Accessing the AWS CLI Using saml2aws

The saml2aws CLI tool is used to login and retrieve AWS temporary credentials.


The DUO Multi-Factor Remote Access (MFA) app is installed and enrolled. Visit OIT’s DUO Multi-Factor Remote Access documentation to install and enroll MFA.

Install saml2aws

You use your CU IdentiKey to authenticate from CU’s Shibboleth Identity Provider. To install saml2aws (MacOS, Windows, Linux), visit the online documentation: saml2aws installation instructions

Verify saml2aws is installed by running the following command (output should show the installed version):

$ saml2aws --version

Configure saml2aws

Run the following command to begin the configuration process. This only needs to be done one time:

$ saml2aws configure

Provide the following values for the configuration:

Provider:    ShibbolethECP
MFA:         push (preferred, though you can choose other options)
AWS Profile: default (just hit the enter key)
Username:    <identikey>
Password:    <identikey password>
Confirm:     <identikey password>

Example configuration input:

? Please choose a provider: ShibbolethECP
? Please choose an MFA: push
? AWS Profile: (default, hit enter key)
? Username ralphie
? Password ********
? Confirm ********

Example configuration output:

account {
  Username: ralphie
  Provider: ShibbolethECP
  MFA: push
  SkipVerify: false
  AmazonWebservicesURN: urn:amazon:webservices
  SessionDuration: 14400
  Profile: saml
  Region: us-west-2

Updating Configuration

When your CU IdentiKey password changes, you must reconfigure.

$ saml2aws configure

Accept all the defaults (hit the enter key), but use the new password.

Using saml2aws

Using saml2aws involves logging in first using the saml2aws login command. Once logged in, you can then execute AWS CLI commands using the saml2aws exec command. You can also establish an interactive shell to run your commands in. Both methods are described below.

saml2aws login

Log in using the following command:

$ saml2aws login

When prompted for the Username and Password, just hit the ENTER key to accept the defaults you configured earlier. Alternatively, you could log in with a different CU IdentiKey if needed.

Next, choose the AWS Account and Role to log in to.


You should see output similar to the following

Selected role: arn:aws:iam::XXXXXXXXXXXX:role/Shibboleth-Customer-Admin
Requesting AWS credentials using SAML assertion
Logged in as: arn:aws:sts::XXXXXXXXXXXX:assumed-role/Shibboleth-Customer-Admin/

Your new access key pair has been stored in the AWS configuration
Note that it will expire at 2022-04-21 23:10:34 -0600 MDT
To use this credential, call the AWS CLI with the --profile option (e.g. aws --profile saml ec2 describe-instances).

AWS CLI commands can be executed by using the format:

aws --profile saml <aws subcommands here>

Let’s test your login from above by running your first AWS CLI command.

$ aws --profile saml sts get-caller-identity

You should see output similar to the following:

$ aws --profile saml sts get-caller-identity
    "UserId": "",
    "Account": "XXXXXXXXXXXX",
    "Arn": "arn:aws:sts::XXXXXXXXXXXX:assumed-role/Shibboleth-Customer-Admin/"

saml2aws exec

You can use saml2aws exec to run a command using the login credentials from the saml2aws login command from above. AWS CLI commands can be executed by using the format:

saml2aws exec aws <aws subcommands here>

Run the following command, which is equivalent to the command you ran above. You should get the same output:

$ saml2aws exec aws sts get-caller-identity

saml2aws shell

Most times, users will want to establish a shell to type AWS CLI commands in to without the extra hassle of providing a profile or prepending with the saml2aws exec command. Here’s how it’s done:

$ saml2aws exec -- $SHELL

Now try the following AWS CLI command:

$ aws sts get-caller-identity

You should see the same output from earlier. Now you can run all the AWS CLI commands you want, or run a shell script. All AWS CLI commands will run under the saml2aws login credentials from earlier.

saml2aws Advanced Configuration

You can manually add profiles for each AWS Account/Role. This is particularly helpful for automating saml2aws commands non-interactively. Profiles are added by editing the %HOME_DIR%/.saml2aws file (ie. ~/.saml2aws). Profiles can be added using the following template:

  • substitute <account_alias> for the AWS Alias
  • substitute XXXXXXXXXXXX for the AWS Account Number
url                  =
username             = ralphie
provider             = ShibbolethECP
mfa                  = auto
skip_verify          = false
timeout              = 0
aws_urn              = urn:amazon:webservices
aws_session_duration = 14400
aws_profile          = <account_alias>
role_arn             = arn:aws:iam::XXXXXXXXXXXX:role/Shibboleth-Customer-Admin

Example command for establishing an interactive shell in a single command. Note that you will have to manually accept the MFA request.

$ saml2aws -a admin-<account_alias> login --skip-prompt --duo-mfa-option="Duo Push" --session-duration=14400 && saml2aws -a admin-<account_alias> exec -- $SHELL

You can run the saml2aws exec portion of the above command however you need. For example, you can execute a shell script. Again, MFA will need to be performed manually.