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Supreme Court Will Decide if ISP Can Charge Money to Expose Pirates

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/supreme-court-to-decide-if-isp-can-charge-money-to-expose-pirates-171124/

Movie studio Voltage Pictures is no stranger to suing BitTorrent users.

The company has filed numerous lawsuits against alleged pirates in the United States, Europe, Canada and Australia, and is estimated to have made a lot of money doing so.

Voltage and other copyright holders who initiate these cases generally rely on IP addresses as evidence. This information is collected from BitTorrent swarms and linked to an ISP using an IP-database.

With this information in hand, they then ask the courts to direct Internet providers to hand over the personal details of the associated account holders, in order to go after the alleged pirates.

In Canada, this so-called copyright trolling practice hasn’t been without controversy.

Last year Voltage Pictures launched a “reverse class action” to demand damages from an unspecified number of Internet users whom they accuse of sharing films, including The Cobbler, Pay the Ghost, Good Kill, Fathers and Daughters, and American Heist.

The application of a reverse class action in a copyright case was unprecedented in itself. In a single swoop, many of Internet subscribers were at risk of having their personal details exposed. However, Internet provider Rogers was not willing to hand over this information freely.

Instead, Rogers demanded compensation for every IP-address lookup, as is permitted by copyright law. The provider asked for $100 per hour of work, plus taxes, to link the addresses to subscriber accounts.

The Federal Court agreed that the charges were permitted under the Copyright Act. However, when Voltage Pictures appealed the decision, this was reversed. The Appeals Court noted that there’s currently no fixed maximum charge defined by law. As long as this is the case, ISPs can charge no fees at all, the argument was.

In addition, the court stressed that it’s important for copyright holders to be able to protect their rights in the digital era.

“The internet must not become a collection of safe houses from which pirates, with impunity, can pilfer the products of others’ dedication, creativity and industry,” the appeal court Justice David Stratas wrote.

Not happy with the decision, Rogers decided to take the matter to the Supreme Court, which just decided that it will hear the case.

The Supreme Court hasn’t given an explanation for its decision to take the case. For the accused BitTorrent pirates in Canada, it’s certainly one to watch though.

The case will in large part determine how profitable the copyright trolling scheme is in Canada. When ISPs can charge a substantial fee for the IP-address lookups the efforts might not bring in enough money through settlements, making them less likely to continue.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

Copyright Holders Want ISPs to Police Pirate Sites and Issue Warnings

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/copyright-holders-want-isps-to-police-pirate-sites-and-issue-warnings-171124/

Online piracy is a worldwide phenomenon and increasingly it ends up on the desks of lawmakers everywhere.

Frustrated by the ever-evolving piracy landscape, copyright holders are calling on local authorities to help out.

This is also the case in South Africa at the moment, where the Government is finalizing a new Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill.

Responding to a call for comments, anti-piracy group SAFACT, film producers, and local broadcaster M-Net seized the opportunity to weigh in with some suggestions. Writing to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, they ask for measures to make it easier to block pirate sites and warn copyright infringers.

“A balanced approach to address the massive copyright infringement on the Internet is necessary,” they say.

On the site-blocking front, the copyright holder representatives suggest an EU-style amendment that would allow for injunctions against ISPs to bar access to pirate sites.

“It is suggested that South Africa should consider adopting technology-neutral ‘no fault’ enforcement legislation that would enable intermediaries to take action against online infringements, in line with Article 8.3 of the EU Copyright Directive (2001/29/EC), which addresses copyright infringement through site blocking,” it reads.

Request and response (via Business Tech)

In addition, ISPs should also be obliged to take further measures to deter piracy. New legislation should require providers to “police” unauthorized file-sharing and streaming sites, and warn subscribers who are caught pirating.

“Obligations should be imposed on ISPs to co-operate with rights-holders and Government to police illegal filesharing or streaming websites and to issue warnings to end-users identified as engaging in illegal file-sharing and to block infringing content,” the rightsholders say.

The demands were made public by the Department recently, which also included an official response from the Government. While the suggestions are not dismissed based on their content, they don’t fit the purpose of the legislation.

“The Bill does not deal with copyright infringements. These aspects must be dealt with in terms of copyright-related legislation,” the Department writes.

SAFACT, the filmmakers, and M-Net are not without options though. The Government points out that the new Copyright Amendment Bill, which was introduced recently, would be a better fit for these asks. So it’s likely that they will try again.

This doesn’t mean that any of the proposed language will be adopted, of course. However, now that the demands are on the table, South Africans are likely to hear more blocking and warning chatter in the near future.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

Swiss Copyright Law Proposals: Good News for Pirates, Bad For Pirate Sites

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/swiss-copyright-law-proposals-good-news-for-pirates-bad-for-pirate-sites-171124/

While Switzerland sits geographically in the heart of Europe, the country is not part of the European Union, meaning that its copyright laws are often out of touch with those of the countries encircling it.

For years this has meant heavy criticism from the United States, whose trade representative has put Switzerland on the Watch List, citing weaknesses in the country’s ability to curb online copyright infringement.

“The decision to place Switzerland on the Watch List this year is premised on U.S. concerns regarding specific difficulties in Switzerland’s system of online copyright protection and enforcement,” the USTR wrote in 2016.

Things didn’t improve in 2017. Referencing the so-called Logistep Decision, which found that collecting infringers’ IP addresses is unlawful, the USTR said that Switzerland had effectively deprived copyright holders of the means to enforce their rights online.

All of this criticism hasn’t fallen on deaf ears. For the past several years, Switzerland has been deeply involved in consultations that aim to shape future copyright law. Negotiations have been prolonged, however, with the Federal Council aiming to improve the situation for creators without impairing the position of consumers.

A new draft compromise tabled Wednesday is somewhat of a mixed bag, one that is unlikely to please the United States overall but could prove reasonably acceptable to the public.

First of all, people will still be able to ‘pirate’ as much copyrighted material as they like, as long as that content is consumed privately and does not include videogames or software, which are excluded. Any supposed losses accrued by the entertainment industries will be compensated via a compulsory tax of 13 Swiss francs ($13), levied on media playback devices including phones and tablets.

This freedom only applies to downloading and streaming, meaning that any uploading (distribution) is explicitly ruled out. So, while grabbing some streaming content via a ‘pirate’ Kodi addon is just fine, using BitTorrent to achieve the same is ruled out.

Indeed, rightsholders will be able to capture IP addresses of suspected infringers in order to file a criminal complaint with authorities. That being said, there will no system of warning notices targeting file-sharers.

But while the authorization of unlicensed downloads will only frustrate an already irritated United States, the other half of the deal is likely to be welcomed.

Under the recommendations, Internet services will not only be required to remove infringing content from their platforms, they’ll also be compelled to prevent that same content from reappearing. Failure to comply will result in prosecution. It’s a standard that copyright holders everywhere are keen for governments to adopt.

Additionally, the spotlight will fall on datacenters and webhosts that have a reputation for being popular with pirate sites. It’s envisioned that such providers will be prevented from offering services to known pirate sites, with the government clearly stating that services with piracy at the heart of their business models will be ripe for action.

But where there’s a plus for copyright holders, the Swiss have another minus. Previously it was proposed that in serious cases authorities should be able to order the ISP blocking of “obviously illegal content or sources.” That proposal has now been dropped, meaning no site-blocking will be allowed.

Other changes in the draft envision an extension of the copyright term from 50 to 70 years and improved protection for photographic works. The proposals also feature increased freedoms for researchers and libraries, who will be able to use copyrighted works without obtaining permission from rightsholders.

Overall the proposals are a pretty mixed bag but as Minister of Justice Simonetta Sommaruga said Wednesday, if no one is prepared to compromise, no one will get anything.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

A Thanksgiving Carol: How Those Smart Engineers at Twitter Screwed Me

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/11/a-thanksgiving-carol-how-those-smart.html

Thanksgiving Holiday is a time for family and cheer. Well, a time for family. It’s the holiday where we ask our doctor relatives to look at that weird skin growth, and for our geek relatives to fix our computers. This tale is of such computer support, and how the “smart” engineers at Twitter have ruined this for life.

My mom is smart, but not a good computer user. I get my enthusiasm for science and math from my mother, and she has no problem understanding the science of computers. She keeps up when I explain Bitcoin. But she has difficulty using computers. She has this emotional, irrational belief that computers are out to get her.

This makes helping her difficult. Every problem is described in terms of what the computer did to her, not what she did to her computer. It’s the computer that needs to be fixed, instead of the user. When I showed her the “haveibeenpwned.com” website (part of my tips for securing computers), it showed her Tumblr password had been hacked. She swore she never created a Tumblr account — that somebody or something must have done it for her. Except, I was there five years ago and watched her create it.

Another example is how GMail is deleting her emails for no reason, corrupting them, and changing the spelling of her words. She emails the way an impatient teenager texts — all of us in the family know the misspellings are not GMail’s fault. But I can’t help her with this because she keeps her GMail inbox clean, deleting all her messages, leaving no evidence behind. She has only a vague description of the problem that I can’t make sense of.

This last March, I tried something to resolve this. I configured her GMail to send a copy of all incoming messages to a new, duplicate account on my own email server. With evidence in hand, I would then be able solve what’s going on with her GMail. I’d be able to show her which steps she took, which buttons she clicked on, and what caused the weirdness she’s seeing.

Today, while the family was in a state of turkey-induced torpor, my mom brought up a problem with Twitter. She doesn’t use Twitter, she doesn’t have an account, but they keep sending tweets to her phone, about topics like Denzel Washington. And she said something about “peaches” I didn’t understand.

This is how the problem descriptions always start, chaotic, with mutually exclusive possibilities. If you don’t use Twitter, you don’t have the Twitter app installed, so how are you getting Tweets? Over much gnashing of teeth, it comes out that she’s getting emails from Twitter, not tweets, about Denzel Washington — to someone named “Peaches Graham”. Naturally, she can only describe these emails, because she’s already deleted them.

“Ah ha!”, I think. I’ve got the evidence! I’ll just log onto my duplicate email server, and grab the copies to prove to her it was something she did.

I find she is indeed receiving such emails, called “Moments”, about topics trending on Twitter. They are signed with “DKIM”, proving they are legitimate rather than from a hacker or spammer. The only way that can happen is if my mother signed up for Twitter, despite her protestations that she didn’t.

I look further back and find that there were also confirmation messages involved. Back in August, she got a typical Twitter account signup message. I am now seeing a little bit more of the story unfold with this “Peaches Graham” name on the account. It wasn’t my mother who initially signed up for Twitter, but Peaches, who misspelled the email address. It’s one of the reasons why the confirmation process exists, to make sure you spelled your email address correctly.

It’s now obvious my mom accidentally clicked on the [Confirm] button. I don’t have any proof she did, but it’s the only reasonable explanation. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have gotten the “Moments” messages. My mom disputed this, emphatically insisting she never clicked on the emails.

It’s at this point that I made a great mistake, saying:

“This sort of thing just doesn’t happen. Twitter has very smart engineers. What’s the chance they made the mistake here, or…”.

I recognized condescension of words as they came out of my mouth, but dug myself deeper with:

“…or that the user made the error?”

This was wrong to say even if I were right. I have no excuse. I mean, maybe I could argue that it’s really her fault, for not raising me right, but no, this is only on me.

Regardless of what caused the Twitter emails, the problem needs to be fixed. The solution is to take control of the Twitter account by using the password reset feature. I went to the Twitter login page, clicked on “Lost Password”, got the password reset message, and reset the password. I then reconfigured the account to never send anything to my mom again.

But when I logged in I got an error saying the account had not yet been confirmed. I paused. The family dog eyed me in wise silence. My mom hadn’t clicked on the [Confirm] button — the proof was right there. Moreover, it hadn’t been confirmed for a long time, since the account was created in 2011.

I interrogated my mother some more. It appears that this has been going on for years. She’s just been deleting the emails without opening them, both the “Confirmations” and the “Moments”. She made it clear she does it this way because her son (that would be me) instructs her to never open emails she knows are bad. That’s how she could be so certain she never clicked on the [Confirm] button — she never even opens the emails to see the contents.

My mom is a prolific email user. In the last eight months, I’ve received over 10,000 emails in the duplicate mailbox on my server. That’s a lot. She’s technically retired, but she volunteers for several charities, goes to community college classes, and is joining an anti-Trump protest group. She has a daily routine for triaging and processing all the emails that flow through her inbox.

So here’s the thing, and there’s no getting around it: my mom was right, on all particulars. She had done nothing, the computer had done it to her. It’s Twitter who is at fault, having continued to resend that confirmation email every couple months for six years. When Twitter added their controversial “Moments” feature a couple years back, somehow they turned on Notifications for accounts that technically didn’t fully exist yet.

Being right this time means she might be right the next time the computer does something to her without her touching anything. My attempts at making computers seem rational has failed. That they are driven by untrustworthy spirits is now a reasonable alternative.

Those “smart” engineers at Twitter screwed me. Continuing to send confirmation emails for six years is stupid. Sending Notifications to unconfirmed accounts is stupid. Yes, I know at the bottom of the message it gives a “Not my account” selection that she could have clicked on, but it’s small and easily missed. In any case, my mom never saw that option, because she’s been deleting the messages without opening them — for six years.

