Understanding Amazon Redshift Security 101: Key Features and Practices Simplified

• January 25th, 2022

People can sometimes overlook the security of their IT resources. You may place a greater emphasis on implementation and performance because they can have a more immediate impact.

In this article, we’ll go over Amazon Redshift Security, because we don’t want to forget that one of the pillars that supports the success of any IT project, that is, Security. This is especially true when it comes to the security of a Data Warehouse, which houses massive amounts of data.

Amazon Redshift provides lightning-fast performance and scalable data processing solutions without requiring a large infrastructure investment. Amazon Redshift also gives you access to a wide range of data analytics tools, compliance features, and even Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning applications.

The recommendations for Amazon Redshift Security are divided into three major categories in the article. First, it will discuss macro-level Amazon Redshift Security, which will include environmental security topics. Second, we’ll go over micro-level Amazon Redshift Security. Finally, we’ll look at monitoring, which can be used to detect and prevent threats.

Table of Contents

Introduction to Amazon Redshift

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Amazon Redshift is a petabyte-scale Data Warehouse solution powered by Amazon Web Services. It is also used for large database migrations because it simplifies data management. The annual cost per TB is approximately $1000, which is significantly less than the cost of establishing and maintaining On-Site solutions.

Amazon Redshift’s architecture is based on massively parallel processing (MPP). Amazon Redshift Databases are based on Column-Oriented Databases and are designed to connect to SQL-based clients and BI tools. This enables users to have constant access to data (structured and unstructured) and aids in the execution of Complex Analytic queries. Amazon Redshift also supports standard ODBC and JDBC connections.

Because Amazon Redshift is a fully-managed Data Warehouse, users can automate administrative tasks to focus on Data Optimization and Data-driven Business decisions rather than performing repetitive tasks. The Client Application and the Data Warehouse Cluster must be able to communicate with one another reliably.

Each Cluster in an Amazon Redshift Data Warehouse has its own set of computing resources and runs its own Amazon Redshift Engine with at least one Database.

Key Features of Amazon Redshift

  • Parallel Processing:  To process large datasets, parallel processing is used in conjunction with a distributed design method that employs multiple CPUs.
  • Tolerance for Error:  When performing mission-critical operations in the Cloud, organizations can rely on the Data Warehouse’s Fault and Error Tolerance to ensure uninterrupted operation.
  • End-to-end Encryption: All data handled on the Cloud is encrypted to protect users’ privacy and security. Key sharing for encrypted data can be accomplished in several ways.
  • Network Isolation: Parts of the deployment can be isolated from the rest of the network and the Internet, with only IPsec VPN access.
  • Speed: The use of MPP technology enables the processing and execution of a large number of queries and data in a short period. Other cloud service providers cannot compete with AWS’s service pricing.
  • Data Encryption: The Amazon server encrypts data for your Redshift operation. The user can specify which processes should be encrypted and which should not. Encrypting data adds another layer of security.
  • Familiarity: Amazon Redshift is based on the PostgreSQL database, which many people are familiar with. It is compatible with all SQL queries. You’ll also choose SQL, ETL (extract, transform, load), and Business Intelligence (BI) technologies that are familiar to you.
  • Machine Learning (ML) for Maximum Performance: Amazon Redshift has powerful Machine Learning (ML) capabilities that provide high throughput and speed.
  • SageMaker Support: A must-have for today’s Data Professionals, it enables users to build and train Amazon SageMaker models for Predictive Analytics using data from their Amazon Redshift Warehouse.

What is Amazon Redshift Security?

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Amazon Redshift is the most popular cloud Data Warehouse solution in the world, with tens of thousands of organizations using it. It is provided by AWS and is based on modified PostgreSQL. Its access control can be divided into three categories:

  • Cluster Management: It refers to the ability to create, configure, and delete infrastructure (i.e. Redshift clusters). These operations are governed by AWS security credentials and can be performed by IAM users via the console or API.
  • Cluster Connectivity: It refers to network access control. The security groups are based on CIDR (Classless Inter-Domain Routing).
  • Database Access: It is granted per secure object (database, table, column, or view) and is configured using the SQL GRANT and CREATE commands. Temporary access is also possible using AWS IAM users and specific connection strings.

Amazon Redshift Security: Macro Level

Let us remind ourselves that Amazon Redshift is part of the AWS ecosystem. Before improving Amazon Redshift Security, it is critical to ensure a secure environment in which Amazon Redshift can thrive.

Below are some points to take note of to monitor your Amazon Redshift security effectively:

Make a New Amazon Redshift Administrator and IAM Users

When you create your first AWS account, the default account has complete access to and control over all AWS resources. Furthermore, the default account can terminate your account, which will delete your entire AWS infrastructure and data. This root user or superuser has complete access to all resources. Furthermore, regardless of the GRANT and REVOKE commands, superusers retain all privileges.

As a result, continuing to use a superuser for frequent daily tasks is not a good practice. Instead, create a new user with root privileges restricted to Redshift and the relevant resources. It is best practice for other users to use IAM to securely control their permissions rather than giving them secret and access keys.

Using a Security Group, Reduce Inbound Traffic to Redshift

When you first provision a Redshift instance, it is automatically assigned to a default cluster security group. There is no rule in the default security group that blocks all inbound traffic.

