Infrastructure OU - Network account - AWS Prescriptive Guidance

Infrastructure OU - Network account

The following diagram illustrates the AWS security services that are configured in the Network account. 

      Security services for Network account

The Network account manages the gateway between your application and the broader internet. It is important to protect that two-way interface. The Network account isolates the networking services, configuration, and operation from the individual application workloads, security, and other infrastructure. This arrangement not only limits connectivity, permissions, and data flow, but also supports separation of duties and least privilege for the teams that need to operate in these accounts. By splitting network flow into separate inbound and outbound virtual private clouds (VPCs), you can protect sensitive infrastructure and traffic from undesired access. The inbound network is generally considered higher risk and deserves appropriate routing, monitoring, and potential issue mitigations. These infrastructure accounts will inherit permission guardrails from the Org Management account and the Infrastructure OU. Networking (and security) teams manage the majority of the infrastructure in this account.

Network architecture

Although network design and specifics are beyond the scope of this document, we recommend these three options for network connectivity between the various accounts: VPC peering, AWS PrivateLink, and AWS Transit Gateway. Important considerations in choosing among these are operational norms, budgets, and specific bandwidth needs. 

  • VPC peering ‒ The simplest way to connect two VPCs is to use VPC peering. A connection enables full bidirectional connectivity between the VPCs. VPCs that are in separate accounts and AWS Regions can also be peered together. At scale, when you have tens to hundreds of VPCs, interconnecting them with peering results in a mesh of hundreds to thousands of peering connections, which can be challenging to manage and scale. VPC peering is best used when resources in one VPC must communicate with resources in another VPC, the environment of both VPCs is controlled and secured, and the number of VPCs to be connected is fewer than 10 (to allow for the individual management of each connection).

  • AWS PrivateLink ‒ PrivateLink provides private connectivity between VPCs, services, and applications. You can create your own application in your VPC and configure it as a PrivateLink-powered service (referred to as an endpoint service). Other AWS principals can create a connection from their VPC to your endpoint service by using an interface VPC endpoint or a Gateway Load Balancer endpoint, depending on the type of service. When you use PrivateLink, service traffic doesn’t pass across a publicly routable network. Use PrivateLink when you have a client-server setup where you want to give one or more consumer VPCs unidirectional access to a specific service or set of instances in the service provider VPC. This is also a good option when clients and servers in the two VPCs have overlapping IP addresses, because PrivateLink uses elastic network interfaces within the client VPC so that there are no IP conflicts with the service provider. 

  • AWS Transit Gateway ‒ Transit Gateway provides a hub-and-spoke design for connecting VPCs and on-premises networks as a fully managed service without requiring you to provision virtual appliances. AWS manages high availability and scalability. A transit gateway is a regional resource and can connect thousands of VPCs within the same AWS Region. You can attach your hybrid connectivity (VPN and AWS Direct Connect connections) to a single transit gateway, thereby consolidating and controlling your AWS organization's entire routing configuration in one place. A transit gateway solves the complexity involved with creating and managing multiple VPC peering connections at scale. It is the default for most network architectures, but specific needs around cost, bandwidth, and latency might make VPC peering a better fit for your needs.

Inbound (ingress) VPC

The inbound VPC is intended to accept, inspect, and route network connections initiated outside the application. Depending on the specifics of the application, you can expect to see some network address translation (NAT) in this VPC. Flow logs from this VPC are captured and stored in the Log Archive account.

Outbound (egress) VPC

The outbound VPC is intended to handle network connections initiated from within the application. Depending on the specifics of the application, you can expect to see traffic NAT, AWS service-specific VPC endpoints, and hosting of external API endpoints in this VPC. Flow logs from this VPC are captured and stored in the Log Archive account.

Inspection VPC

A dedicated inspection VPC provides a simplified and central approach for managing inspections between VPCs (in the same or in different AWS Regions), the internet, and on-premises networks. For the AWS SRA, ensure that all traffic between VPCs passes through the inspection VPC, and avoid using the inspection VPC for any other workload.

AWS Network Firewall

AWS Network Firewall is a highly available, managed network firewall service for your VPC. It enables you to effortlessly deploy and manage stateful inspection, intrusion prevention and detection, and web filtering to help protect your virtual networks on AWS. For more information about configuring Network Firewall, see the AWS Network Firewall – New Managed Firewall Service in VPC blog post.

You use a firewall on a per-Availability Zone basis in your VPC. For each Availability Zone, you choose a subnet to host the firewall endpoint that filters your traffic. The firewall endpoint in an Availability Zone can protect all the subnets inside the zone except for the subnet where it’s located. Depending on the use case and deployment model, the firewall subnet could be either public or private. The firewall is completely transparent to the traffic flow and does not perform network address translation (NAT). It preserves the source and destination address. In this reference architecture, the firewall endpoints are hosted in an inspection VPC. All traffic from the inbound VPC and to the outbound VPC is routed through this firewall subnet for inspection. 

