How VPCs Work, and How to Integrate Them Into Identity Access Security

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While much of the tech world is adopting the private cloud for the added security and scalability, today’s developers typically rely on its public, less secure cousin.

The reason is simple: it’s way cheaper. “Private” cloud infrastructure requires providers to assign clients to dedicated servers, whereas public cloud services typically group users together in as few servers as possible to save cost. (A great deal of private cloud adoption has occurred because the technology meets the requirements of vainer data storage regulations.)

In an ideal world, each public cloud user would be better served by a private cloud. The security provided by its private and secure network links – by its own merit – could accomplish a great deal to stem the tide of ever-growing cybersecurity attacks.

However, with the introduction of virtual private cloud (VPC), developers enjoy the best of both worlds. Here’s how VPC works, and how it can be integrated into a thorough identity management security system within Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) Basics

VPCs allow users the best of both worlds through the logical partitioning of public cloud servers. This partitioning acts as a barrier that ensures that only your organization will be able to make use of the data and applications within it.

Think of it like the difference between a public pool and a spa. The high cost of making a public pool capable of accommodating large crowds is made affordable by splitting the cost between residents in the form of taxes and low entrance fees. Meanwhile, the spa services are more individualized and the cost to accommodate each guest is higher.

Functionality between private clouds and VPCs are primarily the same, both letting customers use isolated and secured cloud resources to run code, host sites, store data, or anything else.

Virtual cloud services are widely available, but we particularly recommend Amazon Web Service’s (AWS) Virtual Private Cloud.

VPCs: Privacy Advantages, Security Strength, and Other Benefits

Much of the advantage of VPCs lies in the clear separation between customer accounts on servers. But how does this seemingly invisible divider separate accounts from one another and prevent cyberattacks?

VPCs function through the combination of a few modern technologies. Virtual LAN (VLAN) is used to portion up various accounts, taking place at the second layer within the OSI model, then a virtual private network (VPN) creates a layer over the public system. DevSecOps encrypts traffic to ensure it’s not visible to outsiders.

What’s more, VPCs use dedicated IP addresses – in a designated subnet – to which no one else within the public cloud has access. Customers connect their VPN to their VPC, ensuring proper encryption and protection. Additional security is granted through flexible user controls, helping network admins decide which resources are provided to whom.

Essentially, virtual network functions and security features give users control over the IP addresses or applications that can access particular resources. Think of it like link sharing in Google Docs. Depending on the privacy setting, you can upload an essay for the whole world to see, a report draft meant only for your workplace, or a confidential document that is limited to viewing by a few people.

VPCs feature a number of other benefits as well, including:

  • Speed: Users decide the virtual network’s size and utilize cloud resources as needed. What’s more, these resources can be scaled in many ways, at real-time speeds.
  • Uptime: Due to VPCs’ redundant resources and high fault tolerance, your services and resources are always available for use, and end-users are far less likely to experience a service interruption.
  • Flexibility: Dynamic deployment means various resources can be launched at any time. Whether we’re talking about storage, virtual servers or networking, VPC allows users to adapt to changing workflows and needs easily.

On top of the added protection, speed, and flexibility, VPCs are also well known as easy to deploy and manage.

How VPCs Fit Into Identity Access Management

Identity access management (IAM) is a security concept that involves ensuring the right employees have the bare minimum access to applications and resources to complete their job – nothing more, nothing less.

IAM is a perfect pairing with VPC services because they’re based around the same principle: reducing the possibility of cyberattacks by limiting access to sensitive digital assets.

How does this work?

It’s a well-known fact that the vast majority of successful cyberattacks are due to human error on the part of employees. The vast majority of these incidents are social engineering attacks; wherein attackers spoof the credentials of a reputable company to get employees to offer up login information.

If successful, hackers may load malware onto networks, and use the login to escalate their access privileges, granting themselves access to the digital assets they seek.

IAM severely limits this standard approach by malicious actors by significantly reducing the overall workforce’s access to sensitive resources, reducing the likelihood that phishing attacks will target employees with access to sensitive assets.

Automated Threat Modeling is the Key to Implementing VPC into Your IAM

IAM comes with its challenges. Namely, creating an efficient and thorough process is hard when managing dozens of services and applications, potentially hundreds or thousands of employees, and an extensive suite of hardware.

Since permissions to various applications and data need to be created manually, this leads to massive, convoluted, and error-prone lists of permissions. Such lists are so complex that they invite higher security risk, particularly at scale.

Read more about Threat Modeling for Least Privilege in our article.

Threat modeling is the process of identifying and mitigating threats within a network infrastructure. Threat modeling is often used at the planning stages of application development, prompting technology development teams to define and fix security issues before they’re baked into code, where they become more difficult and expensive to fix. (Hence increasing the likelihood of security debt.)

Using ThreatModeler’s Joint Offering With AWS, DevSecOps leverages AWS IAM and AWS Systems Manager (SSM) to manage all assets stored in the cloud, and produce an inventory of software. ThreatModeler then identifies security vulnerabilities tied to each application.

ThreatModeler scans your IAM roles, groups, users and policies, and presents users with reports on security vulnerabilities. It might flag, for instance, IAM policies that have gone unused or are overly permissive. Users are also guided through the policy change process, with the ability to visualize any impact policy changes may have on the greater environment in a threat model simulation.

You Can’t Outright Eliminate Human Error, but You Can Greatly Reduce Its Likelihood of Occurring

In life, to err is to be human. In cybersecurity, though, human error is costly. That’s why effective risk management should be an organizational priority; each faulty or unused permission fixed or vulnerability discovered means another potential disaster averted.

To learn more about how ThreatModeler’s Joint Offering With AWS can help your organization to build secure VPC-based cloud architectures with proper IAM, visit our web page.

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