SEC510: Public Cloud Security: AWS, Azure, and GCP

GIAC Public Cloud Security (GPCS)
GIAC Public Cloud Security (GPCS)
  • In Person (5 days)
  • Online
38 CPEs

SEC510: Public Cloud Security: AWS, Azure, and GCP is an in-depth analysis of the security of managed services for the Big 3 cloud providers: Amazon Web Services, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. Students will leave the course confident that they have the knowledge they need when adopting services and Platform as a Service (PaaS) offerings in each cloud. Students will launch unhardened services, analyze the security configuration, validate that they are insufficiently secure, deploy patches, and validate the remediation.

What You Will Learn

Multiple Clouds Require Multiple Solutions

SEC510: Public Cloud Security: AWS, Azure, and GCP teaches you how the major cloud providers work and how to securely configure and use their services and Platform as a Service (PaaS) offerings.

Organizations in every sector are increasingly adopting cloud offerings to build their online presence. However, although cloud providers are responsible for the security of the cloud, their customers are responsible for what they do in the cloud. Unfortunately, the providers have made the customer's job difficult by offering many services that are insecure by default. Worse yet, with each provider offering hundreds of different services and with many organizations opting to use multiple providers, security teams need a deep understanding of the underlying details of the different services in order to lock them down. As the landscape rapidly evolves and development teams eagerly adopt the next big thing, security is constantly playing catch-up in order to avert disaster.

SEC510 provides cloud security practitioners, analysts, and researchers with an in-depth understanding of the inner workings of the most popular public cloud providers: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Students will learn industry-renowned standards and methodologies, such as the MITRE ATT&CK Cloud Matrix and CIS Cloud Benchmarks, then apply that knowledge in hands-on exercises to assess a modern web application that leverages the cloud native offerings of each provider. Through this process students will learn the philosophies that undergird each provider and how these have influenced their services.

The Big 3 cloud providers alone provide more services than any one company can consume. As security professionals, it can be tempting to limit what the developers use to the tried-and-true solutions of yesteryear. Unfortunately, this approach will inevitably fail as the product development organization sidelines a security entity that is unwilling to change. Functionality drives adoption, not security, and if a team discovers a service offering that can help get its product to market quicker than the competition, it can and should use it. SEC510 gives you the ability to provide relevant and modern guidance and guardrails to these teams to enable them to move both quickly and safely.

This Course Will Prepare You To:

  • Understand the inner workings of cloud services and Platform as a Service (PaaS) offerings in order to make more informed decisions in the cloud
  • Understand the design philosophies that undergird each provider and how these have influenced their services in order to properly prescribe security solutions for them
  • Discover the unfortunate truth that many cloud services are adopted before their security controls are fully fleshed out
  • Understand Amazon Web Services (AWS), Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) in depth.
  • Understand the intricacies of Identity and Access Management, one of the most fundamental concepts in the cloud and yet one of the last understood
  • Understand cloud networking and how locking it down is a critical aspect of defense-in-depth in the cloud
  • Analyze how each provider handles encryption at rest and in transit in order to prevent sensitive data loss
  • Apply defense-in-depth techniques to protect data in cloud storage
  • Compare and contrast the serverless platforms of each provider
  • Explore the service offering landscape to discover what is driving the adoption of multiple cloud platforms and to assess the security of services at the bleeding edge (such as the Firebase platform)
  • Utilize multicloud IAM and cloud Single Sign-On to provide secure access to resources across cloud accounts and providers
  • Automate security and compliance checks using cloud-native platforms and open-source solutions
  • Understand Terraform Infrastructure-as-Code well enough to share it with your engineering team as a starting point for implementing the controls discussed in the course
  • Read and understand Terraform Infrastructure as Code configuration for the AWS, Azure, and GCP clouds
  • Perform security reviews on Terraform Infrastructure as Code to identify cloud misconfigurations

SEC510 also offers students an opportunity to participate in CloudWars Bonus Challenges each day in a gamified environment, while also providing more hands-on experience with the cloud security and relevant tools.


  • As of May 10, 2021, SEC510 will have extended lab hours on Sections 1-4, running 8 hours per section. Section 5 runs for 6 hours.
  • Amazon Web Services (AWS), Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) accounts are needed in order to do the hands-on exercises during this course. Students must create their cloud accounts prior to the start of class. See Laptop Requirements below for details.


