Network security - Amazon Elastic Container Service

Network security

Network security is a broad topic that encompasses several subtopics. These include encryption-in-transit, network segmentation and isolation, firewalling, traffic routing, and observability.

Encryption in transit

Encrypting network traffic prevents unauthorized users from intercepting and reading data when that data is transmitted across a network. With Amazon ECS, network encryption can be implemented in any of the following ways.

Task networking

The following recommendations are in consideration of how Amazon ECS works. Amazon ECS doesn't use an overlay network. Instead, tasks are configured to operate in different network modes. For example, tasks that are configured to use bridge mode acquire a non-routable IP address from a Docker network that runs on each host. Tasks that are configured to use the awsvpc network mode acquire an IP address from the subnet of the host. Tasks that are configured with host networking use the host's network interface. awsvpc is the preferred network mode. This is because it's the only mode that you can use to assign security groups to tasks. It's also the only mode that's available for AWS Fargate tasks on Amazon ECS.

Security groups for tasks

We recommend that you configure your tasks to use the awsvpc network mode. After you configure your task to use this mode, the Amazon ECS agent automatically provisions and attaches an Elastic Network Interface (ENI) to the task. When the ENI is provisioned, the task is enrolled in an AWS security group. The security group acts as a virtual firewall that you can use to control inbound and outbound traffic.

Service mesh and Mutual Transport Layer Security (mTLS)

You can use a service mesh such as AWS App Mesh to control network traffic. By default, a virtual node can only communicate with its configured service backends, such as the virtual services that the virtual node will communicate with. If a virtual node needs to communicate with a service outside the mesh, you can use the ALLOW_ALL outbound filter or by creating a virtual node inside the mesh for the external service. For more information, see Kubernetes Egress How-To Walkthrough.

App Mesh also gives you the ability to use Mutual Transport Layer Security (mTLS) where both the client and the server are mutually authenticated using certificates. The subsequent communication between client and server are then encrypted using TLS. By requiring mTLS between services in a mesh, you can verify that the traffic is coming from a trusted source. For more information, see the following topics:

AWS PrivateLink is a networking technology that allows you to create private endpoints for different AWS services, including Amazon ECS. The endpoints are required in sandboxed environments where there is no Internet Gateway (IGW) attached to the Amazon VPC and no alternative routes to the Internet. Using AWS PrivateLink ensures that calls to the Amazon ECS service stay within the Amazon VPC and do not traverse the internet. For instructions on how to create AWS PrivateLink endpoints for Amazon ECS and other related services, see Amazon ECS interface Amazon VPC endpoints.


AWS Fargate tasks don't require a AWS PrivateLink endpoint for Amazon ECS.

Amazon ECR and Amazon ECS both support endpoint policies. These policies allow you to refine access to a service's APIs. For example, you could create an endpoint policy for Amazon ECR that only allows images to be pushed to registries in particular AWS accounts. A policy like this could be used to prevent data from being exfiltrated through container images while still allowing users to push to authorized Amazon ECR registries. For more information, see Use VPC endpoint policies.

The following policy allows all AWS principals in your account to perform all actions against only your Amazon ECR repositories:

{ "Statement": [ { "Sid": "LimitECRAccess", "Principal": "*", "Action": "*", "Effect": "Allow", "Resource": "arn:aws:ecr:region:your_account_id:repository/*" }, ] }

You can enhance this further by setting a condition that uses the new PrincipalOrgID property. This prevents pushing and pulling of images by an IAM principal that isn't part of your AWS Organizations. For more information, see aws:PrincipalOrgID.

We recommended applying the same policy to both the com.amazonaws.region.ecr.dkr and the com.amazonaws.region.ecr.api endpoints.

Amazon ECS container agent settings

The Amazon ECS container agent configuration file includes several environment variables that relate to network security. ECS_AWSVPC_BLOCK_IMDS and ECS_ENABLE_TASK_IAM_ROLE_NETWORK_HOST are used to block a task's access to Amazon EC2 metadata. HTTP_PROXY is used to configure the agent to route through a HTTP proxy to connect to the internet. For instructions on configuring the agent and the Docker runtime to route through a proxy, see HTTP Proxy Configuration.


These settings aren't available when you use AWS Fargate.


We recommend that you do the following when setting up your Amazon VPC, load balancers, and network.

Use network encryption where applicable

You should use network encryption where applicable. Certain compliance programs, such as PCI DSS, require that you encrypt data in transit if the data contains cardholder data. If your workload has similar requirements, configure network encryption.

Modern browsers warn users when connecting to insecure sites. If your service is fronted by a public facing load balancer, use TLS/SSL to encrypt the traffic from the client's browser to the load balancer and re-encrypt to the backend if warranted.

Use awsvpc network mode and security groups when you need to control traffic between tasks or between tasks and other network resources

You should use awsvpc network mode and security groups when you need to control traffic between tasks and between tasks and other network resources. If your service behind an ALB, use security groups to only allow inbound traffic from other network resources using the same security group as your ALB. If your application is behind an NLB, configure the task's security group to only allow inbound traffic from the Amazon VPC CIDR range and the static IP addresses assigned to the NLB.

Security groups should also be used to control traffic between tasks and other resources within the Amazon VPC such as Amazon RDS databases.

Create clusters in separate Amazon VPCs when network traffic needs to be strictly isolated

You should create clusters in separate Amazon VPCs when network traffic needs to be strictly isolated. Avoid running workloads that have strict security requirements on clusters with workloads that don't have to adhere to those requirements. When strict network isolation is mandatory, create clusters in separate Amazon VPCs and selectively expose services to other Amazon VPCs using Amazon VPC endpoints. For more information, see Amazon VPC endpoints.

You should configure AWS PrivateLink endpoints endpoints when warranted. If your security policy prevents you from attaching an Internet Gateway (IGW) to your Amazon VPCs, configure AWS PrivateLink endpoints for Amazon ECS and other services such as Amazon ECR, AWS Secrets Manager, and Amazon CloudWatch.

Use Amazon VPC Flow Logs to analyze the traffic to and from long-running tasks

You should use Amazon VPC Flow Logs to analyze the traffic to and from long-running tasks. Tasks that use awsvpc network mode get their own ENI. Doing this, you can monitor traffic that goes to and from individual tasks using Amazon VPC Flow Logs. A recent update to Amazon VPC Flow Logs (v3), enriches the logs with traffic metadata including the vpc ID, subnet ID, and the instance ID. This metadata can be used to help narrow an investigation. For more information, see Amazon VPC Flow Logs.


Because of the temporary nature of containers, flow logs might not always be an effective way to analyze traffic patterns between different containers or containers and other network resources.