Identity and access management for Amazon WorkDocs - Amazon WorkDocs

Identity and access management for Amazon WorkDocs

AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) is an AWS service that helps an administrator securely control access to AWS resources. IAM administrators control who can be authenticated (signed in) and authorized (have permissions) to use Amazon WorkDocs resources. IAM is an AWS service that you can use with no additional charge.


How you use AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) differs, depending on the work that you do in Amazon WorkDocs.

Service user – If you use the Amazon WorkDocs service to do your job, then your administrator provides you with the credentials and permissions that you need. As you use more Amazon WorkDocs features to do your work, you might need additional permissions. Understanding how access is managed can help you request the right permissions from your administrator. If you cannot access a feature in Amazon WorkDocs, see Troubleshooting Amazon WorkDocs identity and access.

Service administrator – If you're in charge of Amazon WorkDocs resources at your company, you probably have full access to Amazon WorkDocs. It's your job to determine which Amazon WorkDocs features and resources your employees should access. You must then submit requests to your IAM administrator to change the permissions of your service users. Review the information on this page to understand the basic concepts of IAM. To learn more about how your company can use IAM with Amazon WorkDocs, see How Amazon WorkDocs works with IAM.

IAM administrator – If you're an IAM administrator, you might want to learn details about how you can write policies to manage access to Amazon WorkDocs. To view example Amazon WorkDocs identity-based policies that you can use in IAM, see Amazon WorkDocs identity-based policy examples.

Authenticating with identities

Authentication is how you sign in to AWS using your identity credentials. For more information about signing in using the AWS Management Console, see Signing in to the AWS Management Console as an IAM user or root user in the IAM User Guide.

You must be authenticated (signed in to AWS) as the AWS account root user, an IAM user, or by assuming an IAM role. You can also use your company's single sign-on authentication or even sign in using Google or Facebook. In these cases, your administrator previously set up identity federation using IAM roles. When you access AWS using credentials from another company, you are assuming a role indirectly.

To sign in directly to the AWS Management Console, use your password with your root user email address or your IAM user name. You can access AWS programmatically using your root user or IAM users access keys. AWS provides SDK and command line tools to cryptographically sign your request using your credentials. If you don't use AWS tools, you must sign the request yourself. Do this using Signature Version 4, a protocol for authenticating inbound API requests. For more information about authenticating requests, see Signature Version 4 signing process in the AWS General Reference.

Regardless of the authentication method that you use, you might also be required to provide additional security information. For example, AWS recommends that you use multi-factor authentication (MFA) to increase the security of your account. To learn more, see Using multi-factor authentication (MFA) in AWS in the IAM User Guide.

AWS account root user

When you first create an AWS account, you begin with a single sign-in identity that has complete access to all AWS services and resources in the account. This identity is called the AWS account root user and is accessed by signing in with the email address and password that you used to create the account. We strongly recommend that you do not use the root user for your everyday tasks, even the administrative ones. Instead, adhere to the best practice of using the root user only to create your first IAM user. Then securely lock away the root user credentials and use them to perform only a few account and service management tasks.

IAM users and groups

An IAM user is an identity within your AWS account that has specific permissions for a single person or application. An IAM user can have long-term credentials such as a user name and password or a set of access keys. To learn how to generate access keys, see Managing access keys for IAM users in the IAM User Guide. When you generate access keys for an IAM user, make sure you view and securely save the key pair. You cannot recover the secret access key in the future. Instead, you must generate a new access key pair.

An IAM group is an identity that specifies a collection of IAM users. You can't sign in as a group. You can use groups to specify permissions for multiple users at a time. Groups make permissions easier to manage for large sets of users. For example, you could have a group named IAMAdmins and give that group permissions to administer IAM resources.

Users are different from roles. A user is uniquely associated with one person or application, but a role is intended to be assumable by anyone who needs it. Users have permanent long-term credentials, but roles provide temporary credentials. To learn more, see When to create an IAM user (instead of a role) in the IAM User Guide.

IAM roles

An IAM role is an identity within your AWS account that has specific permissions. It is similar to an IAM user, but is not associated with a specific person. You can temporarily assume an IAM role in the AWS Management Console by switching roles. You can assume a role by calling an AWS CLI or AWS API operation or by using a custom URL. For more information about methods for using roles, see Using IAM roles in the IAM User Guide.

IAM roles with temporary credentials are useful in the following situations:

  • Temporary IAM user permissions – An IAM user can assume an IAM role to temporarily take on different permissions for a specific task.

  • Federated user access – Instead of creating an IAM user, you can use existing identities from AWS Directory Service, your enterprise user directory, or a web identity provider. These are known as federated users. AWS assigns a role to a federated user when access is requested through an identity provider. For more information about federated users, see Federated users and roles in the IAM User Guide.

  • Cross-account access – You can use an IAM role to allow someone (a trusted principal) in a different account to access resources in your account. Roles are the primary way to grant cross-account access. However, with some AWS services, you can attach a policy directly to a resource (instead of using a role as a proxy). To learn the difference between roles and resource-based policies for cross-account access, see How IAM roles differ from resource-based policies in the IAM User Guide.

  • Cross-service access – Some AWS services use features in other AWS services. For example, when you make a call in a service, it's common for that service to run applications in Amazon EC2 or store objects in Amazon S3. A service might do this using the calling principal's permissions, using a service role, or using a service-linked role.

    • Principal permissions – When you use an IAM user or role to perform actions in AWS, you are considered a principal. Policies grant permissions to a principal. When you use some services, you might perform an action that then triggers another action in a different service. In this case, you must have permissions to perform both actions. To see whether an action requires additional dependent actions in a policy, see in the Service Authorization Reference.

