AWS IAM Security Through the Command Line and SDKs (Java, Ruby, and PHP)‏

Amazon security requires the use of AWS IAM with temporary authentication credentials. We’ll explore implementation via the command line and SDKs.

Cloud security is shared between AWS and its customers. Amazon Web Services Security takes responsibility for the compute and networking layers (security of the cloud), while we’re on the hook for our instances, networks, web applications, and databases (security in the cloud). But, as I discussed in a previous post on AWS security, Amazon also provides you with powerful tools to help you maintain your side of the deal; especially their Identity and Access Management system (IAM).

IAM allows you to create and manage permissions for multiple users. It works on the philosophy of least privilege, by providing only the precise rights a user or role will need to do exactly their task and nothing more. AWS best practices are, as the name suggests, the very best way to tighten your AWS  IAM security. While most best practices can be implemented without modification, using IAM roles for apps or scripts running on EC2 instances might require a little work. In this post, we’ll see some examples of code-based IAM role implementation in your applications.

What is an AWS IAM role and how does it work

When AWS IAM users want to access the AWS Management Console, they log in using their usernames and passwords. Programmatic access to AWS services requires an Access Key and Secret Key. Your keys might look something like this (use this guide to create your own keys):

aws_access_key_id = ARTDOSFODNN7EXAMPLE
aws_secret_access_key = wJalrXUtnTRSMI/K756ENG/bPxRfiCYEXAMPLEKEY

You could hard code your access keys in your application to enable access to AWS services like S3 or DynamoDB, but anyone with access to the code will be able to see the keys in plain text. If your server gets hacked, imagine the consequences of having left code like this lying around:

AWS IAM codeInstead of the above code, you can completely avoid this vulnerability by using an IAM role, which lets you securely distribute keys to your users and applications. IAM role credentials can (and should) be rotated regularly and temporary credentials provided for service access. If your application needs to access objects in an s3 bucket, temporary security credentials are provided to the host ec2 instance. IAM roles for EC2 instances also work within Amazon Virtual Private Clouds:

Amazon Virtual Private Clouds

Benefits:

  • No need to share permanent security credentials.
  • Uses temporary security credentials when making requests from running EC2 instance. Effective Amazon security requires the use of AWS IAM with temporary authentication credentials: we’ll explore implementation via the command line and SDKs to AWS services.
  • Integrated with All AWS Software Development Kits (SDKs) and the command line interface tool (CLI).

Creating an AWS IAM role

  1. Log into the IAM console.
  2. Click on Roles on the left panel, and then click Create New Role.
  3. Specify a descriptive Role name.AWS IAM role
  4. Select Role Type as EC2.
    AWS IAM Role Type
  5. On the Attach Policy page, you can either select an existing policy or go back and create a new policy as per your needs.
  6. Review the role information, and then click Create Role.
  7. You can launch an instance using either a CLI or the Console: in Ec2 dashboard, click Launch Instance.
  8. Select your AMI, then select an instance type and click Next: Configure Instance Details.
  9. On the Configure Instance Details page, Specify the role when you launch your instances.AWS IAM instance configure instance details
  10. Once this is done, your application will retrieve a set of temporary credentials and use them in your application.

Using AWS IAM Roles with the command line interface

Here’s a simple script to launch an instance using the AWS CLI. As you can see for yourself, we have included no AWS Keys. The “/etc/profile.d/aws-apitools-common.sh” file provides all the authentication you’ll need at run time (note, that if you’re running an AMI besides Amazon Linux, you may need to install this file manually).

#!/bin/bash
. /etc/profile.d/aws-apitools-common.sh
aws ec2 run-instances --image-id ami-1ecae776 --region us-east-1 --placement AvailabilityZone=us-east-1b --instance-type t2.large --key-name demo-key --subnet-id subnet-45874145 --security-group-ids sg-1254854

Using AWS IAM Roles with the PHP SDK

When using an IAM role with a PHP application, you can create caching layers on top of your IAM role credentials to specify a credentials cache using the credentials.cache option in a client’s factory method, or in a service builder configuration file. The configuration setting (credentials.cache) should be configured to an object that implements Guzzle’s CacheAdapterInterface . A credential’s cache can also be used in a service builder configuration.