Be specific and restrictive when adding inbound IP address ranges. Investigate which IP ranges must be permitted. You might, for example, want to restrict traffic to your company’s employees, clients, and other related systems.

For a Secure Redshift Network Environment, use VPC

Adding another layer is another best practice for a secure network for Redshift. You can create a virtual fence in AWS by using AWS VPC (Virtual Private Cloud). You can define your topology with VPC, which includes gateways, routing tables, and public and private subnets. This enables you to create a secure and private environment for Redshift instances.

Load Data in S3 Bucket with Encryption

One of the more powerful Redshift features is the ability to load large amounts of data directly from S3 buckets into Redshift storage. You can also unload data from Redshift into S3.

It is best practice to encrypt data at rest in S3 when exporting and importing data in files. Server-side Encryption is a simple way to encrypt your file data. You can encrypt your data in S3 at rest using the AWS API or the management console.

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Its completely automated pipeline offers data to be delivered in real-time without any loss from source to destination. Its fault-tolerant and scalable architecture ensure that the data is handled in a secure, consistent manner with zero data loss and supports different forms of data. The solutions provided are consistent and work with different Business Intelligence (BI) tools as well.

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Amazon Redshift Security: Micro Level

We must ensure security within the Amazon Redshift database once we have hardened the Amazon Redshift Security outside.

Below are some points to take note of to monitor your Amazon Redshift Security effectively:

AWS Security Guidelines

  • By default, Redshift only grants privileges to the object owner.
  • By assigning the privileges to a user account, you can grant explicit privileges.
  • You can grant implicit privileges by assigning them to the user’s group. When a new user joins the group, he or she is automatically granted the same privileges as the existing members.

Groups are collections of users who can be granted privileges collectively. This allows you to manage privileges for users within a group more easily.

Grant Restricted Privileges to Users and Groups

Before your Redshift user base grows too quickly, it’s a good idea to plan out groups and users, as well as permissions. Giving users unnecessary DML and DDL permissions can result in unexpected incidents. When you make an unintentional change to your data in Redshift, it may not be recoverable.

Even if there is a way to restore, such as using a snapshot image, you may end up losing some data generated during the snapshot schedule interval. To avoid this, you should create a list of groups and users, then assign them privileges.

Encapsulate and Limit the scope by using View

When it comes to table security, you can be conservative. If you want to hide raw tables and their relationships, you can use View. In object-oriented programming, using View is similar to the concept of encapsulation. For security, you conceal the underlying logic and expose the result.

If your clients want to write queries to extract data on their own, using Redshift View can be a safe practice. You should also think about using View (or Materialized Views for performance) for dashboards and analytics.

Take into Account Column-Level Access Control

When granting select privilege to different groups for a single table, you may want more fine control at the column level. You can grant column-level access to different users and groups in Redshift.

You can grant SELECT or UPDATE privilege for specific columns to specific users or groups using the grant command below. This is an excellent method for protecting your data at the granular level.

Monitoring Amazon Redshift Security

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Following the implementation of secure practices for your Amazon Redshift Security resources, the final critical task is to keep an eye on what’s going on around Amazon Redshift. You can have a complete and secure Redshift environment on all fronts by implementing this final security piece.

Below are some points to take note of to monitor your Amazon Redshift Security performance effectively:

Amazon Redshift Security: Set and Receive CloudWatch Alerts

You can set metrics thresholds in AWS CloudWatch to send you alerts when certain thresholds are reached. This enables you to act quickly before an incident leads to a security vulnerability, and to concentrate on what is most important.

Amazon Redshift metrics allow you to keep track of various aspects of Redshift resources and queries.

Amazon Redshift Security: CloudTrail can be used to track a person’s activities

CloudWatch can be used to monitor hardware resources and query behavior. CloudTrail allows you to monitor the activities of AWS users. You can use it to track API requests to Redshift, IP addresses from which the requests were made, who made the requests and when, and other information.

This allows you to keep an eye out for suspicious behavior and take preventative measures.

Benefits of Amazon Redshift Security

  • Integrated Analytics Ecosystem: AWS’s built-in ecosystem services make End-to-End Analytics Workflows easier to manage while avoiding compliance and Encryption blocks.
  • AWS Redshift Network Access Control: AWS network access control the network infrastructure configuration in your AWS account manages Redshift. This is where you can configure Cluster Connectivity, VPC limitations, and whether your VPC is accessible publicly or via a VPN.
  • Redshift access control is extremely fine-grained: AWS Redshift provides fine-grained access control by allowing access controls to be configured for databases, tables, and views, as well as specific columns in tables.
  • Redshift Row-Level Security: Row-level security means that certain users can only access specific rows in a table. These rows should include criteria (typically based on the value of one of the columns) that define which roles have access to the specific item (row).
  • Integration of Identity Management for Federation: While AWS Redshift allows you to configure users and groups, it does not scale well for large organizations. This is also true for other Data Warehouses, as managing identities in a centralized location reduces overhead and risks.


This article talked about the best Amazon Redshift Security practices. Because Redshift is part of the AWS cloud service, users must first create a secure environment. There are also other Amazon Redshift Security measures you can take within Redshift, such as limiting privileges and implementing Views.

Finally, by utilizing CloudWatch and CloudTrail, you can detect suspicious activity and prevent it from developing into a security vulnerability.

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