What is MFA and Why it’s important? – Security in Cloud

When you talk about cloud you may have heard about MFA.

Why MFA is important? Before I go into that let me tell you a couple of true incidents.

You may have heard about a company called Code Spaces. But for those who don’t know Code Spaces “was” a code repository company like GitHub.

One day a hacker got control  of the AWS Management Console of Code Space.

Hacker sent a mail to company asking for huge ransom to be paid in 12 hours or he will delete all the data in their AWS account. Many of the Code Spaces engineers tried to get access of their company’s AWS account but failed as the hacker created many backdoor users in account. At the end of time limit hacker deleted everything which was in company’s AWS account which includes all servers, databases and even backups. And within a day company almost get wiped out. You can read the full story here .

Now you must be thinking that I am just a developer or sysops guy and not much of value is in my personal AWS account so i can live without MFA. Unfortunately you are wrong my friend.

We have seen many incidents when developers put their Access key ID and Secret Access Key in code so that they don’t have to authenticate manually.  But these developers may want to work with their friend on the code and they upload it on GitHub. Now the problem is that there are hackers who just search the GitHub to get these keys. And, once they get the key they can easily login to your AWS account.  You  may not have anything valuable in your AWS account, but what the hackers do is they spin up huge instances in your account . They use this computing power for Bit Mining. Once they are done with mining they get the money and you get the bill from AWS. (At times we have seen that AWS may waive off your bill in this situation as one time exception but if you are not so lucky, you may have to pay the huge bill in hundreds or thousands of dollars.) You can check Joe’s detailed story here .

In both the cases the hacking could have been avoided if MFA was activated on account.

So what is MFA?

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MFA is Multi Factor Authentication. This is like second level of security for your account.

MFA can be activated through multiple ways including SMS(Text message) or an Application like Google Authenticator in you mobile phone.  By enabling this you add an additional authentication to your account. So once you enable MFA you will enter an additional changing code with your normal login ID and password.

For my account I use Google Authenticator. It’s a free App available on iOS and Android app stores.

How can you enable MFA?

It’s simple, Amazon has given clear steps about how to do it. But if you are not sure follow this post  How to enable MFA in AWS for free?

MFA is easiest and quickest way of defense against hackers. You should also follow other security hardening measures to keep yourself safe in cloud. I’ll discuss about them in next post.

For now it’s recommended you should enable MFA in your account ASAP. Even if you are using Azure or any other Cloud you should enable MFA. Remember security in Cloud is shared responsibility.

Be Safe!

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