Automatically encrypt existing and new Amazon EBS volumes - AWS Prescriptive Guidance

Automatically encrypt existing and new Amazon EBS volumes

Created by Tony DeMarco (AWS) and Josh Joy (AWS)

Code repository:

Environment: Production

Technologies: Storage & backup; Security, identity, compliance; Management & governance

AWS services: AWS Config; Amazon EBS; AWS KMS; AWS Organizations; AWS Systems Manager


Encryption of Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) volumes is important to an organization's data protection strategy. It is an important step in establishing a well-architected environment. Although there is no direct way to encrypt existing unencrypted EBS volumes or snapshots, you can encrypt them by creating a new volume or snapshot. For more information, see Encrypt EBS resources in the Amazon EC2 documentation. This pattern provides preventative and detective controls for encrypting your EBS volumes, both new and existing. In this pattern, you configure account settings, create automated remediation processes, and implement access controls.

Prerequisites and limitations


  • An active Amazon Web Services (AWS) account

  • AWS Command Line Interface (AWS CLI), installed and configured on macOS, Linux, or Windows

  • jq, installed and configured on macOS, Linux, or Windows

  • AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) permissions are provisioned to have read and write access to AWS CloudFormation, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), AWS Systems Manager, AWS Config, and AWS Key Management Service (AWS KMS)

  • AWS Organizations is configured with all features enabled, a requirement for service control policies

  • AWS Config is enabled in the target accounts


  • In your target AWS account, there must be no AWS Config rules named encrypted-volumes. This solution deploys a rule with this name. Preexisting rules with this name can cause the deployment to fail and result in unnecessary charges related to processing the same rule more than once.

  • This solution encrypts all EBS volumes with the same AWS KMS key.

  • If you enable encryption of EBS volumes for the account, this setting is Region-specific. If you enable it for an AWS Region, you cannot disable it for individual volumes or snapshots in that Region. For more information, see Encryption by default in the Amazon EC2 documentation.

  • When you remediate existing, unencrypted EBS volumes, ensure that the EC2 instance is not in use. This automation shuts down the instance in order to detach the unencrypted volume and attach the encrypted one. There is downtime while the remediation is in progress. If this is a critical piece of infrastructure for your organization, make sure that manual or automatic high-availability configurations are in place so as to not impact the availability of any applications running on the instance. We recommend that you remediate critical resources only during standard maintenance windows.


Automation workflow

High-level architecture diagram showing the automation process and services
  1. AWS Config detects an unencrypted EBS volume.

  2. An administrator uses AWS Config to send a remediation command to Systems Manager.

  3. The Systems Manager automation takes a snapshot of the unencrypted EBS volume.

  4. The Systems Manager automation uses AWS KMS to create an encrypted copy of the snapshot.

  5. The Systems Manager automation does the following:

    1. Stops the affected EC2 instance if it is running

    2. Attaches the new, encrypted copy of the volume to the EC2 instance

    3. Returns the EC2 instance to its original state


AWS services

  • AWS CLI – The AWS Command Line Interface (AWS CLI) provides direct access to the public application programming interfaces (APIs) of AWS services. You can explore a service's capabilities with the AWS CLI and develop shell scripts to manage your resources. In addition to the low-level API-equivalent commands, several AWS services provide customizations for the AWS CLI. Customizations can include higher-level commands that simplify using a service with a complex API.

  • AWS CloudFormation – AWS CloudFormation is a service that helps you model and set up your AWS resources. You create a template that describes all the AWS resources that you want (such as Amazon EC2 instances), and CloudFormation provisions and configures those resources for you.

  • AWS Config – AWS Config provides a detailed view of the configuration of AWS resources in your AWS account. This includes how the resources are related to one another and how they were configured in the past so that you can see how the configurations and relationships change over time.

  • Amazon EC2 – Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is a web service that provides resizable computing capacity that you use to build and host your software systems.

  • AWS KMS – AWS Key Management Service (AWS KMS) is an encryption and key management service scaled for the cloud. AWS KMS keys and functionality are used by other AWS services, and you can use them to protect data in your AWS environment.

  • AWS Organizations – AWS Organizations is an account management service that enables you to consolidate multiple AWS accounts into an organization that you create and centrally manage.

  • AWS Systems Manager Automation – Systems Manager Automation simplifies common maintenance and deployment tasks for Amazon EC2 instances and other AWS resources.