Twitter can fix their problem, but it’s not going to help mine. Forever more, I’ll be unable to convince my mom that the majority of her problems are because of user error, and not because the computer people are out to get her.

Sci-Hub Loses Domain Names, But Remains Resilient

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/sci-hub-loses-domain-names-but-remains-resilient-171122/

While Sci-Hub is praised by thousands of researchers and academics around the world, copyright holders are doing everything in their power to wipe the site from the web.

Following a $15 million defeat against Elsevier in June, the American Chemical Society won a default judgment of $4.8 million in copyright damages earlier this month.

The publisher was further granted a broad injunction, requiring various third-party services to stop providing access to the site. This includes domain registries, which have the power to suspend domains worldwide if needed.

Yesterday, several of Sci-Hub’s domain names became unreachable. While the site had some issues in recent weeks, several people noticed that the present problems are more permanent.

Sci-hub.io, sci-hub.cc, and sci-hub.ac now have the infamous “serverhold” status which suggests that the responsible registries intervened. The status, which has been used previously when domain names are flagged for copyright issues, strips domains of their DNS entries.

Serverhold

This effectively means that the domain names in question have been rendered useless. However, history has also shown that Sci-Hub’s operator Alexandra Elbakyan doesn’t easily back down. Quite the contrary.

In a message posted on the site’s VK page and Twitter, the operator points out that users can update their DNS servers to the IP-addresses 80.82.77.83 and 80.82.77.84, to access it freely again. This rigorous measure will direct all domain name lookups through Sci-Hub’s servers.

Sci-Hub’s tweet

In addition, the Sci-Hub.bz domain and the .onion address on the Tor network still appear to work just fine for most people.

It’s clear that Ukraine-born Elbakyan has no intention of throwing in the towel. By providing free access to published research, she sees it as simply helping millions of less privileged academics to do their work properly.

Authorized or not, among researchers there is still plenty of demand and support for Sci-Hub’s service. The site hosts dozens of millions of academic papers and receives millions of visitors per month.

Many visits come from countries where access to academic journals is limited, such as Iran, Russia and China. But even in countries where access is more common, a lot of researchers visit the site.

While the domain problems may temporarily make the site harder to find for some, it’s not likely to be the end for Sch-Hub.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

The 10 Most Viewed Security-Related AWS Knowledge Center Articles and Videos for November 2017

Post Syndicated from Maggie Burke original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/the-10-most-viewed-security-related-aws-knowledge-center-articles-and-videos-for-november-2017/

AWS Knowledge Center image

The AWS Knowledge Center helps answer the questions most frequently asked by AWS Support customers. The following 10 Knowledge Center security articles and videos have been the most viewed this month. It’s likely you’ve wondered about a few of these topics yourself, so here’s a chance to learn the answers!

  1. How do I create an AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) policy to restrict access for an IAM user, group, or role to a particular Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC)?
    Learn how to apply a custom IAM policy to restrict IAM user, group, or role permissions for creating and managing Amazon EC2 instances in a specified VPC.
  2. How do I use an MFA token to authenticate access to my AWS resources through the AWS CLI?
    One IAM best practice is to protect your account and its resources by using a multi-factor authentication (MFA) device. If you plan use the AWS Command Line Interface (CLI) while using an MFA device, you must create a temporary session token.
  3. Can I restrict an IAM user’s EC2 access to specific resources?
    This article demonstrates how to link multiple AWS accounts through AWS Organizations and isolate IAM user groups in their own accounts.
  4. I didn’t receive a validation email for the SSL certificate I requested through AWS Certificate Manager (ACM)—where is it?
    Can’t find your ACM validation emails? Be sure to check the email address to which you requested that ACM send validation emails.
  5. How do I create an IAM policy that has a source IP restriction but still allows users to switch roles in the AWS Management Console?
    Learn how to write an IAM policy that not only includes a source IP restriction but also lets your users switch roles in the console.
  6. How do I allow users from another account to access resources in my account through IAM?
    If you have the 12-digit account number and permissions to create and edit IAM roles and users for both accounts, you can permit specific IAM users to access resources in your account.
  7. What are the differences between a service control policy (SCP) and an IAM policy?
    Learn how to distinguish an SCP from an IAM policy.
  8. How do I share my customer master keys (CMKs) across multiple AWS accounts?
    To grant another account access to your CMKs, create an IAM policy on the secondary account that grants access to use your CMKs.
  9. How do I set up AWS Trusted Advisor notifications?
    Learn how to receive free weekly email notifications from Trusted Advisor.
  10. How do I use AWS Key Management Service (AWS KMS) encryption context to protect the integrity of encrypted data?
    Encryption context name-value pairs used with AWS KMS encryption and decryption operations provide a method for checking ciphertext authenticity. Learn how to use encryption context to help protect your encrypted data.

The AWS Security Blog will publish an updated version of this list regularly going forward. You also can subscribe to the AWS Knowledge Center Videos playlist on YouTube.

– Maggie

How to Patch, Inspect, and Protect Microsoft Windows Workloads on AWS—Part 2

Post Syndicated from Koen van Blijderveen original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/how-to-patch-inspect-and-protect-microsoft-windows-workloads-on-aws-part-2/

Yesterday in Part 1 of this blog post, I showed you how to:

  1. Launch an Amazon EC2 instance with an AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) role, an Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) volume, and tags that Amazon EC2 Systems Manager (Systems Manager) and Amazon Inspector use.
  2. Configure Systems Manager to install the Amazon Inspector agent and patch your EC2 instances.

Today in Steps 3 and 4, I show you how to:

  1. Take Amazon EBS snapshots using Amazon EBS Snapshot Scheduler to automate snapshots based on instance tags.
  2. Use Amazon Inspector to check if your EC2 instances running Microsoft Windows contain any common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs).

To catch up on Steps 1 and 2, see yesterday’s blog post.

Step 3: Take EBS snapshots using EBS Snapshot Scheduler

In this section, I show you how to use EBS Snapshot Scheduler to take snapshots of your instances at specific intervals. To do this, I will show you how to:

  • Determine the schedule for EBS Snapshot Scheduler by providing you with best practices.
  • Deploy EBS Snapshot Scheduler by using AWS CloudFormation.
  • Tag your EC2 instances so that EBS Snapshot Scheduler backs up your instances when you want them backed up.

In addition to making sure your EC2 instances have all the available operating system patches applied on a regular schedule, you should take snapshots of the EBS storage volumes attached to your EC2 instances. Taking regular snapshots allows you to restore your data to a previous state quickly and cost effectively. With Amazon EBS snapshots, you pay only for the actual data you store, and snapshots save only the data that has changed since the previous snapshot, which minimizes your cost. You will use EBS Snapshot Scheduler to make regular snapshots of your EC2 instance. EBS Snapshot Scheduler takes advantage of other AWS services including CloudFormation, Amazon DynamoDB, and AWS Lambda to make backing up your EBS volumes simple.

Determine the schedule

As a best practice, you should back up your data frequently during the hours when your data changes the most. This reduces the amount of data you lose if you have to restore from a snapshot. For the purposes of this blog post, the data for my instances changes the most between the business hours of 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Pacific Time. During these hours, I will make snapshots hourly to minimize data loss.

In addition to backing up frequently, another best practice is to establish a strategy for retention. This will vary based on how you need to use the snapshots. If you have compliance requirements to be able to restore for auditing, your needs may be different than if you are able to detect data corruption within three hours and simply need to restore to something that limits data loss to five hours. EBS Snapshot Scheduler enables you to specify the retention period for your snapshots. For this post, I only need to keep snapshots for recent business days. To account for weekends, I will set my retention period to three days, which is down from the default of 15 days when deploying EBS Snapshot Scheduler.

Deploy EBS Snapshot Scheduler

In Step 1 of Part 1 of this post, I showed how to configure an EC2 for Windows Server 2012 R2 instance with an EBS volume. You will use EBS Snapshot Scheduler to take eight snapshots each weekday of your EC2 instance’s EBS volumes:

  1. Navigate to the EBS Snapshot Scheduler deployment page and choose Launch Solution. This takes you to the CloudFormation console in your account. The Specify an Amazon S3 template URL option is already selected and prefilled. Choose Next on the Select Template page.
  2. On the Specify Details page, retain all default parameters except for AutoSnapshotDeletion. Set AutoSnapshotDeletion to Yes to ensure that old snapshots are periodically deleted. The default retention period is 15 days (you will specify a shorter value on your instance in the next subsection).
  3. Choose Next twice to move to the Review step, and start deployment by choosing the I acknowledge that AWS CloudFormation might create IAM resources check box and then choosing Create.

Tag your EC2 instances

EBS Snapshot Scheduler takes a few minutes to deploy. While waiting for its deployment, you can start to tag your instance to define its schedule. EBS Snapshot Scheduler reads tag values and looks for four possible custom parameters in the following order:

  • <snapshot time> – Time in 24-hour format with no colon.
  • <retention days> – The number of days (a positive integer) to retain the snapshot before deletion, if set to automatically delete snapshots.
  • <time zone> – The time zone of the times specified in <snapshot time>.
  • <active day(s)>all, weekdays, or mon, tue, wed, thu, fri, sat, and/or sun.

Because you want hourly backups on weekdays between 9:00 A.M. and 5:00 P.M. Pacific Time, you need to configure eight tags—one for each hour of the day. You will add the eight tags shown in the following table to your EC2 instance.

Tag Value
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:0900 0900;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1000 1000;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1100 1100;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1200 1200;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1300 1300;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1400 1400;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1500 1500;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1600 1600;3;utc;weekdays

Next, you will add these tags to your instance. If you want to tag multiple instances at once, you can use Tag Editor instead. To add the tags in the preceding table to your EC2 instance:

  1. Navigate to your EC2 instance in the EC2 console and choose Tags in the navigation pane.
  2. Choose Add/Edit Tags and then choose Create Tag to add all the tags specified in the preceding table.
  3. Confirm you have added the tags by choosing Save. After adding these tags, navigate to your EC2 instance in the EC2 console. Your EC2 instance should look similar to the following screenshot.
    Screenshot of how your EC2 instance should look in the console
  4. After waiting a couple of hours, you can see snapshots beginning to populate on the Snapshots page of the EC2 console.Screenshot of snapshots beginning to populate on the Snapshots page of the EC2 console
  5. To check if EBS Snapshot Scheduler is active, you can check the CloudWatch rule that runs the Lambda function. If the clock icon shown in the following screenshot is green, the scheduler is active. If the clock icon is gray, the rule is disabled and does not run. You can enable or disable the rule by selecting it, choosing Actions, and choosing Enable or Disable. This also allows you to temporarily disable EBS Snapshot Scheduler.Screenshot of checking to see if EBS Snapshot Scheduler is active
  1. You can also monitor when EBS Snapshot Scheduler has run by choosing the name of the CloudWatch rule as shown in the previous screenshot and choosing Show metrics for the rule.Screenshot of monitoring when EBS Snapshot Scheduler has run by choosing the name of the CloudWatch rule

If you want to restore and attach an EBS volume, see Restoring an Amazon EBS Volume from a Snapshot and Attaching an Amazon EBS Volume to an Instance.

Step 4: Use Amazon Inspector

In this section, I show you how to you use Amazon Inspector to scan your EC2 instance for common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs) and set up Amazon SNS notifications. To do this I will show you how to:

  • Install the Amazon Inspector agent by using EC2 Run Command.
  • Set up notifications using Amazon SNS to notify you of any findings.
  • Define an Amazon Inspector target and template to define what assessment to perform on your EC2 instance.
  • Schedule Amazon Inspector assessment runs to assess your EC2 instance on a regular interval.

Amazon Inspector can help you scan your EC2 instance using prebuilt rules packages, which are built and maintained by AWS. These prebuilt rules packages tell Amazon Inspector what to scan for on the EC2 instances you select. Amazon Inspector provides the following prebuilt packages for Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2:

  • Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures
  • Center for Internet Security Benchmarks
  • Runtime Behavior Analysis

In this post, I’m focused on how to make sure you keep your EC2 instances patched, backed up, and inspected for common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs). As a result, I will focus on how to use the CVE rules package and use your instance tags to identify the instances on which to run the CVE rules. If your EC2 instance is fully patched using Systems Manager, as described earlier, you should not have any findings with the CVE rules package. Regardless, as a best practice I recommend that you use Amazon Inspector as an additional layer for identifying any unexpected failures. This involves using Amazon CloudWatch to set up weekly Amazon Inspector scans, and configuring Amazon Inspector to notify you of any findings through SNS topics. By acting on the notifications you receive, you can respond quickly to any CVEs on any of your EC2 instances to help ensure that malware using known CVEs does not affect your EC2 instances. In a previous blog post, Eric Fitzgerald showed how to remediate Amazon Inspector security findings automatically.

Install the Amazon Inspector agent

To install the Amazon Inspector agent, you will use EC2 Run Command, which allows you to run any command on any of your EC2 instances that have the Systems Manager agent with an attached IAM role that allows access to Systems Manager.

