Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Cloud

7/17/2017
10:30 AM
Rob Enns
Rob Enns
Commentary
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail vvv
50%
50%

AWS S3 Breaches: What to Do & Why

Although basic operations in Amazon's Simple Storage Services are (as the name implies) - simple - things can get complicated with access control and permissions.

Since its launch in 2006, Amazon’s Simple Storage Service — S3 — has spread like wildfire. Used worldwide for storing everything from personal photo libraries to government personnel data, S3 underlies numerous other cloud services offered by AWS, and integrates with many third-party hardware and software products. If S3 comes up in security news more often than other cloud service provider offerings, that's merely a testament to its success.

At the root of S3's appeal is its simplicity. By abstracting data access to reading and writing "objects" (an object is a simplified version of what are normally called files), S3 makes it easy to drop software and services data into named "buckets" in the cloud. S3 has spread so far and so fast that enterprises may not even realize their data is stored in the cloud, when in fact their backup system or file-sharing service uses S3 as a building block. 

While basic operations remain simple, things get complicated with S3 access control and permissions. While every S3 object defaults to private, once developers start configuring the baroque access controls of AWS, mistakes are easy to make.

Within the last month, two high-profile data breaches became public. An open S3 bucket belonging to a defense contractor exposed 60,000 files, including sensitive US government data. Following that incident, the records for 198 million US voters were exposed when a bucket belonging to a data analytics firm was left unprotected. Most recently, 6 million Verizon customer account PINs were leaked, along with names and phone numbers.

These incidents are not unique. In fact, S3 breaches are common enough that an industry has sprung up around discovering and exploiting them. Actors can regularly scan S3 for accessible objects using publicly available tools and harvest AWS credentials along with other sensitive data.

Black Hat USA returns to the fabulous Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada, July 22-27, 2017. Click for information on the conference schedule and to register.

 

With S3 data loss so commonplace, what can you do to protect your data?

First, do not assume that S3 bucket names are invisible or un-guessable. Every S3 bucket requires a globally unique name, and S3 users create their own bucket names. However, unscrupulous S3 hackers will try to guess these names to retrieve the objects within buckets. As an example, the bucket "music-rob-enns-us-west-2" is globally unique, but even a moderately creative hacker would be able to guess it. Numerous breaches have been tied to guessed bucket names, and it's important to remember that security through obscurity has never been effective. The security of S3 data must not be tied to secret bucket names; instead, use access control and encryption to protect data.

Second, make sure enterprise data management policies extend to S3 and other cloud services, and review the access control implementation for each cloud provider. Cloud access control systems are powerful and complex, and a common source of data breaches includes unintentionally weakened or disabled access controls during application development, deployment, and upgrade. If safeguarding precious data depends on developers following best practices, you are at risk. Consider introducing a separation of duties between application developers and data security.

Third, always encrypt data. S3 provides numerous encryption methods. Configured and used properly, encryption protects data effectively — once data is encrypted, it cannot be read without the corresponding key. At enterprise scale, effective encryption also raises requirements for key management that need to be addressed.

Finally, maintain visibility into changes in the encryption and access control configuration on cloud deployments. Log all configuration changes using AWS CloudTrail, and configure your SIEM to send an alert anytime an S3 bucket is made public or if encryption settings are changed across accounts.

AWS S3 is a powerful and ubiquitous cloud service. Developers ranging from Silicon Valley startups to Fortune 500 companies use S3 as a key building block. As S3 usage scales across applications and teams, access control will become increasingly complex. Following sound policies early in S3 deployment will reduce the chance of a catastrophic data breach down the road.

Related Content:

 

Rob Enns joined Bracket Computing from VMware, where he was vice president of engineering in their networking and security business unit. Before joining VMware, Rob was vice president of engineering at Nicira, which was acquired by VMware in 2012. Previously he spent 11 years ... View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Edge-DRsplash-10-edge-articles
7 Old IT Things Every New InfoSec Pro Should Know
Joan Goodchild, Staff Editor,  4/20/2021
News
Cloud-Native Businesses Struggle With Security
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  5/6/2021
Commentary
Defending Against Web Scraping Attacks
Rob Simon, Principal Security Consultant at TrustedSec,  5/7/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-36289
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-12
Affected versions of Atlassian Jira Server and Data Center allow an unauthenticated user to enumerate users via an Information Disclosure vulnerability in the QueryComponentRendererValue!Default.jspa endpoint. The affected versions are before version 8.5.13, from version 8.6.0 before 8.13.5, and fro...
CVE-2021-32606
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-11
In the Linux kernel 5.11 through 5.12.2, isotp_setsockopt in net/can/isotp.c allows privilege escalation to root by leveraging a use-after-free. (This does not affect earlier versions that lack CAN ISOTP SF_BROADCAST support.)
CVE-2021-3504
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-11
A flaw was found in the hivex library in versions before 1.3.20. It is caused due to a lack of bounds check within the hivex_open function. An attacker could input a specially crafted Windows Registry (hive) file which would cause hivex to read memory beyond its normal bounds or cause the program to...
CVE-2021-20309
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-11
A flaw was found in ImageMagick in versions before 7.0.11 and before 6.9.12, where a division by zero in WaveImage() of MagickCore/visual-effects.c may trigger undefined behavior via a crafted image file submitted to an application using ImageMagick. The highest threat from this vulnerability is to ...
CVE-2021-20310
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-11
A flaw was found in ImageMagick in versions before 7.0.11, where a division by zero ConvertXYZToJzazbz() of MagickCore/colorspace.c may trigger undefined behavior via a crafted image file that is submitted by an attacker and processed by an application using ImageMagick. The highest threat from this...