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The following analytic identifies excessive AccessDenied events within an hour timeframe for IAM users in AWS. It leverages AWS CloudTrail logs to detect multiple failed access attempts from the same source IP and user identity. This activity is significant as it may indicate that an access key has been compromised and is being misused for unauthorized discovery actions. If confirmed malicious, this could allow attackers to gather information about the AWS environment, potentially leading to further exploitation or privilege escalation.

  • Type: Anomaly
  • Product: Splunk Enterprise, Splunk Enterprise Security, Splunk Cloud

  • Last Updated: 2024-05-20
  • Author: Michael Haag, Splunk
  • ID: 3e1f1568-9633-11eb-a69c-acde48001122




ID Technique Tactic
T1580 Cloud Infrastructure Discovery Discovery
Kill Chain Phase
  • Exploitation
  • DE.AE
  • CIS 10
`cloudtrail` (errorCode = "AccessDenied") user_type=IAMUser (userAgent!=* 
| bucket _time span=1h 
| stats count as failures min(_time) as firstTime max(_time) as lastTime, dc(eventName) as methods, dc(eventSource) as sources by src_ip, userIdentity.arn, _time 
| where failures >= 5 and methods >= 1 and sources >= 1 
| `security_content_ctime(firstTime)` 
| `security_content_ctime(lastTime)` 
| `aws_iam_accessdenied_discovery_events_filter`


The SPL above uses the following Macros:

:information_source: aws_iam_accessdenied_discovery_events_filter is a empty macro by default. It allows the user to filter out any results (false positives) without editing the SPL.

Required fields

List of fields required to use this analytic.

  • _time
  • eventName
  • eventSource
  • userAgent
  • errorCode
  • userIdentity.type

How To Implement

The Splunk AWS Add-on and Splunk App for AWS is required to utilize this data. The search requires AWS CloudTrail logs.

Known False Positives

It is possible to start this detection will need to be tuned by source IP or user. In addition, change the count values to an upper threshold to restrict false positives.

Associated Analytic Story


Risk Score Impact Confidence Message
10.0 20 50 User $userIdentity.arn$ is seen to perform excessive number of discovery related api calls- $failures$, within an hour where the access was denied.

:information_source: The Risk Score is calculated by the following formula: Risk Score = (Impact * Confidence/100). Initial Confidence and Impact is set by the analytic author.


Test Dataset

Replay any dataset to Splunk Enterprise by using our tool or the UI. Alternatively you can replay a dataset into a Splunk Attack Range

source | version: 3