  1. Choose Run Command under Systems Manager Services in the navigation pane of the EC2 console. Then choose Run a command.
    Screenshot of choosing "Run a command"
  2. To install the Amazon Inspector agent, you will use an AWS managed and provided command document that downloads and installs the agent for you on the selected EC2 instance. Choose AmazonInspector-ManageAWSAgent. To choose the target EC2 instance where this command will be run, use the tag you previously assigned to your EC2 instance, Patch Group, with a value of Windows Servers. For this example, set the concurrent installations to 1 and tell Systems Manager to stop after 5 errors.
    Screenshot of installing the Amazon Inspector agent
  3. Retain the default values for all other settings on the Run a command page and choose Run. Back on the Run Command page, you can see if the command that installed the Amazon Inspector agent executed successfully on all selected EC2 instances.
    Screenshot showing that the command that installed the Amazon Inspector agent executed successfully on all selected EC2 instances

Set up notifications using Amazon SNS

Now that you have installed the Amazon Inspector agent, you will set up an SNS topic that will notify you of any findings after an Amazon Inspector run.

To set up an SNS topic:

  1. In the AWS Management Console, choose Simple Notification Service under Messaging in the Services menu.
  2. Choose Create topic, name your topic (only alphanumeric characters, hyphens, and underscores are allowed) and give it a display name to ensure you know what this topic does (I’ve named mine Inspector). Choose Create topic.
    "Create new topic" page
  3. To allow Amazon Inspector to publish messages to your new topic, choose Other topic actions and choose Edit topic policy.
  4. For Allow these users to publish messages to this topic and Allow these users to subscribe to this topic, choose Only these AWS users. Type the following ARN for the US East (N. Virginia) Region in which you are deploying the solution in this post: arn:aws:iam::316112463485:root. This is the ARN of Amazon Inspector itself. For the ARNs of Amazon Inspector in other AWS Regions, see Setting Up an SNS Topic for Amazon Inspector Notifications (Console). Amazon Resource Names (ARNs) uniquely identify AWS resources across all of AWS.
    Screenshot of editing the topic policy
  5. To receive notifications from Amazon Inspector, subscribe to your new topic by choosing Create subscription and adding your email address. After confirming your subscription by clicking the link in the email, the topic should display your email address as a subscriber. Later, you will configure the Amazon Inspector template to publish to this topic.
    Screenshot of subscribing to the new topic

Define an Amazon Inspector target and template

Now that you have set up the notification topic by which Amazon Inspector can notify you of findings, you can create an Amazon Inspector target and template. A target defines which EC2 instances are in scope for Amazon Inspector. A template defines which packages to run, for how long, and on which target.

To create an Amazon Inspector target:

  1. Navigate to the Amazon Inspector console and choose Get started. At the time of writing this blog post, Amazon Inspector is available in the US East (N. Virginia), US West (N. California), US West (Oregon), EU (Ireland), Asia Pacific (Mumbai), Asia Pacific (Seoul), Asia Pacific (Sydney), and Asia Pacific (Tokyo) Regions.
  2. For Amazon Inspector to be able to collect the necessary data from your EC2 instance, you must create an IAM service role for Amazon Inspector. Amazon Inspector can create this role for you if you choose Choose or create role and confirm the role creation by choosing Allow.
    Screenshot of creating an IAM service role for Amazon Inspector
  3. Amazon Inspector also asks you to tag your EC2 instance and install the Amazon Inspector agent. You already performed these steps in Part 1 of this post, so you can proceed by choosing Next. To define the Amazon Inspector target, choose the previously used Patch Group tag with a Value of Windows Servers. This is the same tag that you used to define the targets for patching. Then choose Next.
    Screenshot of defining the Amazon Inspector target
  4. Now, define your Amazon Inspector template, and choose a name and the package you want to run. For this post, use the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures package and choose the default duration of 1 hour. As you can see, the package has a version number, so always select the latest version of the rules package if multiple versions are available.
    Screenshot of defining an assessment template
  5. Configure Amazon Inspector to publish to your SNS topic when findings are reported. You can also choose to receive a notification of a started run, a finished run, or changes in the state of a run. For this blog post, you want to receive notifications if there are any findings. To start, choose Assessment Templates from the Amazon Inspector console and choose your newly created Amazon Inspector assessment template. Choose the icon below SNS topics (see the following screenshot).
    Screenshot of choosing an assessment template
  6. A pop-up appears in which you can choose the previously created topic and the events about which you want SNS to notify you (choose Finding reported).
    Screenshot of choosing the previously created topic and the events about which you want SNS to notify you

Schedule Amazon Inspector assessment runs

The last step in using Amazon Inspector to assess for CVEs is to schedule the Amazon Inspector template to run using Amazon CloudWatch Events. This will make sure that Amazon Inspector assesses your EC2 instance on a regular basis. To do this, you need the Amazon Inspector template ARN, which you can find under Assessment templates in the Amazon Inspector console. CloudWatch Events can run your Amazon Inspector assessment at an interval you define using a Cron-based schedule. Cron is a well-known scheduling agent that is widely used on UNIX-like operating systems and uses the following syntax for CloudWatch Events.

Image of Cron schedule

All scheduled events use a UTC time zone, and the minimum precision for schedules is one minute. For more information about scheduling CloudWatch Events, see Schedule Expressions for Rules.

To create the CloudWatch Events rule:

  1. Navigate to the CloudWatch console, choose Events, and choose Create rule.
    Screenshot of starting to create a rule in the CloudWatch Events console
  2. On the next page, specify if you want to invoke your rule based on an event pattern or a schedule. For this blog post, you will select a schedule based on a Cron expression.
  3. You can schedule the Amazon Inspector assessment any time you want using the Cron expression, or you can use the Cron expression I used in the following screenshot, which will run the Amazon Inspector assessment every Sunday at 10:00 P.M. GMT.
    Screenshot of scheduling an Amazon Inspector assessment with a Cron expression
  4. Choose Add target and choose Inspector assessment template from the drop-down menu. Paste the ARN of the Amazon Inspector template you previously created in the Amazon Inspector console in the Assessment template box and choose Create a new role for this specific resource. This new role is necessary so that CloudWatch Events has the necessary permissions to start the Amazon Inspector assessment. CloudWatch Events will automatically create the new role and grant the minimum set of permissions needed to run the Amazon Inspector assessment. To proceed, choose Configure details.
    Screenshot of adding a target
  5. Next, give your rule a name and a description. I suggest using a name that describes what the rule does, as shown in the following screenshot.
  6. Finish the wizard by choosing Create rule. The rule should appear in the Events – Rules section of the CloudWatch console.
    Screenshot of completing the creation of the rule
  7. To confirm your CloudWatch Events rule works, wait for the next time your CloudWatch Events rule is scheduled to run. For testing purposes, you can choose your CloudWatch Events rule and choose Edit to change the schedule to run it sooner than scheduled.
    Screenshot of confirming the CloudWatch Events rule works
  8. Now navigate to the Amazon Inspector console to confirm the launch of your first assessment run. The Start time column shows you the time each assessment started and the Status column the status of your assessment. In the following screenshot, you can see Amazon Inspector is busy Collecting data from the selected assessment targets.
    Screenshot of confirming the launch of the first assessment run

You have concluded the last step of this blog post by setting up a regular scan of your EC2 instance with Amazon Inspector and a notification that will let you know if your EC2 instance is vulnerable to any known CVEs. In a previous Security Blog post, Eric Fitzgerald explained How to Remediate Amazon Inspector Security Findings Automatically. Although that blog post is for Linux-based EC2 instances, the post shows that you can learn about Amazon Inspector findings in other ways than email alerts.

Conclusion

In this two-part blog post, I showed how to make sure you keep your EC2 instances up to date with patching, how to back up your instances with snapshots, and how to monitor your instances for CVEs. Collectively these measures help to protect your instances against common attack vectors that attempt to exploit known vulnerabilities. In Part 1, I showed how to configure your EC2 instances to make it easy to use Systems Manager, EBS Snapshot Scheduler, and Amazon Inspector. I also showed how to use Systems Manager to schedule automatic patches to keep your instances current in a timely fashion. In Part 2, I showed you how to take regular snapshots of your data by using EBS Snapshot Scheduler and how to use Amazon Inspector to check if your EC2 instances running Microsoft Windows contain any common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs).

If you have comments about today’s or yesterday’s post, submit them in the “Comments” section below. If you have questions about or issues implementing any part of this solution, start a new thread on the Amazon EC2 forum or the Amazon Inspector forum, or contact AWS Support.

– Koen

Now You Can Use AWS Shield Advanced to Help Protect Your Amazon EC2 Instances and Network Load Balancers

Post Syndicated from Ritwik Manan original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/now-you-can-use-aws-shield-advanced-to-protect-your-amazon-ec2-instances-and-network-load-balancers/

AWS Shield image

Starting today, AWS Shield Advanced can help protect your Amazon EC2 instances and Network Load Balancers against infrastructure-layer Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. Enable AWS Shield Advanced on an AWS Elastic IP address and attach the address to an internet-facing EC2 instance or Network Load Balancer. AWS Shield Advanced automatically detects the type of AWS resource behind the Elastic IP address and mitigates DDoS attacks.

AWS Shield Advanced also ensures that all your Amazon VPC network access control lists (ACLs) are automatically executed on AWS Shield at the edge of the AWS network, giving you access to additional bandwidth and scrubbing capacity as well as mitigating large volumetric DDoS attacks. You also can customize additional mitigations on AWS Shield by engaging the AWS DDoS Response Team, which can preconfigure the mitigations or respond to incidents as they happen. For every incident detected by AWS Shield Advanced, you also get near-real-time visibility via Amazon CloudWatch metrics and details about the incident, such as the geographic origin and source IP address of the attack.

AWS Shield Advanced for Elastic IP addresses extends the coverage of DDoS cost protection, which safeguards against scaling charges as a result of a DDoS attack. DDoS cost protection now allows you to request service credits for Elastic Load Balancing, Amazon CloudFront, Amazon Route 53, and your EC2 instance hours in the event that these increase as the result of a DDoS attack.

Get started protecting EC2 instances and Network Load Balancers

To get started:

  1. Sign in to the AWS Management Console and navigate to the AWS WAF and AWS Shield console.
  2. Activate AWS Shield Advanced by choosing Activate AWS Shield Advanced and accepting the terms.
  3. Navigate to Protected Resources through the navigation pane.
  4. Choose the Elastic IP addresses that you want to protect (these can point to EC2 instances or Network Load Balancers).

If AWS Shield Advanced detects a DDoS attack, you can get details about the attack by checking CloudWatch, or the Incidents tab on the AWS WAF and AWS Shield console. To learn more about this new feature and AWS Shield Advanced, see the AWS Shield home page.

If you have comments or questions about this post, submit them in the “Comments” section below, start a new thread in the AWS Shield forum, or contact AWS Support.

– Ritwik

Your Holiday Cybersecurity Guide

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/11/your-holiday-cybersecurity-guide.html

Many of us are visiting parents/relatives this Thanksgiving/Christmas, and will have an opportunity to help our them with cybersecurity issues. I thought I’d write up a quick guide of the most important things.

1. Stop them from reusing passwords

By far the biggest threat to average people is that they re-use the same password across many websites, so that when one website gets hacked, all their accounts get hacked.
To demonstrate the problem, go to haveibeenpwned.com and enter the email address of your relatives. This will show them a number of sites where their password has already been stolen, like LinkedIn, Adobe, etc. That should convince them of the severity of the problem.

They don’t need a separate password for every site. You don’t care about the majority of website whether you get hacked. Use a common password for all the meaningless sites. You only need unique passwords for important accounts, like email, Facebook, and Twitter.

Write down passwords and store them in a safe place. Sure, it’s a common joke that people in offices write passwords on Post-It notes stuck on their monitors or under their keyboards. This is a common security mistake, but that’s only because the office environment is widely accessible. Your home isn’t, and there’s plenty of places to store written passwords securely, such as in a home safe. Even if it’s just a desk drawer, such passwords are safe from hackers, because they aren’t on a computer.

Write them down, with pen and paper. Don’t put them in a MyPasswords.doc, because when a hacker breaks in, they’ll easily find that document and easily hack your accounts.

You might help them out with getting a password manager, or two-factor authentication (2FA). Good 2FA like YubiKey will stop a lot of phishing threats. But this is difficult technology to learn, and of course, you’ll be on the hook for support issues, such as when they lose the device. Thus, while 2FA is best, I’m only recommending pen-and-paper to store passwords. (AccessNow has a guide, though I think YubiKey/U2F keys for Facebook and GMail are the best).

2. Lock their phone (passcode, fingerprint, faceprint)
You’ll lose your phone at some point. It has the keys all all your accounts, like email and so on. With your email, phones thieves can then reset passwords on all your other accounts. Thus, it’s incredibly important to lock the phone.

Apple has made this especially easy with fingerprints (and now faceprints), so there’s little excuse not to lock the phone.

Note that Apple iPhones are the most secure. I give my mother my old iPhones so that they will have something secure.

My mom demonstrates a problem you’ll have with the older generation: she doesn’t reliably have her phone with her, and charged. She’s the opposite of my dad who religiously slaved to his phone. Even a small change to make her lock her phone means it’ll be even more likely she won’t have it with her when you need to call her.