Network Firewall makes firewall activity visible in real time through Amazon CloudWatch metrics, and offers increased visibility of network traffic by sending logs to Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), CloudWatch, and Amazon Kinesis Data Firehose. Network Firewall is interoperable with your existing security approach, including technologies from AWS Partners. You can also import existing Suricata rulesets, which might have been written internally or sourced externally from third-party vendors or open-source platforms. 

In the AWS SRA, Network Firewall is used within the network account because the network control-focused functionality of the service aligns with the intent of the account. 

Design considerations
  • AWS Firewall Manager supports Network Firewall, so you can centrally configure and deploy Network Firewall rules across your organization. (For details, see AWS Network Firewall policies in the AWS documentation.) When you configure Firewall Manager, it automatically creates a firewall with sets of rules in the accounts and VPCs that you specify. It also deploys an endpoint in a dedicated subnet for every Availability Zone that contains public subnets. At the same time, any changes to the centrally configured set of rules are automatically updated downstream on the deployed Network Firewall firewalls. 

  • There are multiple deployment models available with Network Firewall. The right model depends on your use case and requirements. Examples include the following:

    • A distributed deployment model where Network Firewall is deployed into individual VPCs.

    • A centralized deployment model where Network Firewall is deployed into a centralized VPC for east-west (VPC-to-VPC) or north-south (internet egress and ingress, on-premises) traffic.

    • A combined deployment model where Network Firewall is deployed into a centralized VPC for east-west and a subset of north-south traffic.

  • As a best practice, do not use the Network Firewall subnet to deploy any other services. This is because Network Firewall cannot inspect traffic from sources or destinations within the firewall subnet.

Network Access Analyzer

Network Access Analyzer is a feature of Amazon VPC that identifies unintended network access to your resources. You can use Network Access Analyzer to validate network segmentation, identify resources that are accessible from the internet or accessible only from trusted IP address ranges, and validate that you have appropriate network controls on all network paths.

Network Access Analyzer uses automated reasoning algorithms to analyze the network paths that a packet can take between resources in an AWS network, and produces findings for paths that match your defined Network Access Scope. Network Access Analyzer performs a static analysis of a network configuration, meaning that no packets are transmitted in the network as part of this analysis.

The Amazon Inspector Network Reachability rules provide a related feature. The findings generated by these rules are used in the Application account. Both Network Access Analyzer and Network Reachability use the latest technology from the AWS Provable Security initiative, and they apply this technology with different areas of focus. The Network Reachability package focuses specifically on EC2 instances and their internet accessibility. 

The network account defines the critical network infrastructure that controls the traffic in and out of your AWS environment. This traffic needs to be tightly monitored. In the AWS SRA, Network Access Analyzer is used within the Network account to help identify unintended network access, identify internet-accessible resources through internet gateways, and verify that appropriate network controls such as network firewalls and NAT gateways are present on all network paths between resources and internet gateways. 

Design consideration
  • Network Access Analyzer is a feature of Amazon VPC, and it can be used in any AWS account that has a VPC. Network administrators can get tightly scoped, cross-account IAM roles to validate that approved network paths are enforced within each AWS account.

AWS Certificate Manager

AWS Certificate Manager (ACM) lets you provision, manage, and deploy public and private TLS certificates for use with AWS services and your internal connected resources. With ACM, you can quickly request a certificate, deploy it on ACM-integrated AWS resources, such as Elastic Load Balancing load balancers, Amazon CloudFront distributions, and APIs on Amazon API Gateway, and let ACM handle certificate renewals. There is no need to generate a key pair or certificate signing request (CSR), submit a CSR to a certificate authority (CA), or upload and install the certificate when it is received. ACM also provides the option to import TLS certificates issued by third-party CAs and deploy them with ACM integrated services. When you use ACM to manage certificates, certificate private keys are securely protected and stored by using strong encryption and key management best practices. With ACM there is no additional charge for provisioning public certificates, and ACM manages the renewal process.

ACM is used in the Network account to generate a public TLS certificate, which, in turn, is used by CloudFront distributions to establish the HTTPS connection between viewers and CloudFront. For more information, see the CloudFront documentation

Design consideration
  • For externally facing certificates, ACM must reside in the same account as the resources for which it provisions certificates. Certificates cannot be shared across accounts.