<?php
// File saved as /path/to/custom/config.php
use Doctrine\Common\Cache\FilesystemCache;
use Guzzle\Cache\DoctrineCacheAdapter;
$cacheAdapter = new DoctrineCacheAdapter(new FilesystemCache('/tmp/cache'));
return array(
    'includes' => array('_aws'),
    'services' => array(
        'default_settings' => array(
            'params' => array(
                'credentials.cache' => $cacheAdapter
            )
        )
    )
);

Using AWS IAM Roles with the Java SDK

In order to use the AWS java SDK to connect AWS IAM service, all dependent Packages related to AWS IAM and AWS credentials need to be specified in the build path. The Java SDK uses “Class InstanceProfileCredentialsProvider” that loads credentials from the Amazon EC2 Instance Metadata Service, which retrieves temporary AWS credentials that have the same permissions as the IAM role associated with our EC2 instance. At the start of your program, you need to import the “com.amazonaws.auth.*” class.

import com.amazonaws.auth.profile.ProfileCredentialsProvider;

Using AWS IAM Roles with the Ruby SDK

In the Ruby SDK, EC2Provider objects retrieve credentials with the same permissions as the IAM role. These credentials refresh regularly to get access to AWS services.

AWS.config(:credential_provider => AWS::Core::CredentialProviders::EC2Provider.new)

Here’s a sample program that will download an object from AWS S3. As you can see, we have used no credentials within the code.

require 'rubygems'
require 'aws-sdk'
s3 = AWS::S3.newaws-iam-instance
bucket_name = 'text-content'
obj_name = 'text-object.txt'
document = s3.buckets[bucket_name].objects[obj_name]
File.open(obj_name, "w") do |f|
  f.write(document.read)
end
puts "'#{obj_name}' copied from S3."

Avatar

Written by

Nitheesh Poojary

My professional IT career began nine years back when I was just out of my college. I worked with a great team as an infrastructure management engineer, managing hundreds of enterprise application servers. I found my passion when I got the opportunity to work with Cloud technologies: I'm addicted to AWS Cloud Services, DevOps engineering, and all the cloud tools and technologies that make engineers' lives easier. Currently, I am working as a Solution Architect in SixNines IT. We are an experienced team of engineers that have helped hundreds of customers move to the cloud responsibly. I have achieved 5 AWS certifications, happily helping fellow engineers across the globe through my blogs and answering questions in various forums.


Related Posts

Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— September 15, 2020

New Content: Azure DP-100 Certification, Alibaba Cloud Certified Associate Prep, 13 Security Labs, and Much More

This past month our Content Team served up a heaping spoonful of new and updated content. Not only did our experts release the brand new Azure DP-100 Certification Learning Path, but they also created 18 new hands-on labs — and so much more! New content on Cloud Academy At any time, y...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • DevOps
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Machine Learning
  • programming
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— August 28, 2020

AWS Certification Practice Exam: What to Expect from Test Questions

If you’re building applications on the AWS cloud or looking to get started in cloud computing, certification is a way to build deep knowledge in key services unique to the AWS platform. AWS currently offers 12 certifications that cover major cloud roles including Solutions Architect, De...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS Certifications
Patrick Navarro
Patrick Navarro
— August 25, 2020

Overcoming Unprecedented Business Challenges with AWS

From auto-scaling applications with high availability to video conferencing that’s used by everyone, every day —  cloud technology has never been more popular or in-demand. But what does this mean for experienced cloud professionals and the challenges they face as they carve out a new p...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Cloud Adoption
  • digital transformation
Avatar
Andrew Larkin
— August 18, 2020

Constant Content: Cloud Academy’s Q3 2020 Roadmap

Hello —  Andy Larkin here, VP of Content at Cloud Academy. I am pleased to release our roadmap for the next three months of 2020 — August through October. Let me walk you through the content we have planned for you and how this content can help you gain skills, get certified, and...