3. WiFi (WPA)
Make sure their home WiFi is WPA encrypted. It probably already is, but it’s worthwhile checking.

The password should be written down on the same piece of paper as all the other passwords. This is importance. My parents just moved, Comcast installed a WiFi access point for them, and they promptly lost the piece of paper. When I wanted to debug some thing on their network today, they didn’t know the password, and couldn’t find the paper. Get that password written down in a place it won’t get lost!

Discourage them from extra security features like “SSID hiding” and/or “MAC address filtering”. They provide no security benefit, and actually make security worse. It means a phone has to advertise the SSID when away from home, and it makes MAC address randomization harder, both of which allows your privacy to be tracked.

If they have a really old home router, you should probably replace it, or at least update the firmware. A lot of old routers have hacks that allow hackers (like me masscaning the Internet) to easily break in.

4. Ad blockers or Brave

Most of the online tricks that will confuse your older parents will come via advertising, such as popups claiming “You are infected with a virus, click here to clean it”. Installing an ad blocker in the browser, such as uBlock Origin, stops most all this nonsense.

For example, here’s a screenshot of going to the “Speedtest” website to test the speed of my connection (I took this on the plane on the way home for Thanksgiving). Ignore the error (plane’s firewall Speedtest) — but instead look at the advertising banner across the top of the page insisting you need to download a browser extension. This is tricking you into installing malware — the ad appears as if it’s a message from Speedtest, it’s not. Speedtest is just selling advertising and has no clue what the banner says. This sort of thing needs to be blocked — it fools even the technologically competent.

uBlock Origin for Chrome is the one I use. Another option is to replace their browser with Brave, a browser that blocks ads, but at the same time, allows micropayments to support websites you want to support. I use Brave on my iPhone.
A side benefit of ad blockers or Brave is that web surfing becomes much faster, since you aren’t downloading all this advertising. The smallest NYtimes story is 15 megabytes in size due to all the advertisements, for example.

5. Cloud Backups
Do backups, in the cloud. It’s a good idea in general, especially with the threat of ransomware these days.

In particular, consider your photos. Over time, they will be lost, because people make no effort to keep track of them. All hard drives will eventually crash, deleting your photos. Sure, a few key ones are backed up on Facebook for life, but the rest aren’t.
There are so many excellent online backup services out there, like DropBox and Backblaze. Or, you can use the iCloud feature that Apple provides. My favorite is Microsoft’s: I already pay $99 a year for Office 365 subscription, and it comes with 1-terabyte of online storage.

6. Separate email accounts
You should have three email accounts: work, personal, and financial.

First, you really need to separate your work account from personal. The IT department is already getting misdirected emails with your spouse/lover that they don’t want to see. Any conflict with your work, such as getting fired, gives your private correspondence to their lawyers.

Second, you need a wholly separate account for financial stuff, like Amazon.com, your bank, PayPal, and so on. That prevents confusion with phishing attacks.

Consider this warning today:

If you had split accounts, you could safely ignore this. The USPS would only your financial email account, which gets no phishing attacks, because it’s not widely known. When your receive the phishing attack on your personal email, you ignore it, because you know the USPS doesn’t know your personal email account.

Phishing emails are so sophisticated that even experts can’t tell the difference. Splitting financial from personal emails makes it so you don’t have to tell the difference — anything financial sent to personal email can safely be ignored.

7. Deauth those apps!

Twitter user @tompcoleman comments that we also need deauth apps.
Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google encourage you to enable “apps” that work their platforms, often demanding privileges to generate messages on your behalf. The typical scenario is that you use them only once or twice and forget about them.
A lot of them are hostile. For example, my niece’s twitter account would occasional send out advertisements, and she didn’t know why. It’s because a long time ago, she enabled an app with the permission to send tweets for her. I had to sit down and get rid of most of her apps.
Now would be a good time to go through your relatives Facebook, Twitter, and Google/GMail and disable those apps. Don’t be a afraid to be ruthless — they probably weren’t using them anyway. Some will still be necessary. For example, Twitter for iPhone shows up in the list of Twitter apps. The URL for editing these apps for Twitter is https://twitter.com/settings/applications. Google link is here (thanks @spextr). I don’t know of simple URLs for Facebook, but you should find it somewhere under privacy/security settings.
Update: Here’s a more complete guide for a even more social media services.
https://www.permissions.review/

8. Up-to-date software? maybe

I put this last because it can be so much work.

You should install the latest OS (Windows 10, macOS High Sierra), and also turn on automatic patching.

But remember it may not be worth the huge effort involved. I want my parents to be secure — but no so secure I have to deal with issues.

For example, when my parents updated their HP Print software, the icon on the desktop my mom usually uses to scan things in from the printer disappeared, and needed me to spend 15 minutes with her helping find the new way to access the software.
However, I did get my mom a new netbook to travel with instead of the old WinXP one. I want to get her a Chromebook, but she doesn’t want one.
For iOS, you can probably make sure their phones have the latest version without having these usability problems.

Conclusion

You can’t solve every problem for your relatives, but these are the more critical ones.

Access Resources in a VPC from AWS CodeBuild Builds

Post Syndicated from John Pignata original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/devops/access-resources-in-a-vpc-from-aws-codebuild-builds/

John Pignata, Startup Solutions Architect, Amazon Web Services

In this blog post we’re going to discuss a new AWS CodeBuild feature that is available starting today. CodeBuild builds can now access resources in a VPC directly without these resources being exposed to the public internet. These resources include Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) databases, Amazon ElastiCache clusters, internal services running on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), and Amazon EC2 Container Service (Amazon ECS), or any service endpoints that are only reachable from within a specific VPC.

CodeBuild is a fully managed build service that compiles source code, runs tests, and produces software packages that are ready to deploy. As part of the build process, developers often require access to resources that should be isolated from the public Internet. Now CodeBuild builds can be optionally configured to have VPC connectivity and access these resources directly.

Accessing Resources in a VPC

You can configure builds to have access to a VPC when you create a CodeBuild project or you can update an existing CodeBuild project with VPC configuration attributes. Here’s how it looks in the console:

 

To configure VPC connectivity: select a VPC, one or more subnets within that VPC, and one or more VPC security groups that CodeBuild should apply when attaching to your VPC. Once configured, commands running as part of your build will be able to access resources in your VPC without transiting across the public Internet.

Use Cases

The availability of VPC connectivity from CodeBuild builds unlocks many potential uses. For example, you can:

  • Run integration tests from your build against data in an Amazon RDS instance that’s isolated on a private subnet.
  • Query data in an ElastiCache cluster directly from tests.
  • Interact with internal web services hosted on Amazon EC2, Amazon ECS, or services that use internal Elastic Load Balancing.
  • Retrieve dependencies from self-hosted, internal artifact repositories such as PyPI for Python, Maven for Java, npm for Node.js, and so on.
  • Access objects in an Amazon S3 bucket configured to allow access only through a VPC endpoint.
  • Query external web services that require fixed IP addresses through the Elastic IP address of the NAT gateway associated with your subnet(s).

… and more! Your builds can now access any resource that’s hosted in your VPC without any compromise on network isolation.

Internet Connectivity

CodeBuild requires access to resources on the public Internet to successfully execute builds. At a minimum, it must be able to reach your source repository system (such as AWS CodeCommit, GitHub, Bitbucket), Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) to deliver build artifacts, and Amazon CloudWatch Logs to stream logs from the build process. The interface attached to your VPC will not be assigned a public IP address so to enable Internet access from your builds, you will need to set up a managed NAT Gateway or NAT instance for the subnets you configure. You must also ensure your security groups allow outbound access to these services.

IP Address Space

Each running build will be assigned an IP address from one of the subnets in your VPC that you designate for CodeBuild to use. As CodeBuild scales to meet your build volume, ensure that you select subnets with enough address space to accommodate your expected number of concurrent builds.

Service Role Permissions

CodeBuild requires new permissions in order to manage network interfaces on your VPCs. If you create a service role for your new projects, these permissions will be included in that role’s policy automatically. For existing service roles, you can edit the policy document to include the additional actions. For the full policy document to apply to your service role, see Advanced Setup in the CodeBuild documentation.

For more information, see VPC Support in the CodeBuild documentation. We hope you find the ability to access internal resources on a VPC useful in your build processes! If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to reach out to us through the AWS CodeBuild forum or leave a comment!

How to Patch, Inspect, and Protect Microsoft Windows Workloads on AWS—Part 1

Post Syndicated from Koen van Blijderveen original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/how-to-patch-inspect-and-protect-microsoft-windows-workloads-on-aws-part-1/

Most malware tries to compromise your systems by using a known vulnerability that the maker of the operating system has already patched. To help prevent malware from affecting your systems, two security best practices are to apply all operating system patches to your systems and actively monitor your systems for missing patches. In case you do need to recover from a malware attack, you should make regular backups of your data.

In today’s blog post (Part 1 of a two-part post), I show how to keep your Amazon EC2 instances that run Microsoft Windows up to date with the latest security patches by using Amazon EC2 Systems Manager. Tomorrow in Part 2, I show how to take regular snapshots of your data by using Amazon EBS Snapshot Scheduler and how to use Amazon Inspector to check if your EC2 instances running Microsoft Windows contain any common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs).

What you should know first

To follow along with the solution in this post, you need one or more EC2 instances. You may use existing instances or create new instances. For the blog post, I assume this is an EC2 for Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 instance installed from the Amazon Machine Images (AMIs). If you are not familiar with how to launch an EC2 instance, see Launching an Instance. I also assume you launched or will launch your instance in a private subnet. A private subnet is not directly accessible via the internet, and access to it requires either a VPN connection to your on-premises network or a jump host in a public subnet (a subnet with access to the internet). You must make sure that the EC2 instance can connect to the internet using a network address translation (NAT) instance or NAT gateway to communicate with Systems Manager and Amazon Inspector. The following diagram shows how you should structure your Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC). You should also be familiar with Restoring an Amazon EBS Volume from a Snapshot and Attaching an Amazon EBS Volume to an Instance.

Later on, you will assign tasks to a maintenance window to patch your instances with Systems Manager. To do this, the AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) user you are using for this post must have the iam:PassRole permission. This permission allows this IAM user to assign tasks to pass their own IAM permissions to the AWS service. In this example, when you assign a task to a maintenance window, IAM passes your credentials to Systems Manager. This safeguard ensures that the user cannot use the creation of tasks to elevate their IAM privileges because their own IAM privileges limit which tasks they can run against an EC2 instance. You should also authorize your IAM user to use EC2, Amazon Inspector, Amazon CloudWatch, and Systems Manager. You can achieve this by attaching the following AWS managed policies to the IAM user you are using for this example: AmazonInspectorFullAccess, AmazonEC2FullAccess, and AmazonSSMFullAccess.

Architectural overview

The following diagram illustrates the components of this solution’s architecture.

Diagram showing the components of this solution's architecture

For this blog post, Microsoft Windows EC2 is Amazon EC2 for Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 instances with attached Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) volumes, which are running in your VPC. These instances may be standalone Windows instances running your Windows workloads, or you may have joined them to an Active Directory domain controller. For instances joined to a domain, you can be using Active Directory running on an EC2 for Windows instance, or you can use AWS Directory Service for Microsoft Active Directory.

Amazon EC2 Systems Manager is a scalable tool for remote management of your EC2 instances. You will use the Systems Manager Run Command to install the Amazon Inspector agent. The agent enables EC2 instances to communicate with the Amazon Inspector service and run assessments, which I explain in detail later in this blog post. You also will create a Systems Manager association to keep your EC2 instances up to date with the latest security patches.

You can use the EBS Snapshot Scheduler to schedule automated snapshots at regular intervals. You will use it to set up regular snapshots of your Amazon EBS volumes. EBS Snapshot Scheduler is a prebuilt solution by AWS that you will deploy in your AWS account. With Amazon EBS snapshots, you pay only for the actual data you store. Snapshots save only the data that has changed since the previous snapshot, which minimizes your cost.

You will use Amazon Inspector to run security assessments on your EC2 for Windows Server instance. In this post, I show how to assess if your EC2 for Windows Server instance is vulnerable to any of the more than 50,000 CVEs registered with Amazon Inspector.

In today’s and tomorrow’s posts, I show you how to:

  1. Launch an EC2 instance with an IAM role, Amazon EBS volume, and tags that Systems Manager and Amazon Inspector will use.
  2. Configure Systems Manager to install the Amazon Inspector agent and patch your EC2 instances.
  3. Take EBS snapshots by using EBS Snapshot Scheduler to automate snapshots based on instance tags.
  4. Use Amazon Inspector to check if your EC2 instances running Microsoft Windows contain any common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs).

Step 1: Launch an EC2 instance

In this section, I show you how to launch your EC2 instances so that you can use Systems Manager with the instances and use instance tags with EBS Snapshot Scheduler to automate snapshots. This requires three things:

  • Create an IAM role for Systems Manager before launching your EC2 instance.
  • Launch your EC2 instance with Amazon EBS and the IAM role for Systems Manager.
  • Add tags to instances so that you can automate policies for which instances you take snapshots of and when.

Create an IAM role for Systems Manager

Before launching your EC2 instance, I recommend that you first create an IAM role for Systems Manager, which you will use to update the EC2 instance you will launch. AWS already provides a preconfigured policy that you can use for your new role, and it is called AmazonEC2RoleforSSM.

