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InfoQ Homepage News AWS Introduces Global Condition Context Keys to Improve EC2 Security

AWS Introduces Global Condition Context Keys to Improve EC2 Security

AWS recently introduced global condition context keys to restrict the usage of EC2 instance credentials to the instance itself. The new keys allow the creation of policies that can limit the use of role credentials to only the location from where they originated, reducing the risk of credential exfiltration.

The two new keys are aws:EC2InstanceSourceVPC, a condition key that contains the VPC ID to which an EC2 instance is deployed, and aws:EC2InstanceSourcePrivateIPv4, a condition key that contains the primary IPv4 address of the EC2 instance.

IAM roles for EC2 are used extensively on AWS, allowing applications to make API requests without managing the security credentials but the temporary credentials were at risk of credential sprawls. Sébastien Stormacq, principal developer advocate at AWS, recently explained the risk and showed how to use GuardDuty to detect EC2 credential exfiltration:

Imagine that your application running on the EC2 instance is compromised and a malicious actor managed to access the instance’s metadata service. The malicious actor would extract the credentials. These credentials have the permissions you defined in the IAM role attached to the instance. Depending on your application, attackers might have the possibility to exfiltrate data from S3 or DynamoDB, start or terminate EC2 instances, or even create new IAM users or roles.

Until now, developers had to hard-code the VPC IDs and/or IP addresses of the roles in the role policy or VPC Endpoint policy to restrict the network location where these credentials could be used. Liam Wadman, solutions architect at AWS, and Josh Levinson, senior product manager at AWS, explain:

By using the two new credential-relative condition keys with the existing network path-relative aws:SourceVPC and aws:VpcSourceIP condition keys, you can create SCPs to help ensure that credentials for EC2 instances are only used from the EC2 instances to which they were issued. By writing policies that compare the two sets of dynamic values, you can configure your environment such that requests signed with an EC2 instance credential are denied if they are used anywhere other than the EC2 instance to which they were issued.

  "Statement": [
  	"Effect": "Deny",
  	"Action": "*",
  	"Resource": "*",
  	"Condition": {
    	"StringNotEquals": {
      	"aws:ec2InstanceSourceVPC": "${aws:SourceVpc}"
    	"Null": {
      	"ec2:SourceInstanceARN": "false"
    	"BoolIfExists": {
      	"aws:ViaAWSService": "false"

Example of a deny policy using the ec2InstanceSourceVPC key.

While many developers like the new context keys, Liz Fong-Jones, field CTO at, comments:

I'm shocked this wasn't automatically default-on enforced before and now looking at how quickly, exactly, we can do the opt-in for this across all our IAM policies.

In the "fixing AWS temporary credential sprawl the messy way" article, Seshubabu Pasam, CTO at Ariksa, agrees:

Unless you are on top of every new announcement from AWS, this is not going to surface to common users for a while. Completely misses the mark on secure by default. Like a lot of new security-related announcements, this and other security features are completely useless even in a new account because it is not on by default.

The new condition keys are available in all AWS regions.

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