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Authentication and Federation in AWS: Best Practices and Implementation Strategies

Authentication and federation are critical components of any AWS environment, ensuring secure access to resources and services. In this blog post, we’ll explore the different types of identity in AWS, AWS policy types, and best practices for implementing authentication and federation.

Types of Identity in AWS

AWS supports various types of identity, each serving different purposes:

  1. Static Identity: This includes IAM users and roles with long-term access keys, typically used for programmatic access.
  2. Temporary Identity: This includes temporary security credentials obtained via the AWS Security Token Service (STS), which expire after a specified duration.
  3. Federation and IAM Roles: This involves federating identities from external identity providers (IdPs) and assigning temporary IAM roles for access.

AWS Policy Types

AWS supports several policy types to manage access control:

  1. Identity-Based Policies: These are attached to IAM users, roles, and groups, defining what actions they can perform.
  2. Resource-Based Policies: These are attached to resources like S3 buckets, defining who can access the resource and what actions they can perform.
  3. Permission Boundaries: These are used to delegate permissions to IAM entities, limiting their permissions to a subset of what is allowed by their IAM policies.
  4. Organization SCPs: These are used in AWS Organizations to apply restrictions on the account-level permissions of member accounts.
  5. Session Policies: These are used to control permissions for a temporary session created using AWS STS.

Best Practices for Authentication and Federation

Implementing authentication and federation in AWS requires careful consideration and adherence to best practices:

  • Use multi-factor authentication (MFA) to enhance security for IAM users and roles.
  • Implement federation with identity providers (IdPs) to enable single sign-on (SSO) for users.
  • Regularly review and update permissions to ensure least privilege access.
  • Use IAM roles for applications running on EC2 instances to securely access AWS services without embedding long-term credentials.


Authentication and federation are fundamental aspects of securing access to AWS resources. By understanding the types of identity in AWS, the different policy types, and best practices for implementation, you can enhance the security and manageability of your AWS environment


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