  1. Sign in to the IAM console and choose Roles in the navigation pane. Choose Create new role.
    Screenshot of choosing "Create role"
  2. In the role-creation workflow, choose AWS service > EC2 > EC2 to create a role for an EC2 instance.
    Screenshot of creating a role for an EC2 instance
  3. Choose the AmazonEC2RoleforSSM policy to attach it to the new role you are creating.
    Screenshot of attaching the AmazonEC2RoleforSSM policy to the new role you are creating
  4. Give the role a meaningful name (I chose EC2SSM) and description, and choose Create role.
    Screenshot of giving the role a name and description

Launch your EC2 instance

To follow along, you need an EC2 instance that is running Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 and that has an Amazon EBS volume attached. You can use any existing instance you may have or create a new instance.

When launching your new EC2 instance, be sure that:

  • The operating system is Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2.
  • You attach at least one Amazon EBS volume to the EC2 instance.
  • You attach the newly created IAM role (EC2SSM).
  • The EC2 instance can connect to the internet through a network address translation (NAT) gateway or a NAT instance.
  • You create the tags shown in the following screenshot (you will use them later).

If you are using an already launched EC2 instance, you can attach the newly created role as described in Easily Replace or Attach an IAM Role to an Existing EC2 Instance by Using the EC2 Console.

Add tags

The final step of configuring your EC2 instances is to add tags. You will use these tags to configure Systems Manager in Step 2 of this blog post and to configure Amazon Inspector in Part 2. For this example, I add a tag key, Patch Group, and set the value to Windows Servers. I could have other groups of EC2 instances that I treat differently by having the same tag key but a different tag value. For example, I might have a collection of other servers with the Patch Group tag key with a value of IAS Servers.

Screenshot of adding tags

Note: You must wait a few minutes until the EC2 instance becomes available before you can proceed to the next section.

At this point, you now have at least one EC2 instance you can use to configure Systems Manager, use EBS Snapshot Scheduler, and use Amazon Inspector.

Note: If you have a large number of EC2 instances to tag, you may want to use the EC2 CreateTags API rather than manually apply tags to each instance.

Step 2: Configure Systems Manager

In this section, I show you how to use Systems Manager to apply operating system patches to your EC2 instances, and how to manage patch compliance.

To start, I will provide some background information about Systems Manager. Then, I will cover how to:

  • Create the Systems Manager IAM role so that Systems Manager is able to perform patch operations.
  • Associate a Systems Manager patch baseline with your instance to define which patches Systems Manager should apply.
  • Define a maintenance window to make sure Systems Manager patches your instance when you tell it to.
  • Monitor patch compliance to verify the patch state of your instances.

Systems Manager is a collection of capabilities that helps you automate management tasks for AWS-hosted instances on EC2 and your on-premises servers. In this post, I use Systems Manager for two purposes: to run remote commands and apply operating system patches. To learn about the full capabilities of Systems Manager, see What Is Amazon EC2 Systems Manager?

Patch management is an important measure to prevent malware from infecting your systems. Most malware attacks look for vulnerabilities that are publicly known and in most cases are already patched by the maker of the operating system. These publicly known vulnerabilities are well documented and therefore easier for an attacker to exploit than having to discover a new vulnerability.

Patches for these new vulnerabilities are available through Systems Manager within hours after Microsoft releases them. There are two prerequisites to use Systems Manager to apply operating system patches. First, you must attach the IAM role you created in the previous section, EC2SSM, to your EC2 instance. Second, you must install the Systems Manager agent on your EC2 instance. If you have used a recent Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 AMI published by AWS, Amazon has already installed the Systems Manager agent on your EC2 instance. You can confirm this by logging in to an EC2 instance and looking for Amazon SSM Agent under Programs and Features in Windows. To install the Systems Manager agent on an instance that does not have the agent preinstalled or if you want to use the Systems Manager agent on your on-premises servers, see the documentation about installing the Systems Manager agent. If you forgot to attach the newly created role when launching your EC2 instance or if you want to attach the role to already running EC2 instances, see Attach an AWS IAM Role to an Existing Amazon EC2 Instance by Using the AWS CLI or use the AWS Management Console.

To make sure your EC2 instance receives operating system patches from Systems Manager, you will use the default patch baseline provided and maintained by AWS, and you will define a maintenance window so that you control when your EC2 instances should receive patches. For the maintenance window to be able to run any tasks, you also must create a new role for Systems Manager. This role is a different kind of role than the one you created earlier: Systems Manager will use this role instead of EC2. Earlier we created the EC2SSM role with the AmazonEC2RoleforSSM policy, which allowed the Systems Manager agent on our instance to communicate with the Systems Manager service. Here we need a new role with the policy AmazonSSMMaintenanceWindowRole to make sure the Systems Manager service is able to execute commands on our instance.

Create the Systems Manager IAM role

To create the new IAM role for Systems Manager, follow the same procedure as in the previous section, but in Step 3, choose the AmazonSSMMaintenanceWindowRole policy instead of the previously selected AmazonEC2RoleforSSM policy.

Screenshot of creating the new IAM role for Systems Manager

Finish the wizard and give your new role a recognizable name. For example, I named my role MaintenanceWindowRole.

Screenshot of finishing the wizard and giving your new role a recognizable name

By default, only EC2 instances can assume this new role. You must update the trust policy to enable Systems Manager to assume this role.

To update the trust policy associated with this new role:

  1. Navigate to the IAM console and choose Roles in the navigation pane.
  2. Choose MaintenanceWindowRole and choose the Trust relationships tab. Then choose Edit trust relationship.
  3. Update the policy document by copying the following policy and pasting it in the Policy Document box. As you can see, I have added the ssm.amazonaws.com service to the list of allowed Principals that can assume this role. Choose Update Trust Policy.
    {
       "Version":"2012-10-17",
       "Statement":[
          {
             "Sid":"",
             "Effect":"Allow",
             "Principal":{
                "Service":[
                   "ec2.amazonaws.com",
                   "ssm.amazonaws.com"
               ]
             },
             "Action":"sts:AssumeRole"
          }
       ]
    }

Associate a Systems Manager patch baseline with your instance

Next, you are going to associate a Systems Manager patch baseline with your EC2 instance. A patch baseline defines which patches Systems Manager should apply. You will use the default patch baseline that AWS manages and maintains. Before you can associate the patch baseline with your instance, though, you must determine if Systems Manager recognizes your EC2 instance.

Navigate to the EC2 console, scroll down to Systems Manager Shared Resources in the navigation pane, and choose Managed Instances. Your new EC2 instance should be available there. If your instance is missing from the list, verify the following:

  1. Go to the EC2 console and verify your instance is running.
  2. Select your instance and confirm you attached the Systems Manager IAM role, EC2SSM.
  3. Make sure that you deployed a NAT gateway in your public subnet to ensure your VPC reflects the diagram at the start of this post so that the Systems Manager agent can connect to the Systems Manager internet endpoint.
  4. Check the Systems Manager Agent logs for any errors.

Now that you have confirmed that Systems Manager can manage your EC2 instance, it is time to associate the AWS maintained patch baseline with your EC2 instance:

  1. Choose Patch Baselines under Systems Manager Services in the navigation pane of the EC2 console.
  2. Choose the default patch baseline as highlighted in the following screenshot, and choose Modify Patch Groups in the Actions drop-down.
    Screenshot of choosing Modify Patch Groups in the Actions drop-down
  3. In the Patch group box, enter the same value you entered under the Patch Group tag of your EC2 instance in “Step 1: Configure your EC2 instance.” In this example, the value I enter is Windows Servers. Choose the check mark icon next to the patch group and choose Close.Screenshot of modifying the patch group

Define a maintenance window

Now that you have successfully set up a role and have associated a patch baseline with your EC2 instance, you will define a maintenance window so that you can control when your EC2 instances should receive patches. By creating multiple maintenance windows and assigning them to different patch groups, you can make sure your EC2 instances do not all reboot at the same time. The Patch Group resource tag you defined earlier will determine to which patch group an instance belongs.

To define a maintenance window:

  1. Navigate to the EC2 console, scroll down to Systems Manager Shared Resources in the navigation pane, and choose Maintenance Windows. Choose Create a Maintenance Window.
    Screenshot of starting to create a maintenance window in the Systems Manager console
  2. Select the Cron schedule builder to define the schedule for the maintenance window. In the example in the following screenshot, the maintenance window will start every Saturday at 10:00 P.M. UTC.
  3. To specify when your maintenance window will end, specify the duration. In this example, the four-hour maintenance window will end on the following Sunday morning at 2:00 A.M. UTC (in other words, four hours after it started).
  4. Systems manager completes all tasks that are in process, even if the maintenance window ends. In my example, I am choosing to prevent new tasks from starting within one hour of the end of my maintenance window because I estimated my patch operations might take longer than one hour to complete. Confirm the creation of the maintenance window by choosing Create maintenance window.
    Screenshot of completing all boxes in the maintenance window creation process
  5. After creating the maintenance window, you must register the EC2 instance to the maintenance window so that Systems Manager knows which EC2 instance it should patch in this maintenance window. To do so, choose Register new targets on the Targets tab of your newly created maintenance window. You can register your targets by using the same Patch Group tag you used before to associate the EC2 instance with the AWS-provided patch baseline.
    Screenshot of registering new targets
  6. Assign a task to the maintenance window that will install the operating system patches on your EC2 instance:
    1. Open Maintenance Windows in the EC2 console, select your previously created maintenance window, choose the Tasks tab, and choose Register run command task from the Register new task drop-down.
    2. Choose the AWS-RunPatchBaseline document from the list of available documents.
    3. For Parameters:
      1. For Role, choose the role you created previously (called MaintenanceWindowRole).
      2. For Execute on, specify how many EC2 instances Systems Manager should patch at the same time. If you have a large number of EC2 instances and want to patch all EC2 instances within the defined time, make sure this number is not too low. For example, if you have 1,000 EC2 instances, a maintenance window of 4 hours, and 2 hours’ time for patching, make this number at least 500.
      3. For Stop after, specify after how many errors Systems Manager should stop.
      4. For Operation, choose Install to make sure to install the patches.
        Screenshot of stipulating maintenance window parameters

Now, you must wait for the maintenance window to run at least once according to the schedule you defined earlier. Note that if you don’t want to wait, you can adjust the schedule to run sooner by choosing Edit maintenance window on the Maintenance Windows page of Systems Manager. If your maintenance window has expired, you can check the status of any maintenance tasks Systems Manager has performed on the Maintenance Windows page of Systems Manager and select your maintenance window.

Screenshot of the maintenance window successfully created

Monitor patch compliance

You also can see the overall patch compliance of all EC2 instances that are part of defined patch groups by choosing Patch Compliance under Systems Manager Services in the navigation pane of the EC2 console. You can filter by Patch Group to see how many EC2 instances within the selected patch group are up to date, how many EC2 instances are missing updates, and how many EC2 instances are in an error state.

Screenshot of monitoring patch compliance

In this section, you have set everything up for patch management on your instance. Now you know how to patch your EC2 instance in a controlled manner and how to check if your EC2 instance is compliant with the patch baseline you have defined. Of course, I recommend that you apply these steps to all EC2 instances you manage.

Summary

In Part 1 of this blog post, I have shown how to configure EC2 instances for use with Systems Manager, EBS Snapshot Scheduler, and Amazon Inspector. I also have shown how to use Systems Manager to keep your Microsoft Windows–based EC2 instances up to date. In Part 2 of this blog post tomorrow, I will show how to take regular snapshots of your data by using EBS Snapshot Scheduler and how to use Amazon Inspector to check if your EC2 instances running Microsoft Windows contain any CVEs.

If you have comments about this post, submit them in the “Comments” section below. If you have questions about or issues implementing this solution, start a new thread on the EC2 forum or the Amazon Inspector forum, or contact AWS Support.

