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Article by Nick Frichette.

AWS Organizations Defaults

Almost all mid-to-large sized AWS environments make use of multi-account architecture. Using multiple AWS accounts offers a number of benefits and is considered a best practice. To help organize and manage those accounts, AWS offers a service called AWS Organizations.

Due to the ubiquity of AWS Organizations, it is important for Penetration Testers and Red Teamers to familiarize themselves with its default configuration.

When an account creates an organization it becomes the management account of that organization. Each organization has one management account, and this account effectively "owns" the organization.

Member Accounts and the OrganizationAccountAccessRole

When an account is created with AWS Organizations it is considered a member of the organization (hence, member account). As a part of this account creation process, AWS Organizations will create a role in the member account called OrganizationAccountAccessRole. This role is created in each member account.

By default, the OrganizationAccountAccessRole has the AdministratorAccess policy attached to it, giving the role complete control over the member account. In addition, the default trust policy on the role is as shown below where 000000000000 is the account ID of the management account.

    "Version": "2012-10-17",
    "Statement": [
            "Effect": "Allow",
            "Principal": {
                "AWS": "arn:aws:iam::000000000000:root"
            "Action": "sts:AssumeRole"

These things combined mean that, should an attacker compromise the management account, the default behavior of AWS Organizations provides a path to compromise every account in the organization as an administrator. For offensive security professionals, identifying paths into the management account can be an incredibly fruitful exercise, and may result in an entire organization compromise.

For defensive security teams, it would be a good idea to ensure no infrastructure is deployed into the management account to reduce attack surface. Additionally, carefully controlling who has access to it and monitoring that access would also help to reduce risk.