Control VPC sharing in an AWS multi-account setup with service control policies
January 29, 2021: We made minor updates to the architectural diagram in Figure 1.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) customers who establish shared infrastructure services in a multi-account environment through AWS Organizations and AWS Resource Access Manager (RAM) may find that the default permissions assigned to the management account are too broad. This may allow organizational accounts to share virtual private clouds (VPCs) with other accounts that shouldn’t have access. Many AWS customers, such as those in regulated industries or who handle sensitive data, may need tighter control of which AWS accounts can share VPCs and which accounts can access shared VPCs.
This blog post describes a mechanism for using service control policies (SCPs) to provide that granular control when you create VPC subnet resource shares within AWS Organizations. These organization policies create a preventative guardrail for controlling which accounts in AWS Organizations can share VPC resources, and with whom. The approach outlined here helps to ensure that your AWS accounts comply with your organization’s access control guidelines for VPC sharing.
A VPC sharing scenario in a multi-account environment
When you set up a multi-account environment in AWS, you can create a good foundation to support your cloud projects by incorporating AWS best practices. AWS Control Tower can automate the implementation of best practices and help your organization achieve its centralized governance and business agility goals. One AWS best practice is to create a shared service network account to consolidate networking components, such as subnets, that can be used by the rest of the organization without duplication of resources and costs. AWS RAM provides the ability to share VPC subnets across accounts. This helps to leverage the implicit routing within a VPC for applications that require a high degree of interconnectivity. VPC subnet sharing across accounts allows individual teams to co-locate their microservice application stacks in a single VPC, and provides several advantages:
- Easier administration and management of VPCs in a central network account.
- Separation of duties—in other words, network admins retain control over management of VPCs, network access control lists (network ACLs), and security groups, while application teams have permissions to deploy resources and workloads in those VPCs.
- High density of Classless Inter-Domain Routing (CIDR) block usage for VPC subnets and avoidance of the problem of CIDR overlap that is encountered with multiple VPCs.
- Reuse of network address translation (NAT) gateways, VPC interface endpoints, and avoidance of inter-VPC connectivity costs.
In order to allow for VPC subnets to be shared, you must turn on resource sharing from the management account for your AWS Organizations structure. See Shared VPC prerequisites for more information. This allows sharing of VPC subnets across any accounts within AWS Organizations. However, RAM resource sharing does not provide granular control over VPC shared access.
Let’s consider a customer organization that has set up a multi-account environment with AWS Organizations. The organization consists of segmented accounts and organization units (OUs). The following diagram shows such a multi-OU multi-account environment for a customer who has several teams using the AWS environment for their applications and initiatives.
The AWS environment is structured as follows:
- The Infrastructure OU consists of AWS accounts that contain shared resources for the organization. This OU contains a central network account that contains all the networking resources to be shared with other AWS Organization accounts. Network administrators create a VPC in the networking account with a public and private subnet. This VPC is created for the purpose of sharing the subnets with other teams that need access for their workloads.
- The Applications OU consists of AWS accounts that are used by several application teams. These are external and internal application stacks that require a VPC-based infrastructure.
- The Data Science OU consists of AWS accounts that are used by teams working on data analytics applications and business intelligence (BI) tools. These applications use serverless data analytics tools for Extract-Transform-Load (ETL) pipelines and big data processing workloads. They have third-party BI tools that need to be hosted in AWS and used by the BI team of the organization for reporting.
Cloud administrators turn on resource sharing in AWS RAM from the management account for their organization. The network administrators operating within the network account create a resource share for the two subnets by using AWS RAM, and share them with the Applications OU so that the application teams can use the shared subnets.
However, this approach opens the door to sharing AWS VPC subnets from any AWS account to any other AWS account as long as the admin users of individual accounts have access to AWS RAM. An example of such unintended or unwanted sharing is when the Application OU account could share a resource with the Data Science OU account, bypassing the centralized network account to satisfy one-off project requests or Proof of Concepts (POCs) that violate the centralized VPC sharing policy.
As a security best practice, cloud administrators should follow the principle of least privilege and use granular controls for VPC sharing. The cloud administrator in this example wants to limit AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) users with policies that restrict users’ access to AWS RAM to create resource shares. However, this setup can be cumbersome to manage when there are several OUs and numerous AWS accounts. For a more efficient way to have granular control over VPC sharing, you can enable security guardrails by using service control policies (SCPs), as described in the next section. We will walk you through example SCP policies that restrict VPC sharing within AWS Organizations.
Use service control policies to control VPC sharing
In the scenario we described earlier, cloud admins want to allow VPC sharing with the following constraints:
- Allow only VPC subnet shares created from a network account
- Allow VPC subnet shares to be shared only with certain OUs or AWS accounts
You can achieve these constraints by using the following service control policies.
Both of these service control policies are attached at the root of AWS Organizations, so they are applied to all underlying OUs and accounts. When a network administrator who has logged into the network account tries to create a VPC subnet resource share and associate it with the Application OU, the resource share is successfully created and available to both the Internalapp and Externalapp AWS accounts. However, when the network admin tries to associate the resource share with the DataAnalytics account (which lies outside of the permitted Application OU), the RAMControl2 SCP prevents that action, based on the first condition in the policy statement. The second condition on the RAMControl2 SCP prevents action for specific AWS accounts. In that case, you will see the following error.
Likewise, when an AWS account administrator of the Externalapp account creates a VPC in that account and tries to share it with the Internalapp account, an error is displayed and the SCP prevents that action. The RAMControl1 SCP prevents the action because it allows only the network account to create and associate resource shares.
When you use service control policies within a multi-account structure, it’s important to keep in mind the following considerations:
- Customers apply SCPs for several governance and guardrail requirements. The SCPs mentioned here will be evaluated in conjunction with all other SCPs applied at that level in the hierarchy or inherited from above in the hierarchy. See How to use SCPs in AWS Organizations for more information.
- AWS strongly recommends that you don’t attach SCPs to the root of your organization without thoroughly testing to ensure that you don’t inadvertently lock users out of key services thereby impacting AWS production environments.
- While the example here specifies applying SCPs at the root level, you can take a similar approach if you want to control VPC sharing within a specific OU.
- SCPs can be applied to shared resources other than VPC subnets for similar control. To find the complete list of resources that can be specified by using ram: RequestedResourceType, see How AWS RAM works with IAM.
- VPC subnets can be shared with AWS accounts and OUs only within an organization. For more information, see the Limitations section in Working with shared VPCs.
This blog post provides a starting point for learning how to use SCPs to create a granular governance control for VPC sharing. See the IAM conditions keys for AWS RAM and Example SCPs for AWS RAM for more information that can help you implement this preventative guardrail in a way that’s suitable for your AWS environment.
Adding granular governance controls using SCP limits overly permissive sharing and prevents unauthorized resource sharing. Granular control of VPC sharing also helps you follow the AWS security best practice, the principle of least privilege, for access to VPCs. You can take advantage of organization-level SCPs for granular control of resources, which doesn’t require that you turn on resource sharing in AWS Organizations for services such as AWS Transit Gateway or Amazon Route 53 resolver rules.
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