SEC510: Public Cloud Security: AWS, Azure, and GCP consolidates all of the concepts discussed in the lectures through hands-on labs. In the labs, students will assess a modern cloud infrastructure created using Terraform Infrastucture as Code. Each cloud provider will host a multicloud web application written in Next.js, Reach, and Sequilize that leverages the cloud native offerings of each provider. Each lab includes step-by-step guide as well as a "no hints" option for students who want to test their skills without further assistance. This allows students to choose the level of difficulty that is best for them and fall back to the step-by-step guide as needed.

"It is amazing how the lab was able to talk to three live cloud providers at the same time. It was impressive." Christopher Hearn, Harris County

Hands-On Training:

  • Virtual Machine Credential Exposure
  • Harden AWS IAM Policies
  • Harden Azure and GCP IAM Policies
  • Advanced IAM Features
  • Network Lockdown
  • Analyzing Network Traffic
  • Private Endpoint Security
  • Cloud VPN and Managed SSH
  • Audit Decryption Events
  • Encrypt All The Things!
  • Storage Service Lockdown
  • Unauthorized File Sharing
  • Serverless Prey
  • Harden Serverless Functions
  • App Service Security
  • Broken Firebase DB Access Control
  • Multicloud Integration
  • Login with Azure AD
  • Automated Benchmarking
  • CloudWars Daily Bonus Challenges
  • Lab Tear Down

"Excellent exercises to complement the material and very applicable to the sections being discussed." Robert Jones, Educational Testing Service


  • Printed and Electronic courseware
  • MP3 audio files of the course
  • Course virtual machine (VM) with all lab exercises that can be redone outside of class
  • Thousands of lines of Infrastructure-as-Code for each cloud platform that you can use at your organization



SANS courses that are good follow-ups to SEC510:

Although SEC510 uses Terraform Infrastructure-as-Code to deploy and configure services in each cloud for the labs, students will not need in-depth knowledge of Terraform or need to understand any of the syntax used. However, students will be introduced at a high level to what this code accomplishes.

Syllabus (38 CPEs)

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  • Overview

    SEC510 starts with a brief overview of the Big 3 cloud providers. We will examine the factors driving adoption of multiple cloud providers and the rise in popularity of Azure and GCP, which historically have lagged far behind AWS. Students will then initialize their lab environment and deploy a modern web application to each of the Big 3 providers.

    This leads into an analysis of the intricacies of Identity and Access Management (IAM), one of the most fundamental and misunderstood concepts in cloud security. Playing the role of an attacker in their lab environment, students will compromise real IAM credentials using application vulnerabilities and then use them to access sensitive data.

    The remainder of this section will focus on how to leverage well-written IAM policies to minimize the damage caused by such attacks. Although the ultimate solution is to fix the bug in the application, these strategies can prevent a minor incident from becoming front-page news.

    • VM Credential Exposure
    • Hardening AWS IAM Policies
    • Hardening Azure and GCP Policies
    • Advanced IAM Features
    • CloudWars (Section 1): Public Cloud Security DevOps Challenges

    The Multicloud Movement

    • Cloud Market Trends
    • Multicloud Considerations
    • Shadow Cloud Accounts

    Multicloud Security Assessment

    • MITRE ATT&CK Cloud Matrix
    • Lab Environment Introduction
    • HashiCorp Terraform Overview

    Identity and Access Management

    • Identities
    • Policies
    • Organization-Wide Controls
    • AWS IAM
    • Azure Active Directory
    • GCP IAM

    Cloud Credential Management

    • Cloud Instance Metadata APIs
    • Credential Management Postmortems (Case Studies)

    Application Vulnerability Overviews

    • Overly Permissive Permissions
    • Command Injection
    • Server-Side Request Forgery
    • Supply-Chain Attacks
  • Overview

    Section 2 covers how to lock down infrastructure within a virtual private network. As the public cloud IP address blocks are well known and default network security is often lax, millions of sensitive assets are unnecessarily accessible to the public Internet. This section will ensure that none of these assets belong to your organization.

    The section begins by demonstrating how ingress and egress traffic can be restricted within each provider. Students will analyze the damage that can be done without these controls by accessing a public-facing database and creating a reverse shell session in each environment. We will then eliminate both attack vectors with secure cloud configuration.

