Securing CloudFormation Stacks with IAM - Tutorial

Welcome to this tutorial on securing your AWS CloudFormation stacks with IAM. IAM (Identity and Access Management) is a vital service in AWS that allows you to manage access to AWS resources securely. By leveraging IAM, you can implement fine-grained access control and permissions for your CloudFormation stacks, ensuring that only authorized users and resources can interact with your infrastructure.

Example of Securing CloudFormation Stacks with IAM

Let's consider an example where you want to restrict access to a specific CloudFormation stack using IAM. Here's an example IAM policy that grants read-only access to the stack:

{ "Version": "2012-10-17", "Statement": [ { "Effect": "Allow", "Action": [ "cloudformation:DescribeStacks", "cloudformation:DescribeStackEvents", "cloudformation:GetTemplate", "cloudformation:ListStackResources", "cloudformation:GetStackPolicy" ], "Resource": "arn:aws:cloudformation:region:account-id:stack/MyStack/*" }, { "Effect": "Allow", "Action": "cloudformation:ListStacks", "Resource": "*" } ] }

In the above example, the policy allows specific CloudFormation actions for the stack "MyStack" and its resources, while also permitting the user to list all stacks in the account. This policy can be attached to an IAM user or role to grant the necessary permissions.

Steps for Securing CloudFormation Stacks with IAM

  1. Define an IAM policy that specifies the required CloudFormation actions and resources.
  2. Create an IAM user or role and attach the IAM policy to it.
  3. Grant access to the CloudFormation stack or resources by specifying the appropriate ARN in the IAM policy.
  4. Optionally, implement IAM conditions to further restrict access based on conditions like IP addresses, time of day, or other factors.
  5. Test the IAM permissions by attempting to perform the allowed actions and ensuring that unauthorized actions are denied.
  6. Regularly review and update IAM policies as needed to align with the principle of least privilege and changing access requirements.

Common Mistakes with IAM and CloudFormation Security

  • Granting excessive permissions to IAM users or roles, which can result in unauthorized access and potential security breaches.
  • Not regularly reviewing and updating IAM policies, leading to outdated or incorrect access permissions.
  • Sharing IAM credentials or not implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA) for IAM users, increasing the risk of compromised accounts.
  • Using overly permissive IAM policies that grant unnecessary access, instead of following the principle of least privilege.
  • Not leveraging IAM conditions to enforce additional security controls and restrict access based on specific conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Can I restrict access to specific CloudFormation stack resources using IAM?

Yes, you can use IAM policies to grant or deny access to specific CloudFormation stack resources based on their Amazon Resource Names (ARNs). This allows you to implement granular access control for your stacks.

2. How can I implement multi-factor authentication (MFA) for IAM users?

To enable MFA for IAM users, you can use AWS MFA devices or virtual MFA devices. By requiring an additional authentication factor, such as a one-time password, you add an extra layer of security to IAM user accounts.

3. Can I enforce IAM conditions to restrict CloudFormation stack access based on IP addresses?

Yes, IAM conditions can be used to restrict access to CloudFormation stacks based on IP addresses. By specifying IP address conditions in the IAM policy, you can allow or deny access from specific IP ranges.

4. What is the principle of least privilege in IAM?

The principle of least privilege states that users or roles should only be granted the minimum permissions necessary to perform their required tasks. By following this principle, you reduce the risk of unauthorized access or accidental misuse of resources.

5. How can I audit and monitor IAM activity for CloudFormation stacks?

AWS CloudTrail can be used to capture API activity for IAM and CloudFormation. By enabling CloudTrail, you can log and monitor IAM actions, including changes to IAM policies and permissions, providing visibility into user activity.


Securing your AWS CloudFormation stacks with IAM is crucial to protect your infrastructure and data from unauthorized access. By following best practices and implementing fine-grained access control using IAM policies, you can ensure that only authorized users and resources can interact with your CloudFormation stacks. Remember to regularly review and update IAM policies, enforce the principle of least privilege, and leverage IAM conditions for additional security controls. With IAM, you can strengthen the security of your CloudFormation deployments and maintain a robust security posture.