Best Practices for Deploying New Environments in the Cloud for the First Time – Part 2

Eyal Estrin
Cloud Computing
July 27, 2020

In Part 1, we reviewed Resource Allocation Planning, Tagging Resources, Authentication, Authorization and Password Policy and Audit Trail.

In Part 2, we will continue reviewing additional best practices for building new environments in the cloud.

  

Budget Control

It is crucial to set a budget and budget alerts for any account in the cloud in the early stages of working within a cloud environment. This is important in order to avoid scenarios in which high resource consumption happens due to human error, such as purchasing or consuming expensive resources, or of Denial of Wallet scenarios, where external attackers breach an organization’s cloud account and deploys servers for Bitcoin mining.

 

Common examples of budget control management for various cloud providers:

·       AWS Consolidated Billing – Configure central account among all the AWS accounts in the organization, in-order to forward billing data (which will be accessible only for a limited amount of user accounts).

·       GCP Cloud Billing Account – Central repository for storing all billing data from all GCP projects.

·       Azure Cost Management – An interface for configuring budget and budget alerts for all Azure subscriptions in the organization. It is possible to consolidate multiple Azure subscriptions to Management Groups in-order to centrally control budgets for all subscriptions.

·       Budget on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure – An interface for configuring budget and budget alerts for all compartments.


 

Secure access to cloud environments

In order to avoid inbound access from the Internet to resources in cloud environments (virtual servers, databases, storage, etc.), it is highly recommended to deploy a bastion host, which will be accessible from the Internet (SSH or RDP traffic) and will allow access and management of resources inside the cloud environment.

 

Common guidelines for deploying Bastion Host:

·       Linux Bastion Hosts on AWS

·       Create an Azure Bastion host using the portal

·       Securely connecting to VM instances on GCP

·       Setting Up the Basic Infrastructure for a Cloud Environment, based on Oracle Cloud

 

The more we expand the usage of cloud environments, we can consider deploying a VPN tunnel from the corporate network (Site-to-site VPN) or allow client VPN access from the Internet to the cloud environment (such as AWS Client VPN endpoint, Azure Point-to-Site VPN, Oracle Cloud SSL VPN).


 Managing compute resources (Virtual Machines and Containers)

When selecting to deploy virtual machines in cloud environment, it is highly recommended to follow the following guidelines:

·       Choose an existing image from a predefined list in the cloud providers’ marketplace (operating system flavor, operating system build, and sometimes an image that includes additional software inside the base image).

·       Configure the image according to organizational or application demands.

·       Update all software versions inside the image.

·       Store an up-to-date version of the image (“Golden Image”) inside the central image repository in the cloud environment (for reuse).

·       In case the information inside the virtual machines is critical, consider using managed backup services (such as AWS Backup or Azure Backup).

·       When deploying Windows servers, it is crucial to set complex passwords for the local Administrator’s account, and when possible, join the Windows machine to the corporate domain.

·       When deploying Linux servers, it is crucial to use SSH Key authentication and store the private key(s) in a secure location.

·       Whenever possible, encrypt data at rest for all block volumes (the server’s hard drives / volumes).

·       It is highly recommended to connect the servers to a managed vulnerability assessment service, in order to detect software vulnerabilities (services such as Amazon Inspector or Azure Security Center).

·       It is highly recommended to connect the servers to a managed patch management service in-order to ease the work of patch management (services such as AWS Systems Manager Patch Manager, Azure Automation Update Management or Google OS Patch Management).

 

When selecting to deploy containers in the cloud environment, it is highly recommended to follow the following guidelines:

·       Use a Container image from a well known container repository.

·       Update all binaries and all dependencies inside the Container image.

·       Store all Container images inside a managed container repository inside the cloud environment (services such as Amazon ECR, Azure Container Registry, GCP Container Registry, Oracle Cloud Container Registry, etc.)

·       Avoid using a Root account inside the Containers.

·       Avoid storing data (such as session IDs) inside the Container – make sure the container is stateless.

·       It is highly recommended to connect the CI/CD process and the container update process to a managed vulnerability assessment service, in-order to detect software vulnerabilities (services such as Amazon ECR Image scanning, Azure Container Registry, GCP Container Analysis, etc.)

 

Storing sensitive information

It is highly recommended to avoid storing sensitive information, such as credentials, encryption keys, secrets, API keys, etc., in clear text inside virtual machines, containers, text files or on the local desktop.

 

Sensitive information should be stored inside managed vault services such as:

·       AWS KMS or AWS Secrets Manager

·       Azure Key Vault

·       Google Cloud KMS or Google Secret Manager

·       Oracle Cloud Infrastructure Key Management

·       HashiCorp Vault


 


Eyal Estrin

Information Security and Cloud Expert, CISSP, CCSP, CISM, CISA, RHCE, CCSK, AWS Certified Security Speciality, CEH

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