– Koen

Using AWS CodeCommit Pull Requests to request code reviews and discuss code

Post Syndicated from Chris Barclay original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/devops/using-aws-codecommit-pull-requests-to-request-code-reviews-and-discuss-code/

Thank you to Michael Edge, Senior Cloud Architect, for a great blog on CodeCommit pull requests.

~~~~~~~

AWS CodeCommit is a fully managed service for securely hosting private Git repositories. CodeCommit now supports pull requests, which allows repository users to review, comment upon, and interactively iterate on code changes. Used as a collaboration tool between team members, pull requests help you to review potential changes to a CodeCommit repository before merging those changes into the repository. Each pull request goes through a simple lifecycle, as follows:

  • The new features to be merged are added as one or more commits to a feature branch. The commits are not merged into the destination branch.
  • The pull request is created, usually from the difference between two branches.
  • Team members review and comment on the pull request. The pull request might be updated with additional commits that contain changes made in response to comments, or include changes made to the destination branch.
  • Once team members are happy with the pull request, it is merged into the destination branch. The commits are applied to the destination branch in the same order they were added to the pull request.

Commenting is an integral part of the pull request process, and is used to collaborate between the developers and the reviewer. Reviewers add comments and questions to a pull request during the review process, and developers respond to these with explanations. Pull request comments can be added to the overall pull request, a file within the pull request, or a line within a file.

To make the comments more useful, sign in to the AWS Management Console as an AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) user. The username will then be associated with the comment, indicating the owner of the comment. Pull request comments are a great quality improvement tool as they allow the entire development team visibility into what reviewers are looking for in the code. They also serve as a record of the discussion between team members at a point in time, and shouldn’t be deleted.

AWS CodeCommit is also introducing the ability to add comments to a commit, another useful collaboration feature that allows team members to discuss code changed as part of a commit. This helps you discuss changes made in a repository, including why the changes were made, whether further changes are necessary, or whether changes should be merged. As is the case with pull request comments, you can comment on an overall commit, on a file within a commit, or on a specific line or change within a file, and other repository users can respond to your comments. Comments are not restricted to commits, they can also be used to comment on the differences between two branches, or between two tags. Commit comments are separate from pull request comments, i.e. you will not see commit comments when reviewing a pull request – you will only see pull request comments.

A pull request example

Let’s get started by running through an example. We’ll take a typical pull request scenario and look at how we’d use CodeCommit and the AWS Management Console for each of the steps.

To try out this scenario, you’ll need:

  • An AWS CodeCommit repository with some sample code in the master branch. We’ve provided sample code below.
  • Two AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) users, both with the AWSCodeCommitPowerUser managed policy applied to them.
  • Git installed on your local computer, and access configured for AWS CodeCommit.
  • A clone of the AWS CodeCommit repository on your local computer.

In the course of this example, you’ll sign in to the AWS CodeCommit console as one IAM user to create the pull request, and as the other IAM user to review the pull request. To learn more about how to set up your IAM users and how to connect to AWS CodeCommit with Git, see the following topics:

  • Information on creating an IAM user with AWS Management Console access.
  • Instructions on how to access CodeCommit using Git.
  • If you’d like to use the same ‘hello world’ application as used in this article, here is the source code:
package com.amazon.helloworld;

public class Main {
	public static void main(String[] args) {

		System.out.println("Hello, world");
	}
}

The scenario below uses the us-east-2 region.

Creating the branches

Before we jump in and create a pull request, we’ll need at least two branches. In this example, we’ll follow a branching strategy similar to the one described in GitFlow. We’ll create a new branch for our feature from the main development branch (the default branch). We’ll develop the feature in the feature branch. Once we’ve written and tested the code for the new feature in that branch, we’ll create a pull request that contains the differences between the feature branch and the main development branch. Our team lead (the second IAM user) will review the changes in the pull request. Once the changes have been reviewed, the feature branch will be merged into the development branch.

Figure 1: Pull request link

Sign in to the AWS CodeCommit console with the IAM user you want to use as the developer. You can use an existing repository or you can go ahead and create a new one. We won’t be merging any changes to the master branch of your repository, so it’s safe to use an existing repository for this example. You’ll find the Pull requests link has been added just above the Commits link (see Figure 1), and below Commits you’ll find the Branches link. Click Branches and create a new branch called ‘develop’, branched from the ‘master’ branch. Then create a new branch called ‘feature1’, branched from the ‘develop’ branch. You’ll end up with three branches, as you can see in Figure 2. (Your repository might contain other branches in addition to the three shown in the figure).

Figure 2: Create a feature branch

If you haven’t cloned your repo yet, go to the Code link in the CodeCommit console and click the Connect button. Follow the instructions to clone your repo (detailed instructions are here). Open a terminal or command line and paste the git clone command supplied in the Connect instructions for your repository. The example below shows cloning a repository named codecommit-demo:

git clone https://git-codecommit.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/v1/repos/codecommit-demo

If you’ve previously cloned the repo you’ll need to update your local repo with the branches you created. Open a terminal or command line and make sure you’re in the root directory of your repo, then run the following command:

git remote update origin

You’ll see your new branches pulled down to your local repository.

$ git remote update origin
Fetching origin
From https://git-codecommit.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/v1/repos/codecommit-demo
 * [new branch]      develop    -> origin/develop
 * [new branch]      feature1   -> origin/feature1

You can also see your new branches by typing:

git branch --all

$ git branch --all
* master
  remotes/origin/develop
  remotes/origin/feature1
  remotes/origin/master

Now we’ll make a change to the ‘feature1’ branch. Open a terminal or command line and check out the feature1 branch by running the following command:

git checkout feature1

$ git checkout feature1
Branch feature1 set up to track remote branch feature1 from origin.
Switched to a new branch 'feature1'

Make code changes

Edit a file in the repo using your favorite editor and save the changes. Commit your changes to the local repository, and push your changes to CodeCommit. For example:

git commit -am 'added new feature'
git push origin feature1

$ git commit -am 'added new feature'
[feature1 8f6cb28] added new feature
1 file changed, 1 insertion(+), 1 deletion(-)

$ git push origin feature1
Counting objects: 9, done.
Delta compression using up to 4 threads.
Compressing objects: 100% (4/4), done.
Writing objects: 100% (9/9), 617 bytes | 617.00 KiB/s, done.
Total 9 (delta 2), reused 0 (delta 0)
To https://git-codecommit.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/v1/repos/codecommit-demo
   2774a53..8f6cb28  feature1 -> feature1

Creating the pull request

Now we have a ‘feature1’ branch that differs from the ‘develop’ branch. At this point we want to merge our changes into the ‘develop’ branch. We’ll create a pull request to notify our team members to review our changes and check whether they are ready for a merge.

In the AWS CodeCommit console, click Pull requests. Click Create pull request. On the next page select ‘develop’ as the destination branch and ‘feature1’ as the source branch. Click Compare. CodeCommit will check for merge conflicts and highlight whether the branches can be automatically merged using the fast-forward option, or whether a manual merge is necessary. A pull request can be created in both situations.

Figure 3: Create a pull request

After comparing the two branches, the CodeCommit console displays the information you’ll need in order to create the pull request. In the ‘Details’ section, the ‘Title’ for the pull request is mandatory, and you may optionally provide comments to your reviewers to explain the code change you have made and what you’d like them to review. In the ‘Notifications’ section, there is an option to set up notifications to notify subscribers of changes to your pull request. Notifications will be sent on creation of the pull request as well as for any pull request updates or comments. And finally, you can review the changes that make up this pull request. This includes both the individual commits (a pull request can contain one or more commits, available in the Commits tab) as well as the changes made to each file, i.e. the diff between the two branches referenced by the pull request, available in the Changes tab. After you have reviewed this information and added a title for your pull request, click the Create button. You will see a confirmation screen, as shown in Figure 4, indicating that your pull request has been successfully created, and can be merged without conflicts into the ‘develop’ branch.

Figure 4: Pull request confirmation page

Reviewing the pull request

Now let’s view the pull request from the perspective of the team lead. If you set up notifications for this CodeCommit repository, creating the pull request would have sent an email notification to the team lead, and he/she can use the links in the email to navigate directly to the pull request. In this example, sign in to the AWS CodeCommit console as the IAM user you’re using as the team lead, and click Pull requests. You will see the same information you did during creation of the pull request, plus a record of activity related to the pull request, as you can see in Figure 5.

Figure 5: Team lead reviewing the pull request

Commenting on the pull request

You now perform a thorough review of the changes and make a number of comments using the new pull request comment feature. To gain an overall perspective on the pull request, you might first go to the Commits tab and review how many commits are included in this pull request. Next, you might visit the Changes tab to review the changes, which displays the differences between the feature branch code and the develop branch code. At this point, you can add comments to the pull request as you work through each of the changes. Let’s go ahead and review the pull request. During the review, you can add review comments at three levels:

  • The overall pull request
  • A file within the pull request
  • An individual line within a file

The overall pull request
In the Changes tab near the bottom of the page you’ll see a ‘Comments on changes’ box. We’ll add comments here related to the overall pull request. Add your comments as shown in Figure 6 and click the Save button.

Figure 6: Pull request comment

A specific file in the pull request
Hovering your mouse over a filename in the Changes tab will cause a blue ‘comments’ icon to appear to the left of the filename. Clicking the icon will allow you to enter comments specific to this file, as in the example in Figure 7. Go ahead and add comments for one of the files changed by the developer. Click the Save button to save your comment.

Figure 7: File comment

A specific line in a file in the pull request
A blue ‘comments’ icon will appear as you hover over individual lines within each file in the pull request, allowing you to create comments against lines that have been added, removed or are unchanged. In Figure 8, you add comments against a line that has been added to the source code, encouraging the developer to review the naming standards. Go ahead and add line comments for one of the files changed by the developer. Click the Save button to save your comment.

Figure 8: Line comment

A pull request that has been commented at all three levels will look similar to Figure 9. The pull request comment is shown expanded in the ‘Comments on changes’ section, while the comments at file and line level are shown collapsed. A ‘comment’ icon indicates that comments exist at file and line level. Clicking the icon will expand and show the comment. Since you are expecting the developer to make further changes based on your comments, you won’t merge the pull request at this stage, but will leave it open awaiting feedback. Each comment you made results in a notification being sent to the developer, who can respond to the comments. This is great for remote working, where developers and team lead may be in different time zones.

Figure 9: Fully commented pull request

Adding a little complexity

A typical development team is going to be creating pull requests on a regular basis. It’s highly likely that the team lead will merge other pull requests into the ‘develop’ branch while pull requests on feature branches are in the review stage. This may result in a change to the ‘Mergable’ status of a pull request. Let’s add this scenario into the mix and check out how a developer will handle this.

To test this scenario, we could create a new pull request and ask the team lead to merge this to the ‘develop’ branch. But for the sake of simplicity we’ll take a shortcut. Clone your CodeCommit repo to a new folder, switch to the ‘develop’ branch, and make a change to one of the same files that were changed in your pull request. Make sure you change a line of code that was also changed in the pull request. Commit and push this back to CodeCommit. Since you’ve just changed a line of code in the ‘develop’ branch that has also been changed in the ‘feature1’ branch, the ‘feature1’ branch cannot be cleanly merged into the ‘develop’ branch. Your developer will need to resolve this merge conflict.

A developer reviewing the pull request would see the pull request now looks similar to Figure 10, with a ‘Resolve conflicts’ status rather than the ‘Mergable’ status it had previously (see Figure 5).

Figure 10: Pull request with merge conflicts

Reviewing the review comments

Once the team lead has completed his review, the developer will review the comments and make the suggested changes. As a developer, you’ll see the list of review comments made by the team lead in the pull request Activity tab, as shown in Figure 11. The Activity tab shows the history of the pull request, including commits and comments. You can reply to the review comments directly from the Activity tab, by clicking the Reply button, or you can do this from the Changes tab. The Changes tab shows the comments for the latest commit, as comments on previous commits may be associated with lines that have changed or been removed in the current commit. Comments for previous commits are available to view and reply to in the Activity tab.

In the Activity tab, use the shortcut link (which looks like this </>) to move quickly to the source code associated with the comment. In this example, you will make further changes to the source code to address the pull request review comments, so let’s go ahead and do this now. But first, you will need to resolve the ‘Resolve conflicts’ status.

Figure 11: Pull request activity

Resolving the ‘Resolve conflicts’ status

The ‘Resolve conflicts’ status indicates there is a merge conflict between the ‘develop’ branch and the ‘feature1’ branch. This will require manual intervention to restore the pull request back to the ‘Mergable’ state. We will resolve this conflict next.

Open a terminal or command line and check out the develop branch by running the following command:

git checkout develop

$ git checkout develop
Switched to branch 'develop'
Your branch is up-to-date with 'origin/develop'.

To incorporate the changes the team lead made to the ‘develop’ branch, merge the remote ‘develop’ branch with your local copy:

git pull

$ git pull
remote: Counting objects: 9, done.
Unpacking objects: 100% (9/9), done.
From https://git-codecommit.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/v1/repos/codecommit-demo
   af13c82..7b36f52  develop    -> origin/develop
Updating af13c82..7b36f52
Fast-forward
 src/main/java/com/amazon/helloworld/Main.java | 2 +-
 1 file changed, 1 insertion(+), 1 deletion(-)

Then checkout the ‘feature1’ branch:

git checkout feature1

$ git checkout feature1
Switched to branch 'feature1'
Your branch is up-to-date with 'origin/feature1'.

Now merge the changes from the ‘develop’ branch into your ‘feature1’ branch:

git merge develop

$ git merge develop
