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Cloud Services / DevOps / Security

A Guide to Migrating to the AWS Identity Center

It’s a directory for creating users, organizing groups and assigning permissions across groups. Free tools like Apono make managing this simple.
Nov 20th, 2023 12:00pm by
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For organizations using AWS, maintaining a minimal-privilege stance in cloud operations is increasingly challenging. This challenge arises from the need to construct access systems anew, revamp existing tools and anticipate future cloud service enhancements.

Moreover, teams find it cumbersome to create and manage AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) users and roles as their teams expand and require additional accounts. To address this, it introduced the AWS Identity Center, previously known as AWS SSO, to serve as an independent identity provider for Amazon login or integrate with existing providers like Okta and Google.

Let’s explore the five essential steps for migrating to the AWS Identity Center.

But First, Why Opt for the AWS IAM Identity Center?

Amazon’s traditional AWS IAM tool requires teams to configure every user or role inside Amazon. And permissions are static, so to make any permission adjustments for any user or role, administrators have to go inside AWS and manually change the permissions for the specific accounts.

In comparison, the IAM Identity Center by default offers a directory for creating users, organizing them into groups and assigning permissions across those groups. It also allows users to manage access to different AWS accounts and applications and select their preferred identity source for smooth integration across the AWS ecosystem, maintaining uniform permissions across various accounts and applications.

5 Steps for Provisioning in the AWS Identity Center

1. Enabling the IAM Identity Center:

When you set up an account, start with one primary sign-in identity called the root user, granting full access to all AWS services and resources within the account. Sign in to the AWS Management Console as the account owner by choosing root user. (Note: Use the root user to perform the tasks that only it can perform.)

2. Provisioning users and groups:

Within the IAM Identity Center, you can create users and groups or integrate existing ones from Active Directory or another external identity provider. However, before the IAM Identity Center can grant access permissions to users and groups within an AWS account, it needs to be informed of their existence. Likewise, applications enabled by Identity Center can interact with users and groups that are known to IAM Identity Center. Provisioning in IAM Identity Center varies based on the identity source that you use.

3. Defining permissions

To define the permissions and policies that govern what users have access to within an AWS account, you will need to go into the admin console and configure it all from there. (Keep in mind, with the AWS IAM Identity Center, it’s possible to reuse existing AWS IAM Identity Center policies.)

4. Assigning access

In the Identity Center, permissions are administered through sets of permissions, which are essentially groupings of IAM policies. When a user or a group is assigned a permission set associated with an account, the Identity Center will automatically generate corresponding IAM roles within that account. These roles inherit policy configurations from the respective permission set. Furthermore, each role is equipped with a trust policy that ensures the role can only be assumed after the user has been authenticated by the federated identity provider.

5. Removing access

One of the most important steps, though often neglected, is remembering to remove permissions once they aren’t needed anymore. This helps enforce the zero-principle security policy that states no one should have standing permissions.

AWS IAM Users are a crucial aspect of managing access and permissions within the AWS ecosystem. However, relying on long-term credentials can pose tons of risks. Using AWS Organizations, AWS Identity Center and identity federation can greatly improve the management of users and resources across multiple accounts.

Using these tools and pairing them with permission management applications, you can enhance security, streamline administration and maintain compliance within your AWS infrastructure.

This Seems Tedious… How Can I Streamline this Workflow?

There are free tools like Apono that integrate with AWS natively, which allows you to manage access to your S3 buckets, IAM roles and groups, clusters and more.

About Apono

Apono is a cloud native centralized access management platform that keeps organizations secure with simple and precise just-in-time permissions across the DevOps domain. Apono is self-servable, takes just minutes to deploy, and easily integrates with your existing cloud services, Kubernetes, data repositories, and more.

Try it for yourself and check out the documentation page for in-depth information, use cases, and more.

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