Cloud & MLOps ☁️
Security, Identity, Compliance & Audit
IAM: Identity Access & Management

IAM: Identity Access & Management

AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) is a web service that helps you securely control access to AWS resources. You use IAM to control who is authenticated (signed in) and authorized (has permissions) to use resources. Gives you the flexibility to configure access based on your company's specific operational and security needs. In general, we have:

  • IAM users, groups, and roles.
  • IAM policies.
  • Multi-factor authentication.

IAM Entities

Root Account

W hen you create an AWS account, you begin with an identity known as the root user, it has access to all the AWS services and resources in the account.

  • Root user is the Account Owner (created when the account is created)
  • Has complete access to all AWS services and resources
  • Lock away your AWS account root user access keys!
  • Do not use the root account for everyday tasks, even administrative tasks
  • Actions that can be performed only by the root user:
    • Change account settings (account name, email address, root user password, root user access keys)
    • View certain tax invoices
    • Close your AWS account
    • Restore IAM user permissions
    • Change or cancel your AWS Support plan
    • Register as a seller in the Reserved Instance Marketplace
    • Configure an Amazon S3 bucket to enable MFA
    • Edit or delete an Amazon S3 bucket policy that includes an invalid VPC ID or VPC endpoint ID
    • Sign up for GovCloud


Users are identities that you create in AWS, it represents the person or application that interacts with AWS services and resources. It consists of a name and credentials. By default when you create a new IAM user, it has no permissions associated with it.


Groups are a collection of IAM users. When you assign an IAM policy to a group, all users in the group are granted permissions specified by the policy. Groups only contain users, not other groups. Users don’t have to belong to a group, and user can belong to multiple groups


Is an identity that you can assume to gain temporary access to permissions. Before an IAM user, application, or service can assume an IAM role, they must be granted permissions to switch to the role.

Some AWS service will need to perform actions on your behalf

  • To do so, we will assign permissions to AWS services with IAM Roles
  • Common roles:
    • EC2 Instance Roles
    • Lambda Function Roles
    • Roles for CloudFormation


IAM policies are documents that allows or denies permissions to AWS services and resources.

  • Users or Groups can be assigned JSON documents called policies
  • These policies define the permissions of the users
  • In AWS you apply the least privilege principle: don’t give more permissions than a user needs

IAM Policies can be inherited:

IAM Policies Inheritance

The Policy structure

  • Consists of
    • Version: policy language version, always include “2012-10-17”
    • Id: an identifier for the policy (optional)
    • Statement: one or more individual statements (required)
  • Statements consists of
    • Sid: an identifier for the statement (optional)
    • Effect: whether the statement allows or denies access (Allow, Deny)
    • Principal: account/user/role to which this policy applied to
    • Action: list of actions this policy allows or denies
    • Resource: list of resources to which the actions applied to
    • Condition: conditions for when this policy is in effect (optional)


  "Version": "2012-10-17",
  "Statement": [
      "Effect": "Allow",
      "Action": "ec2:Describe*",
      "Resource": "*"
      "Effect": "Allow",
      "Action": "elasticloadbalancing:Describe*",
      "Resource": "*"
      "Effect": "Allow",
      "Action": [
      "Resource": "*"

Password Policy

  • Strong passwords = higher security for your account
  • In AWS, you can setup a password policy:
    • Set a minimum password length
    • Require specific character types:
      • including uppercase letters
      • lowercase letters
      • numbers
      • non-alphanumeric characters
  • Allow all IAM users to change their own passwords
  • Require users to change their password after some time (password expiration)
  • Prevent password re-use

Security Tools

  • IAM Credentials Report (account-level)
  • a report that lists all your account's users and the status of their various credentials
  • IAM Access Advisor (user-level)
  • Access advisor shows the service permissions granted to a user and when those services were last accessed.
  • You can use this information to revise your policies.

IAM Guidelines & Best Practices

  • Don’t use the root account except for AWS account setup
  • One physical user = One AWS user
  • Assign users to groups and assign permissions to groups
  • Create a strong password policy
  • Use and enforce the use of Multi Factor Authentication (MFA)
  • Create and use Roles for giving permissions to AWS services
  • Use Access Keys for Programmatic Access (CLI / SDK)
  • Audit permissions of your account with the IAM Credentials Report
  • Never share IAM users & Access Keys

Shared Responsibility Model for IAM

Infrastructure (global network security)Users, Groups, Roles, Policies management and monitoring
Configuration and vulnerability analysisEnable MFA on all accounts
Compliance validationRotate all your keys often, Use IAM tools to apply appropriate permissions, Analyze access patterns & review permissions

Multi Factor Authentication - MFA

  • Users have access to your account and can possibly change configurations or delete resources in your AWS account
  • You want to protect your Root Accounts and IAM users
  • MFA = password you know + security device you own
  • Main benefit of MFA: if a password is stolen or hacked, the account is not compromised

MFA devices options in AWS

  • Virtual MFA device (Support for multiple tokens on a single device.)
    • Google Authenticator (phone only)
    • Authy (multi-device)
  • Universal 2nd Factor (U2F) Security Key (Support for multiple root and IAM users using a single security key)
    • YubiKey by Yubico (3rd party)
  • Hardware Key Fob MFA Device
  • Hardware Key Fob MFA Device for AWS GovCloud (US)

How can users access AWS ?

  • To access AWS, you have three options:
    • AWS Management Console (protected by password + MFA)
    • AWS Command Line Interface (CLI): protected by access keys
    • AWS Software Developer Kit (SDK) - for code: protected by access keys
  • Access Keys are generated through the AWS Console
  • Users manage their own access keys
  • Access Keys are secret, just like a password. Don’t share them
  • Access Key ID \approx username
  • Secret Access Key \approx password

IAM Access Analyzer

AWS IAM Access Analyzer is a tool that scans your AWS resource policies to find any unintended public or cross-account access. It helps you identify and fix security issues, ensuring that only authorized entities have access to your resources.

  • Find out which resources are shared externally:
    • S3 Buckets
    • IAM Roles
    • KMS Keys
    • Lambda Functions and Layers
    • SQS queues
    • Secrets Manager Secrets
  • Define Zone of Trust = AWS Account or AWS Organization.
  • Access outside zone of trusts \rightarrow findings


  • Users: mapped to a physical user, has a password for AWS Console
  • Groups: contains users only
  • Policies: JSON document that outlines permissions for users or groups
  • Roles: for EC2 instances or AWS services
  • Security: MFA + Password Policy
  • AWS CLI: manage your AWS services using the command-line
  • AWS SDK: manage your AWS services using a programming language
  • Access Keys: access AWS using the CLI or SDK
  • Audit: IAM Credential Reports & IAM Access Advisor