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Learn To Secure Identity Access Management In AWS

Vijay Maripi's profile image

By: Vijay Maripi

June 23, 2021

IAM Overview

In the world of IT Organizations, Identity and access management (IAM) refer to the process of creating and maintaining the access, roles, and privileges of particular network entities (users and electronic devices) concerning several cloud and on-premises services. Customers, partners, and workers are examples of users, while computers, routers, mobiles, servers, sensors, and controllers are examples of electronic devices. Once a digital identity exists, it must be maintained, changed, and tracked throughout the access lifecycle of each user or entity.

AWS IAM is a web service that allows you to manage access to AWS resources securely. The main goal of IAM systems is to provide a single digital identity for each person or entity. It enables one to control who can authenticate and who cannot authenticate (granted permissions) to access resources. This service plays a crucial part in AWS security because administrators govern accessibility by creating groups and users. With it, an authorized person can assign specific permissions, roles, and policies to a particular group or a user, setting up an MFA (Multi-Factor Authentication) for extra security and even more.

Key Features of IAM

  • Shared access to AWS Account: One can assign other people permission to administer and use resources in an AWS account without sharing a password or an access key.
  • MFA (Multi-Factor Authentication): For added security, one can enable two-factor authentication to the account. To use an AWS account with MFA, users must submit an access key or a password and a code from a specially configured device.
  • Granular permissions: One can assign different permissions to different people for various resources. For example, one can allow complete access to Amazon EC2, S3 storage service, and other AWS services; and other users can have read-only access to the above resources.
  • Identity federation: One can grant temporary access to AWS accounts to people who already have passwords somewhere else, for example, in a company network or with an internet identity provider.

Best Practices to secure IAM

Lock AWS Root User Access Keys: To perform programmatic calls to AWS, never use the root user access key (an access key ID and a secret access key). AWS root user access key gives full access to all resources, including billing information. To protect that, here are some ways:

  • If the AWS root user access key is not there, do not create one until and unless it is necessary. Instead, use email-id and password to sign in to the AWS Management Console and create an IAM user with administrative permissions.
  • Enable MFA for AWS root users.

Create individual IAM Users:

  • Do not use AWS root user credentials to access AWS, and do not give root user credentials to anyone.
  • Create individual IAM users who need access to an AWS account.
  • Create an IAM user for admin, give that user administrative permissions, and use that user for work.

To assign permissions to IAM Users, use user Groups: It is usually more convenient to create user groups that connect to job functions than defining permissions for individual IAM users. Next, assign permissions for each user group. At last, grant those user groups to IAM users. Users in the IAM user group inherit the permissions granted to the user group. Any Modifications can be done for all users at once in the user group.

Grant Least Privilege: While creating IAM policies, follow the standard security advice of assigning the least privilege or assigning only the permissions required to do the task.

Validate policies: It is best to validate the policies while creating. For example, one can confirm the policy while it is creating one. IAM finds syntax errors in Json, while the Access Analyzer provides more than 100 checks and recommendations to help the user security policies. The best practice is to review and validate all existing policies.

In the AWS cloud platform, IAM can be configurable to secure the user's access to AWS resources. Follow the standard procedure to grant the least privilege access to everyone and grant necessary permissions for some users according to their needs. Never give admin privileges or access keys to all the users. Secure AWS cloud platform by configuring necessary authorizations, policies, and validations.

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