AWS, Cloud Computing

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Enhanced Security with Amazon Instance Metadata Service Version 2 (IMDSv2)


Amid the constantly changing realm of cloud computing, ensuring security remains a paramount concern for enterprises and individuals. As organizations migrate to the cloud, safeguarding sensitive data and ensuring the confidentiality of their resources becomes paramount. Amazon Web Services (AWS), a leader in cloud solutions, continues to innovate its services to provide enhanced security measures. One such innovation is the AWS Instance Metadata Service Version 2 (IMDSv2).

Introduction to AWS IMDSv2

The AWS Instance Metadata Service (IMDS) allows Amazon EC2 instances to retrieve metadata about themselves and their associated resources. This information is vital for dynamically configuring applications based on their runtime environment.

However, the initial version of IMDS (IMDSv1) had a security vulnerability known as a “token theft” issue, which attackers could potentially exploit.

To address this concern, AWS introduced IMDSv2, an improved and more secure version of the service that offers robust protection against various attack vectors.

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What’s new in IMDSv2?

IMDSv2 introduces improved security for accessing Amazon EC2 instance metadata and credentials. Each request is now protected by session authentication. A session is initiated by sending an HTTP PUT request to IMDSv2. The service responds with a secret token as a password for subsequent requests. This eliminates the need to manually transfer the token, as the software on the Amazon EC2 instance retrieves it through the PUT request.

IMDSv2 does not store the token and cannot be retrieved in later calls. It’s tied to the session and ceases to exist when the associated process ends. Sessions have no request limit, and multiple IMDSv2 sessions can run concurrently. A session remains active for up to six hours. Session tokens can only be used on the originating Amazon EC2 instance for heightened security.

For example, the following curl recipe showcases obtaining a session token lasting six hours and accessing the Amazon EC2 instance’s profile metadata.

TOKEN=curl -X PUT “” -H “X-aws-ec2-metadata-token-ttl-seconds: 21600″

curl -H “X-aws-ec2-metadata-token: $TOKEN”

How these changes add defense in depth?

The introduced modifications in IMDSv2 contribute to a layered security approach. They seamlessly integrate into your workflow when employing the latest AWS SDKs and CLIs. These enhancements provide an extra layer of defense that extends beyond conventional measures. This safeguarding addresses potential vulnerabilities such as misconfigurations in open web application firewalls, reverse proxies, unpatched SSRF vulnerabilities, and errors in open layer-3 firewalls and network address translation.

Protecting against open Website Application Firewalls

Certain Web Application Firewall (WAF) services, like AWS WAF, cannot be set up as open WAFs. Nevertheless, there are third-party WAFs that, if not properly configured, might inadvertently grant unauthorized network access to attackers, potentially compromising the EC2 IMDS and its associated data.

Numerous Web Application Firewalls (WAFs) are intentionally crafted to function discreetly, ensuring the safeguarding of websites and applications without necessitating any alterations or reconfiguration of the applications concealed behind the AWS WAF. To maintain transparency, WAFs generally transmit all the headers accompanying a request and refrain from introducing their own headers, such as the customary X-Forwarded-For header, typically added by other proxies. In simpler terms, applications protected by an AWS WAF receive requests precisely as the requester originally sent them.

Protecting against SSRF vulnerabilities

SSRF vulnerabilities open the door for attackers to carry out unauthorized actions via web applications. These actions appear to originate from the application, granting attackers access to internal resources never meant to be exposed to external parties. The degree of risk associated with SSRF vulnerabilities can vary, and some can circumvent traditional security measures. To illustrate, countering SSRFs by employing static headers in the instance metadata requests proves effective only when the vulnerability lets attackers manipulate the requested URL. In contrast, AWS analysis has uncovered numerous SSRF vulnerabilities that enable attackers to manipulate arbitrary headers due to their impact on the application’s header processing mechanism.

Making the transition – Navigating the shift

Both IMDSv1 and IMDSv2 will be accessible and activated as the default settings, affording customers the freedom to select their preferred option. The IMDS can be confined solely to v2, or the IMDS (both v1 and v2) can be deactivated altogether. For enhanced security, it is advisable to embrace v2 and limit interactions solely to v2. However, IMDSv1 will persist for those customers who rely on v1-compatible tools and scripts and find themselves content with their instances’ current security status.

Implementing IMDSv2

Migrating from IMDSv1 to IMDSv2 involves updating the instance metadata service endpoint and adjusting API calls to include the session token in the request header. AWS provides detailed documentation and guides to assist users in this transition. Additionally, AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) roles are crucial in authorizing access to the metadata service.


IMDSv2 is a testament to AWS’s commitment to security, providing enhanced defenses against various potential vulnerabilities, including SSRF attacks. As businesses continue to rely on AWS to power their cloud infrastructure, understanding and implementing security features like IMDSv2 is crucial for safeguarding sensitive data and maintaining the integrity of cloud workloads.

Drop a query if you have any questions regarding AWS Instance Metadata Service Version 2 (IMDSv2) and we will get back to you quickly.

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1. What is AWS IMDSv2, and why was it introduced?

ANS: – AWS IMDSv2, or Instance Metadata Service version 2, is an enhanced version of the original Instance Metadata Service (IMDS) used in Amazon Web Services (AWS) environments.

2. How does IMDSv2 improve security compared to IMDSv1?

ANS: – IMDSv2 introduces several security enhancements over IMDSv1. It enforces session-based access, requiring requests to include a session token for authentication. These tokens have a limited lifespan, reducing the window of opportunity for potential attackers.

3. What is the role of session tokens in IMDSv2?

ANS: – Session tokens play a crucial role in IMDSv2’s security architecture. To access instance metadata, a process must establish a session by authenticating with the instance’s metadata service using the appropriate session token.




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