Policy structure - Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud

Policy structure

The following topics explain the structure of an IAM policy.

Policy syntax

An IAM policy is a JSON document that consists of one or more statements. Each statement is structured as follows.

{ "Statement":[{ "Effect":"effect", "Action":"action", "Resource":"arn", "Condition":{ "condition":{ "key":"value" } } } ] }

There are various elements that make up a statement:

  • Effect: The effect can be Allow or Deny. By default, users don't have permission to use resources and API actions, so all requests are denied. An explicit allow overrides the default. An explicit deny overrides any allows.

  • Action: The action is the specific API action for which you are granting or denying permission. To learn about specifying action, see Actions for Amazon EC2.

  • Resource: The resource that's affected by the action. Some Amazon EC2 API actions allow you to include specific resources in your policy that can be created or modified by the action. You specify a resource using an Amazon Resource Name (ARN) or using the wildcard (*) to indicate that the statement applies to all resources. For more information, see Supported resource-level permissions for Amazon EC2 API actions.

  • Condition: Conditions are optional. They can be used to control when your policy is in effect. For more information about specifying conditions for Amazon EC2, see Condition keys for Amazon EC2.

For more information about policy requirements, see the IAM JSON policy reference in the IAM User Guide. For example IAM policy statements for Amazon EC2, see Example policies for working with the AWS CLI or an AWS SDK.

Actions for Amazon EC2

In an IAM policy statement, you can specify any API action from any service that supports IAM. For Amazon EC2, use the following prefix with the name of the API action: ec2:. For example: ec2:RunInstances and ec2:CreateImage.

To specify multiple actions in a single statement, separate them with commas as follows:

"Action": ["ec2:action1", "ec2:action2"]

You can also specify multiple actions using wildcards. For example, you can specify all actions whose name begins with the word "Describe" as follows:

"Action": "ec2:Describe*"

Currently, the Amazon EC2 Describe* API actions do not support resource-level permissions. For more information about resource-level permissions for Amazon EC2, see IAM policies for Amazon EC2.

To specify all Amazon EC2 API actions, use the * wildcard as follows:

"Action": "ec2:*"

For a list of Amazon EC2 actions, see Actions defined by Amazon EC2 in the Service Authorization Reference.

Supported resource-level permissions for Amazon EC2 API actions

Resource-level permissions refers to the ability to specify which resources users are allowed to perform actions on. Amazon EC2 has partial support for resource-level permissions. This means that for certain Amazon EC2 actions, you can control when users are allowed to use those actions based on conditions that have to be fulfilled, or specific resources that users are allowed to use. For example, you can grant users permissions to launch instances, but only of a specific type, and only using a specific AMI.

To specify a resource in an IAM policy statement, use its Amazon Resource Name (ARN). For more information about specifying the ARN value, see Amazon Resource Names (ARNs) for Amazon EC2. If an API action does not support individual ARNs, you must use a wildcard (*) to specify that all resources can be affected by the action.

To see tables that identify which Amazon EC2 API actions support resource-level permissions, and the ARNs and condition keys that you can use in a policy, see Actions, resources, and condition keys for Amazon EC2.

Keep in mind that you can apply tag-based resource-level permissions in the IAM policies you use for Amazon EC2 API actions. This gives you better control over which resources a user can create, modify, or use. For more information, see Grant permission to tag resources during creation.

Amazon Resource Names (ARNs) for Amazon EC2

Each IAM policy statement applies to the resources that you specify using their ARNs.

An ARN has the following general syntax:


The service (for example, ec2).


The Region for the resource (for example, us-east-1).


The AWS account ID, with no hyphens (for example, 123456789012).


The type of resource (for example, instance).


A path that identifies the resource. You can use the * wildcard in your paths.

For example, you can indicate a specific instance (i-1234567890abcdef0) in your statement using its ARN as follows.

"Resource": "arn:aws:ec2:us-east-1:123456789012:instance/i-1234567890abcdef0"

You can specify all instances that belong to a specific account by using the * wildcard as follows.

