AWS IAM: Overview, Features, Types and More

The IT sector is moving towards shifting local resources to Internet based platforms like the cloud. Cloud servers provide flexibility of resource usage, easy accessibility, less costs and good security. Of all the major cloud providers, Amazon’s AWS (Amazon Web Services) comes out as the winner in the race by occupying roughly 32% share in the cloud market, as of April 2021.

AWS’s advanced features and good security attracts customers, which are fueled by various security services. Of the major security services used with AWS, the most popular one is Identity and Access Management, also known as simply AWS IAM. IAM is a security service used along with AWS which allows you a controlled access to various AWS resources. With the help of AWS IAM, you can create and control your web services, and also create authentications for who can access them.

Identity and Access Management is a growing market and the demand for this is on a rise. With the concept of “Work from Home” evolving at an unprecedented rate, the concerns for security threats are on a rise, and thus the need for services like IAM. As per the survey of “Markets and Markets”, AWS IAM is expected to be a $24.1 billion strong industry by 2025. The sector will show a Cumulative Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of approximately 14.5%.

AWS IAM is popular not just for its security cover, but also the multiple additional features it offers to users. Let’s read on to know more about what IAM exactly is, how it operates, and why it is beneficial.

What is IAM and How Does it Work?

Identity and Access Management (IAM) is primarily a set of AWS security services which allow you to access your AWS resources in a controlled manner. It allows you multiple options like creating a service, working on existing service, authenticating users, allowing who can access a service, denying access, etc.

With the help of IAM, you can easily delegate work in your team, maintain records of who has access to what, and revoke them whenever you want. The process below explains exactly how AWS IAM operates on a broad scale.

  • Step 1: An entity tries to access resources on AWS server, and thus seeks approval to access. This entity can be a user or even an application. This entity is, here, addressed as “Principal”.
  • Step 2: The second stage is authentication, where the security service authenticates the principal based on the credentials provided.
  • Step 3: Once the principal is authenticated, it sends a “request” to the system to perform a particular action and the details of the resource which will perform that action.
  • Step 4: The system authorizes the request, after checking that everything matches with the “policies”.
  • Step 5: After authorization, the requested action is performed.

What are the Major Features of AWS IAM that Make it Popular?

There are multiple security services available along with AWS like IAM, KMS (Key Management System), Cognito, Web Access Firewall (WAF), etc. Still, most organizations go for IAM and this popularity is due to the multiple features built in the platform. Some of the amazing features which attract cloud professionals towards AWS IAM are listed below.

Access Sharing

  • IAM provides a very easy access sharing facility to users, as you can authorize anyone to gain access and even deny anyone at any time. There is no need to share your password or access key.
  • You can even form “groups” and then assign access. Every user part of the group automatically inherits these permissions, without a need to allocate them separately.
  • Even if someone is added to a group after giving the permission, they get the complete authorizations. As soon as someone is removed from the group, their access is also revoked.

Granular Permission

  • AWS IAM also allows you to give access in a fabricated manner, i.e., you can give different permission to different principals for different resources.
  • Example 1: You can grant some people complete access to resources, while some people have view-only access.
  • Example 2: You can allow a user to download information, but you can deny the same user to perform any edits on that information or deny them to upgrade it.

Multi Factor Authentication

  • If you’re not satisfied with the security cover provided by AWS IAM, it also comes with a 2-factor authentication facility.
  • The users would be required to provide a password as well as an additional code to verify their authority.

Identity Information

  • With this service, you can get logged records of which user performed which action on your resources.
  • The user information is provided through their IAM Id.
  • However, to get this information, you need to use AWS Cloud Trail, a tool that allows you governance, compliance and auditing facilities for your AWS account.

PCI DSS Compliance

  • An interesting feature of AWS IAM is that it completely supports the processing and storage of credit card data.
  • The service is compatible with Data Security Standard (DSS), an information security standard of the Payment Card Industry.

No Hidden Charges

  • Various services and tools come with hidden charges and costs are incurred during usage.
  • AWS IAM charges you no additional money, so you can do as many authentications as you want, delete resources, create new ones and perform multiple other functions.

Comfortable Password Policy

  • IAM gives you comfortable policies in this regard as you can create and set passwords remotely.
  • You can yourself set various rules and also decide the attempts a user can make while logging in.
  • It is you who will decide how many wrong passwords a principal can enter before being denied access.

Note: It is recommended by Amazon to not use “root” for every function and operation in order to improve the security. The company suggests that you create a first user from the root and then use it to perform all the other tasks. Meanwhile, root should be kept locked aside, and should be used only in case of crucially important tasks.

Of all the security services available today, AWS IAM is the most popular and there is going to be an increasing demand for professionals in this domain. We hope we have been able to give you clear insights about what this exactly is and why it is beneficial for the cloud industry. To know more, you can click on the link given in the beginning of the article.

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