Other services

  • jq – jq is a lightweight and flexible command-line JSON processor. You use this tool to extract key information from the AWS CLI output.



TaskDescriptionSkills required

Download scripts and CloudFormation templates.

Download the shell script, JSON file, and CloudFormation templates from the GitHub Automatically remediate unencrypted EBS Volumes using customer KMS keys repository.

AWS administrator, General AWS

Identify the administrator for the AWS KMS key.

  1. Sign in to the AWS Management Console and open the IAM console at

  2. Identify a user or role who will be the AWS KMS key administrator. If a new user or role needs to be created for this purpose, create it now. For more information, see IAM Identities in the IAM documentation. This automation creates a new AWS KMS key.

  3. Once identified, copy the user’s or role's Amazon Resource Name (ARN). For more information, see IAM ARNs in the IAM documentation. You use this ARN in the next step.

AWS administrator, General AWS

Deploy the Stack1 CloudFormation template.

  1. Open the AWS CloudFormation console at

  2. In CloudFormation, deploy the Stack1.yaml template. Note the following deployment details:

    • Give the stack a clear and descriptive name. Note the stack name because you need this value in the next step.

    • Paste the ARN of the key administrator into the only parameter field in Stack1. This user or role becomes the administrator for the AWS KMS key created by the stack.

For more information about deploying a CloudFormation template, see Working with AWS CloudFormation templates in the CloudFormation documentation.

AWS administrator, General AWS

Deploy the Stack2 CloudFormation template.

In CloudFormation, deploy the Stack2.yaml template. Note the following deployment details:

  • Give the stack a clear and descriptive name.

  • For the only parameter of Stack2, enter the name of the stack you created in the previous step. This allows Stack2 to reference the new AWS KMS key and role deployed by the stack in the previous step.

AWS administrator, General AWS

Create an unencrypted volume for testing.

Create an EC2 instance with an unencrypted EBS volume. For instructions, see Create an Amazon EBS volume in the Amazon EC2 documentation. The instance type does not matter, and access to the instance is not needed. You can create a t2.micro instance to stay in the free tier, and you don’t need to create a key pair.

AWS administrator, General AWS

Test the AWS Config rule.

  1. Open the AWS Config console at On the Rules page, choose the encrypted-volumes rule.

  2. Confirm that your new, unencrypted test instance appears in the list of non-compliant resources. If the volume does not appear immediately, wait a few minutes and refresh the results. The AWS Config rule detects the resource changes shortly after the instance and volume are created.

  3. Select the resource, and then then choose Remediate.

You can view the remediation progress and status in Systems Manager as follows:

  1. Open the AWS Systems Manager console at

  2. In the navigation pane, choose Automation.

  3. Choose the Execution ID link to view the steps and the status. 

AWS administrator, General AWS

Configure additional accounts or AWS Regions.

As needed for your use case, repeat this epic for any additional accounts or AWS Regions.

AWS administrator, General AWS
TaskDescriptionSkills required

Run the enable script.

  1. In a bash shell, use the cd command to navigate into the cloned repository.

  2. Enter the following command to run the enable-ebs-encryption-for-account script.

AWS administrator, General AWS, bash

Confirm the settings are updated.

  1. Open the Amazon EC2 console at

  2. On the right side of the screen, under Settings, choose Data protection and security.

  3. Under the EBS encryption section, confirm that Always encrypt new EBS volumes is turned on and that the Default encryption key is set to the ARN that you specified previously.

    Note: If the Always encrypt new EBS volumes setting is turned off or the key is still set to alias/aws/ebs, confirm that you are logged into the same account and AWS Region where you ran the shell script, and check your shell for error messages.

AWS administrator, General AWS

Configure additional accounts or AWS Regions.

As needed for your use case, repeat this epic for any additional accounts or AWS Regions.

AWS administrator, General AWS
TaskDescriptionSkills required

Create a service control policy.

  1. Open the AWS Organizations console at

  2. Create a new service control policy. For more information, see Creating a service control policy in the AWS Organizations documentation.

  3. Add the contents of DenyUnencryptedEC2.json to the policy and save it. You downloaded this JSON file from the GitHub repository in the first epic.

  4. Attach this policy to the organization root or any necessary organizational units (OUs). For more information, see Attaching and detaching service control policies in the AWS Organizations documentation.

AWS administrator, General AWS

Related resources

AWS service documentation

Other resources