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Jan 16, 2024

Introduction to AWS Config

What is AWS Config?

AWS Config is a service provided by Amazon Web Services (AWS) that helps customers assess, audit, and monitor their AWS resources for compliance and security. Features include:

  • Continuously tracks and records changes to resource configurations
  • Provides a detailed inventory of resources in an AWS account
  • Allows users to define rules for desired configurations
  • Allows users to create custom rules and remediation actions to automate responses to configuration drift or non-compliance

AWS Config plays a vital role in improving security, compliance, governance, and overall operational efficiency for AWS customers by providing insight into resource configurations and their change history.


Why Do We Need AWS Config?

AWS Config helps you record configuration changes to software within EC2 instances in your AWS account, and virtual machines (VMs) or servers in your on-premises environment. The configuration information recorded by AWS Config includes operating system updates, network configuration, and installed applications. Key value points include:


  1. Visibility into Resource Changes: Critical for understanding how configurations evolve over time - helping to pinpoint the source of issues or vulnerabilities.
  2. Continuous Monitoring: Enables real-time detection of unauthorized changes or configuration drift that may impact security or compliance. 
  3. Security and Compliance: Allows users to define rules and policies to which resources must adhere. Automatically alerts or remediates violations, ensuring security standards are consistently met.
  4. Change Management: Maintains a historical record of all resource configurations and changes - valuable for auditing, troubleshooting, and understanding the impact of changes.
  5. Resource Relationships: Show how resources relate to each other, allowing organizations to understand dependencies and potential risks associated with how changes to one resource might affect another.
  6. Drift Detection: Identifies when resource configurations deviate from their expected state - crucial for identifying and rectifying inconsistencies that might lead to security vulnerabilities.
  7. Automated Remediation: Enables users to define automated remediation actions for specific rule violations - which saves time and ensures non-compliant resources are quickly restored to compliance.
  8. Operational Insights: By offering a comprehensive inventory of resources, organizations can more effectively optimize resource utilization, track resource costs, and plan for capacity needs.

Risks and Challenges

While AWS config is a valuable service, there are some potential risks and challenges associated with its implementation:


  1. Complexity and Overhead: Setting up and configuring AWS config can be complex, especially for large, dynamic AWS environments. Managing rules, policies, and the continuous stream of configuration data can create additional overhead for IT teams.
  2. Cost: AWS Config can generate additional costs due to the storage of configuration data and the potential for increased API activity. Organizations should be aware of these potential expenses, especially if they have extensive historical data to retain.
  3. Data Privacy and Compliance Concerns: The detailed configuration data stored by AWS Config may contain sensitive information. Organizations need to be vigilant in securing this data, and ensuring it complies with relevant data privacy regulations and internal policies.
  4. Rule Misconfiguration: Misconfigured or overly aggressive rules can result in excessive notifications and automated remediations, potentially disrupting operations or causing unnecessary actions that impact resources.
  5. Data Volume: In environments with numerous resources and frequent changes, AWS Config can generate an overwhelming amount of data, making it challenging to identify meaningful insights or prioritize issues effectively. This can lead to alert fatigue and difficulty in focusing on the most critical issues.

How To Set Up AWS Config

Using AWS Config is straightforward, and can be set up AWS Config through the AWS Management Console, AWS Command Line Interface (CLI), AWS SDKs. Here's a general overview of how to use AWS Config:


  1. AWS Config Setup via AWS Management Console:
    1. Log in to your AWS Management Console.
    2. Open the AWS Config Console.
    3. Click “Get Started"
    4. Configure settings, including the AWS Config rules you want to enable.
    5. Review and launch the AWS Config Recorder.
    6. Review the recorded configurations and setup rules within the console as desired.
  2. AWS Command Line Interface (CLI):
    • Install and configure the AWS CLI on your local machine.
    • Use the “create-config-recorder, put-config-rule, and related CLI commands to configure AWS Config.
    • You can automate the setup and management of AWS Config using scripts or infrastructure-as-a-code tools like AWS CloudFormation.
  3. AWS SDKs and APIs
    • Develop custom applications or scripts using AWS SDKs, e.g., Boto3 for Python, and AWS Config APIs to programmatically set up and manage AWS Config.

Best Practices

Following these best practices helps ensure AWS Config serves its purpose and minimizes potential risks:

  • Plan Your Configuration: Define your goals and requirements for AWS Config up front. Understand what resources and rules are critical for your organization’s compliance, security and operational needs.
  • Use AWS Managed Rules: Leverage AWS Managed Config Rules as a starting point for your compliance checks. These pre-built rules cover many common best practices and standards, reducing the need for custom rule development.
  • Custom Rules: Develop custom rules when necessary to address specific organizational requirements. Ensure these rules are well-documented and thoroughly tested.
  • Multi-Account Setup: If you have multiple AWS accounts, setup AWS config in a centralized configuration aggregator account to provide a unified view of your compliance and configuration data.
  • Data Retention: Consider how long you need to retain configuration history, and set up data retention policies accordingly to manage storage costs.
  • Data Encryption: Enable encryption at rest for the AWS config data to protect sensitive information and comply with security requirements.
  • Monitoring and Notifications: Establish clear alerting and notification mechanisms for rule violations. This allows you to react promptly to security or compliance issues.
  • Testing and Staging: Before deploying AWS Config rules to a production environment, test and stage them in a non-production environment to ensure they function as expected.
  • Documentation and Training: Document your AWS Config setup, rules, and policies. Provide training to staff responsible for using and maintaining AWS Config to ensure they understand its features and capabilities.
  • Continuous Review: Regularly review and update your AWS Config rules and settings to ensure they remain aligned with evolving best practices, organizational needs, and regulatory requirements.
  • Resource Relationships: Utilize resource relationships to understand dependencies and potential impacts when making changes to resources. This helps prevent unintended disruptions.
  • Performance Optimization: Keep an eye on AWS Config’s performance, particularly in large and dynamic environments. Tune your setup to minimize any impact on operational efficiency.



AWS config is a powerful service that plays a vital role in enhancing the security, compliance, and operational efficiency of AWS environments. It provides a comprehensive, real-time view of resource configurations, tracks changes over time, and enforces compliance with organizational policies and industry standards. By continuously monitoring configurations and automatically detecting violations, AWS Config helps organizations identify and rectify issues promptly, thus reducing security risks and compliance gaps. By properly leveraging AWS Config, organizations can maintain control, governance, and a secure posture of their AWS infrastructure - providing transparency, automation, and peace of mind in an ever-evolving cloud landscape.