AWS DevOps Blog

Align with best practices while creating infrastructure using CDK Aspects

Organizations implement compliance rules for cloud infrastructure to ensure that they run the applications according to their best practices. They utilize AWS Config to determine overall compliance against the configurations specified in their internal guidelines. This is determined after the creation of cloud resources in their AWS account. This post will demonstrate how to use AWS CDK Aspects to check and align with best practices before the creation of cloud resources in your AWS account.

The AWS Cloud Development Kit (AWS CDK) is an open-source software development framework that lets you define your cloud application resources using familiar programming languages, such as TypeScript, Python, Java, and .NET. The expressive power of programming languages to define infrastructure accelerates the development process and improves the developer experience.

AWS Config is a service that enables you to assess, audit, and evaluate your AWS resource configurations. Config continuously monitors and records your AWS resource configurations, as well as lets you automate the evaluation of recorded configurations against desired configurations. React to non-compliant resources and change their state either automatically or manually.

AWS Config helps customers run their workloads on AWS in a compliant manner. Some customers want to detect it up front, and then only provision compliant resources. Some configurations are important for the customers, so they might not provision resources without having them compliant from the beginning. The following are examples of such configurations:

  • Amazon S3 bucket must not be created with public access
  • Amazon S3 bucket encryption must be enabled
  • Database deletion protection must be enabled

CDK Aspects

CDK Aspects are a way to apply an operation to every construct in a given scope. The aspect could verify something about the state of the constructs, such as ensuring that all buckets are encrypted, or it could modify the constructs, such as by adding tags.

An aspect is a class that implements the IAspect interface shown below. Aspects employ visitor pattern, which allows them to add a new operation to existing object structures without modifying the structures. In object-oriented programming and software engineering, the visitor design pattern is a method for separating an algorithm from an object structure on which it operates.

interface IAspect {
   visit(node: IConstruct): void;

An AWS CDK app goes through the following lifecycle phases when you call cdk deploy. These phases are also shown in the diagram below. Learn more about the CDK application lifecycle at this page.

  1. Construction
  2. Preparation
  3. Validation
  4. Synthesis
  5. Deployment

Understanding the CDK Deploy

CDK Aspects become relevant during the Prepare phase, where it makes the final modifications round in the constructs to setup their final state. This Prepare phase happens automatically. All constructs have their internal list of Aspects which are called and applied during the Prepare phase. Add your custom aspects in a scope by calling the following method:

Aspects.of(myConstruct).add(new SomeAspect(...));

When you call the method above, constructs add the custom aspects to the list of internal aspects. When CDK application goes through the Prepare phase, then AWS CDK calls the visit method of the object for the constructs and all of its children in top-down order. The visit method is free to change anything in the construct.

How to align with or check configuration compliance using CDK Aspects

In the following sections, you will see how to implement CDK Aspects for some common use cases when provisioning the cloud resources. CDK Aspects are extensible, and you can extend it for any suitable use cases in order to implement additional rules.

The code below creates the cloud resources to be verified against the best practices using Aspects in the following section.

export class AwsCdkAspectsStack extends cdk.Stack {
  constructor(scope: cdk.Construct, id: string, props?: cdk.StackProps) {
    super(scope, id, props);

    //Create a VPC with 3 availability zones
    const vpc = new ec2.Vpc(this, 'MyVpc', {
      maxAzs: 3,

    //Create a security group
    const sg = new ec2.SecurityGroup(this, 'mySG', {
      vpc: vpc,
      allowAllOutbound: true

    //Add ingress rule for SSH from the public internet
    sg.addIngressRule(ec2.Peer.anyIpv4(), ec2.Port.tcp(22), 'SSH access from anywhere')

    //Launch an EC2 instance in private subnet
    const instance = new ec2.Instance(this, 'MyInstance', {
      vpc: vpc,
      machineImage: ec2.MachineImage.latestAmazonLinux(),
      instanceType: new ec2.InstanceType('t3.small'),
      vpcSubnets: {subnetType: ec2.SubnetType.PRIVATE},
      securityGroup: sg

    //Launch MySQL rds database instance in private subnet
    const database = new rds.DatabaseInstance(this, 'MyDatabase', {
      engine: rds.DatabaseInstanceEngine.mysql({
        version: rds.MysqlEngineVersion.VER_5_7
      vpc: vpc,
      vpcSubnets: {subnetType: ec2.SubnetType.PRIVATE},
      deletionProtection: false

    //Create an s3 bucket
    const bucket = new s3.Bucket(this, 'MyBucket')

In this section, you will see the use cases and code where Aspects are used to verify the resources against the following best practices.

