AWS Security Blog

Move Over JSON – Policy Summaries Make Understanding IAM Policies Easier

by Joy Chatterjee | on | in Announcements, How-to guides | | Comments

Today, we added policy summaries to the IAM console, making it easier for you to understand the permissions in your AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) policies. Instead of reading JSON policy documents, you can scan a table that summarizes services, actions, resources, and conditions for each policy. You can find this summary on the policy detail page or the Permissions tab on an individual IAM user’s page.

In this blog post, I introduce policy summaries and review the details of a policy summary.

How to read a policy summary

The following screenshot shows an example policy summary. The table provides you with an at-a-glance view of each service’s granted access level, resources, and conditions.

The columns in a policy summary are defined this way:

  • Service – The Amazon services defined in the policy. Click each service name to see the specific actions granted for the service.
  • Access level – Actions defined for each service in the policy (I provide more details below).
  • Resource –The resources defined for each service in the policy. This column displays one of the following values:
    • All resources – Access is granted or denied to all resources in the service.
    • Multiple – Some but not all of the resources are granted or denied in the service.
    • Amazon Resource Name (ARN) – The policy defines one resource in the service. You will see the actual ARN displayed for one resource.
  • Request condition – The conditions defined for each service. Conditions can be global conditions or conditions specific to the service. This column displays one of the following values:
    • None – No conditions are defined for the service.
    • Multiple – Multiple conditions are defined for the service.
    • Condition – One condition is defined for the service and applies to all actions defined in the policy for the service. You will see the condition defined in the policy in the table. For example, the preceding screenshot shows a condition for Amazon Elastic Beanstalk.

If you prefer reading and managing policies in JSON, choose View and edit JSON above the policy summary to see the policy in JSON.

Before I go over an example of a policy summary, I will explain access levels in more detail, a new concept we introduced with policy summaries.

Access levels in policy summaries

To help you understand the permissions defined in a policy, each AWS service’s actions are categorized in four access levels: List, Read, Write, and Permissions management. For example, the following table defines the access levels and provides examples using Amazon S3 actions. Full and Limited further qualify the access levels for each service. Full refers to all the actions within an access level, and Limited refers to at least one but not all actions in an access level. Note: You can see the complete list of actions and access levels for all services in the AWS IAM Policy Actions Grouped by Access Level documentation.

Access level Description Example
List Actions that allow you to see a list of resources s3:ListBucket, s3:ListAllMyBuckets
Read Actions that allow you to read the content in resources s3:GetObject, s3:GetBucketTagging
Write Actions that allow you to create, delete, or modify resources s3:PutObject, s3:DeleteBucket
Permissions management Actions that allow you to grant or modify permissions to resources s3:PutBucketPolicy

Note: Not all AWS services have actions in all access levels.

In the following screenshot, the access level for S3 is Full access, which means the policy permits all actions of the S3 List, Read, Write, and Permissions management access levels. The access level for EC2 is Full: List,Read and Limited: Write, meaning that the policy grants all actions of the List and Read access levels, but only a portion of the actions of the Write access level. You can view the specific actions defined in the policy by choosing the service in the policy summary.

Reviewing a policy summary in detail

Let’s look at a policy summary in the IAM console. Imagine that Alice is a developer on my team who analyzes data and generates quarterly reports for our finance team. To grant her the permissions she needs, I have added her to the Data_Analytics IAM group.

To see the policies attached to user Alice, I navigate to her user page by choosing her user name on the Users page of the IAM console. The following screenshot shows that Alice has 3 policies attached to her.

I will review the permissions defined in the Data_Analytics policy, but first, let’s look at the JSON syntax for the policy so that you can compare the different views.

