AWS for M&E Blog

Deep dive into CORS configs on Amazon S3

As part of the technical marketing team at AWS Elemental, my role includes building tools that help customers streamline their video workflows. I’m currently developing a web application for processing videos through AWS machine learning services using a serverless framework called the Media Insights Engine.

Recently, I’ve been having difficulties with Cross-Origin Resource Sharing (CORS) errors in my web component for uploading files to Amazon S3. This was one of the hardest software defects I’ve had to solve in a long time so I thought it would be a good idea to share what I learned along the way.

Drag-and-Drop Uploads with DropzoneJS

I chose to implement the front-end and DropzoneJS to provide drag-and-drop file upload functionality, as shown below. My Vue.js component for Dropzone was derived from vue-dropzone.

Uploading to Amazon S3 with Presigned URLs

Here’s what’s supposed to happen in my application when a user uploads a file:

1. The web browser sends two requests to an API Gateway endpoint that acts as the point of entry to a Lambda function. This function returns a presigned URL which can be used in a subsequent POST to upload a file to Amazon S3.Request to an API Gateway endpoint, backed by a Lambda function that generates a presigned URL.


2. The first of the two requests is an HTTP OPTIONS method to my /upload endpoint. This is called a CORS preflight request and is used by the browser to verify that the server (an API Gateway endpoint in my case) understands the CORS protocol. The server should respond with an empty 200 OK status code.


3. The browser then submits another preflight CORS request to verify that the S3 endpoint understands the CORS protocol. Again, the S3 endpoint should respond with an empty 200 OK. 


4. The second request is an HTTP POST to /upload . The prescribed AWS Lambda function then responds with the presigned URL.

Preflight CORS request to S3 endpoint

5. Finally, the browser uses the presigned URL response from step #3 to POST to the S3 endpoint with the file data.

Configuring CORS on an S3 Bucket

Before you can use presigned URLs to upload to S3, you need to define a CORS policy on the S3 bucket so that web clients loaded in one domain (e.g. localhost or cloudfront) can interact with resources in the S3 domain. Setting a CORS policy on an S3 bucket is not complicated; however, if you do get it wrong, you can often solve it with the suggestions mentioned in this CORS troubleshooting guide. This is the CORS policy I used on my S3 bucket:



What can go wrong?

There are a lot of different ways I found to break things (this happens to be my specialty). Sometimes, I would neglect to configure a CORS policy on my S3 bucket. This would cause S3 to block my CORS preflight request with an HTTP 403 error:

CORS Error


Occasionally, I would get the same error when I put an incorrect CIDR block on the Amazon API Gateway endpoint for the Lambda function I used to get presigned URLs.

API Gateway


Even with a correct CORS policy on my S3 bucket and access policies in API Gateway, I continued to encounter HTTP 307 Temporary Redirect errors on the CORS preflight request sent to the S3 endpoint in any region other than Virginia (us-east-1). As noted in step 2 above, a CORS preflight request is an HTTP OPTIONS request that checks to see if the server understands the CORS protocol (reference). Here’s what it looks like when a server redirects a CORS preflight request to a different endpoint:

CORS Preflight Redirect


Now, look closely at the preflight redirect. Where is it directing the browser? How is the redirected URL different from the original request?

The redirected URL is region-specific. This was an important clue.

Browsers won’t redirect preflight requests for several reasons. After doing some research in AWS documentation about S3 usage hereherehere, and here, I realized that my DropzoneJS component needed to use a region-specific S3 endpoint for CORS preflight requests. The default S3 endpoint is only valid for buckets created in Virginia!

Creating presigned URLs the right way!

The solution to my problems started coming together when I realized my DropzoneJS implementation used a statically defined URL that worked in Virginia (us-east-1) but not for any other region. I also noticed that the get_presigned_url() boto3 function in my Lambda function returned different results depending on the region it was deployed to. I was able to isolate this region dependency once I learned that you can create a region-dependent S3 client by using botocore.client.Config from Python, like this:

s3_client = boto3.client('s3', region_name='us-west-2')

This was a surprise to me because, according to the boto3 docs, there is no option to specify a region for your S3 client. Having learned about the botocore approach, I will now always initialize S3 clients with a region name, the latest signature_version, and virtual host style addressing, like this:

s3_client = boto3.client('s3', region_name='us-west-2', config = Config(signature_version = 's3v4',

My uploads started working reliably in every region after changing the S3 client to use a region-specific configuration and changing DropzoneJS to use the URL provided in the response from get_presigned_url().

Sample code

You can use the following code to see what region-specific presigned URLs look like from a Python environment on your laptop:

import requests
import boto3
from botocore.config import Config

s3_client = boto3.client('s3', region_name='us-west-2', config = Config(signature_version = 's3v4', s3={'addressing_style': 'virtual'}))

response = s3_client.generate_presigned_post('mie01-dataplanebucket-1vbh3c018ikls','cat.jpg')
with open('/Users/myuser/Desktop/cat.jpg', 'rb') as f:
     files = {'file': ('cat.jpg', f)}['url'], data=response['fields'], files=files)

Here’s what my /upload Lambda function looks like now:

@app.route('/upload', cors=True, methods=['POST'], content_types=['application/json'])
def upload():
    region = os.environ['AWS_REGION']
    s3 = boto3.client('s3', region_name=region, config = Config(signature_version = 's3v4', s3={'addressing_style': 'virtual'}))
    # limit uploads to 5GB     max_upload_size = 5368709120     try:
        response = s3.generate_presigned_post(
            Conditions=[["content-length-range", 0, max_upload_size ]],
            ExpiresIn=3600         )
    except ClientError as e:
        raise ChaliceViewError(
            "Unable to generate pre-signed S3 URL for uploading media: {error}".format(error=e))
    except Exception as e:
        raise ChaliceViewError(
            "Unable to generate pre-signed S3 URL for uploading media: {error}".format(error=e))
    else:         print("presigned url generated: ", response)
        return response


Here are the key points to remember about uploading to S3 using presigned URLs:

  • Always use region-specific S3 endpoints when trying to upload to S3. (reference)
  • Always use botocore Config options to initialize Python S3 clients with a region, sig 3/4, and virtual path addressing. (reference)
  • Don’t assume that you have a CORS issue when browsers report CORS errors because they may not be aware of lower-level issues, such as DNS resolution of S3 endpoints or API access controls.
Ian Downard

Ian Downard

Ian Downard is a software development engineer for Media & Entertainment Solutions at AWS. He focuses on creating developer-friendly ways to use AWS machine learning services for processing multimedia. He enjoys engaging with people at conferences and tech meetups in Portland, Oregon.