    In addition to introducing additional network defense-in-depth mechanisms, we will discuss cloud-based intrusion detection capabilities to address the network-based attacks we cannot eliminate. Students will analyze cloud traffic and search for indicators of compromise.

    • Network Lockdown
    • Analyzing Network Traffic
    • Private Endpoint Security
    • Cloud VPN and Managed SSH
    • CloudWars (Section 2): Public Cloud Security DevOps Challenges

    Cloud Virtual Networks

    • Network Service Scanning
    • Default Network Configuration
    • Network Security Groups

    Network Traffic Analysis

    • Flow Logging
    • Traffic Mirroring

    Private Endpoints

    • AWS PrivateLink
    • Azure Private Link
    • GCP VPC Service Controls

    Advanced Remote Access

    • Managed SSH
    • Hybrid VPN Gateway
    • Session Manager
    • Hybrid VPN Gateway

    Command and Control Servers

    • Reverse Shells
  • Overview

    The first half of Section 3 covers all topics related to encryption in the cloud. Students will learn about each provider's cryptographic key solution and how it can be used to encrypt data at rest. Students will also learn how end-to-end, in-transit encryption is performed in the cloud, such as the encryption between clients, load balancers, applications, and database servers.

    Proper encryption is not only critical for security; it is also an important legal and compliance consideration. This section will ensure that your organization has all of the information at its disposal to send the auditors packing.

    The second half of Section 3 covers storing data in the cloud, defense-in-depth mechanisms, access logging, filesystem persistence, and more.

    • Audit Decryption Events
    • Encrypt All The Things!
    • Storage Service Lockdown
    • Unauthorized File Sharing
    • CloudWars (Section 3): Public Cloud Security DevOps Challenges

    Cloud Key Management

    • AWS KMS
    • Azure Key Vault
    • Google Cloud KMS

    Encryption with Cloud Services

    • Disk-Level Encryption
    • Record-Level Encryption
    • In-Transit Encryption
    • End-to-End Encryption Considerations

    Cloud Storage Platforms

    • Access Control
    • Audit Logs
    • Data Retention

    Data Exfiltration Paths

  • Overview

    This course section tackles the ever-changing trends in technology by providing in-depth coverage of a paradigm taking the industry by storm: Serverless. It balances the discussion of the challenges serverless introduces with the advantages it provides in securing product development and security operations.

    The first half of the section covers serverless cloud functions in AWS Lambda, Azure Functions, and Google Cloud Functions. After introspecting the serverless runtime environments using Serverless Prey (a popular open-source tool written by the course authors), students will examine and harden practical serverless functions in a real environment.

    The second half of the course section covers App Services, which often interplay with cloud functions. The section concludes with a detailed analysis of Firebase, an application platform with serverless offerings that has been loosely integrated with the Google Cloud Platform since its acquisition by Google in 2014.

    • Serverless Prey
    • Hardening Serverless Functions
    • App Service Security
    • Firebase Access Control
    • CloudWars (Section 4): Public Cloud Security DevOps Challenges

    Cloud Serverless Functions

    • Security Advantages
    • Function as a Service Defense

    Persistence with Serverless

    App Services

    • AWS Elastic Beanstalk
    • Azure App Service
    • Google App Engine


    • Realtime Database
    • Cloud Firestore
    • Authentication
  • Overview

    The course concludes with practical guidance on how to operate an organization across multiple cloud accounts and providers. Many of the topics discussed in the earlier course sections are significantly complicated when moving from a single account to multiple accounts, as well as when the providers are integrated with each other. We begin by discussing how using multiple accounts and clouds changes Identity and Access Management (IAM).

    No discussion of secure user identity management would be complete without mentioning Single Sign-On (SSO). With it, members of an organization can use the same credential set to sign onto a variety of applications. When a member leaves the organization, an administrator can terminate their all of their access with a single command. The second half of Section 5 covers each cloud's native SSO solution, how AWS SSO is key for managing multiple AWS accounts, and each cloud's end-user identification service.

    We conclude by introducing tools and services that can be used to automate compliance checks against the benchmarks we have covered throughout the course. This includes open-source solutions as well as cloud-based security services. With these capabilities, an organization can take the lessons learned in SEC510 and apply them at scale.

