Creating AWS IAM Access Analyzers In All Regions Of All Accounts

Amazon recently announced the AWS IAM Access Analyzer, a useful tool to help discover if you have granted unintended access to specific types of resources in your AWS account.

At the moment, an Access Analyzer needs to be created in each region of each account where you want to run it.

Since this manual requirement can be a lot of work, it is a common complaint from customers. Given that Amazon listens to customer feedback and since we currently have to specify a “type” of “ACCOUNT”, I expect at some point Amazon may make it easier to run Access Analyzer across all regions and maybe in all accounts in an AWS Organization. Until then…

This article shows how I created an AWS IAM Access Analyzer in all regions of all accounts in my AWS Organization using the aws-cli.


To make this easy, I use the bash helper functions that I defined in last week’s blog post here:

Running AWS CLI Commands Across All Accounts In An AWS Organization

Please read the blog post to see what assumptions I make about the AWS Organization and account setup. You may need to tweak things if your setup differs from mine.

Here is my GitHub repo that makes it more convenient for me to install the bash functions. If your AWS account structure matches mine sufficiently, it might work for you, too:

IAM Access Analyzer In All Regions Of Single Account

To start, let’s show how to create an IAM Access Analyzer in all regions of a single account.

Here’s a simple command to get all the regions in the current AWS account:

aws ec2 describe-regions \
  --output text \
  --query 'Regions[][RegionName]'

This command creates an IAM Access Analyzer in a specific region. We’ll tack on a UUID because that’s what Amazon does, though I suspect it’s not really necessary.

uuid=$(uuid -v4 -FSIV || echo "1") # may need to install "uuid" command
aws accessanalyzer create-analyzer \
   --region "$region" \
   --analyzer-name "$analyzer" \
   --type ACCOUNT

By default, there is a limit of a single IAM Access Analyzer per account region. The fact that this is a “default limit” implies that it may be increased by request, but for this guide, we’ll just not create an IAM Access Analyzer if one already exists.

This command lists the name of any IAM Access Analyzers that might already have been created in a region:

aws accessanalyzer list-analyzers \
  --region "$region" \
  --output text \
  --query 'analyzers[][name]'

We can put the above together, iterating over the regions, checking to see if an IAM Access Analyzer already exists, and creating one if it doesn’t:

Running AWS CLI Commands Across All Accounts In An AWS Organization

by generating a temporary IAM STS session with MFA then assuming cross-account IAM roles

I recently had the need to run some AWS commands across all AWS accounts in my AWS Organization. This was a bit more difficult to accomplish cleanly than I had assumed it might be, so I present the steps here for me to find when I search the Internet for it in the future.

You are also welcome to try out this approach, though if your account structure doesn’t match mine, it might require some tweaking.

Assumptions And Background

(Almost) all of my AWS accounts are in a single AWS Organization. This allows me to ask the Organization for the list of account ids.

I have a role named “admin” in each of my AWS accounts. It has a lot of power to do things. The default cross-account admin role name for accounts created in AWS Organizations is “OrganizationAccountAccessRole”.

I start with an IAM principal (IAM user or IAM role) that the aws-cli can access through a “source profile”. This principal has the power to assume the “admin” role in other AWS accounts. In fact, that principal has almost no other permissions.

I require MFA whenever a cross-account IAM role is assumed.

You can read about how I set up AWS accounts here, including the above configuration:

Creating AWS Accounts From The Command Line With AWS Organizations

I use and love the aws-cli and bash. You should, too, especially if you want to use the instructions in this guide.

I jump through some hoops in this article to make sure that AWS credentials never appear in command lines, in the shell history, or in files, and are not passed as environment variables to processes that don’t need them (no export).


For convenience, we can define some bash functions that will improve clarity when we want to run commands in AWS accounts. These freely use bash variables to pass information between functions.

The aws-session-init function obtains temporary session credentials using MFA (optional). These are used to generate temporary assume-role credentials for each account without having to re-enter an MFA token for each account. This function will accept optional MFA serial number and source profile name. This is run once.

aws-session-init() {
  # Sets: source_access_key_id source_secret_access_key source_session_token
  local source_profile=${1:-${AWS_SESSION_SOURCE_PROFILE:?source profile must be specified}}
  local mfa_serial=${2:-$AWS_SESSION_MFA_SERIAL}
  local token_code=
  local mfa_options=
  if [ -n "$mfa_serial" ]; then
    read -s -p "Enter MFA code for $mfa_serial: " token_code
    mfa_options="--serial-number $mfa_serial --token-code $token_code"
  read -r source_access_key_id \
          source_secret_access_key \
          source_session_token \
    <<<$(aws sts get-session-token \
           --profile $source_profile \
           $mfa_options \
           --output text \
           --query 'Credentials.[AccessKeyId,SecretAccessKey,SessionToken]')
  test -n "$source_access_key_id" && return 0 || return 1

Protecting Critical SNS Topics From Deletion

stops even all-powerful IAM admin users in their tracks

I run some SNS topics as a public service where anybody can subscribe their own AWS Lambda functions, SQS queues, and email addresses.

If one of these SNS topics were to be accidentally deleted, I could recreate it with the same name and ARN. However, all of the existing user subscriptions would be lost and I would not be able to restore them myself. Each of the hundreds of users would have to figure out what happened and re-subscribe the appropriate targets with the correct permissions.

I don’t want these SNS topics to be deleted. Ever.

AWS IAM "ReadOnlyAccess" Managed Policy Is Too Permissive (For Us)

taking away some read-only permissions that Amazon allows

Amazon has created an IAM Managed Policy named ReadOnlyAccess, which grants read-only access to active resources on most AWS services. At Campus Explorer, we depend on this convenient managed policy for our read-only roles.

However, our use of “read-only” doesn’t quite match up with the choices that Amazon made when creating this policy. This isn’t to say that Amazon is wrong, just that our concept of “read-only” differs slightly from Amazon’s.

The biggest difference is that we want our read-only roles to be able to see the architecture of our AWS systems and what resources are active, but we would prefer that the role not be able to read sensitive data from DynamoDB, S3, Kinesis, SQS queue messages, CloudFormation template parameters, and the like.

For example, third party services often ask for a ReadOnlyAccess role to allow them to analyze your AWS account and provide helpful tips on how to improve security or cost control. This sounds good, but do you really want them to be reading messages from Kinesis streams and SQS queues or downloading the contents of S3 objects?

AWS IAM "ReadOnlyAccess" Managed Policy Is Missing Features

adding in some read-only permissions that Amazon missed

Amazon has created a Managed Policy in IAM named ReadOnlyAccess, which grants read-only access to AWS resources and API calls that make no changes to the account. At Campus Explorer, we depend on this convenient managed policy for our read-only roles–though we add a few Deny statements as we don’t believe, for example, that pulling messages off of an SQS queue really belongs in a read-only role.

In theory, and mostly in practice, Amazon manages this managed policy so that we don’t have to keep up with all of the changing API calls from new services and new features in existing services.