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Security & Identity

Introducing IAM Deny, a simple way to harden your security posture at scale

November 16, 2022
Ravi Shah

Group Product Manager, Google Cloud

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At Google Cloud, we’re focused on making it easy for organizations to build solutions quickly and securely. Identity and Access Management (IAM) is the core security control for establishing who has access to which cloud resources and making sure access permissions are aligned to your company’s business and security policies. 

We are excited to announce the general availability of IAM Deny policies. This new capability helps you easily create access guardrails for Google Cloud resources. With IAM Deny policies, you can create rules that broadly restrict resource access. It provides a powerful, coarse-grained access control to help implement security policies at scale. 

Control with IAM Policy - Allow and Deny 

IAM Deny policies complement IAM Allow policies as you define access to your resources. Google Cloud’s IAM Allow policy lets you grant granular access to Google Cloud resources. The more coarse-grained Deny policies let you explicitly prohibit access to certain resources regardless of existing Allow rules. IAM Deny policies always supersede IAM Allow policies and override conflicting IAM Allow rules.

Figure: IAM policies evaluation workflow

IAM Deny policies can be applied across many Google Cloud resources, such as Compute Engine, Cloud Storage, and Google Cloud Kubernetes Engine. These policies can help reduce toil on administrators as they can set up deny rules that will be enforced at scale without requiring reviews and changes of existing access rules. This makes resource governance simpler.

How to strengthen your security posture with IAM Deny

There are multiple use cases where IAM Deny policies can be used to help strengthen posture. Some of these are:

  • Establish a default security baseline: IAM Deny can be used to set base policies at the organization level, folder level, and project level to deny access to resources. For example, you can attach a deny policy at the organization level to deny all users access to sensitive data storage buckets, making an exception for a specific user group.

  • Prevent backdoors: IAM Deny rules override any IAM Allow rules. This can help you ensure that no “backdoor” access can be granted. For example, an organization that wants to ensure only central-admin can create projects in a folder can add an IAM Deny policy that restricts all users from creating projects except central-admin. This can help ensure no backdoor users will be added using allow policy rules.

  • Prevent data exfiltration: Controlling access to data is a key measure to prevent exfiltration. For example, an organization that wants to restrict access to their personally identifiable information (PII) can set an IAM Deny policy on resources containing PII that denies access to all users except those in a group called PII-admin.

  • Demonstrate compliance: Many industry regulations and compliance frameworks require organizations to demonstrate least-privilege access to sensitive resources. IAM Deny policies can create a baseline access restriction that always takes precedence when applied to resources.

Simplify IAM administration

IAM Deny can also help simplify common administrative tasks. It provides a list of permissions for Google Cloud services that you can readily use in your deny policies. Here are a few common situations where you can use IAM Deny to help streamline your access management.

  • Centralize administrative privileges: You can use deny policies to restrict certain types of administrative activities to specific users or user groups. For example, if you want to limit custom role management to a single central team, you can create a deny rule that denies the permissions required for custom role management to all users, except users in the central-admin group. This will only let members of the central-admin group manage custom roles, even if other users have the required permissions. 

  • Create exceptions to access grants: You can use deny policies to deny inherited permissions. For example, you can grant a role at a high level in the resource hierarchy, and then deny the role's permissions on individual lower-level resources if necessary. 

  • Block access based on tags: Google Cloud supports key-value based tags and you can use deny policies to deny permissions based on tags without adding an IAM Condition to every role grant. For example, you can create a rule to deny delete permissions for resources tagged as “production” for everyone except project-admins.

IAM Deny in action

The following example illustrates how a deny policy can be used to block all users from deleting projects unless the user is a member of a project-admins group or the project being deleted is tagged as a “test” project. Without a deny policy, you would have to manually track all members who have the permission to delete projects, and ensure that no undesired user has access to this permission. The deny policy makes it easy for the administrator to build this guardrail.

The below deny rule denies permission to everyone except project-admins@example.com for projects not tagged as test. Add this deny rule to a deny policy and attach the policy at the org level. That’s it!

(Note that project-admins@example.com is a security group. Using security groups is a best practice that should be followed to help keep your resources secure.)


Example: IAM Deny rule

Getting started with IAM Deny Policies

With IAM Deny, you now have a powerful new capability to build security guardrails and more effectively control access to your Google Cloud resources. IAM Deny is now generally available for all customers through gCloud and APIs. We offer IAM Deny to Google Cloud customers at no additional cost. You can learn more about IAM Deny by visiting our documentation page.

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