  1. VPC CIDR range must start with specific CIDR IP
  2. Security Group must not have public ingress rule
  3. EC2 instance must use approved AMI
  4. S3 bucket encryption must be enabled
  5. S3 bucket versioning must be enabled
  6. RDS instance must have deletion protection enabled
//Verify VPC CIDR range
export class VPCCIDRAspect implements IAspect {
    public visit(node: IConstruct): void {
        if (node instanceof ec2.CfnVPC) {
            if (!node.cidrBlock.startsWith('192.168.')) {
                Annotations.of(node).addError('VPC does not use standard CIDR range starting with "192.168."');

//Verify public ingress rule of security group
export class SecurityGroupNoPublicIngressAspect implements IAspect {
    public visit(node: IConstruct) {
        if (node instanceof ec2.CfnSecurityGroup) {

        function checkRules (rules :Array<IngressProperty>) {
            if(rules) {
                for (const rule of rules.values()) {
                    if (!Tokenization.isResolvable(rule) && (rule.cidrIp == '' || rule.cidrIp == '::/0')) {
                        Annotations.of(node).addError('Security Group allows ingress from public internet.');

//Verify AMI of EC2 instance
export class EC2ApprovedAMIAspect implements IAspect {
    public visit(node: IConstruct) {
        if (node instanceof ec2.CfnInstance) {
            if (node.imageId != 'approved-image-id') {
                Annotations.of(node).addError('EC2 Instance is not using approved AMI.');

//Verify that bucket versioning is enabled
export class BucketVersioningAspect implements IAspect {
    public visit(node: IConstruct): void {
        if (node instanceof s3.CfnBucket) {
            if (!node.versioningConfiguration
                || (!Tokenization.isResolvable(node.versioningConfiguration)
                    && node.versioningConfiguration.status !== 'Enabled')) {
                Annotations.of(node).addError('S3 bucket versioning is not enabled.');

//Verify that bucket has server-side encryption enabled
export class BucketEncryptionAspect implements IAspect {
    public visit(node: IConstruct): void {
        if (node instanceof s3.CfnBucket) {
            if (!node.bucketEncryption) {
                Annotations.of(node).addError('S3 bucket encryption is not enabled.');

//Verify that DB instance deletion protection is enabled
export class RDSDeletionProtectionAspect implements IAspect {
    public visit(node: IConstruct) {
        if (node instanceof rds.CfnDBInstance) {
            if (! node.deletionProtection) {
                Annotations.of(node).addError('RDS DB instance deletion protection is not enabled.');

Once you create the aspects, add them in a particular scope. That scope can be App, Stack, or Construct. In the example below, all aspects are added in the scope of Stack.

const app = new cdk.App();

const stack = new AwsCdkAspectsStack(app, 'MyApplicationStack');

Aspects.of(stack).add(new VPCCIDRAspect());
Aspects.of(stack).add(new SecurityGroupNoPublicIngressAspect());
Aspects.of(stack).add(new EC2ApprovedAMIAspect());
Aspects.of(stack).add(new RDSDeletionProtectionAspect());
Aspects.of(stack).add(new BucketEncryptionAspect());
Aspects.of(stack).add(new BucketVersioningAspect());


Once you call cdk deploy for the above code with aspects added, you will see the output below. The deployment will not continue until you resolve the errors to make the resources compliant.

Screenshot displaying CDK errors.

You can also use Aspects to make general modifications to the resources regardless of any compliance checks. For example, use it to apply mandatory tags to every taggable resource. Tags is an example of implementing CDK Aspects in order to achieve this functionality. Utilizing the code below, you can add or remove a tag from all taggable resources and their children in the scope of a Construct.

Tags.of(myConstruct).add('key', 'value');

Below is an example of adding the Department tag to every resource created in the scope of Stack.

Tags.of(stack).add('Department', 'Finance');

We recommend developers to avoid using Aspects to dynamically modify the infrastructure resources. This can change the stack when CDK code is synthesized which makes IaC less deterministic and CDK code isn’t single source of truth.

Additional recommendations

CDK Aspects are ways for developers to align with and check best practices in their infrastructure configurations using the programming language of choice. AWS CloudFormation Guard (cfn-guard) provides compliance administrators with a simple, policy-as-code language to author policies and apply them to enforce best practices. Aspects are applied before generation of the CloudFormation template in Prepare phase, but cfn-guard is applied after generation of the CloudFormation template and before the Deploy phase. Developers can use Aspects or cfn-guard or both as part of a CI/CD pipeline to stop deployment of non-compliant resources, but CloudFormation Guard is the way to go when you want to enforce compliances and prevent deployment of non-compliant resources.

cdk-nag is an open-source project which implements many rules in evaluation packs such as AWS Solutions, HIPPA and NIST 800-53 using AWS CDK Aspects. This project helps you to check your CDK applications for best practices using already available rules in these packs. You also have option to suppress some rules from evaluation packs which you don’t want to evaluate.


If you are utilizing AWS CDK to provision your infrastructure, then you can start using Aspects to align with best practices before resources are created. If you are utilizing CloudFormation template to manage your infrastructure, then you can read this blog to learn how to migrate the CloudFormation template to AWS CDK. After the migration, utilize CDK Aspects to evaluate compliance of your resources against the best practices before they are created.

About the Authors

Om Prakash Jha

Om Prakash Jha is a Solutions Architect at AWS. He helps customers build well-architected applications on AWS in the retail industry vertical. He has more than a decade of experience in developing, designing, and architecting mission critical applications. His passion is DevOps and application modernization. Outside of his work, he likes to read books, watch movies, and explore part of the world with his family.