AWS Security Blog

AWS IAM introduces updated policy defaults for IAM user passwords

November 2, 2020: This post has been updated to reflect the change in date for the default password policy from October 28 to November 18.

October 20, 2020: This post has been updated to reflect the change in date for the default password policy from October 2 to October 21 to October 28.

July 27, 2020: This post has been updated to reflect the change in date for the default password policy from August 3 to October 2.

To improve the default security for all AWS customers, we are adding a default password policy for AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) users in AWS accounts. This update is globally available to the IAM service as of November 18th, 2020. You can implement this change today by creating an IAM password policy in your AWS account. AWS accounts with an existing IAM password policy will not be affected by this change, but it is important to review the details below so you can evaluate any necessary changes to your environment.

What is an IAM password policy?

The IAM password policy is an account-level setting that applies to all IAM users, excluding the root user. You can create a policy to do things like require a minimum password length and specific character types, along with setting mandatory rotation periods. These password settings apply only to passwords assigned to IAM users and do not affect any access keys they might have.

What is the new default policy?

The new default IAM policy will have the following minimum requirements and must:

  • be a minimum of 8 or more characters
  • include a minimum of three of the following mix of character types: uppercase, lowercase, numbers, non-alphanumeric symbols, for example !@#$%^&*()_+-[]{}|‘
  • not be identical to your AWS account name or email address

You can determine your own password requirements by setting a custom policy. Please note that this change does not apply to the root user, which has a separate password policy.

What should customers do to prepare for this update?

For AWS accounts with no password policy applied — the experience will be unchanged until you update user passwords. The new password will need to align with the minimum requirements of the default policy. Likewise, when you create new IAM users in these AWS accounts, the passwords must meet the new minimum requirements of the default policy. A default password policy will be set for all AWS accounts that do not currently have one.

For AWS accounts with an existing password policy — there is no change for any new and existing user passwords, and they will not be affected by this update. If you disable the existing password policy, then any new IAM users created from that point onward will require passwords that meet the minimum requirements of the default policy.

For AWS accounts using automation workflows which create IAM users — If you have implemented an automated user creation workflow that does not produce passwords that meet the new required complexity and have not implemented your own custom policy, you will be affected. You should inspect and evaluate your existing workflows, and they should either be updated to meet the default password policy or set with a custom policy prior to October 28th to ensure continued operation.

When will these changes happen?

To provide time for you to evaluate potential impact by this change, AWS is updating the default password policy in 90 days, which will take effect in October 2020. We encourage all customers to be proactive about assessing and modifying any automation workflows that create IAM users and passwords without a corresponding password policy.

How do I check if a policy is already set?

You can navigate to the AWS IAM console then click on Account settings that will state whether or not a password policy has been set for the account. Click here for an example of how to check this via the AWS Command Line Interface (AWS CLI). For further information and to learn how to check this using the API, please refer to the documentation.

AWS Single Sign-On (AWS SSO)

Note: if you are primarily using IAM users as the source of your identities across multiple accounts, you may want to evaluate AWS SSO, that simplifies the user experience and improves security by eliminating individual passwords in each account. It also allows you to quickly and easily assign your employees access to AWS accounts managed with AWS Organizations, business cloud applications, and custom applications that support Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) 2.0. To learn more, visit the AWS Single Sign-on page.

Need more assistance?

AWS IQ enables AWS customers to find, securely collaborate with, and pay AWS Certified third-party experts for on-demand project work. Visit the AWS IQ page for information about how to submit a request, get responses from experts, and choose the expert with the right skills and experience. Log into your console and select Get Started with AWS IQ to start a request.

The AWS Technical Support tiers cover development and production issues for AWS products and services, along with other key stack components. AWS Support does not include code development for client applications.

If you have any questions or issues, please start a new thread on the AWS IAM forum, or contact AWS Support or your Technical Account Manager (TAM). If you have feedback about this post, submit comments in the Comments section below.

Want more AWS Security how-to content, news, and feature announcements? Follow us on Twitter.


Mark Burr

Mark is a Principal Consultant with the Worldwide Public Sector Professional Services team. He specializes in security, automation, large-scale migrations, enterprise transformation, and executive strategy. Mark enjoys helping global customers achieve amazing outcomes in AWS. When he’s not in the cloud, he’s on a bicycle or drinking a Belgian ale.