network. This is a complex problem for customers to solve on their own, which is why the GuardDuty team added this enhancement. The solution considers that there are legitimate reasons why a source IP address that is communicating with AWS services APIs might be different than the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instance IP address, or a NAT gateway associated with the instance’s VPC. The enhancement also considers complex network topologies that route traffic to one or multiple VPCs—for example, AWS Transit Gateway or AWS Direct Connect.
Our customers are increasingly running container workloads in production; helping to raise the security posture of these workloads became an AWS development priority in 2021. GuardDuty for EKS Protection is one recent feature that has resulted from this investment. This new GuardDuty feature monitors Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS) cluster control plane activity by analyzing Kubernetes audit logs. GuardDuty is integrated with Amazon EKS, giving it direct access to the Kubernetes audit logs without requiring you to turn on or store these logs. Once a threat is detected, GuardDuty generates a security finding that includes container details such as pod ID, container image ID, and associated tags. See below for details on how the new Amazon Inspector is also helping to protect containers.
At AWS re:Invent 2021, we launched the new Amazon Inspector, a vulnerability management service that continually scans AWS workloads for software vulnerabilities and unintended network exposure. The original Amazon Inspector was completely re-architected in this release to automate vulnerability management and to deliver near real-time findings to minimize the time needed to discover new vulnerabilities. This new Amazon Inspector has simple one-click enablement and multi-account support using AWS Organizations, similar to our other AWS Security services. This launch also introduces a more accurate vulnerability risk score, called the Inspector score. The Inspector score is a highly contextualized risk score that is generated for each finding by correlating Common Vulnerability and Exposures (CVE) metadata with environmental factors for resources such as network accessibility. This makes it easier for you to identify and prioritize your most critical vulnerabilities for immediate remediation. One of the most important new capabilities is that Amazon Inspector automatically discovers running EC2 instances and container images residing in Amazon Elastic Container Registry (Amazon ECR), at any scale, and immediately starts assessing them for known vulnerabilities. Now you can consolidate your vulnerability management solutions for both Amazon EC2 and Amazon ECR into one fully managed service.
AWS Security Hub
In addition to a significant number of smaller enhancements throughout 2021, in October AWS Security Hub, an AWS cloud security posture management service, addressed a top customer enhancement request by adding support for cross-Region finding aggregation. You can now view all your findings from all accounts and all selected Regions in a single console view, and act on them from an Amazon EventBridge feed in a single account and Region. Looking back at 2021, Security Hub added 72 additional best practice checks, four new AWS service integrations, and 13 new external partner integrations. A few of these integrations are Atlassian Jira Service Management, Forcepoint Cloud Security Gateway (CSG), and Amazon Macie. Security Hub also achieved FedRAMP High authorization to enable security posture management for high-impact workloads.
Based on customer feedback, data discovery tool Amazon Macie launched a number of enhancements in 2021. One new feature, which made it easier to manage Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) buckets for sensitive data, was criteria-based bucket selection. This Macie feature allows you to define runtime criteria to determine which S3 buckets should be included in a sensitive data-discovery job. When a job runs, Macie identifies the S3 buckets that match your criteria, and automatically adds or removes them from the job’s scope. Before this feature, once a job was configured, it was immutable. Now, for example, you can create a policy where if a bucket becomes public in the future, it’s automatically added to the scan, and similarly, if a bucket is no longer public, it will no longer be included in the daily scan.
Originally Macie included all managed data identifiers available for all scans. However, customers wanted more surgical search criteria. For example, they didn’t want to be informed if there were exposed data types in a particular environment. In September 2021, Macie launched the ability to enable/disable managed data identifiers. This allows you to customize the data types you deem sensitive and would like Macie to alert on, in accordance with your organization’s data governance and privacy needs.
Amazon Detective is a service to analyze and visualize security findings and related data to rapidly get to the root cause of potential security issues. In January 2021, Amazon Detective added a convenient, time-saving integration that allows you to start security incident investigation workflows directly from the GuardDuty console. This new hyperlink pivot in the GuardDuty console takes findings directly from the GuardDuty console into the Detective console. Another time-saving capability added was the IP address drill down functionality. This new capability can be useful to security forensic teams performing incident investigations, because it helps quickly determine the communications that took place from an EC2 instance under investigation before, during, and after an event.
In December 2021, Detective added support for AWS Organizations to simplify management for security operations and investigations across all existing and future accounts in an organization. This launch allows new and existing Detective customers to onboard and centrally manage the Detective graph database for up to 1,200 AWS accounts.
AWS Key Management Service
In June 2021, AWS Key Management Service (AWS KMS) introduced multi-Region keys, a capability that lets you replicate keys from one AWS Region into another. With multi-Region keys, you can more easily move encrypted data between Regions without having to decrypt and re-encrypt with different keys for each Region. Multi-Region keys are supported for client-side encryption using direct AWS KMS API calls, or in a simplified manner with the AWS Encryption SDK and Amazon DynamoDB Encryption Client.
AWS Secrets Manager
Last year was a busy year for AWS Secrets Manager, with four feature launches to make it easier to manage secrets at scale, not just for client applications, but also for platforms. In March 2021, Secrets Manager launched multi-Region secrets to automatically replicate secrets for multi-Region workloads. Also in March, Secrets Manager added three new rules to AWS Config, to help administrators verify that secrets in Secrets Manager are configured according to organizational requirements. Then in April 2021, Secrets Manager added a CSI driver plug-in, to make it easy to consume secrets from Amazon EKS by using Kubernetes’s standard Secrets Store interface. In November, Secrets Manager introduced a higher secret limit of 500,000 per account to simplify secrets management for independent software vendors (ISVs) that rely on unique secrets for a large number of end customers. Although launched in January 2022, it’s also worth mentioning Secrets Manager’s release of rotation windows to align automatic rotation of secrets with application maintenance windows.
Amazon CodeGuru and Secrets Manager
In November 2021, AWS announced a new secrets detector feature in Amazon CodeGuru that searches your codebase for hardcoded secrets. Amazon CodeGuru is a developer tool powered by machine learning that provides intelligent recommendations to detect security vulnerabilities, improve code quality, and identify an application’s most expensive lines of code.
This new feature can pinpoint locations in your code with usernames and passwords; database connection strings, tokens, and API keys from AWS; and other service providers. When a secret is found in your code, CodeGuru Reviewer provides an actionable recommendation that links to AWS Secrets Manager, where developers can secure the secret with a point-and-click experience.
Looking ahead for 2022
AWS will continue to deliver experiences in 2022 that meet administrators where they govern, developers where they code, and applications where they run. A lot of customers are moving to container and serverless workloads; you can expect to see more work on this in 2022. You can also expect to see more work around integrations, like CodeGuru Secrets Detector identifying plaintext secrets in code (as noted previously).
To stay up-to-date in the year ahead on the latest product and feature launches and security use cases, be sure to read the Security service launch announcements. Additionally, stay tuned to the AWS Security Blog for Part 2 of this blog series, which will provide an overview of some of the important 2021 launches that security professionals should be aware of across all AWS services.
If you’re looking for more opportunities to learn about AWS security services, check out AWS re:Inforce, the AWS conference focused on cloud security, identity, privacy, and compliance, which will take place June 28-29 in Houston, Texas.
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