Hardening the Windows worker node¶
Windows Server hardening involves identifying and remediating security vulnerabilities before they are exploited.
This guide focus specifically on Windows nodes running on Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS).
Reducing attack surface with Windows Server Core¶
Windows Server Core is a minimal installation option that is available as part of the EKS Optimized Windows AMI. Deploying Windows Server Core has a couple benefits. First, it has a relatively small disk footprint being 6GB on Server Core against 10GB on Windows Server with Desktop experience. Second, it has smaller attack surface because of its smaller code base.
You can specify the Server Core EKS Optimized AMI for Windows when you deploy your nodes through
eksctl or Cloudformation.
The example below is an eksctl manifest for a Windows node group based on Windows Server Core 2004:
The amiFamily name conventions can be found on the eksctl official documentation.
Avoiding RDP connections¶
Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) is a connection protocol developed by Microsoft to provide users with a graphical interface to connect to another Windows computer over a network.
As a best practice, you should treat your Windows worker nodes as if they were immutable. That means no management connections, no updates, and no troubleshooting. Any modification and update should be implemented as a new custom AMI and replaced by updating an Auto Scaling group. See Patching Windows Servers and Containers and Amazon EKS optimized Windows AMI management.
Disable RDP connections on Windows nodes during the deployment by passing the value false on the ssh property, as the example below:
If access to the Windows node is needed, use AWS System Manager Session Manager to establish a secure PowerShell session through the AWS Console and SSM agent. To see how to implement the solution watch Securely Access Windows Instances Using AWS Systems Manager Session Manager
In order to use System Manager Session Manager an additional IAM policy must be applied to the Windows nodes. Below is an example where the AmazonSSMManagedInstanceCore is specified in the
eksctl cluster manifest:
nodeGroups: - name: windows-ng instanceType: c5.xlarge minSize: 1 volumeSize: 50 amiFamily: WindowsServer2019CoreContainer ssh: allow: false iam: attachPolicyARNs: - arn:aws:iam::aws:policy/AmazonEKSWorkerNodePolicy - arn:aws:iam::aws:policy/AmazonEKS_CNI_Policy - arn:aws:iam::aws:policy/ElasticLoadBalancingFullAccess - arn:aws:iam::aws:policy/AmazonEC2ContainerRegistryReadOnly - arn:aws:iam::aws:policy/AmazonSSMManagedInstanceCore
Amazon Inspector is an automated security assessment service that helps improve the security and compliance of applications deployed on AWS. Amazon Inspector automatically assesses applications for exposure, vulnerabilities, and deviations from best practices. After performing an assessment, Amazon Inspector produces a detailed list of security findings prioritized by level of severity. These findings can be reviewed directly or as part of detailed assessment reports which are available via the Amazon Inspector console or API.
Amazon Inspector can be used to run CIS Benchmark assessment on the Windows worker node and it can be installed on a Windows Server Core by performing the following tasks:
- Download the following .exe file: https://inspector-agent.amazonaws.com/windows/installer/latest/AWSAgentInstall.exe
- Transfer the agent to the Windows worker node.
- Run the following command on PowerShell to install the Amazon Inspector Agent:
Below is the ouput after the first run. As you can see, it generated findings based on the CVE database. You can use this to harden your Worker nodes or create an AMI based on the hardened configurations.
For more information on Amazon Inspector, including how to install Amazon Inspector agents, set up the CIS Benchmark assessment, and generate reports, watch the Improving the security and compliance of Windows Workloads with Amazon Inspector video.
Amazon GuardDuty is a threat detection service that continuously monitors for malicious activity and unauthorized behavior to protect your AWS accounts, workloads, and data stored in Amazon S3. With the cloud, the collection and aggregation of account and network activities is simplified, but it can be time consuming for security teams to continuously analyze event log data for potential threats.
By using Amazon GuardDuty you have visilitiby on malicious actitivy against Windows worker nodes, like RDP brute force and Port Probe attacks.
Watch the Threat Detection for Windows Workloads using Amazon GuardDuty video to learn how to implement and run CIS Benchmarks on Optimized EKS Windows AMI
Security in Amazon EC2 for Windows¶
Read up on the Security best practices for Amazon EC2 Windows instances to implement security controls at every layer.