Identity Federation in AWS with Okta

Identity and access management is one of the key components of good cloud security, which is why Amazon Web Services’ seamless integration of its IAM tool with the rest of the Amazon ecosystem becomes one of its strong suits. Developers and administrators can manage user roles and access on a granular level across the entire ecosystem without jumping through hoops, and that is a big plus.

Okta is a service that understands that very well. As an identity solution, Okta doesn’t just unify identity management for all your team members and customers; it also allows for easy integration with IAM. Okta also comes with a handful of features that make managing identities a breeze. Identity federation in AWS with Okta is a fantastic way to unified identity management.

A Closer Look

Okta’s integration with AWS IAM is based on single sign-on with SAML, which makes the whole process easy to navigate and manage. Basically, you have the ability to download roles from IAM and then assign them to users already on Okta. This gives administrators the flexibility they need without adding complexity to user management.

It doesn’t stop there either. Okta allows multiple roles to be assigned to a single user. On top of that, users can be assigned roles for a certain period of time, after which the role is lifted, and the user is denied access to the allocated AWS services and features.

There is no limit to the number of roles and users to connect with each other. In fact, Okta users can also benefit from connection to multiple AWS accounts, so roles from different cloud accounts can be managed by the same team members without requiring manual user generation on AWS IAM directly. As long as roles are configured, the rest is easy.

There is one added benefit to enjoy from integrating Okta with AWS IAM, and that is the flexibility that users can have upon logging in. When users log in to AWS, they will be presented with all the roles that are assigned to their user ID, giving them the option to log in as any roles as they see fit and allowing them to get the permissions they need at the right time.

Integrating Okta with AWS IAM

Connecting Okta with AWS IAM is as simple as adding an identity provider to your IAM console. Choose SAML as your provider type and add the metadata from your Okta admin dashboard to the IAM console. Create a provider and make a copy of your provider’s ARN value.

The next step involves including Okta’s identity provider entry as a trusted provider. This is done by granting SSO access to the identity provider. Select Edit Trust Relationship and modify the relationship to add SSO access. Use the SAML ARN value from the previous step to complete this step.

In Roles > Create Role, select SAML 2.0 federation, and then choose Okta as your SAML provider. Don’t forget to select Allow programmatic and AWS Management Console Access. After completing this step, you can select the preferred policy, review the new role, and finish the process.

You need to generate AWS API Access Key for Okta, and that is done from the IAM > Users section. Create a user for Okta, and then select Programmatic Access to enable remote API access. Attach existing policies directly and create a new policy for this specific account.

Completing the wizard creates a master account for Okta to use. This master account is responsible for downloading roles and assigning them. You have now completed the AWS side of the configuration. It is time to configure Okta to work with AWS IAM.

The Sign-On tab on Okta presents all the variables you have to enter to get the two working together. You have to provide the Identity Provider ARN and enable API integration. Use the master account and test your API credentials to make sure that everything works.

Once the API works properly, you can begin assigning users to the master role. Super-admins should be the only ones with this level of access. The users can also be tested on AWS just to be certain. You can begin using Okta to manage identities at this point.

Enjoying the Benefits

We’ve touched about the advantages of integrating Okta and AWS IAM before, but the federation offers so much more than just convenience. The cloud-based identity management platform helps administrators save a lot of time and resources while maintaining maximum security and granular access control. These are advantages that are too good to miss; you don’t have to sacrifice cloud security in exchange for the conveniences offered by Okta.

Automation is another big advantage of using Okta with IAM. While IAM has some automation features that you can leverage, the features offered by Okta is far more comprehensive. Automatic provisioning of IAM roles to new users and the ability to assign temporary roles without a lot of manual input are also huge advantages that you don’t want to miss.

There is also the fact that you can save a lot of money by using Okta. Okta actually reduces the cost of dealing with password-related issues faced by users and customers by a significant margin. Bakers Delight reported a whopping $500,000 in cost reduction within the first month of switching to Okta. Additional savings can be made in the long run.

The biggest benefit of them all, however, is the frictionless experience offered by Okta. Okta can also be used with other platforms and native apps, providing SSO for all of your business and consumer solutions. This means there is no need to set up IAM for every service and solution, and users can have a more seamless interaction with systems altogether.

Okta is designed to be the modern solution to complex digital challenges. Our cloud infrastructures are becoming more complex as we divide applications into more microservices and use multiple cloud services to power them. Identity federation in AWS with Okta is the best way to get started with seamless and unified identity and access management. 

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