"Resource": "arn:aws:ec2:us-east-1:123456789012:instance/*"

You can also specify all Amazon EC2 resources that belong to a specific account by using the * wildcard as follows.

"Resource": "arn:aws:ec2:us-east-1:123456789012:*"

To specify all resources, or if a specific API action does not support ARNs, use the * wildcard in the Resource element as follows.

"Resource": "*"

Many Amazon EC2 API actions involve multiple resources. For example, AttachVolume attaches an Amazon EBS volume to an instance, so a user must have permissions to use the volume and the instance. To specify multiple resources in a single statement, separate their ARNs with commas, as follows.

"Resource": ["arn1", "arn2"]

For a list of ARNs for Amazon EC2 resources, see Resource types defined by Amazon EC2.

Condition keys for Amazon EC2

In a policy statement, you can optionally specify conditions that control when it is in effect. Each condition contains one or more key-value pairs. Condition keys are not case-sensitive. We've defined AWS global condition keys, plus additional service-specific condition keys.

For a list of service-specific condition keys for Amazon EC2, see Condition keys for Amazon EC2. Amazon EC2 also implements the AWS global condition keys. For more information, see Information available in all requests in the IAM User Guide.

To use a condition key in your IAM policy, use the Condition statement. For example, the following policy grants users permission to add and remove inbound and outbound rules for any security group. It uses the ec2:Vpc condition key to specify that these actions can only be performed on security groups in a specific VPC.

{ "Version": "2012-10-17", "Statement":[{ "Effect":"Allow", "Action": [ "ec2:AuthorizeSecurityGroupIngress", "ec2:AuthorizeSecurityGroupEgress", "ec2:RevokeSecurityGroupIngress", "ec2:RevokeSecurityGroupEgress"], "Resource": "arn:aws:ec2:region:account:security-group/*", "Condition": { "StringEquals": { "ec2:Vpc": "arn:aws:ec2:region:account:vpc/vpc-11223344556677889" } } } ] }

If you specify multiple conditions, or multiple keys in a single condition, we evaluate them using a logical AND operation. If you specify a single condition with multiple values for one key, we evaluate the condition using a logical OR operation. For permissions to be granted, all conditions must be met.

You can also use placeholders when you specify conditions. For more information, see IAM policy elements: Variables and tags in the IAM User Guide.


Many condition keys are specific to a resource, and some API actions use multiple resources. If you write a policy with a condition key, use the Resource element of the statement to specify the resource to which the condition key applies. If not, the policy may prevent users from performing the action at all, because the condition check fails for the resources to which the condition key does not apply. If you do not want to specify a resource, or if you've written the Action element of your policy to include multiple API actions, then you must use the ...IfExists condition type to ensure that the condition key is ignored for resources that do not use it. For more information, see ...IfExists Conditions in the IAM User Guide.

All Amazon EC2 actions support the aws:RequestedRegion and ec2:Region condition keys. For more information, see Example: Restrict access to a specific Region.

ec2:SourceInstanceARN condition key

The ec2:SourceInstanceARN condition key can be used for conditions that specify the ARN of the instance from which a request is made. This is an AWS global condition key and is not service-specific. For policy examples, see Amazon EC2: Attach or detach volumes to an EC2 instance and Example: Allow a specific instance to view resources in other AWS services. The ec2:SourceInstanceARN key cannot be used as a variable to populate the ARN for the Resource element in a statement.

For example policy statements for Amazon EC2, see Example policies for working with the AWS CLI or an AWS SDK.

ec2:Attribute condition key

The ec2:Attribute condition key can be used for conditions that filter access by an attribute of a resource. The condition key supports only properties that are of a primitive data type (such as a string or integer), or complex AttributeValue objects that have only a Value property (such as the Description or ImdsSupport objects of the ModifyImageAttribute API action).


The condition key can't be used with complex objects that have multiple properties, such as the LaunchPermission object of the ModifyImageAttribute API action.

