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Investigating PrivEsc Methods in AWS

In 2018, Spencer Gietzen wrote an excellent article on privilege escalation in AWS, identifying 21 separate methods across various AWS services. I have often used Spencer’s article on engagements to try and find privilege escalation paths in client environments. In doing so, I sometimes needed just a little more information. Some of the escalation techniques identified by Spencer require in-depth knowledge of specific services, or are part of a multi-step process. I wanted to understand more about those details. What are the prerequisites and limitations? What does the escalation path actually look like in practice? To answer these questions, I took it upon myself to test Spencer’s methods. I created the exploit scenarios for each of the 21 techniques in my own AWS environment and verified that I was able to escalate privileges with all of them. 

I found these exercises to be very helpful for fully understanding the vulnerabilities introduced by certain AWS permissions, and hopefully the example walkthroughs provided here will help you in the same manner. I have also sorted these 21 methods into five larger categories to help remember the overall privesc threats to AWS.

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Gerben Kleijn

Senior Security Consultant