Companies that store and process data on Amazon Web Services (AWS) want to prevent transfers of that data to or from locations outside of their company’s control. This is to support security strategies, such as data loss prevention, or to comply with the terms and conditions set forth by various regulatory and privacy agreements. On AWS, a resource perimeter is a set of AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) features and capabilities that you can use to build your defense-in-depth protection against unintended data transfers. In this third blog post of the Establishing a data perimeter on AWS series, we review the benefits and implementation considerations when you define your resource perimeter.
The resource perimeter is one of the three perimeters in the data perimeter framework on AWS and has the following two control objectives:
- My identities can access only trusted resources – This helps to ensure that IAM principals that belong to your AWS Organizations organization can access only the resources that you trust.
- Only trusted resources can be accessed from my network – This helps to ensure that only resources that you trust can be accessed through expected networks, regardless of the principal that is making the API call.
Trusted resources are the AWS resources, such as Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) buckets and objects or Amazon Simple Notification Service (Amazon SNS) topics, that are owned by your organization and in which you store and process your data. Additionally, there are resources outside your organization that your identities or AWS services acting on your behalf might need to access. You will need to consider these access patterns when you define your resource perimeter.
Security risks addressed by the resource perimeter
The resource perimeter helps address three main security risks.
Unintended data disclosure through use of corporate credentials — Your developers might have a personal AWS account that is not part of your organization. In that account, they could configure a resource with a resource-based policy that allows their corporate credentials to interact with the resource. For example, they could write an S3 bucket policy that allows them to upload objects by using their corporate credentials. This could allow the intentional or unintentional transfer of data from your corporate environment — your on-premises network or virtual private cloud (VPC) — to their personal account. While you advance through your least privilege journey, you should make sure that access to untrusted resources is prohibited, regardless of the permissions granted by identity-based policies that are attached to your IAM principals. Figure 1 illustrates an unintended access pattern where your employee uses an identity from your organization to move data from your on-premises or AWS environment to an S3 bucket in a non-corporate AWS account.
Unintended data disclosure through non-corporate credentials usage — There is a risk that developers could introduce personal IAM credentials to your corporate network and attempt to move company data to personal AWS resources. We discussed this security risk in a previous blog post: Establishing a data perimeter on AWS: Allow only trusted identities to access company data. In that post, we described how to use the aws:PrincipalOrgID condition key to prevent the use of non-corporate credentials to move data into an untrusted location. In the current post, we will show you how to implement resource perimeter controls as a defense-in-depth approach to mitigate this risk.
Unintended data infiltration — There are situations where your developers might start the solution development process using commercial datasets, tooling, or software and decide to copy them from repositories, such as those hosted on public S3 buckets. This could introduce malicious components into your corporate environment, your on-premises network, or VPCs. Establishing the resource perimeter to only allow access to trusted resources from your network can help mitigate this risk. Figure 2 illustrates the access pattern where an employee with corporate credentials downloads assets from an S3 bucket outside of your organization.
Implement the resource perimeter
To achieve the resource perimeter control objectives, you can implement guardrails in your AWS environment by using the following AWS policy types:
- Service control policies (SCPs) – Organization policies that are used to centrally manage and set the maximum available permissions for your IAM principals. SCPs help you ensure that your accounts stay within your organization’s access control guidelines. In the context of the resource perimeter, you will use SCPs to help prevent access to untrusted resources from AWS principals that belong to your organization.
- VPC endpoint policy – An IAM resource-based policy that is attached to a VPC endpoint to control which principals, actions, and resources can be accessed through a VPC endpoint. In the context of the resource perimeter, VPC endpoint policies are used to validate that the resource the principal is trying to access belongs to your organization.
The condition key used to constrain access to resources in your organization is aws:ResourceOrgID. You can set this key in an SCP or VPC endpoint policy. The following table summarizes the relationship between the control objectives and the AWS capabilities used to implement the resource perimeter.
|Control objective||Implemented by using||Primary IAM capability|
|My identities can access only trusted resources||SCPs||aws:ResourceOrgID|
|Only trusted resources can be accessed from my network||VPC endpoint policies||aws:ResourceOrgID|
In the next section, you will learn how to use the IAM capabilities listed in the preceding table to implement each control objective of the resource perimeter.
My identities can access only trusted resources
The following is an example of an SCP that limits all actions to only the resources that belong to your organization. Replace
In this policy, notice the use of the negated condition key StringNotEqualsIfExists. This means that this condition will evaluate to true and the policy will deny API calls if the organization identifier of the resource that is being accessed differs from the one specified in the policy. It also means that this policy will deny API calls if the resource being accessed belongs to a standalone account, which isn’t part of an organization. The negated condition operators in the Deny statement mean that the condition still evaluates to true if the key is not present in the request; however, as a best practice, I added IfExists to the end of the StringNotEquals operator to clearly express the intent in the policy.
Note that for a permission to be allowed for a specific account, a statement that allows access must exist at every level of the hierarchy of your organization.
Only trusted resources can be accessed from my network
You can achieve this objective by combining the SCP we just reviewed with the use of aws:PrincipalOrgID in your VPC endpoint policies, as shown in the Establishing a data perimeter on AWS: Allow only trusted identities to access company data blog post. However, as a defense in depth, you can also apply resource perimeter controls on your networks by using aws:ResourceOrgID in your VPC endpoint policies.