    • Multicloud Integration
    • Login with Azure AD
    • Automated Benchmarking
    • Lab Teardown
    • CloudWars (Section 5): Public Cloud Security DevOps Challenges

    Multicloud Access Management

    Cloud Single Sign-On

    • AWS SSO
    • Microsoft Identity Platform and Azure AD
    • Google Cloud Identity

    End-User Identity Management

    • Amazon Cognito User Pools
    • Microsoft Identity Platform and Azure AD B2C
    • Google CICP and Firebase Authentication

    Automated Benchmarking

    • AWS Security Hub
    • Azure Security Center
    • GCP Security Command Center
    • Open-Source Solutions


    Additional Resources

GIAC Public Cloud Security

The GPCS certification validates a practitioner's ability to secure the cloud in both public cloud and multi cloud environments. GPCS-certified professionals are familiar with the nuances of AWS, Azure, and GCP and have the skills needed to defend each of these platforms.

  • Evaluation and comparison of public cloud service providers
  • Auditing, hardening, and securing public cloud environments
  • Introduction to multi-cloud compliance and integration
More Certification Details


The following are courses or equivalent experiences that are prerequisites for SEC510:

Laptop Requirements


Please plan to arrive 30 minutes early before your first session for lab preparation and setup. During this time, students can confirm that each cloud account is properly set up, ensure that laptops have virtualization enabled, copy the lab files, and start the Linux virtual machine. For students taking the course Live Online, the instructor will be available to assist them with laptop prep and setup 30 minutes prior to the start of the course.

CRITICAL NOTE: Apple systems using the M1 processor line cannot perform the necessary virtualization functionality and therefore cannot in any way be used for this course.

It is critical that your CPU and operating system support 64-bit so that our 64-bit guest virtual machine will run on your laptop. VMware provides a free tool for Windows that will detect whether or not your host supports 64-bit guest virtual machines. For further troubleshooting, this article also provides good instructions for Windows users to determine more about the CPU and OS capabilities. For Macs, please use this support page from Apple to determine 64-bit capability.

CPU: 64-bit Intel i5/i7 (4th generation+) - x64 bit 2.0+ GHz processor or more recent processor is mandatory for this class (Important - Please Read: a 64-bit system processor is mandatory)

Mandatory: Students must bring their own AWS, Azure, and GCP accounts to complete the exercises. Please ensure that you have done the following before class starts:

Amazon Web Services

  1. Register for a personal free-tier account.
  2. Activate your new account.
  3. Log in to the AWS Console with your root account.
  4. Browse to the EC2 Service and verify that you see the dashboard (not an activation screen).
  5. In the top right-hand corner of the page, select U.S. East (Northern Virginia)
  6. From the left navigation bar, select "Limits."
  7. Verify that you have at least 10vCPUs for On-Demand Standard (A, C, D, H, I, M, R, T, Z) instances.
  8. If your limits are less than 10 vCPUs, please start by creating a new t2.micro instance. Creating a new instance often causes the limits to increase automatically. If your limits do not automatically increase (wait 30 minutes to check again), open a ticket with the AWS support team to request an increase. More details can be found in the AWS EC2 Service Limits documentation.

Microsoft Azure

  1. Browse to the Azure Portal
  2. Register for a personal 12-month free account

Google Cloud Platform

  1. Create a Google account
  2. Sign up for a GCP free trial


A properly configured system is required for each student participating in this course. Before starting the course, carefully read and follow these instructions exactly:

  • Download and install VMware Workstation or VMware Fusion on your system prior to the start of the class.
  • If you own a licensed copy of VMware, make sure it is at least VMware Workstation Pro 15+, VMware Fusion 11+.
  • If you do not own a licensed copy of VMware, download a free 30-day trial copy from VMware. VMware will send you a time-limited serial number if you register for the trial on its website.
  • Students must be in full control of the network running the VM. The VM communicates with several external services (AWS, Azure, GCP, etc.) over HTTPS, SSH, and many non-standard ports. Running the course virtual machine on a host with a VPN, intercepting proxy, or egress firewall filter may cause connection issues communicating with these services. Students must be able to configure or disable these services for the lab environment to function properly.
  • Multiple monitors are recommended to make navigating the lab environment easier.
  • Note: Apple systems using the M1 processor cannot perform the necessary virtualization at this time and cannot be used for this course.

