AWS Organizations
User Guide

About Service Control Policies

A service control policy (SCP) determines what services and actions can be delegated by administrators to the users and roles in the accounts that the SCP is applied to. An SCP does not grant any permissions. Instead, SCPs are JSON policies that specify the maximum permissions for an organization or organizational unit (OU). The SCP limits permissions for entities in member accounts, including each AWS account root user. If the SCP allows the actions for a service, the administrator of the account can grant permissions for those actions to the users and roles in that account, and the users and roles can perform the actions if the administrators grant those permissions. If the SCP denies actions for a service, the administrators in that account can't effectively grant permissions for those actions, and the users and roles in the account can't perform the actions even if granted by an administrator. For example, you can specify that the administrators of account 111122223333 can grant permissions only to Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) and Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), and the administrators of account 777788889999 can grant permissions only to Amazon DynamoDB (DynamoDB).


  • SCPs do not affect the master account no matter where the account is in the root/OU hierarchy.

  • SCPs do affect the root user along with all IAM users and standard IAM roles in any affected account.

  • SCPs do not affect any service-linked role in an account. These roles exist to support integration with other AWS services and can't be restricted by SCPs.

  • SCPs affect only principals that are managed by accounts that are part of the organization. They don't affect users or roles from accounts outside the organization. For example, consider an Amazon S3 bucket that is owned by account A in an organization. The bucket policy grants access to users from accounts outside the organization. Account A has an SCP attached. That SCP doesn't apply to those outside users. It applies only to users that are managed by account "A" in the organization.

  • SCPs are available only in organizations that enable all features. SCPs aren't available if your organization has enabled only the consolidated billing features.

The following illustration shows how SCPs work.

In this illustration, the root has an SCP attached that allows permissions A, B, and C. An OU in that root has an SCP that allows C, D, and E. Because the root's OU doesn't allow D or E, nothing in the root or any of its children can use them, including the parent OU. Even though the parent OU explicitly allows them, they end up blocked because they're blocked by the root. Also, because the OU's SCP doesn't allow A or B, those permissions are blocked for the parent OU and any of its children. However, other OUs under the root that are peers to the parent OU could allow A and B.

Users and roles must still be granted permissions using IAM permission policies attached to them or to groups. The SCPs filter the permissions granted by such policies, and the user can't perform any actions that the applicable SCPs don't allow. Actions allowed by the SCPs can be used if they are granted to the user or role by one or more IAM permission policies.

When you attach SCPs to the root, OUs, or directly to accounts, all policies that affect a given account are evaluated together using the same rules that govern IAM permission policies:

  • Any action that has an explicit Deny in an SCP can't be delegated to users or roles in the affected accounts. An explicit Deny statement overrides any Allow that other SCPs might grant.

  • Any action that has an explicit Allow in an SCP (such as the default "*" SCP or by any other SCP that calls out a specific service or action) can be delegated to users and roles in the affected accounts.

  • Any action that isn't explicitly allowed by an SCP is implicitly denied and can't be delegated to users or roles in the affected accounts.

By default, an SCP named FullAWSAccess is attached to every root, OU, and account. This default SCP allows all actions and all services. So in a new organization, until you start creating or manipulating the SCPs, all of your existing IAM permissions continue to operate as they did. As soon as you apply a new or modified SCP to a root or OU that contains an account, the permissions that your users have in that account become filtered by the SCP. Permissions that used to work might now be denied if they're not allowed by the SCP at every level of the hierarchy down to the specified account.

If you disable the SCP policy type in a root, all SCPs are automatically detached from all entities in that root. If you reenable SCPs in that root, all the original attachments are lost, and all entities are reset to being attached to only the default FullAWSAccess SCP.

For details about the syntax of SCPs, see Service Control Policy Syntax in the Reference section of this guide.

Strategies for Using SCPs

You can configure the SCPs in your organization to work as either of the following:

  • A blacklist – actions are allowed by default, and you specify what services and actions are prohibited

  • A whitelist – actions are prohibited by default, and you specify what services and actions are allowed

Using SCPs as a Blacklist

The default configuration of AWS Organizations supports using SCPs as blacklists. Account administrators can delegate all services and actions until you create and attach a policy that denies (blacklists) a specific service or set of actions.

To support this, AWS Organizations attaches an AWS-managed SCP named FullAWSAccess to every root and OU when it's created. This policy allows all services and actions. Because the policy is an AWS-managed SCP, it can't be modified or deleted. It's always available for you to attach or detach from the entities in your organization as needed. The policy looks like the following.

{ "Version": "2012-10-17", "Statement": [ { "Effect": "Allow", "Action": "*", "Resource": "*" } ] }

This enables account administrators to delegate permissions for any service or action until you create and attach an SCP that explicitly prohibits those actions that you don't want users and roles in certain accounts to perform.

Such a policy might look like the following example, which prevents users in the affected accounts from performing any actions for the DynamoDB service. The organization administrator can detach the FullAWSAccess policy and attach this one instead. Note that this SCP still allows all other services and their actions.

{ "Version": "2012-10-17", "Statement": [ { "Sid": "AllowsAllActions", "Effect": "Allow", "Action": "*", "Resource": "*" }, { "Sid": "DenyDynamoDB", "Effect": "Deny", "Action": "dynamodb:*", "Resource": "*" } ] }

The users in the affected accounts can't perform DynamoDB actions because the explicit Deny element in the second statement overrides the explicit Allow in the first. You could also configure this by leaving the FullAWSAccess policy in place and then attaching a second policy that has only the Deny statement in it, as shown here.

{ "Version": "2012-10-17", "Statement": [ { "Effect": "Deny", "Action": "dynamodb:*", "Resource": "*" } ] }

The combination of the FullAWSAccess policy and the Deny statement in the preceding DynamoDB policy that is applied to a root or OU has the exact same effect as the single policy that contains both statements. All policies that apply at a specified level are combined together, and each statement, no matter which policy originated it, gets evaluated according to the rules discussed earlier (that is, an explicit Deny overrides an explicit Allow, which overrides the default implicit Deny).

Using SCPs as a Whitelist

To use SCPs as a whitelist, you must replace the AWS-managed FullAWSAccess SCP with an SCP that explicitly permits only those services and actions that you want to allow. By removing the default FullAWSAccess SCP, all actions for all services are now implicitly denied. Your custom SCP then overrides the implicit Deny with an explicit Allow for only those actions that you want to permit. Note that for a permission to be enabled for a specified account, every SCP from the root through each OU in the direct path to the account, and even attached to the account itself, must allow that permission.

Such a whitelist policy might look like the following example, which enables account users to perform operations for Amazon EC2 and Amazon CloudWatch, but no other service. All SCPs in parent OUs and the root also must explicitly allow these permissions.

{ "Version": "2012-10-17", "Statement": [ { "Effect": "Allow", "Action": [ "ec2:*", "cloudwatch:*" ], "Resource": "*" } ] }