AWS WAF is a web application firewall that lets you monitor the HTTP and HTTPS requests that are forwarded to an Amazon CloudFront distribution, an Amazon API Gateway REST API, an Application Load Balancer, or an AWS AppSync GraphQL API. AWS WAF also lets you control access to your content. Based on conditions that you specify, such as the IP addresses that requests originate from or the values of query strings, the fronted service responds to requests either with the requested content or with an HTTP 403 (Forbidden) status code.

In the AWS SRA, AWS WAF is used in the Network account, because it protects CloudFront. 

Design considerations
  • CloudFront provides features that enhance the AWS WAF functionality and make the two services work better together. 

  • You can use AWS WAF, AWS Firewall Manager, and AWS Shield together to create a comprehensive security solution. It starts with AWS WAF. You can automate and then simplify AWS WAF management by using Firewall Manager. Shield Advanced provides additional features on top of AWS WAF, such as dedicated support from the distributed denial of service (DDoS) Response Team (DRT) and advanced reporting. If you want granular control over the protection that is added to your resources, AWS WAF alone is the right choice. If you want to use AWS WAF across accounts, accelerate your AWS WAF configuration, or automate protection of new resources, use Firewall Manager with AWS WAF. Finally, if you own high visibility websites or are otherwise prone to frequent DDoS malicious events, you can consider purchasing the additional features that AWS Shield Advanced provides.

Amazon Route 53

Amazon Route 53 is a highly available and scalable Domain Name System (DNS) web service. You can use Route 53 to perform three main functions: domain registration, DNS routing, and health checking. 

You can use Route 53 as the DNS service to map domain names to your EC2 instances, S3 buckets, CloudFront distributions, and other AWS resources. The distributed nature of our DNS servers helps ensure that your end users are routed to your application consistently. Features such as Route 53 traffic flow and routing control help you improve reliability with simply configured failover to reroute your users to an alternate location if your primary application endpoint becomes unavailable. Route 53 Resolver provides recursive DNS for your VPC and on-premises networks over AWS Direct Connect or AWS managed VPN.

By using the AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) service with Route 53, you get fine-grained control over who can update your DNS data. You can enable DNS Security Extensions (DNSSEC) signing to let DNS resolvers validate that a DNS response came from Route 53 and has not been tampered with. 

Route 53 Resolver DNS Firewall provides protection for outbound DNS requests from your VPCs. These requests route through Route 53 Resolver for domain name resolution. A primary use of DNS Firewall protections is to help prevent DNS exfiltration of your data. With DNS Firewall, you can monitor and control the domains that your applications can query. You can deny access to the domains that you know to be bad, and allow all other queries to pass through. Alternately, you can deny access to all domains except for the ones that you explicitly trust. You can also use DNS Firewall to block resolution requests to resources in private hosted zones (shared or local), including VPC endpoint names. It can also block requests for public or private EC2 instance names. 

Route 53 resolvers are created by default as part of every VPC. In the AWS SRA, Route 53 is used in the Network account primarily for the DNS firewall capability. 

Design consideration
  • DNS Firewall and AWS Network Firewall both offer domain name filtering, but for different types of traffic. You can use DNS Firewall and Network Firewall together to configure domain-based filtering for application-layer traffic over two different network paths.

    • DNS Firewall provides filtering for outbound DNS queries that pass through the Route 53 Resolver from applications within your VPCs. You can also configure DNS Firewall to send custom responses for queries to blocked domain names.

    • Network Firewall provides filtering for both network-layer and application-layer traffic, but does not have visibility into queries made by Route 53 Resolver.

Amazon CloudFront

Amazon CloudFront is a secure content delivery network (CDN) that provides both network-level and application-level protection. You can deliver your content, APIs, or applications by using SSL/TLS certificates, and advanced SSL features are enabled automatically. You can use AWS Certificate Manager (ACM) to create a custom TLS certificate and enforce HTTPS communications between viewers and CloudFront, as described earlier in the ACM section. You can additionally require that the communications between CloudFront and your custom origin implement end-to-end encryption in transit. For this scenario, you will need to install a TLS certificate on your origin server. If your origin is an ELB load balancer, you can use a certificate generated by ACM or a certificate that is validated by a third-party CA and imported into ACM. If S3 bucket website endpoints serve as the origin, you can’t configure CloudFront to use HTTPS with your origin because Amazon S3 doesn’t support HTTPS for website endpoints. (However, you can still require HTTPS between viewers and CloudFront.) For all other origins that support installing HTTPS certificates, you must use a certificate that is signed by a trusted third-party CA. 

When you use CloudFront as your CDN, you can restrict access to your content by using these capabilities:

  • By using signed URLs and signed cookies, you can support token authentication to restrict access to only authenticated viewers.

  • By using the geo restriction capability, you can work to prevent users in specific geographic locations from accessing content that you're distributing through CloudFront.