The following is an example of a VPC endpoint policy that allows access to all actions but limits access to only trusted resources and identities that belong to your organization. Replace
The preceding VPC endpoint policy uses the StringEquals condition operator. To invoke the Allow effect, the principal making the API call and the resource they are trying to access both need to belong to your organization. Compared to the SCP example that we reviewed earlier, your intent for this policy is different — you want to make sure that the Allow condition evaluates to true only if the specified key exists in the request. Additionally, VPC endpoint policies apply to principals, as long as their request flows through the VPC endpoint.
In VPC endpoint policies, you do not grant permissions; rather, you define the maximum allowed access through the network. Therefore, this policy uses an Allow effect.
Extend your resource perimeter
The previous two policies help you ensure that your identities and networks can only be used to access AWS resources that belong to your organization. However, your company might require that you extend your resource perimeter to also include AWS owned resources — resources that do not belong to your organization and that are accessed by your principals or by AWS services acting on your behalf. For example, if you use the AWS Service Catalog in your environment, the service creates and uses Amazon S3 buckets that are owned by the service to store products. To allow your developers to successfully provision AWS Service Catalog products, your resource perimeter needs to account for this access pattern. The following statement shows how to account for the service catalog access pattern. Replace
Note that the EnforceResourcePerimeter statement in the SCP was modified to exclude s3:GetObject, s3:PutObject, and s3:PutObjectAcl actions from its effect (NotAction element). This is because these actions are performed by the Service Catalog to access service-owned S3 buckets. These actions are then restricted in the ExtendResourcePerimeter statement, which includes two negated condition keys. The second statement denies the previously mentioned S3 actions unless the resource that is being accessed belongs to your organization (StringNotEqualsIfExists with aws:ResourceOrgID), or the actions are performed by Service Catalog on your behalf (ForAllValues:StringNotEquals with aws:CalledVia). The aws:CalledVia condition key compares the services specified in the policy with the services that made requests on behalf of the IAM principal by using that principal’s credentials. In the case of the Service Catalog, the credentials of a principal who launches a product are used to access S3 buckets that are owned by the Service Catalog.
It is important to highlight that we are purposely not using the aws:ViaAWSService condition key in the preceding policy. This is because when you extend your resource perimeter, we recommend that you restrict access to only calls to buckets that are accessed by the service you are using.
You might also need to extend your resource perimeter to include the third-party resources of your partners. For example, you could be working with business partners that require your principals to upload or download data to or from S3 buckets that belong to their account. In this case, you can use the aws:ResourceAccount condition key in your resource perimeter policy to specify resources that belong to the trusted third-party account.
The following is an example of an SCP that accounts for access to the Service Catalog and third-party partner resources. Replace
To account for access to trusted third-party account resources, the condition StringNotEqualsIfExists in the ExtendResourcePerimeter statement now also contains the condition key aws:ResourceAccount. Now, the second statement denies the previously mentioned S3 actions unless the resource that is being accessed belongs to your organization (StringNotEqualsIfExists with aws:ResourceOrgID), to a trusted third-party account (StringNotEqualsIfExists with aws:ResourceAccount), or the actions are performed by Service Catalog on your behalf (ForAllValues:StringNotEquals with aws:CalledVia).
The next policy example demonstrates how to extend your resource perimeter to permit access to resources that are owned by your trusted third parties through the networks that you control. This is required if applications running in your VPC or on-premises need to be able to access a dataset that is created and maintained in your business partner AWS account. Similar to the SCP example, you can use the aws:ResourceAccount condition key in your VPC endpoint policy to account for this access pattern. Replace
The second statement, AllowRequestsByOrgsIdentitiesToThirdPartyResources, in the updated VPC endpoint policy allows s3:GetObject, s3:PutObject, and s3:PutObjectAcl actions on trusted third-party resources (StringEquals with aws:ResourceAccount) by principals that belong to your organization (StringEquals with aws:PrincipalOrgID).
Note that you do not need to modify your VPC endpoint policy to support the previously discussed Service Catalog operations. This is because calls to Amazon S3 made by Service Catalog on your behalf originate from the Service Catalog service network and do not traverse your VPC endpoint. However, you should consider access patterns that are similar to the Service Catalog example when defining your trusted resources. To learn about services with similar access patterns, see the IAM policy samples section later in this post.
Deploy the resource perimeter at scale
For recommendations on deploying a data perimeter at scale, see the Establishing a data perimeter on AWS: Allow only trusted identities to access company data blog post. The section titled Deploying the identity perimeter at scale provides the details on how to achieve this for your organization.
IAM policy samples
Our GitHub repository contains policy examples that illustrate how to implement perimeter controls for a variety of AWS services. The policy examples in the repository are for reference only. You will need to tailor them to suit the specific needs of your AWS environment.
In this blog post, you learned about the resource perimeter, the control objectives achieved by the perimeter, and how to write SCPs and VPC endpoint policies that help achieve these objectives for your organization. You also learned how to extend your perimeter to include AWS service-owned resources and your third-party partner-owned resources.
For additional learning opportunities, see the Data perimeters on AWS page. This information resource provides additional materials such as a data perimeter workshop, blog posts, whitepapers, and webinar sessions.
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