Read more
  • alibaba
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • content roadmap
  • Content updates
  • DevOps
  • GCP
  • Google Cloud
  • New content
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— August 5, 2020

New Content: Alibaba, Azure AZ-303 and AZ-304, Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) Foundation, Python 3 Programming, 16 Hands-on Labs, and Much More

This month our Content Team did an amazing job at publishing and updating a ton of new content. Not only did our experts release the brand new AZ-303 and AZ-304 Certification Learning Paths, but they also created 16 new hands-on labs — and so much more! New content on Cloud Academy At...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • DevOps
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Machine Learning
  • programming
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— July 16, 2020

Blog Digest: Which Certifications Should I Get?, The 12 Microsoft Azure Certifications, 6 Ways to Prevent a Data Breach, and More

This month, we were excited to announce that Cloud Academy was recognized in the G2 Summer 2020 reports! These reports highlight the top-rated solutions in the industry, as chosen by the source that matters most: customers. We're grateful to have been nominated as a High Performer in se...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • blog digest
  • Certifications
  • Cloud Academy
  • OWASP
  • OWASP Top 10
  • Security
  • VPCs
Avatar
Cloud Academy Team
— July 9, 2020

Which Certifications Should I Get?

The old AWS slogan, “Cloud is the new normal” is indeed a reality today. Really, cloud has been the new normal for a while now and getting credentials has become an increasingly effective way to quickly showcase your abilities to recruiters and companies. With all that in mind, the s...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Certifications
  • Cloud Computing
  • Google Cloud Platform
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— July 2, 2020

New Content: AWS, Azure, Typescript, Java, Docker, 13 New Labs, and Much More

This month, our Content Team released a whopping 13 new labs in real cloud environments! If you haven't tried out our labs, you might not understand why we think that number is so impressive. Our labs are not “simulated” experiences — they are real cloud environments using accounts on A...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • DevOps
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Machine Learning
  • programming
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— June 19, 2020

Kickstart Your Tech Training With a Free Week on Cloud Academy

Are you looking to make a jump in your technical career? Want to get trained or certified on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform, DevOps, Kubernetes, Python, or another in-demand skill? Then you'll want to mark your calendar. Starting Monday, June 22 at 12:00 a.m. PDT (3:00 a.m. EDT), ...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • cloud academy content
  • complimentary access
  • GCP
  • on the house
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— June 11, 2020

New Content: AZ-500 and AZ-400 Updates, 3 Google Professional Exam Preps, Practical ML Learning Path, C# Programming, and More

This month, our Content Team released tons of new content and labs in real cloud environments. Not only that, but we introduced our very first highly interactive "Office Hours" webinar. This webinar, Acing the AWS Solutions Architect Associate Certification, started with a quick overvie...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • DevOps
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Machine Learning
  • programming
Rebecca Willis
Rebecca Willis
— June 3, 2020

Azure vs. AWS: Which Certification Provides the Brighter Future?

More and more companies are using cloud services, prompting more and more people to switch their current IT position to something cloud-related. The problem is most people only have that much time after work to learn new technologies, and there are plenty of cloud services that you can ...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • certification
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— June 2, 2020

Blog Digest: 5 Reasons to Get AWS Certified, OWASP Top 10, Getting Started with VPCs, Top 10 Soft Skills, and More

Thank you for being a valued member of our community! We recently sent out a short survey to understand what type of content you would like us to add to Cloud Academy, and we want to thank everyone who gave us their input. If you would like to complete the survey, it's not too late. It ...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • blog digest
  • Certifications
  • Cloud Academy
  • OWASP
  • OWASP Top 10
  • Security
  • VPCs