AWS SCP : The Easiest Way To Securely Transfer Files To and From AWS

Most companies are moving toward Cloud. Also, setting up a multiple-account environment is a trend for companies. But for people who don't know much about AWS SCP, this can be a complicated and poorly run process.

With AWS Organizations, multiple accounts can be governed and managed from a central location.

When you use AWS Organizations and Service Control Policies (SCPs) together, you can ensure that all Identity and Access Management (IAM) principals follow the same rules. By doing so, you may better adapt your plan to the specific regulations of your company or team.

This article will explain what AWS SCPs are, discuss their benefits, give a brief overview of some common examples, and much more. 

What is AWS Service Control Policy (AWS SCP)?

AWS Service Control Policies (SCPs) allow administrators to set permissions for specific users or groups within an AWS Organization.

Using SCPs, you can ensure that your accounts adhere to your company's security policies. SCPs are only available in organizations where all features are enabled.

If your company has only allowed consolidated billing options, SCPs are unavailable. Check out Enabling and Disabling Policy Types for information on turning on AWS SCPs.

Why Should You Use AWS Service Control Policies (SCPs)?

Any big enterprise has to manage multiple AES accounts for different workloads and teams. So, as a business grows, there is a higher demand for AWS SCPs to maintain all rules and guardrails through IAM.

No doubt, IAM allows you to control users and roles in an account. But when it comes to managing different policies and permission, it’s become more challenging to handle different roles and users on different AWS accounts. 

It’s where AWS SCP comes to play! AWS SCP provides a further safety measure by superseding the granted access to IAM resources.

The biggest benefit is that you have better control over what an account can and cannot use and therefore reduce costs dramatically, especially when the number of accounts is growing over time.

As you can restrict what each account can and cannot do, the cost per account drops dramatically over time, making this benefit stand out. Isn’t it great? So, have you decided to use AWS Services Control Policies for your business? If so, then it’s a great idea! 

How to Create, Activate and Test an AWS SCP?

Now that you know what AWS SCP is and the benefits of using it, let’s go deeper into this article to learn how you can create, activate, and test a WS Service Control Policy.

Create AWS SCP

  1. 1

    Step 1: Create an AWS Organization 

    First of all, create an AWS Organization account if you want to use AWS SCPs. Click the Create an organization button to set up an AWS Organization with all its features enabled.

    You must activate all features before you can create and assign SCPs. The AWS Management Console provides visibility into an AWS Organization's structure after its establishment.

  2. 2

    Step 2: Enable AWS Service Control Policy 

    Since you just created an organization, you should check how all the policies are turned off by default. In the AWS Console, you'll need to enable AWS SCPs by selecting the Enable service control policies button.

    After you enable it, a new SCP named FullAWSAcess will be created automatically. You can’t modify the policy managed by AWS. 

    All AWS accounts automatically gain the permissions granted by this SCP because it is linked to the Root of the AWS Organization. .

  3. 3

    Step 3: Create AWS SCP

    From within the Service control policies tab in the AWS console, you can create a new policy.

    You can give the SCP a name and a description to specify what it is meant to prohibit or permit. The syntax of Service Control Policies is very similar to that of AWS IAM, and the policies are stored in a JSON format.

    To finalize the SCP, go ahead and click the Create policy button.

Activate AWS SCP

Now, it’s time to activate your AWS SCP. If you want to restrict access based on a rule, you'll need to associate it with an organizational unit (OU) or user account. To do this:

  1. 1
    Select "attach" from the target menu of the rule.
  2. 2
    Then, you can tell AWS Shield which accounts you want to apply the SCP to by using the deny AWS Shield statement.
  3. 3
    Select an AWS account or organizational unit so that the SCP will take effect immediately. This makes it harder for any IAM user or role to do things on behalf of all AWS resources.


It's recommended that you make a new organizational unit (OU) and assign the SCP to that OU before putting it through its paces in a test environment. Don't attach an unproven SCP right to the top of your organization!

Using this method, the policies will be immediately enforced across all accounts in your AWS organization.

You should start moving accounts for development and testing to the new organizational unit (OU). Next, transition gradually into production accounts.

How Can You Securely Copy Files To and From AWS with SCP?

Use SSH key pair to copy files to and from AWS with SCP securely. The SSH key pair consists of a private key and a public key.

The private key authenticates the connection, while the public key uploads to the AWS instance. Once you set up the SSH key pair, you can securely copy files to and from the AWS instance.

But you have to use the SCP command in the terminal. It’ll help you to securely copy files between two locations. With SCP, you can copy files:

  • From remote system to local system

  • From local system to remote system

  • Between two local systems

  • Between two remote systems

SCP system is compatible with cross platforms like Linux, Windows, Mac, IOS, and Android. Well, it needs the necessary permission from hosts to run SCP. 

What are the Most Common Examples of Using SCP Services?

The following are the most common examples of using AWS SCP: 

  1. 1

    Deny Account From Leaving the Organization

    When a user's account leaves an organization, it is no longer subject to the regulations enforced by that company.

    SCP can make it less likely that a user will move their account to a service provider with weaker security, who could then use the account to make changes without permission.

  2. 2

    Deny Access to Particular Regions 

    As we all know, AWS has 26 regions now, and businesses normally operate their workload in a maximum of 4 regions. With AWS SCP, you can limit the regions used by your accounts. 

  3. 3

    Amazon EC2 Instances is Necessary for Using Specific Type

    Using Service Control Policies, you can deny any launch instance that doesn’t use the t2.micro instance type. 

  4. 4

    Need MFT to Perform API Action

    IAM users can only do something with SCP once they have multi-factor authentication on.

What are the Best Tips for Troubleshooting Problems With SCP Transfers?

The following are the best tips for troubleshooting problems with SCP transfers: 

  • Make sure the SCP command user can read and write to both the source and target directories.

  • Check that the server you try to connect to is running and reachable on the network.

  • Verify the SSH configuration on the server to ensure that SCP is enabled and that the correct port is used.

  • Confirm that all necessary firewalls and security groups are set up to permit SCP traffic.

  • To get more information about any errors that may occur during the transfer, you can try using the "-vvv" option with the SCP command.

  • Using the "-C" switch to enable compression may speed up the transfer.

  • Make sure there's enough room on the receiving server to accommodate the data transfer.

  • If the issue persists after trying a different SCP client, you could switch to SFTP.


Cloud security is an important factor for businesses, and AWS SCP offers a top-notch and easy way of implementing best practices.

By enforcing AWS Security Control Policies, companies can lessen the likelihood of experiencing the disastrous effects of unauthorized AWS usage, data breaches, and other similar incidents.

Now that you know all about WS Service Control Policies, you can create AWS SCP on your own and use them in your accounts to reap the maximum benefits from them. Get the potential benefits of using AWS Security Control Policies and elevate your business to the next level. 

About the author


Youssef is a Senior Cloud Consultant & Founder of

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