AWS Control Tower
User Guide

Guardrails in AWS Control Tower

A guardrail is a high-level rule that provides ongoing governance for your overall AWS environment. It's expressed in plain language. When users perform work in an AWS account in your landing zone, they're subject to guardrails.

The behavior of each guardrail is either preventive or detective.

  • Prevention – A preventive guardrail ensures that your accounts maintain compliance, because it disallows actions that lead to policy violations. The status of a preventive guardrail is either enforced or not enabled. Preventive guardrails are supported in all AWS Regions.

  • Detection – A detective guardrail detects noncompliance of resources within your accounts, such as policy violations, and provides alerts through the dashboard. The status of a detective guardrail is either clear, in violation, or not enabled. Detective guardrails apply only in those AWS Regions supported by AWS Control Tower.

AWS Control Tower provides mandatory, strongly recommended, and elective guardrails. When you create a new landing zone, all mandatory guardrails are enforced by default. Strongly recommended and elective guardrails are not enabled.

Guardrails enable you to express your policy intentions. AWS Control Tower implements preventive or detective controls to govern and monitor compliance of your resources across AWS accounts. For example, enable the Disallow public read access to S3 buckets guardrail to deny public read access to all S3 buckets for all accounts under an OU. When you enable guardrails on organizational units, they are applied to all child accounts under the OU.

Implementation of guardrails:

  • The preventive guardrails are implemented using Service Control Policies (SCPs), which are part of AWS Organizations.

  • The detective guardrails are implemented using AWS Config rules and AWS Lambda functions.


When working with guardrails, consider the following:

  • After creating your landing zone, all resources in your landing zone are subject to guardrails.

  • OUs created through AWS Control Tower have guardrails applied to them. OUs created outside of a landing zone can't have guardrails applied to them, and they do not display in the AWS Control Tower console.

  • Accounts created through Account Factory inherit their parent OU's guardrails. Accounts created outside of a landing zone do not, and they are not displayed in the AWS Control Tower console.

  • The root user and any IAM administrators in the master account can perform work that guardrails would otherwise deny. This exception is intentional. It prevents the master account from entering into an unusable state. All actions taken within the master account continue to be tracked in the logs contained within the log archive account, for purposes of accountability and auditing.

Optional Guardrails

Three kinds of guidance apply to guardrails: mandatory, strongly recommended, and elective. Mandatory guardrails are always enforced. Strongly recommended guardrails are based on best practices for well-architected multi-account environments. Elective guardrails enable you to track or lock down actions that are commonly restricted in an AWS enterprise environment.

Strongly recommended and elective guardrails are optional, which means that you can customize the level of enforcement for your landing zone by choosing which ones to enable. Optional guardrails are not enabled by default. For more information, see the following guardrail references:

The guidance of a guardrail is independent of whether it is preventive or detective.

Guardrail Details

In the guardrail details page of the console, you can find the following details for each guardrail:

  • Name – The name of the guardrail.

  • Description – A description of the guardrail.

  • Guidance – The guidance is either mandatory, strongly recommended, or elective.

  • Category – The category can be Audit Logs, Monitoring, Data Security, Network, IAM, or Control Tower Setup.

  • Behavior – A guardrail's behavior is set to either preventive or detective.

  • Compliance Status – A guardrail's compliance status can be clear, compliant, enforced, unknown, or in violation.

On the guardrail details page, you can also see guardrail artifacts. The guardrail is implemented by one or more artifacts. These artifacts can include a baseline AWS CloudFormation template, a service control policy to prevent account-level configuration changes or activity that may create configuration drift, and AWS Config Rules to detect account-level policy violations.

Enabling Guardrails

Most guardrails are enabled automatically according to an OU's configuration, and some guardrails can be enabled manually on your OUs. The following procedure describes the steps for enabling guardrails on an OU.


When you enable guardrails with strongly recommended guidance, AWS Control Tower managed AWS resources are created in your accounts. Do not modify or delete resources created by AWS Control Tower. Doing so could result in the guardrails entering an unknown state.

To enable guardrails in an OU

  1. Using a web browser, navigate to the AWS Control Tower console at

  2. From the left navigation, choose Guardrails.

  3. Choose a guardrail that you want to enable; for example, Guardrail: Enable encryption for EBS volumes attached to EC2 instances. This choice opens the guardrail's details page.

  4. From Organizational units enabled, choose Enable guardrail on OU.

  5. A new page is displayed that lists the names of your OUs. Identify the OU on which you want to enable this guardrail.

  6. Choose Enable guardrail on OU.

  7. Your guardrail is now enabled. It may take several minutes for the change to complete. When it does, you'll see that this guardrail is enabled on the OU you selected. You can enable only one guardrail at a time.