{
    "Version": "2012-10-17",
    "Statement": [{
        "Effect": "Allow",
        "Action": [
            "autoscaling:*",
            "ec2:CancelSpotInstanceRequests",
            "ec2:CancelSpotFleetRequests",
            "ec2:CreateTags",
            "ec2:DeleteTags",
            "ec2:Describe*",
            "ec2:ModifyImageAttribute",
            "ec2:ModifyInstanceAttribute",
            "ec2:ModifySpotFleetRequest",
            "ec2:RequestSpotInstances",
            "ec2:RequestSpotFleet",
            "elasticmapreduce:*",
            "es:Describe*",
            "es:List*",
            "es:Update*",
            "es:Add*",
            "es:Create*",
            "es:Delete*",
            "es:Remove*",
            "lambda:Create*",
            "lambda:Delete*",
            "lambda:Get*",
            "lambda:InvokeFunction",
            "lambda:Update*",
            "lambda:List*"
        ],
        "Resource": "*"
    },

    {
        "Effect": "Allow",
        "Action": [
            "s3:ListBucket",
            "s3:PutBucketPolicy"
        ],
        "Resource": [
            "arn:aws:s3:::DataTeam"
        ],
        "Condition": {
            "StringLike": {
                "s3:prefix": [
                    "Sales/*"
                ]
            }
        }
    }, 
	{
        "Effect": "Allow",
        "Action": [
            "elasticfilesystem:*"
        ],
        "Resource": [
            "arn:aws:elasticfilesystem:*:111122223333:file-system/2017sales"
        ]
    }, 
	{
        "Effect": "Allow",
        "Action": [
            "rds:*"
        ],
         "Resource": [
            "arn:aws:rds:*:111122223333:db/mySQL_Instance"
        ]
    }, 
	{
        "Effect": "Allow",
        "Action": [
            "dynamodb:*"
         ],
        "Resource": [
            "arn:aws:dynamodb:*:111122223333:table/Sales_2017Annual"
        ]
    }, 
	{
        "Effect": "Allow",
        "Action": [
            "iam:GetInstanceProfile",
            "iam:GetRole",
            "iam:GetPolicy",
            "iam:GetPolicyVersion",
            "iam:ListRoles"
        ],
        "Condition": {
            "IpAddress": {
                "aws:SourceIp": "192.0.0.8"
            }
        },
        "Resource": [
            "*"
        ]
    }
  ]
}

To view the policy summary, I can either choose the policy name, which takes me to the policy’s page, or I can choose the arrow next to the policy name, which expands the policy summary on Alice‘s user page. The following screenshot shows the policy summary of the Data_Analytics policy that is attached to Alice.

Looking at this policy summary, I can see that Alice has access to multiple services with different access levels. She has Full access to Amazon EMR, but only Limited List and Limited Read access to IAM. I can also see the high-level summary of resources and conditions granted for each service. In this policy, Alice can access only the 2017sales file system in Amazon EFS and a single Amazon RDS instance. She has access to Multiple Amazon S3 buckets and Amazon DynamoDB tables. Looking at the Request condition column, I see that Alice can access IAM only from a specific IP range. To learn more about the details for resources and request conditions, see the IAM documentation on Understanding Policy Summaries in the AWS Management Console.

In the policy summary, to see the specific actions granted for a service, I choose a service name. For example, when I choose Elasticsearch, I see all the actions organized by access level, as shown in the following screenshot. In this case, Alice has access to all Amazon ES resources and has no request conditions.

Some exceptions

For policies that are complex or contain unrecognized actions, the policy summary may not be able to generate a simple, human-readable table. For these edge cases, we will continue to show the JSON policy without the policy summary.

For policies that include Deny statements, you will see a separate table that shows the permissions that the policy explicitly denies. You can see an example of a policy summary that includes both an Allow statement and a Deny statement in our documentation.

Conclusion

To see policy summaries in your AWS account, sign in to the IAM console and navigate to any managed policy on the Policies page of the IAM console or the Permissions tab on a user’s page. Policy summaries make it easy to scan for certain permissions, such as quickly identifying who has Full access or Permissions management privileges. You can also compare policies to determine which policies define conditions or specify resources for better security posture.

If you have comments about this post, submit them in the “Comments” section below. If you have questions about or suggestions for this solution, please start a new thread on the IAM forum.

– Joy