What is the AWS Shared Responsibility Model?

3 mins to read

Like most cloud providers, AWS operates under a shared responsibility model. AWS takes care of the security ‘of’ the cloud while AWS customers are responsible for security ‘in’ the cloud. 

AWS has made platform security a priority to protect customers’ critical information and applications taking responsibility for its infrastructure’s security. AWS detects fraud and abuse and responds to incidents by notifying customers. However, the customer is responsible for ensuring their AWS environment is configured securely and data is not shared with someone it shouldn’t be shared with inside or outside the company, identifying when an identity people or non-people misuses AWS, and enforcing compliance and governance policies.

What is AWS Shared Responsibility ‘of’ the Cloud?

AWS is focused on the security of AWS infrastructure, including protecting its computing, storage, networking, and database services against intrusions because it can’t fully control how its customers use AWS. AWS is responsible for the security of the software, hardware, and the physical facilities that host AWS services. Also, AWS takes responsibility for the security configuration of its managed services such as AWS DynamoDB, RDS, Redshift, Elastic MapReduce, WorkSpaces, and others.

Check out Sonrai’s guide to the AWS Shared Responsibility Model.

What is the Customer Responsibility ‘in’ AWS?

AWS customers are responsible for the secure usage of AWS services that are considered unmanaged. For example, while AWS has built several layers of security features to prevent unauthorized access to AWS, including multi-factor authentication, it is the customer’s responsibility to make sure multifactor authentication is turned on for users, particularly for those with the most extensive IAM permissions in AWS.

Furthermore, the default security settings of AWS services are often the least secure. Correcting misconfigured AWS security settings, therefore, is a low-hanging fruit that organizations should prioritize to fulfill their end of AWS security responsibility.

Below are AWS checklists to help you govern and secure your AWS cloud, including but not limited to the following:

Responsibility of the Public Cloud Checklist

Who is Responsible?Customer Responsibility AWS Responsibility
Preventing or detecting when an AWS account has been compromised
Preventing or detecting a privileged or regular AWS user behaving in an insecure manner
Business continuity management (availability, incident response)
Protecting against AWS zero-day exploits and other vulnerabilities
Providing environmental security assurance against things like mass power outages, earthquakes, floods, and other natural disasters
Providing physical access control to hardware/software
Configuring AWS Managed Services in a secure manner 
Ensuring network security (DoS, man-in-the-middle (MITM), port scanning)
Ensuring AWS and custom applications are being used in a manner compliant with internal and external policies
Updating guest operating systems and applying security patches
Restricting access to AWS services or custom applications to only those users who require it
Ensuring AWS and custom applications are being used in a manner compliant with internal and external policies
Preventing sensitive data from being uploaded to or shared from applications in an inappropriate manner
Database patching
Responsibility of the AWS Public Cloud Checklist Source AWS

As enterprises continue to migrate to or build their custom applications in AWS, the threats they face are no longer isolated like the old world of on-premises applications as identities are the new perimeter.  Preventing many of these threats falls on the shoulders of the AWS customer. So how are you securing your data?

AWS Shared Responsibility Model
AWS Shared Responsibility Model

Are You Ready to Secure Your AWS Environment?

There’s a lot to unpack here, and the truth is these are just a few of the responsibilities you need to understand when using AWS. If you have questions on the division of responsibility, cloud security, privacy ownership, policy enforcement, or how the AWS services work, don’t hesitate to reach out — Sonrai’s technical team of security experts are standing by to help.

If you are interested in learning more about best practices for other Cloud Service Providers, please check out the Azure Shared Responsibility Model Explained ebook.