Amazon Web Services (AWS) will send you important security notifications from time to time related to your account. From a security perspective, the ability for AWS Security to reach you in a timely manner is important whether you have one AWS account or thousands. These notifications could include alerts from AWS Security for potentially fraudulent activity on your AWS account or other messages from AWS Support and service teams regarding security-related topics associated with AWS account usage. This is why we added the alternate security contact—an additional contact field within AWS accounts that you can use to ensure that the right people are notified at the right time.

Make sure you get these notifications in a timely manner by confirming that the contact details on your accounts—especially the security contacts—are accurate and routed to an email account that is regularly monitored. If you have multiple accounts, several teams might need to be notified in the event of a security issue. This could be the account owner, platform teams, and security teams who need to work together to investigate the issue. Contacting only the primary account holder email isn’t always sufficient, particularly in time-sensitive situations. Larger organizations with decentralized development teams—but with a centralized security or governance function—may need to notify a non-technical primary account holder, who might be a business owner with little insight into the workloads within the account. Using a centralized security contact email address for multiple accounts that points to a shared inbox or a distribution list is typically the best practice. Providing additional contact details so that AWS can alert multiple contacts gives centralized teams a better view of decentralized environments, while also reducing the risk of a bottleneck in communications from AWS.

Note: Although AWS Organizations enables many aspects of account management to be done centrally, notifications typically are performed on a per-account basis. To update your account details across multiple accounts, try the new API for programmatically managing alternate contacts on member accounts with AWS Organizations.

Consider the challenges faced by a central security team for a large, diversified corporation; or for a large government agency with a wide range of sub-agencies, contractors, or resellers running workloads on their behalf. The primary account holder might be several steps removed from the central security team. In these cases, and particularly with contractors or resellers, these groups might not be part of the same AWS Organizations account. Having a single security contact email address in all the relevant AWS accounts gives the central security team a way to be notified of issues in these accounts.

To create better security communications with our customers, AWS has modified our internal systems and practices to send security-related email notifications to both the primary account holder as well as the alternate security contact (if provided). In some cases, what you have entered in the alternate security contact full name field will also be included in this email outreach. You can use the full name field to provide useful context regarding the account to help expedite investigation and remediation by a central security team. As a best practice, don’t include sensitive information in the full name field.

Conclusion

Make sure that the primary and alternate account contact details are set up for the workload owners and any additional teams that need to see security notifications. Pay special attention to accurate information for the security contact because AWS will use that email address for security-related outbound notifications. Centralize those security notifications where appropriate by using a common shared inbox or distribution list across multiple AWS accounts. Account management information can be found at Managing an AWS account. You can use the newly launched account management API for programmatically monitoring and updating as appropriate the alternate contacts on individual accounts or on member accounts with AWS Organizations.

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Author

Steven Bedeker

Steven is a Security Technical Program Manager at AWS. Prior to AWS, he focused on distributed compute/virtualization and security capabilities with a Fortune 50 enterprise for 20+ years.

Categories: Security