Auto-merging src/main/java/com/amazon/helloworld/Main.java
CONFLICT (content): Merge conflict in src/main/java/com/amazon/helloworld/Main.java
Automatic merge failed; fix conflicts and then commit the result.

Yes, this fails. The file Main.java has been changed in both branches, resulting in a merge conflict that can’t be resolved automatically. However, Main.java will now contain markers that indicate where the conflicting code is, and you can use these to resolve the issues manually. Edit Main.java using your favorite IDE, and you’ll see it looks something like this:

package com.amazon.helloworld;

import java.util.*;

/**
 * This class prints a hello world message
 */

public class Main {
   public static void main(String[] args) {

<<<<<<< HEAD
        Date todaysdate = Calendar.getInstance().getTime();

        System.out.println("Hello, earthling. Today's date is: " + todaysdate);
=======
      System.out.println("Hello, earth");
>>>>>>> develop
   }
}

The code between HEAD and ‘===’ is the code the developer added in the ‘feature1’ branch (HEAD represents ‘feature1’ because this is the current checked out branch). The code between ‘===’ and ‘>>> develop’ is the code added to the ‘develop’ branch by the team lead. We’ll resolve the conflict by manually merging both changes, resulting in an updated Main.java:

package com.amazon.helloworld;

import java.util.*;

/**
 * This class prints a hello world message
 */

public class Main {
   public static void main(String[] args) {

        Date todaysdate = Calendar.getInstance().getTime();

        System.out.println("Hello, earth. Today's date is: " + todaysdate);
   }
}

After saving the change you can add and commit it to your local repo:

git add src/
git commit -m 'fixed merge conflict by merging changes'

Fixing issues raised by the reviewer

Now you are ready to address the comments made by the team lead. If you are no longer pointing to the ‘feature1’ branch, check out the ‘feature1’ branch by running the following command:

git checkout feature1

$ git checkout feature1
Branch feature1 set up to track remote branch feature1 from origin.
Switched to a new branch 'feature1'

Edit the source code in your favorite IDE and make the changes to address the comments. In this example, the developer has updated the source code as follows:

package com.amazon.helloworld;

import java.util.*;

/**
 *  This class prints a hello world message
 *
 * @author Michael Edge
 * @see HelloEarth
 * @version 1.0
 */

public class Main {
   public static void main(String[] args) {

        Date todaysDate = Calendar.getInstance().getTime();

        System.out.println("Hello, earth. Today's date is: " + todaysDate);
   }
}

After saving the changes, commit and push to the CodeCommit ‘feature1’ branch as you did previously:

git commit -am 'updated based on review comments'
git push origin feature1

Responding to the reviewer

Now that you’ve fixed the code issues you will want to respond to the review comments. In the AWS CodeCommit console, check that your latest commit appears in the pull request Commits tab. You now have a pull request consisting of more than one commit. The pull request in Figure 12 has four commits, which originated from the following activities:

  • 8th Nov: the original commit used to initiate this pull request
  • 10th Nov, 3 hours ago: the commit by the team lead to the ‘develop’ branch, merged into our ‘feature1’ branch
  • 10th Nov, 24 minutes ago: the commit by the developer that resolved the merge conflict
  • 10th Nov, 4 minutes ago: the final commit by the developer addressing the review comments

Figure 12: Pull request with multiple commits

Let’s reply to the review comments provided by the team lead. In the Activity tab, reply to the pull request comment and save it, as shown in Figure 13.

Figure 13: Replying to a pull request comment

At this stage, your code has been committed and you’ve updated your pull request comments, so you are ready for a final review by the team lead.

Final review

The team lead reviews the code changes and comments made by the developer. As team lead, you own the ‘develop’ branch and it’s your decision on whether to merge the changes in the pull request into the ‘develop’ branch. You can close the pull request with or without merging using the Merge and Close buttons at the bottom of the pull request page (see Figure 13). Clicking Close will allow you to add comments on why you are closing the pull request without merging. Merging will perform a fast-forward merge, incorporating the commits referenced by the pull request. Let’s go ahead and click the Merge button to merge the pull request into the ‘develop’ branch.

Figure 14: Merging the pull request

After merging a pull request, development of that feature is complete and the feature branch is no longer needed. It’s common practice to delete the feature branch after merging. CodeCommit provides a check box during merge to automatically delete the associated feature branch, as seen in Figure 14. Clicking the Merge button will merge the pull request into the ‘develop’ branch, as shown in Figure 15. This will update the status of the pull request to ‘Merged’, and will close the pull request.

Conclusion

This blog has demonstrated how pull requests can be used to request a code review, and enable reviewers to get a comprehensive summary of what is changing, provide feedback to the author, and merge the code into production. For more information on pull requests, see the documentation.

Why Linus is right (as usual)

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/11/why-linus-is-right-as-usual.html

People are debating this email from Linus Torvalds (maintainer of the Linux kernel). It has strong language, like:

Some security people have scoffed at me when I say that security
problems are primarily “just bugs”.
Those security people are f*cking morons.
Because honestly, the kind of security person who doesn’t accept that
security problems are primarily just bugs, I don’t want to work with.

I thought I’d explain why Linus is right.
Linus has an unwritten manifesto of how the Linux kernel should be maintained. It’s not written down in one place, instead we are supposed to reverse engineer it from his scathing emails, where he calls people morons for not understanding it. This is one such scathing email. The rules he’s expressing here are:
  • Large changes to the kernel should happen in small iterative steps, each one thoroughly debugged.
  • Minor security concerns aren’t major emergencies; they don’t allow bypassing the rules more than any other bug/feature.
Last year, some security “hardening” code was added to the kernel to prevent a class of buffer-overflow/out-of-bounds issues. This code didn’t address any particular 0day vulnerability, but was designed to prevent a class of future potential exploits from being exploited. This is reasonable.
This code had bugs, but that’s no sin. All code has bugs.
The sin, from Linus’s point of view, is that when an overflow/out-of-bounds access was detected, the code would kill the user-mode process or kernel. Linus thinks it should have only generated warnings, and let the offending code continue to run.
Of course, that would in theory make the change of little benefit, because it would no longer prevent 0days from being exploited.
But warnings would only be temporary, the first step. There’s likely to be be bugs in the large code change, and it would probably uncover bugs in other code. While bounds-checking is a security issue, it’s first implementation will always find existing code having latent bounds bugs. Or, it’ll have “false-positives” triggering on things that aren’t actually the flaws its looking for. Killing things made these bugs worse, causing catastrophic failures in the latest kernel that didn’t exist before. Warnings, however, would have equally highlighted the bugs, but without causing catastrophic failures. My car runs multiple copies of Linux — such catastrophic failures would risk my life.
Only after a year, when the bugs have been fixed, would the default behavior of the code be changed to kill buggy code, thus preventing exploitation.
In other words, large changes to the kernel should happen in small, manageable steps. This hardening hasn’t existed for 25 years of the Linux kernel, so there’s no emergency requiring it be added immediately rather than conservatively, no reason to bypass Linus’s development processes. There’s no reason it couldn’t have been warnings for a year while working out problems, followed by killing buggy code later.
Linus was correct here. No vuln has appeared in the last year that this code would’ve stopped, so the fact that it killed processes/kernels rather than generated warnings was unnecessary. Conversely, because it killed things, bugs in the kernel code were costly, and required emergency patches.
Despite his unreasonable tone, Linus is a hugely reasonable person. He’s not trying to stop changes to the kernel. He’s not trying to stop security improvements. He’s not even trying to stop processes from getting killed That’s not why people are moronic. Instead, they are moronic for not understanding that large changes need to made conservatively, and security issues are no more important than any other feature/bug.

Update: Also, since most security people aren’t developers, they are also a bit clueless how things actually work. Bounds-checking, which they define as purely a security feature to stop buffer-overflows is actually overwhelmingly a debugging feature. When you turn on bounds-checking for the first time, it’ll trigger on a lot of latent bugs in the code — things that never caused a problem in the past (like reading past ends of buffers) but cause trouble now. Developers know this, security “experts” tend not to. These kernel changes were made by security people who failed to understand this, who failed to realize that their changes would uncover lots of bugs in existing code, and that killing buggy code was hugely inappropriate.

Update: Another flaw developers are intimately familiar with is how “hardening” code can cause false-positives, triggering on non-buggy code. A good example is where the BIND9 code crashed on an improper assert(). This hardening code designed to prevent exploitation made things worse by triggering on valid input/code.

Update: No, it’s probably not okay to call people “morons” as Linus does. They may be wrong, but they usually are reasonable people. On the other hand, security people tend to be sanctimonious bastards with rigid thinking, so after he as dealt with that minority, I can see why Linus treats all security people that way.

Use the New Visual Editor to Create and Modify Your AWS IAM Policies

Post Syndicated from Joy Chatterjee original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/use-the-new-visual-editor-to-create-and-modify-your-aws-iam-policies/

Today, AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) made it easier for you to create and modify your IAM policies by using a point-and-click visual editor in the IAM console. The new visual editor guides you through granting permissions for IAM policies without requiring you to write policies in JSON (although you can still author and edit policies in JSON, if you prefer). This update to the IAM console makes it easier to grant least privilege for the AWS service actions you select by listing all the supported resource types and request conditions you can specify. Policy summaries identify unrecognized services and actions and permissions errors when you import existing policies, and now you can use the visual editor to correct them. In this blog post, I give a brief overview of policy concepts and show you how to create a new policy by using the visual editor.

IAM policy concepts

You use IAM policies to define permissions for your IAM entities (groups, users, and roles). Policies are composed of one or more statements that include the following elements:

  • Effect: Determines if a policy statement allows or explicitly denies access.
  • Action: Defines AWS service actions in a policy (these typically map to individual AWS APIs.)
  • Resource: Defines the AWS resources to which actions can apply. The defined resources must be supported by the actions defined in the Action element for permissions to be granted.
  • Condition: Defines when a permission is allowed or denied. The conditions defined in a policy must be supported by the actions defined in the Action element for the permission to be granted.

To grant permissions, you attach policies to groups, users, or roles. Now that I have reviewed the elements of a policy, I will demonstrate how to create an IAM policy with the visual editor.

How to create an IAM policy with the visual editor

Let’s say my human resources (HR) recruiter, Casey, needs to review files located in an Amazon S3 bucket for all the product manager (PM) candidates our HR team has interviewed in 2017. To grant this access, I will create and attach a policy to Casey that grants list and limited read access to all folders that begin with PM_Candidate in the pmrecruiting2017 S3 bucket. To create this new policy, I navigate to the Policies page in the IAM console and choose Create policy. Note that I could also use the visual editor to modify existing policies by choosing Import existing policy; however, for Casey, I will create a new policy.

Image of the "Create policy" button

On the Visual editor tab, I see a section that includes Service, Actions, Resources, and Request Conditions.

Image of the "Visual editor" tab

Select a service

To grant S3 permissions, I choose Select a service, type S3 in the search box, and choose S3 from the list.

Image of choosing "S3"

Select actions

After selecting S3, I can define actions for Casey by using one of four options:

  1. Filter actions in the service by using the search box.
  2. Type actions by choosing Add action next to Manual actions. For example, I can type List* to grant all S3 actions that begin with List*.
  3. Choose access levels from List, Read, Write, Permissions management, and Tagging.
  4. Select individual actions by expanding each access level.

In the following screenshot, I choose options 3 and 4, and choose List and s3:GetObject from the Read access level.

Screenshot of options in the "Select actions" section

We introduced access levels when we launched policy summaries earlier in 2017. Access levels give you a way to categorize actions and help you understand the permissions in a policy. The following table gives you a quick overview of access levels.

Access level Description Example actions
List Actions that allow you to see a list of resources s3:ListBucket, s3:ListAllMyBuckets
Read Actions that allow you to read the content in resources s3:GetObject, s3:GetBucketTagging
Write Actions that allow you to create, delete, or modify resources s3:PutObject, s3:DeleteBucket
Permissions management Actions that allow you to grant or modify permissions to resources s3:PutBucketPolicy
Tagging Actions that allow you to create, delete, or modify tags
Note: Some services support authorization based on tags.
s3:PutBucketTagging, s3:DeleteObjectVersionTagging

Note: By default, all actions you choose will be allowed. To deny actions, choose Switch to deny permissions in the upper right corner of the Actions section.

As shown in the preceding screenshot, if I choose the question mark icon next to GetObject, I can see the description and supported resources and conditions for this action, which can help me scope permissions.

Screenshot of GetObject

The visual editor makes it easy to decide which actions I should select by providing in an integrated documentation panel the action description, supported resources or conditions, and any required actions for every AWS service action. Some AWS service actions have required actions, which are other AWS service actions that need to be granted in a policy for an action to run. For example, the AWS Directory Service action, ds:CreateDirectory, requires seven Amazon EC2 actions to be able to create a Directory Service directory.

Choose resources

In the Resources section, I can choose the resources on which actions can be taken. I choose Resources and see two ways that I can define or select resources:

  1. Define specific resources
  2. Select all resources

Specific is the default option, and only the applicable resources are presented based on the service and actions I chose previously. Because I want to grant Casey access to some objects in a specific bucket, I choose Specific and choose Add ARN under bucket.

Screenshot of Resources section

In the pop-up, I type the bucket name, pmrecruiting2017, and choose Add to specify the S3 bucket resource.

Screenshot of specifying the S3 bucket resource

To specify the objects, I choose Add ARN under object and grant Casey access to all objects starting with PM_Candidate in the pmrecruiting2017 bucket. The visual editor helps you build your Amazon Resource Name (ARN) and validates that it is structured correctly. For AWS services that are AWS Region specific, the visual editor prompts for AWS Region and account number.

The visual editor displays all applicable resources in the Resources section based on the actions I choose. For Casey, I defined an S3 bucket and object in the Resources section. In this example, when the visual editor creates the policy, it creates three statements. The first statement includes all actions that require a wildcard (*) for the Resource element because this action does not support resource-level permissions. The second statement includes all S3 actions that support an S3 bucket. The third statement includes all actions that support an S3 object resource. The visual editor generates policy syntax for you based on supported permissions in AWS services.