For example, the following policy uses the ec2:Attribute/Description condition key to filter access by the complex Description object of the ModifyImageAttribute API action. The condition key allows only requests that modify an image's description to either Production or Development.

{ "Version": "2012-10-17", "Statement": [ { "Effect": "Allow", "Action": "ec2:ModifyImageAttribute", "Resource": "arn:aws:ec2:us-east-1::image/ami-*", "Condition": { "StringEquals": { "ec2:Attribute/Description": [ "Production", "Development" ] } } } ] }

The following example policy uses the ec2:Attribute condition key to filter access by the primitive Attribute property of the ModifyImageAttribute API action. The condition key denies all requests that attempt to modify an image's description.

{ "Version": "2012-10-17", "Statement": [ { "Effect": "Deny", "Action": "ec2:ModifyImageAttribute", "Resource": "arn:aws:ec2:us-east-1::image/ami-*", "Condition": { "StringEquals": { "ec2:Attribute": "Description" } } } ] }

ec2:ResourceID condition keys

When using the following ec2:ResourceID condition keys with the specified API actions, the condition key value is used to specify the resulting resource that is created by the API action. ec2:ResourceID condition keys can't be used to specify a source resource that is specified in the API request. If you use one of the following ec2:ResourceID condition keys with a specified API, then you must always specify the wildcard (*). If you specify a different value, the condition always resolves to * during runtime. For example, to use the ec2:ImageId condition key with the CopyImage API, then you must specify the condition key as follows:

{ "Version": "2012-10-17", "Statement": [ { "Effect": "Allow", "Action": "ec2:CopyImage", "Resource": "arn:aws:ec2:us-east-1::image/ami-*", "Condition": { "StringEquals": { ec2:ImageID": "*" } } } ] }
Condition key API action
  • CreateDhcpOptions

  • CopyImage

  • CreateImage

  • ImportImage

  • RegisterImage

  • RunInstances

  • ImportInstance

  • CreateInternetGateway

  • CreateNetworkAcl

  • CreateNetworkInterface

  • CreatePlacementGroup

  • CreateRouteTable

  • CreateSecurityGroup

  • CopySnapshot

  • CreateSnapshot

  • CreateSnapshots

  • ImportSnapshots

  • CreateSubnet

  • CreateVolume

  • ImportVolume

  • CreateVpc

  • CreateVpcPeeringConnection

We recommend that you avoid using ec2:ResourceID condition keys with these API actions. Instead, if you need to filter access based on specific resource IDs, we recommend that you do so using the Resource policy element, as follows:

{ "Version": "2012-10-17", "Statement": [ { "Effect": "Allow", "Action": "ec2:CopyImage", "Resource": "arn:aws:ec2:us-east-1::image/ami-01234567890abcdef" } ] }

Check that users have the required permissions

After you've created an IAM policy, we recommend that you check whether it grants users the permissions to use the particular API actions and resources they need before you put the policy into production.

First, create a user for testing purposes, and then attach the IAM policy that you created to the test user. Then, make a request as the test user.

If the Amazon EC2 action that you are testing creates or modifies a resource, you should make the request using the DryRun parameter (or run the AWS CLI command with the --dry-run option). In this case, the call completes the authorization check, but does not complete the operation. For example, you can check whether the user can terminate a particular instance without actually terminating it. If the test user has the required permissions, the request returns DryRunOperation; otherwise, it returns UnauthorizedOperation.

If the policy doesn't grant the user the permissions that you expected, or is overly permissive, you can adjust the policy as needed and retest until you get the desired results.


It can take several minutes for policy changes to propagate before they take effect. Therefore, we recommend that you allow five minutes to pass before you test your policy updates.

If an authorization check fails, the request returns an encoded message with diagnostic information. You can decode the message using the DecodeAuthorizationMessage action. For more information, see DecodeAuthorizationMessage in the AWS Security Token Service API Reference, and decode-authorization-message in the AWS CLI Command Reference.