Amazon Web Services Security Profile: Get to know the Amazon Web Services Identity Solutions team

by Maddie Bacon | on
Remek Hetman, Principal Solutions Architect on the Identity Solutions team

Remek Hetman, Principal Solutions Architect on the Identity Solutions team

In this profile, I met with Ilya Epshteyn, Senior Manager of the Amazon Web Services Identity Solutions team, to chat about his team and what they’re working on.


Let’s start with the basics. What does the Identity Solutions team do?
We are a team of specialist solutions architects (SAs) who are in the Amazon Web Services Identity organization. At Amazon Web Services, we have SAs who directly support customers, and we have SAs who are embedded in internal engineering teams—we are the latter. As SAs, we work on complex customer scenarios, build solutions, and create deep technical content on identity topics, including identity and access management—like blog posts, workshops, and sessions at our global events. A significant portion of our time is spent working internally with Amazon Web Services product and engineering teams to help bring the customer experience perspective. Identity touches everything — it’s the fabric of every Amazon Web Services service — and we want to help achieve a consistent identity experience for customers. To help do this, we use different tooling to proactively identify challenges in customers’ experience with identity across Amazon Web Services.

What is the mission of the Identity Solutions team?
Our mission is to make it easier for customers to implement access controls that protect their data in a straightforward and consistent manner across Amazon Web Services services. A consistent experience simplifies the implementation and validation of security controls. We help identify customer’s pain points and work with our service teams to improve their experiences. We also provide highly prescriptive guidance to customers around identity. We don’t want to just say, “here’s an option.” Our guidance comes from a place of knowing how it will be operationalized and implemented. We won’t recommend something to customers unless we’ve tried it ourselves.

In order to literally “try it ourselves,” we built and operate a large-scale Amazon Web Services environment called Mirror World, in which we use Amazon Web Services services from the perspective of an Amazon Web Services customer. The environment allows us to create different controls and use them in conjunction with other tools and services, truly putting ourselves in the shoes of the customer. This is in line with our mission of “active empathy,” our #1 team tenet.

Interesting! Tell us more about Mirror World.
There are three main use cases for Mirror World:

  • We use it to understand and proactively identify challenges with the customer experience for existing and new Amazon Web Services services and features. As new features are launched, we get early access and test them out so that we can improve the documentation and prescriptive guidance that we provide to customers.
  • We vend accounts in it. Internal field teams can request accounts and get their hands on a large-scale Amazon Web Services environment with real customer setups, including organization-wide security controls and networking.
  • Amazon Web Services service teams use this environment to see how customers experience their Amazon Web Services service.

What are your other major focus areas right now?
Data perimeters — set of preventive guardrails in your Amazon Web Services environment to help ensure that only your trusted identities are accessing trusted resources from expected networks — are a big focus for us. Because data perimeters touch so many different aspects of identity and access management, our team is helping to organize what the user experience will look like, and helping to define the future state of data perimeters. Team members Tatyana Yatskevich and Matt Luttrell went into more detail about this in their profiles.

What are some of the common questions you hear from customers?
Customers who have already been operating in the cloud for several years often tell us that they’re looking for opportunities to optimize their environment at scale. They’re maturing and managing hundreds or even thousands of accounts, so they commonly ask us for ways to simplify and scale their environment. For customers earlier in their journey, a common question is what lessons we have learned while working with more experienced customers so that they can benefit from their journey. Like Andy Jassy says, “There is no compression algorithm for experience.”

What do you wish customers would ask about more?
How to get rid of their long-term credentials to significantly reduce the chances of credentials becoming compromised. We realize that for some customers it’s an effort to move away from IAM users and long-term credentials. We’d love to hear from more customers how they’re moving away from them or what’s stopping them from doing so. We’ve done a better job setting newer customers on the right path with short-term credentials and IAM roles instead of users, but for more tenured customers, there’s still an opportunity to improve in this area.

Looking ahead, what are your goals for the team?
We’re lucky that our team has individuals with diverse backgrounds and skillsets that have enabled us to deliver on our mission. But if we want to make a bigger impact, we need to scale. We will continue to utilize Mirror World, do more with automation, and expand our team collaboration to further the consistent identity experience for our customers. We also recently launched a repo containing recommended service control policies, which we plan to continue expanding. And we’re going to continue to build end-to-end solutions for identity use cases, such as IAM Policy Validator for Amazon Web Services CloudFormation. We will also continue identity enablement on complex topics, such as the data perimeter blog series and workshop , so that we can reach even more customers with prescriptive guidance. Stay tuned for more blog posts from our team coming soon here! If you’re interested in any of the topics mentioned in this post and would like to start a conversation, please reach out to your account team.

 
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Author

Maddie Bacon

Maddie (she/her) is a technical writer for Amazon Security with a passion for creating meaningful content that focuses on the human side of security and encourages a security-first mindset. She previously worked as a reporter and editor, and has a BA in Mathematics. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, traveling, and staunchly defending the Oxford comma.

Author

Ilya Epshteyn

Ilya is a Senior Manager of Identity Solutions in Amazon Web Services Identity. He helps customers to innovate on Amazon Web Services by building highly secure, available, and scalable architectures. He enjoys spending time outdoors and building Lego creations with his kids.