How to Configure and Manage Identity and Access Management (IAM) in AWS

November 27, 20235 min read

Introduction to IAM in AWS

Identity and Access Management (IAM) in AWS is a web service that helps securely control access to AWS resources. IAM allows you to create and manage AWS users and groups, and use permissions to allow and deny their access to AWS resources. IAM is a crucial component in managing the security of an AWS environment.

Initial Setup of IAM

1. Sign in to IAM console:

  • Navigate to the IAM dashboard by signing into the AWS Management Console.
  • Access the IAM console directly at https://console.aws.amazon.com/iam/.

2. Activate MFA on Root Account:

  • Go to the IAM Dashboard and under “Security Status”, enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) on your root account for an extra layer of security.

3. Create Individual IAM Users:

  • Never use your AWS root account for day-to-day interactions with AWS.
  • In the IAM console, navigate to “Users” and select “Add user”.
  • Enter the user details, including a username and access type (programmatic access, AWS Management Console access, or both).

4. Apply the Principle of Least Privilege:

  • Only grant the permissions necessary to perform a task.
  • When you attach policies, start with minimal permissions and grant additional ones as needed.

Creating and Managing IAM Groups

1. Organize Users:

  • Groups help you manage multiple users with similar permissions.
  • In the “Groups” section, select “Create New Group”.
  • Name the group and attach the appropriate policies.

2. Add Users to Groups:

  • Once the group is created, you can add users to it.
  • Users will inherit the permissions of the group.

3. Manage Group Policies:

  • To change the permissions for all users in a group, simply edit the group’s policies.

Creating and Managing IAM Roles

1. What Are Roles?:

  • Roles are used to delegate permissions to entities that you trust.
  • They are similar to user identities, but they are not tied to a specific person or service.

2. Creating Roles:

  • In the IAM dashboard, navigate to the “Roles” section and select “Create role”.
  • Choose the type of trusted entity (e.g., AWS service, another AWS account).
  • Attach policies to define what actions and resources the role can access.

3. Assume Role:

  • IAM roles can be assumed using the sts:AssumeRole API call. Services or users can then take actions with the permissions attached to the role.

Managing IAM Policies

1. Types of Policies:

  • Managed policies: Predefined by AWS or created and managed in a customer’s account.
  • Inline policies: Embedded directly into a single user, group, or role.

2. Creating and Editing Policies:

  • Use the policy editor to create a new policy or modify existing ones.
  • Attach the policy to users, groups, or roles to grant permissions.

Monitoring IAM Activity

1. AWS CloudTrail:

  • Enable AWS CloudTrail to log all IAM and other AWS service events.
  • Monitor and audit all actions taken by your IAM users and roles.

2. AWS Access Advisor:

  • Use Access Advisor within IAM to review the service permissions granted to a user and when those services were last accessed.

Best Practices

1. Regular Audits and Credentials Rotations:

  • Regularly audit IAM permissions and rotate IAM credentials.
  • Ensure that you remove unused users, credentials, or permissions.

2. Training and Awareness:

  • Educate your team about IAM and security best practices.
  • Ensure that users understand the importance of protecting their credentials.

3. Enable IAM Password Policy:

  • Create and enforce a strong password policy for IAM users.
  • Implement password expiration periods and require multifactor authentication (MFA).

4. Limit Use of IAM Users:

  • Prefer roles over users whenever possible, especially for cross-account access or when working with AWS services.

Remember, managing IAM effectively is crucial to maintaining a secure and well-operated AWS environment. Regularly review AWS IAM documentation for any updates on best practices and security guidelines.