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AWS Least Privilege

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Use AWS X-Ray to reach Least Privilege.

This project aims to streamline the process of collecting resource usage information from X-Ray and reaching a "Least Privilege" security posture for a given application. AWS X-Ray provides in-depth information about service API calls executed via the AWS SDK. Using this information, it is possible to build a profile of the AWS resources and actions that are actually used by an application and generate a policy document reflecting it. The project is currently focused on AWS Lambda but can easily be applied to other applications that utilize AWS Roles (applications on EC2 or ECS).


NodeJS 6+


npm install -g aws-least-privilege

This will install the command line tool: xray-privilege-scan.

Credential Setup

The cli tool uses AWS Nodejs SDK internally and will use the same credential mechanism as used by the SDK. It will automatically use credentials from the AWS shared credential file. See: AWS SDK Docs for more details. The user used to run the cli should have the AWS managed policy: AWSXrayReadOnlyAccess.

If using compare mode (see below) then the following inline policy should be attached to the user:

    "Version": "2012-10-17",
    "Statement": [
            "Effect": "Allow",
            "Action": [
            "Resource": [

X-Ray Setup

Follow the AWS X-Ray Developer Guide to install and enable X-Ray for your application.

X-Ray Parameter Whitelist Configuration

In order to capture what resources are accessed by AWS service calls, AWS X-Ray needs to be configured to send out parameter information as part of the subsegment traces. For example for DynamoDB we would want to know the Table being accessed and for S3 the Bucket and Key. AWS X-Ray currently provides default parameter info only for a limited set of services:

  • DynamoDB: All X-Ray SDKs
  • SQS: All X-Ray SDKs
  • Lambda: All X-Ray SDKs
  • S3:
    • Node SDK: version 1.2.0 and higher.
    • Python SDK: version 1.0 and higher.
    • Java SDK: As of Jan 30, 2018 has support as part of main source code, which is still not released. See merged pull request.

X-Ray does provide support for configuring additional services (such as S3 and SNS) to include parameter info through a parameter whitelist configuration file. We've created separate projects to manage parameter whitelist configurations for the Java and Node X-Ray SDKs. For Python the same parameter whitelist file of Node can be used as specified below.

X-Ray SDK for Node

The X-Ray SDK for Node provides a direct interface to append parameter whitelist configurations. Use our npm module to obtain additional parameter whitelist configurations which are not available as part of the X-Ray SDK.

Install the npm module:

npm install --save aws-xray-parameter-whitelist

Then during the initialization of your application add the following configuration code:

const AWSXRay = require('aws-xray-sdk');
const whitelists = require('aws-xray-parameter-whitelist');
AWSXRay.captureAWS(require('aws-sdk')); //standard capture code of X-Ray to catch AWS SDK calls

More info available at the project page:

X-Ray SDK for Python

The X-Ray SDK for Python doesn't expose a direct interface to append parameter whitelist configurations as in the X-Ray Node SDK. But there is an option to modify the whitelist object of the SDK directly as suggested in the following form post: (Note: the whitelist object has moved since the post, see the code below) The Python SDK uses the same parameter whitelist syntax as used by the X-Ray Node SDK, with a slight difference in the way operations are named. Operations are required to start with an uppercase. Use the following procedure to obtain additional parameter whitelist configurations which are not available as part of the X-Ray SDK:

To add support for SNS, copy the sns_whitelist.json from:

Then during the initialization configure X-Ray to use the sns parameter whitelist. Example code (Note: you may need to modify the path to sns_whitelist.json) :

from aws_xray_sdk.core import patch_all
from aws_xray_sdk.ext.boto_utils import whitelist

patch_all() # standard patch code to catch AWS SDK calls

# code to configure xray to provide parameter info for sns
with open('./sns_whitelist.json', 'r') as data_file:
    sns_whitelist = json.load(data_file)
operations = sns_whitelist['services']['sns']['operations']
for op in operations.keys():
    op_cap = op[:1].upper() + op[1:]
    operations[op_cap] = operations.pop(op)
whitelist['services']['sns'] = sns_whitelist['services']['sns']

X-Ray SDK for Java

Use the aws-xray-parameter-whitelist-instrumentor jar which is a drop-in replacement for aws-xray-recorder-sdk-aws-sdk-instrumentor. It contains a pre-configured parameter whitelist file with additional support for S3. There is no need to modify source code to use this parameter whitelist configuration. There is only need to add the jar to the class path instead of the aws-xray-recorder-sdk-aws-sdk-instrumentor jar. It is possible to add the aws-xray-parameter-whitelist-instrumentor jar as a dependency via the JCenter repository. For example, if you are using Gradle you will need to add the following section to the repositories closure:

repositories {

And then add the following compilation dependency:

compile 'com.github.functionalone:aws-xray-parameter-whitelist-instrumentor:<version>'

More info and further configuration options are available at the project page:

Usage and command line options

To list all the options run:

xray-privilege-scan --help

All command line options are optional:

  Usage: xray-privilege-scan [options]


    -V, --version                 output the version number
    -s, --start-time <timestamp>  Start time as Unix timestamp (seconds since 1970-01-01 00:00:00 UTC). If left out will use: (current time - time range).
    -r, --time-range <minutes>    Time range in minutes to scan from start time. (default: 60)
    -c, --compare                 Compare current role and generated roles. Output a json report.
    -v, --verbose                 Output verbose logs to the console (info and above).
    -f, --filter <expression>     Filter expression to use when scanning xray. See AWS docs for synatx.
    -h, --help                    output usage information

Example usage to scan last 12 hours of X-Ray traces with verbose output:

xray-privilege-scan -v -r 720

Once completed xray-privilege-scan will generate a policy document per Lambda Function. Each document will be named with a unique id of the form:


Additionally it will printout a summary to standard out specifying the function names and documents generated.

The policy document is a json document conforming to the AWS Policy language with an additional field of: Description. The Description field will contain the AWS ARN of the Lambda Function this policy is for. The Description field is not part of the AWS Policy language and should be removed if copying the policy to AWS IAM.

Supported AWS Services

The following services are supported as part of an X-Ray scan (unsupported services will be ignored during a scan):

  • DynamoDB
  • S3
  • SQS
  • Lambda
  • SNS

If you would like to see additional services, please let us know by openning an issue.

Compare Mode

To use compare mode specify the -c command line option. With compare mode the tool will check what role is currently attached to a Lambda Function. It will then compare the role's permissions against the permissions discovered through the X-Ray scan. If any of the roles contain excessive permissions as compared to the permissions actually discovered in the X-Ray scan, an excessive permissions report in json format will be generated. The file will be named: excessive_permissions.json. The report will include an entry for each Lambda Function with the permissions found as excessive. Sample report:

    "arn": "arn:aws:lambda:us-east-1:123456789:function:notes-app-api-prod-delete",
    "role": "arn:aws:iam::123456789:role/notes-app-api-prod-delete-us-east-1-lambdaRole",
    "excessPermissions": [
        "Action": [
        "Resource": "arn:aws:dynamodb:us-east-1:*:table/notes",
        "Effect": "Allow"

Note: The comparison currenlty takes into account only "Allow" statements. If the role contains a policy with "Deny" statements these will not be considered for the comparison.

More Info

Detailed walk through with a sample application: Using AWS X-Ray to achieve Least Privilege Permissions

AWS X-Ray Filter Expression Documentation:

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