AWS IAM Best Practices [Cheat Sheet]

AWS IAM Security best practices checklist

Securing your AWS accounts and environments starts with implementing AWS IAM best practices. Get this right and you will have a solid security foundation. Get this wrong and I don’t care if you spend $1m/year+ on the latest security tooling, you’re missing out on the basics.

So what are these IAM security best practices? Let’s take a look at 14 of them and refer to the cheat sheet for more details:

🪦 Say bye to long-term credentials and additional user management

✅ Require human users to use federation with an identity provider to access AWS using temporary credentials
✅ Require workloads to use temporary credentials with IAM roles to access AWS

🔒 Lock down users/root, and clean up unused long-term credentials

✅ Require multi-factor authentication (MFA)
✅ Update access keys when needed for use cases that require long-term credentials
✅ Follow best practices to protect your root user credentials

💪 Let’s get that least privilege

✅ Apply least privilege permissions
✅ Get started with AWS managed policies and move toward least-privilege permissions
✅ Use IAM Access Analyzer to generate least-privilege policies based on access activity
✅ Regularly review and remove unused users, roles, permissions, policies, and credentials
✅ Use conditions in IAM policies to further restrict access
✅ Verify public and cross-account access to resources with IAM Access Analyzer
✅ Use IAM Access Analyzer to validate your IAM policies to ensure secure and functional permissions
✅ Establish permissions guardrails across multiple accounts
✅ Use permissions boundaries to delegate permissions management within an account

Main takeaway

You’ll notice that more than half of these have to do with achieving least privilege, and that’s because it’s a particularly difficult thing to do — especially at scale. In theory it sounds easy, in practice not so much.

Follow this checklist and you’ll get much closer to achieving that goal and having a very solid IAM foundation for single or multi-account setups.

More info and resources

🔗 For more info:
🔗 For more AWS security cheat sheets and checklists:

Best Practices for AWS IAM Security checklist cheat sheet

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