AWS notes: IAM

IAM basics

  • IAM provides Identity for anything requiring long term AWS access. Humans, services, or applications (these are referred to as principals).
  • Authentication is done via User & Password, or Access keys
  • IAM allows us to practice Principle of least privilege. Meaning an IAM account starts with no access to any AWS resources
  • It is a globally resilient service. Exists securely in all AWS regions
  • Each AWS account has its own instance of IAM, that is fully trusted by the account, the same way the root user is.
  • IAM admin user is what’s used to create the other identities
  • ARN - Amazon Resource Name uniquely identify resources in an AWS account
  • 5 000 IAM users per account - Identity Federation or IAM roles fixes this
  • External accounts/identities cannot be directly used to access AWS resources

The 3 different types of Identity objects IAM can create

  1. Users: Humans or applications that need access to the AWS account
  2. Groups: Collections of related users
  3. Roles: Can be used by AWS services, or granting external access to your AWS account

IAM policy aka Policy Document

  • Objects that can be used to allow or deny access to AWS services. You attach these to users, groups, or roles for them to take effect.

         "Effect": "Deny",
         "Action": "s3:*",
         "Resource": [
           "arn:aws:s3:::catgifs", "arn:aws:s3:::catgifs/*"

Priority of Effects

Helpful to remember when looking at overlapping rules on the IAM policies.

  1. Explicit Deny
  2. Explicit Allow
  3. Default Deny (Implicit)

Inline vs Managed Policies

  • Inline policies belong & are attached to one user/group, while managed policies are ‘reusable’
  • AWS managed policy
  • Custom policy

IAM User vs IAM Role

  • IAM is long term identity
  • IAM role is for short term identity

IAM Groups

  • IAM user can be a member of 10 groups max
  • You can add IAM users to groups, and add permissions to Groups
  • Groups are not a real identity. They can’t be referenced as a principal in a policy.

IAM Roles

  • Good for granting temporary access to AWS resources
    • When you assume a role, you get temporary security credentials - these are created by STS, & are similar to an access token
  • Only after a role is assigned to an AWS identity (user or group) is the policy attached to the role, which can be assumed by the principal.
  • Trust Policy is required when dealing with Roles. It’s assigned to the identity who can assume the role

  • Because roles are real identities, they can be referenced from resources policies

Good use cases for roles

  • AWS services