Ensure EC2 instances behind load balancers are not publicly accessible

Error: EC2 instances behind load balancers are publicly accessible

Bridgecrew Policy ID: BC_AWS_NETWORKING_35
Severity: MEDIUM

EC2 instances behind load balancers are publicly accessible


An EC2 instance with a public IP can be reached directly from the internet while bypassing the load balancer, making it a target from external traffic allowed to bypass the load balancer. A host behind a load balancer should not be directly reachable while bypassing the load balancer. For externally accessible networks, the load balancer should be the only layer exposed to the internet.

We recommend you remove the public IP altogether. Although security groups on the EC2 instance may block traffic that does not come through the load balancer, it remains vulnerable.

You can review AWS guidance on a standard load balancer configuration here.

Fix - Runtime

AWS Console

The solution differs depending on whether this instance is attached to an Elastic IP or whether a public IP was auto-assigned. The steps below will cover both scenarios.

To determine whether the instance uses an Elastic IP

  1. Log in to the AWS Management Console at https://console.aws.amazon.com/.
  2. Open the Amazon EC2 Console.
  3. On the left-hand menu, select Instances, and search for the instance you wish to review.
  4. In the information panel, if there is a value for Elastic IPs, then this instance is using an Elastic IP. If not, it is using an auto-assigned public IP.

To disassociate an Elastic IP

  1. Select the instance you wish to modify.
  2. In the Actions dropdown menu, select Networking -> Disassociate Elastic IP Address, and confirm in the popup dialog.



You may wish to also release the disassociated Elastic IP if you no longer need it. An addition cost is incurred even when unused.

To remove an Auto-Assigned Public IP

These steps describe how to update the IP in-place. If possible, it is cleaner to terminate the instance and launch a new one without a public IP. See the next section for instructions to do so.

  1. Select your instance, and note the Subnet ID and Security Group(s).
  2. Navigate to Network Interfaces in the EC2 console.
  3. Create a new Network Interface in the same subnet as your EC2 instance. Attach the same Security Group(s).
  4. Select the new Network Interface in the list (its status should show Available and click the Attach button. Select the instance in the popup dialog.
  5. Find the Network Interfaces mapped to your EC2 Instance, and note the ID of the interface with a public IP address.
  6. Navigate to the Elastic IP page and allocate a new Elastic IP address.
  7. Select the new address, click the Actions dropdown, and click Associate Elastic Elastic IP Address
  8. Select the Network interface radio button and the ID of the Network Interface you noted in step 9. Navigate to the Instances page and find your EC2 instance. Note that the Public IP has changed to the Elastic IP.
  9. Select the instance, and in the Actions dropdown menu, select Networking -> Disassociate Elastic IP Address, and confirm in the popup dialog.

You must leave both network interfaces attached to the instance; otherwise, a new Public IP will be assigned when the instance restarts. You may release the Elastic IP that you created.

To re-launch the EC2 Instance

These steps describe how to launch a new EC2 Instance, using the original instance as the base image, and attach it to the load balancer. If you do not need to save the contents of the EC2 instance, skip to step 5.

  1. Select your instance. From the Actions dropdown menu, select Image -> Create Image.
  2. Enter image properties. Decide whether you wish to shut down the instance before creating the image, which is the recommended approach, but causes the instance to be unavailable.
  3. Note the new AMI ID in the popup. Click it to see the AMI creation status.
  4. Once the status of the AMI changes to available, navigate back to Instances.
  5. Select the instance, and select Actions -> Launch More Like This.
  6. Click Edit AMI and select the newly created AMI (if you started on step 5, then skip this step).
  7. Review the new EC2 instance configurations to make sure they match the old instance. Ensure that Auto-assign Public IP is Disable.
  8. Launch the instance.
  9. Navigate to Load Balancers and find the load balancer(s) to which the old instance is attached.
  10. If the Type is classic, then select the Instances tab and click Edit Instances. Add the new instance. You may also deselect the old instance here; or, you can wait until the new instance is ready to receive requests.
  11. If the Type is *network or application, then select the Listeners** tab and note all Target Groups that are listed.
  12. Navigate to Target Groups and, for each group containing the old EC2 instance, open the Target Group and perform steps 13-15.
  13. Select the Targets tab.
  14. Click Register targets and add the new instance.
  15. Select the old instance and click Deregister.
  16. Terminate the old instance once you are ready.