    • Service role – A service role is an IAM role that a service assumes to perform actions on your behalf. Service roles provide access only within your account and cannot be used to grant access to services in other accounts. An IAM administrator can create, modify, and delete a service role from within IAM. For more information, see Creating a role to delegate permissions to an AWS service in the IAM User Guide.

    • Service-linked role – A service-linked role is a type of service role that is linked to an AWS service. The service can assume the role to perform an action on your behalf. Service-linked roles appear in your IAM account and are owned by the service. An IAM administrator can view, but not edit the permissions for service-linked roles.

  • Applications running on Amazon EC2 – You can use an IAM role to manage temporary credentials for applications that are running on an EC2 instance and making AWS CLI or AWS API requests. This is preferable to storing access keys within the EC2 instance. To assign an AWS role to an EC2 instance and make it available to all of its applications, you create an instance profile that is attached to the instance. An instance profile contains the role and enables programs that are running on the EC2 instance to get temporary credentials. For more information, see Using an IAM role to grant permissions to applications running on Amazon EC2 instances in the IAM User Guide.

To learn whether to use IAM roles or IAM users, see When to create an IAM role (instead of a user) in the IAM User Guide.

Managing access using policies

You control access in AWS by creating policies and attaching them to IAM identities or AWS resources. A policy is an object in AWS that, when associated with an identity or resource, defines their permissions. You can sign in as the root user or an IAM user, or you can assume an IAM role. When you then make a request, AWS evaluates the related identity-based or resource-based policies. Permissions in the policies determine whether the request is allowed or denied. Most policies are stored in AWS as JSON documents. For more information about the structure and contents of JSON policy documents, see Overview of JSON policies in the IAM User Guide.

Administrators can use AWS JSON policies to specify who has access to what. That is, which principal can perform actions on what resources, and under what conditions.

Every IAM entity (user or role) starts with no permissions. In other words, by default, users can do nothing, not even change their own password. To give a user permission to do something, an administrator must attach a permissions policy to a user. Or the administrator can add the user to a group that has the intended permissions. When an administrator gives permissions to a group, all users in that group are granted those permissions.

IAM policies define permissions for an action regardless of the method that you use to perform the operation. For example, suppose that you have a policy that allows the iam:GetRole action. A user with that policy can get role information from the AWS Management Console, the AWS CLI, or the AWS API.

Identity-based policies

Identity-based policies are JSON permissions policy documents that you can attach to an identity, such as an IAM user, group of users, or role. These policies control what actions users and roles can perform, on which resources, and under what conditions. To learn how to create an identity-based policy, see Creating IAM policies in the IAM User Guide.

Identity-based policies can be further categorized as inline policies or managed policies. Inline policies are embedded directly into a single user, group, or role. Managed policies are standalone policies that you can attach to multiple users, groups, and roles in your AWS account. Managed policies include AWS managed policies and customer managed policies. To learn how to choose between a managed policy or an inline policy, see Choosing between managed policies and inline policies in the IAM User Guide.

Resource-based policies

Resource-based policies are JSON policy documents that you attach to a resource. Examples of resource-based policies are IAM role trust policies and Amazon S3 bucket policies. In services that support resource-based policies, service administrators can use them to control access to a specific resource. For the resource where the policy is attached, the policy defines what actions a specified principal can perform on that resource and under what conditions. You must specify a principal in a resource-based policy. Principals can include accounts, users, roles, federated users, or AWS services.

Resource-based policies are inline policies that are located in that service. You can't use AWS managed policies from IAM in a resource-based policy.

Access control lists

Access control lists (ACLs) control which principals (account members, users, or roles) have permissions to access a resource. ACLs are similar to resource-based policies, although they do not use the JSON policy document format.

Amazon S3, AWS WAF, and Amazon VPC are examples of services that support ACLs. To learn more about ACLs, see Access control list (ACL) overview in the Amazon Simple Storage Service Developer Guide.

Other policy types

AWS supports additional, less-common policy types. These policy types can set the maximum permissions granted to you by the more common policy types.

  • Permissions boundaries – A permissions boundary is an advanced feature in which you set the maximum permissions that an identity-based policy can grant to an IAM entity (IAM user or role). You can set a permissions boundary for an entity. The resulting permissions are the intersection of entity's identity-based policies and its permissions boundaries. Resource-based policies that specify the user or role in the Principal field are not limited by the permissions boundary. An explicit deny in any of these policies overrides the allow. For more information about permissions boundaries, see Permissions boundaries for IAM entities in the IAM User Guide.

  • Service control policies (SCPs) – SCPs are JSON policies that specify the maximum permissions for an organization or organizational unit (OU) in AWS Organizations. AWS Organizations is a service for grouping and centrally managing multiple AWS accounts that your business owns. If you enable all features in an organization, then you can apply service control policies (SCPs) to any or all of your accounts. The SCP limits permissions for entities in member accounts, including each AWS account root user. For more information about Organizations and SCPs, see How SCPs work in the AWS Organizations User Guide.

  • Session policies – Session policies are advanced policies that you pass as a parameter when you programmatically create a temporary session for a role or federated user. The resulting session's permissions are the intersection of the user or role's identity-based policies and the session policies. Permissions can also come from a resource-based policy. An explicit deny in any of these policies overrides the allow. For more information, see Session policies in the IAM User Guide.


Amazon WorkDocs doesn't support Service Control Policies for Slack Organizations.

Multiple policy types

When multiple types of policies apply to a request, the resulting permissions are more complicated to understand. To learn how AWS determines whether to allow a request when multiple policy types are involved, see Policy evaluation logic in the IAM User Guide.