Mandatory Host Hardware Requirements

  • CPU: 64-bit 2.5+ GHz multi-core processor or higher
  • BIOS/UEFI: VT-x, AMD-V, or the equivalent must be enabled in the BIOS/UEFI
  • Hard Disk: Solid-State Drive (SSD) is MANDATORY with 50GB of free disk space minimum
  • Memory: 16GB of RAM or higher is mandatory for this class (IMPORTANT! 16GB of RAM is MANDATORY)
  • Working USB 2.0 or higher port
  • Wireless Ethernet 802.11 B/G/N/AC
  • Local Administrator Access within your host operating system

Mandatory Host Operating System Requirements

You must use a 64-bit laptop with one of the following operating systems that have been verified to be compatible with course VMware image:

  • Windows (8 or 10)
  • Mac OS X (Catalina, Mojave)

Mandatory Software Requirements

Prior to class, ensure that the following software is installed on the host operating system:

  • VMware Workstation Pro 15+, VMware Fusion 11+
  • Zip File Utility (7Zip or the built-in operating system zip utility)

Mandatory Cloud Account Requirements

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS), Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) accounts are needed in order to do the hands-on exercises during this course. Students must create their cloud accounts prior to the start of class. Your ability to execute the hands-on exercises will be delayed if you wait to set up the accounts during a live class.
  • These cloud accounts will incur additional fees from platform usage. The estimated cost for running the lab environment is roughly $25 for the 5-day course.
  • If you are taking OnDemand, accommodations for the lab environment have been made to avoid costs incurred for several months. The courseware will go into this in detail.

In summary, before beginning the course you should:

  • Have a laptop with a solid-state drive (SSD), 8 GB of RAM, and a 64-bit operating system.
  • Install VMware (Workstation or Fusion).
  • Windows Only: Verify that the BIOS settings have the Intel VT virtualization extensions enabled.
  • Download the SEC510 Lab Setup Instructions and Course Media from your account.
  • Register a NEW AWS account prior to the start of the class at
  • Register a NEW Azure account prior to the start of class at
  • Register a NEW GCP free-tier account prior to the start of class at

Author Statement

"The move to leveraging multiple public cloud providers introduces new challenges and opportunities for security and compliance professionals. As the service offering landscape is constantly evolving, it is far too easy to prescribe security solutions that are not accurate in all cases. While it is tempting to dismiss the multicloud movement or block it at the enterprise level, this will only make the problem harder to control.

Why do teams adopt additional cloud solutions in the first place? To make their jobs easier or more enjoyable. Developers are creating products that make money for the business, not for the central security team. If a team discovers a service offering that can help get its product to market quicker than the competition, it can and should use it. Security should embrace the inevitability of the multicloud movement and take on the hard work of implementing guardrails that enable the organization to move quickly and safely.

The multicloud storm is coming, whether you like it or not." - Brandon Evans and Eric Johnson

"Simply outstanding! All the way around. Very well done." - Ryan Stillions, IBM X-Froce IR


Overall, this was a great class for Security practitioners to understand and identify misconfigurations across the 'Big 3' (AWS, Azure, and GCP) cloud providers.
Dustin Odya
Great beta course and goes great with the other Cloud Sec offerings. Will be adding it to my teams on-boarding process with SANS540 and 545. Appreciated the quick deep dive and not spending so much time on the history of things. Really liked the relevant industry use cases. Both instructors are super knowledgeable and stay plugged in within their respective domains.
Jason Morris
This is a course that has tons of great information that will be useful immediately!
Robin Burkett
It highlighted the 3 main cloud platforms with their advantages and disadvantages of each other. The course taught us how to create users, hack in the systems with vulnerabilities, and then taught how to harden them.
Almami Kassama
The course went immediately into real world, useful vulnerabilities and how to remediate them. The teachers are clear in presenting materials and expanding on the concepts an appropriate amount. They take real time questions and incorporate them into the discussion appropriately.
Joshua Briggs
Dell Technologies

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    Study and prepare for GIAC Certification with four months of online access. Includes labs and exercises, and support.

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