Specify request conditions

For additional security, I specify a condition to restrict access to the S3 bucket from inside our internal network. To do this, I choose Specify request conditions in the Request Conditions section, and choose the Source IP check box. A condition is composed of a condition key, an operator, and a value. I choose aws:SourceIp for my Key so that I can control from where the S3 files can be accessed. By default, IpAddress is the Operator, and I set the Value to my internal network.

Screenshot of "Request conditions" section

To add other conditions, choose Add condition and choose Save changes after choosing the key, operator, and value.

After specifying my request condition, I am now able to review all the elements of these S3 permissions.

Screenshot of S3 permissions

Next, I can choose to grant permissions for another service by choosing Add new permissions (bottom left of preceding screenshot), or I can review and create this new policy. Because I have granted all the permissions Casey needs, I choose Review policy. I type a name and a description, and I review the policy summary before choosing Create policy. 

Now that I have created the policy, I attach it to Casey by choosing the Attached entities tab of the policy I just created. I choose Attach and choose Casey. I then choose Attach policy. Casey should now be able to access the interview files she needs to review.

Summary

The visual editor makes it easier to create and modify your IAM policies by guiding you through each element of the policy. The visual editor helps you define resources and request conditions so that you can grant least privilege and generate policies. To start using the visual editor, sign in to the IAM console, navigate to the Policies page, and choose Create policy.

If you have comments about this post, submit them in the “Comments” section below. If you have questions about or suggestions for this solution, start a new thread on the IAM forum.

– Joy

Event-Driven Computing with Amazon SNS and AWS Compute, Storage, Database, and Networking Services

Post Syndicated from Christie Gifrin original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/compute/event-driven-computing-with-amazon-sns-compute-storage-database-and-networking-services/

Contributed by Otavio Ferreira, Manager, Software Development, AWS Messaging

Like other developers around the world, you may be tackling increasingly complex business problems. A key success factor, in that case, is the ability to break down a large project scope into smaller, more manageable components. A service-oriented architecture guides you toward designing systems as a collection of loosely coupled, independently scaled, and highly reusable services. Microservices take this even further. To improve performance and scalability, they promote fine-grained interfaces and lightweight protocols.

However, the communication among isolated microservices can be challenging. Services are often deployed onto independent servers and don’t share any compute or storage resources. Also, you should avoid hard dependencies among microservices, to preserve maintainability and reusability.

If you apply the pub/sub design pattern, you can effortlessly decouple and independently scale out your microservices and serverless architectures. A pub/sub messaging service, such as Amazon SNS, promotes event-driven computing that statically decouples event publishers from subscribers, while dynamically allowing for the exchange of messages between them. An event-driven architecture also introduces the responsiveness needed to deal with complex problems, which are often unpredictable and asynchronous.

What is event-driven computing?

Given the context of microservices, event-driven computing is a model in which subscriber services automatically perform work in response to events triggered by publisher services. This paradigm can be applied to automate workflows while decoupling the services that collectively and independently work to fulfil these workflows. Amazon SNS is an event-driven computing hub, in the AWS Cloud, that has native integration with several AWS publisher and subscriber services.

Which AWS services publish events to SNS natively?

Several AWS services have been integrated as SNS publishers and, therefore, can natively trigger event-driven computing for a variety of use cases. In this post, I specifically cover AWS compute, storage, database, and networking services, as depicted below.

Compute services

  • Auto Scaling: Helps you ensure that you have the correct number of Amazon EC2 instances available to handle the load for your application. You can configure Auto Scaling lifecycle hooks to trigger events, as Auto Scaling resizes your EC2 cluster.As an example, you may want to warm up the local cache store on newly launched EC2 instances, and also download log files from other EC2 instances that are about to be terminated. To make this happen, set an SNS topic as your Auto Scaling group’s notification target, then subscribe two Lambda functions to this SNS topic. The first function is responsible for handling scale-out events (to warm up cache upon provisioning), whereas the second is in charge of handling scale-in events (to download logs upon termination).

  • AWS Elastic Beanstalk: An easy-to-use service for deploying and scaling web applications and web services developed in a number of programming languages. You can configure event notifications for your Elastic Beanstalk environment so that notable events can be automatically published to an SNS topic, then pushed to topic subscribers.As an example, you may use this event-driven architecture to coordinate your continuous integration pipeline (such as Jenkins CI). That way, whenever an environment is created, Elastic Beanstalk publishes this event to an SNS topic, which triggers a subscribing Lambda function, which then kicks off a CI job against your newly created Elastic Beanstalk environment.

  • Elastic Load Balancing: Automatically distributes incoming application traffic across Amazon EC2 instances, containers, or other resources identified by IP addresses.You can configure CloudWatch alarms on Elastic Load Balancing metrics, to automate the handling of events derived from Classic Load Balancers. As an example, you may leverage this event-driven design to automate latency profiling in an Amazon ECS cluster behind a Classic Load Balancer. In this example, whenever your ECS cluster breaches your load balancer latency threshold, an event is posted by CloudWatch to an SNS topic, which then triggers a subscribing Lambda function. This function runs a task on your ECS cluster to trigger a latency profiling tool, hosted on the cluster itself. This can enhance your latency troubleshooting exercise by making it timely.

Storage services

  • Amazon S3: Object storage built to store and retrieve any amount of data.You can enable S3 event notifications, and automatically get them posted to SNS topics, to automate a variety of workflows. For instance, imagine that you have an S3 bucket to store incoming resumes from candidates, and a fleet of EC2 instances to encode these resumes from their original format (such as Word or text) into a portable format (such as PDF).In this example, whenever new files are uploaded to your input bucket, S3 publishes these events to an SNS topic, which in turn pushes these messages into subscribing SQS queues. Then, encoding workers running on EC2 instances poll these messages from the SQS queues; retrieve the original files from the input S3 bucket; encode them into PDF; and finally store them in an output S3 bucket.

  • Amazon EFS: Provides simple and scalable file storage, for use with Amazon EC2 instances, in the AWS Cloud.You can configure CloudWatch alarms on EFS metrics, to automate the management of your EFS systems. For example, consider a highly parallelized genomics analysis application that runs against an EFS system. By default, this file system is instantiated on the “General Purpose” performance mode. Although this performance mode allows for lower latency, it might eventually impose a scaling bottleneck. Therefore, you may leverage an event-driven design to handle it automatically.Basically, as soon as the EFS metric “Percent I/O Limit” breaches 95%, CloudWatch could post this event to an SNS topic, which in turn would push this message into a subscribing Lambda function. This function automatically creates a new file system, this time on the “Max I/O” performance mode, then switches the genomics analysis application to this new file system. As a result, your application starts experiencing higher I/O throughput rates.

  • Amazon Glacier: A secure, durable, and low-cost cloud storage service for data archiving and long-term backup.You can set a notification configuration on an Amazon Glacier vault so that when a job completes, a message is published to an SNS topic. Retrieving an archive from Amazon Glacier is a two-step asynchronous operation, in which you first initiate a job, and then download the output after the job completes. Therefore, SNS helps you eliminate polling your Amazon Glacier vault to check whether your job has been completed, or not. As usual, you may subscribe SQS queues, Lambda functions, and HTTP endpoints to your SNS topic, to be notified when your Amazon Glacier job is done.

  • AWS Snowball: A petabyte-scale data transport solution that uses secure appliances to transfer large amounts of data.You can leverage Snowball notifications to automate workflows related to importing data into and exporting data from AWS. More specifically, whenever your Snowball job status changes, Snowball can publish this event to an SNS topic, which in turn can broadcast the event to all its subscribers.As an example, imagine a Geographic Information System (GIS) that distributes high-resolution satellite images to users via Web browser. In this example, the GIS vendor could capture up to 80 TB of satellite images; create a Snowball job to import these files from an on-premises system to an S3 bucket; and provide an SNS topic ARN to be notified upon job status changes in Snowball. After Snowball changes the job status from “Importing” to “Completed”, Snowball publishes this event to the specified SNS topic, which delivers this message to a subscribing Lambda function, which finally creates a CloudFront web distribution for the target S3 bucket, to serve the images to end users.

Database services

  • Amazon RDS: Makes it easy to set up, operate, and scale a relational database in the cloud.RDS leverages SNS to broadcast notifications when RDS events occur. As usual, these notifications can be delivered via any protocol supported by SNS, including SQS queues, Lambda functions, and HTTP endpoints.As an example, imagine that you own a social network website that has experienced organic growth, and needs to scale its compute and database resources on demand. In this case, you could provide an SNS topic to listen to RDS DB instance events. When the “Low Storage” event is published to the topic, SNS pushes this event to a subscribing Lambda function, which in turn leverages the RDS API to increase the storage capacity allocated to your DB instance. The provisioning itself takes place within the specified DB maintenance window.

  • Amazon ElastiCache: A web service that makes it easy to deploy, operate, and scale an in-memory data store or cache in the cloud.ElastiCache can publish messages using Amazon SNS when significant events happen on your cache cluster. This feature can be used to refresh the list of servers on client machines connected to individual cache node endpoints of a cache cluster. For instance, an ecommerce website fetches product details from a cache cluster, with the goal of offloading a relational database and speeding up page load times. Ideally, you want to make sure that each web server always has an updated list of cache servers to which to connect.To automate this node discovery process, you can get your ElastiCache cluster to publish events to an SNS topic. Thus, when ElastiCache event “AddCacheNodeComplete” is published, your topic then pushes this event to all subscribing HTTP endpoints that serve your ecommerce website, so that these HTTP servers can update their list of cache nodes.

  • Amazon Redshift: A fully managed data warehouse that makes it simple to analyze data using standard SQL and BI (Business Intelligence) tools.Amazon Redshift uses SNS to broadcast relevant events so that data warehouse workflows can be automated. As an example, imagine a news website that sends clickstream data to a Kinesis Firehose stream, which then loads the data into Amazon Redshift, so that popular news and reading preferences might be surfaced on a BI tool. At some point though, this Amazon Redshift cluster might need to be resized, and the cluster enters a ready-only mode. Hence, this Amazon Redshift event is published to an SNS topic, which delivers this event to a subscribing Lambda function, which finally deletes the corresponding Kinesis Firehose delivery stream, so that clickstream data uploads can be put on hold.At a later point, after Amazon Redshift publishes the event that the maintenance window has been closed, SNS notifies a subscribing Lambda function accordingly, so that this function can re-create the Kinesis Firehose delivery stream, and resume clickstream data uploads to Amazon Redshift.

  • AWS DMS: Helps you migrate databases to AWS quickly and securely. The source database remains fully operational during the migration, minimizing downtime to applications that rely on the database.DMS also uses SNS to provide notifications when DMS events occur, which can automate database migration workflows. As an example, you might create data replication tasks to migrate an on-premises MS SQL database, composed of multiple tables, to MySQL. Thus, if replication tasks fail due to incompatible data encoding in the source tables, these events can be published to an SNS topic, which can push these messages into a subscribing SQS queue. Then, encoders running on EC2 can poll these messages from the SQS queue, encode the source tables into a compatible character set, and restart the corresponding replication tasks in DMS. This is an event-driven approach to a self-healing database migration process.

Networking services

  • Amazon Route 53: A highly available and scalable cloud-based DNS (Domain Name System). Route 53 health checks monitor the health and performance of your web applications, web servers, and other resources.You can set CloudWatch alarms and get automated Amazon SNS notifications when the status of your Route 53 health check changes. As an example, imagine an online payment gateway that reports the health of its platform to merchants worldwide, via a status page. This page is hosted on EC2 and fetches platform health data from DynamoDB. In this case, you could configure a CloudWatch alarm for your Route 53 health check, so that when the alarm threshold is breached, and the payment gateway is no longer considered healthy, then CloudWatch publishes this event to an SNS topic, which pushes this message to a subscribing Lambda function, which finally updates the DynamoDB table that populates the status page. This event-driven approach avoids any kind of manual update to the status page visited by merchants.

  • AWS Direct Connect (AWS DX): Makes it easy to establish a dedicated network connection from your premises to AWS, which can reduce your network costs, increase bandwidth throughput, and provide a more consistent network experience than Internet-based connections.You can monitor physical DX connections using CloudWatch alarms, and send SNS messages when alarms change their status. As an example, when a DX connection state shifts to 0 (zero), indicating that the connection is down, this event can be published to an SNS topic, which can fan out this message to impacted servers through HTTP endpoints, so that they might reroute their traffic through a different connection instead. This is an event-driven approach to connectivity resilience.

More event-driven computing on AWS

In addition to SNS, event-driven computing is also addressed by Amazon CloudWatch Events, which delivers a near real-time stream of system events that describe changes in AWS resources. With CloudWatch Events, you can route each event type to one or more targets, including:

Many AWS services publish events to CloudWatch. As an example, you can get CloudWatch Events to capture events on your ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) jobs running on AWS Glue and push failed ones to an SQS queue, so that you can retry them later.

Conclusion

Amazon SNS is a pub/sub messaging service that can be used as an event-driven computing hub to AWS customers worldwide. By capturing events natively triggered by AWS services, such as EC2, S3 and RDS, you can automate and optimize all kinds of workflows, namely scaling, testing, encoding, profiling, broadcasting, discovery, failover, and much more. Business use cases presented in this post ranged from recruiting websites, to scientific research, geographic systems, social networks, retail websites, and news portals.

Start now by visiting Amazon SNS in the AWS Management Console, or by trying the AWS 10-Minute Tutorial, Send Fan-out Event Notifications with Amazon SNS and Amazon SQS.