  • You can use the origin access identity (OAI) feature to restrict access to an S3 bucket to be accessible only from CloudFront. 

In the AWS SRA, Amazon CloudFront is used within the Network account, because this account provides the networking infrastructure required for workloads to communicate outside AWS. 

Design considerations
  • CloudFront, AWS Shield, AWS WAF, and Amazon Route 53 work seamlessly together to create a flexible, layered security perimeter against multiple types of unauthorized events, including network and application-layer DDoS attacks. CloudFront provides features that enhance the AWS WAF functionality and make the two work better together. For more information, see How AWS WAF works with Amazon CloudFront features in the AWS documentation. 

  • When you deliver web content through a CDN such as CloudFront, a best practice is to prevent viewer requests from bypassing the CDN and accessing your origin content directly. For more information, see the blog post How to enhance Amazon CloudFront origin security with AWS WAF and AWS Secrets Manager

  • You might also want to evaluate a distributed architecture where all network infrastructure that is required for your workloads to communicate outside AWS resides locally within the Application account. This simplifies the network architecture and routing, and would help reduce costs by not requiring cross-account ingress/egress charges. In a distributed architecture, you have to enforce strong security oversight to exercise security controls for all network paths.

AWS Shield

AWS Shield is a managed DDoS protection service that safeguards applications that run on AWS. Shield provides always-on detection and automatic inline mitigations that minimize application downtime and latency, so there is no need to engage AWS Support to benefit from DDoS protection. 

In the AWS SRA, AWS Shield Advanced is configured to protect Route 53 and CloudFront.  

Design consideration
  • There are two tiers of Shield: Shield Standard and Shield Advanced. All AWS customers benefit from the automatic protections of Shield Standard at no additional charge. Shield Standard provides protection against the most common and frequently occurring infrastructure (layer 3 and 4) events. Shield Standard uses deterministic packet filtering and priority-based traffic shaping to automatically mitigate basic network layer attacks. Shield Advanced provides more sophisticated automatic mitigations for unauthorized events that target your applications running on protected Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), Elastic Load Balancing (ELB), Amazon CloudFront, AWS Global Accelerator, and Route 53 resources. Shield Advanced records metrics that you can monitor in Amazon CloudWatch. (For more information, see AWS Shield Advanced metrics and alarms in the AWS documentation.) If you own high-visibility websites or are otherwise prone to frequent DDoS attacks, you can consider the additional features that Shield Advanced provides.


AWS Resource Access Manager (AWS RAM) helps you securely share the AWS resources that you create in one AWS account with other AWS accounts. AWS RAM provides a central place to manage the sharing of resources and to standardize this experience across accounts. This makes it simpler to manage resources while taking advantage of the administrative and billing isolation, and reduce the scope of impact containment benefits provided by a multi-account strategy. If your account is managed by AWS Organizations, AWS RAM lets you share resources with all accounts in the organization, or only with the accounts within one or more specified organizational units (OUs). You can also share with specific AWS accounts by account ID, regardless of whether the account is part of an organization. You can also share some supported resource types with specified IAM roles and users.

AWS RAM enables you to share resources that do not support IAM resource-based policies, such as VPC subnets and Route 53 rules. Furthermore, with AWS RAM, the owners of a resource can see which principals have access to individual resources that they have shared. IAM principals can retrieve the list of resources shared with them directly, which they can’t do with resources shared by IAM resource policies. If AWS RAM is used to share resources outside your AWS organization, an invitation process is initiated. The recipient must accept the invitation before access to the resources is granted. This provides additional checks and balances.

AWS RAM is invoked and managed by the resource owner, in the account where the shared resource is deployed. One common use case for AWS RAM illustrated in the AWS SRA is for network administrators to share VPC subnets and transit gateways with the entire AWS organization. This provides the ability to decouple AWS account and network management functions and helps achieve separation of duties. For more information about VPC sharing, see the AWS blog post VPC sharing: A new approach to multiple accounts and VPC management and the AWS network infrastructure whitepaper

Design consideration
  • Although AWS RAM as a service is deployed only within the Network account in the AWS SRA, it would typically be deployed in more than one account. For example, you can centralize your data lake management to a single data lake account, and then share the AWS Lake Formation data catalog resources (databases and tables) with other accounts in your AWS organization. For more information, see the AWS Lake Formation documentation and the AWS blog post Securely share your data across AWS accounts using AWS Lake Formation.. Additionally, security administrators can use AWS RAM to follow best practices when they build an AWS Private CA hierarchy. CAs can be shared with external third parties, who can issue certificates without having access to the CA hierarchy. This allows origination organizations to limit and revoke third-party access.