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Enable fine-grained permissions for Amazon QuickSight authors in AWS Lake Formation

We’re excited to announce the integration of Amazon QuickSight with the AWS Lake Formation security model, which provides fine-grained access control for QuickSight authors. Data lake administrators can now use the Lake Formation console to grant QuickSight users and groups permissions to AWS Glue Data Catalog databases, tables, and Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) buckets that are registered and managed via Lake Formation.

This new feature enhances the fine-grained access control capability previously introduced in QuickSight, which allows admins to use AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) policies to scope down QuickSight author access to Amazon S3, Amazon Athena, Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), and Amazon Redshift. The scope-down access is enforced by attaching IAM policies to the QuickSight user or a group in the QuickSight portal. For more information, see Introducing Amazon QuickSight fine-grained access control over Amazon S3 and Amazon Athena.

For Athena-based datasets, you’re no longer required to use IAM policies to scope down QuickSight author access to Amazon S3, or Data Catalog databases and tables. You can grant permissions directly in the Lake Formation console. An added benefit is that you can also grant column-level permissions to the QuickSight users and groups. Lake Formation handles all this for you centrally.

This feature is currently available in the QuickSight Enterprise edition in the following Regions:

  • US East (Ohio)
  • US East (N. Virginia)
  • US West (Oregon)

It will soon be available in all Regions where Lake Formation exists as of this post. For more information, see Region Table.

This post compares the new fine-grained permissions model in Lake Formation to the IAM policy-based access control in QuickSight. It also provides guidance on how to migrate fine-grained permissions for QuickSight users and groups to Lake Formation.

QuickSight fine-grained permissions vs. Lake Formation permissions

In QuickSight, you can limit user or group access to AWS resources by attaching a scope-down IAM policy. If no such policies exist for a user or a group (that the user is a member of), QuickSight service role permissions determine access to the AWS resources. The following diagram illustrates how permissions work for a QuickSight user trying to create an Athena dataset.

With the Lake Formation integration, the permissions model changes slightly. The two important differences while creating an Athena dataset are:

  • Users can view the Data Catalog resources (databases and tables) that have one of the following:
    1. The IAMAllowedPrincipal security group is granted Super permission to the resource in Lake Formation.
    2. An ARN for the QuickSight user or group (that the user is a member of) is explicitly granted permissions to the resource in Lake Formation.
  • If the S3 source bucket for the Data Catalog resource is registered in Lake Formation. Amazon S3 access settings in QuickSight are ignored, including scope-down IAM policies for users and groups.

The following diagram shows the change in permission model when a QuickSight user tries to create an Athena dataset.

The following sections dive into how fine-grained permissions work in QuickSight and how you can migrate the existing permissions to the Lake Formation security model.

Existing fine-grained access control in QuickSight

For this use case, a business analyst in the marketing team, lf-gs-author, created an Athena dataset Monthly Sales in QuickSight. It was built using the month_b2bsalesdata table in AWS Glue and the data in S3 bucket b2bsalesdata.

The following screenshot shows the table details.

The following screenshot shows the dataset details.

The dataset is also shared with a QuickSight group analystgroup. See the following screenshot of the group details.

A fine-grained IAM policy enforces access to the S3 bucket b2bsalesdata for lf-qs-author and analystgroup. The following code is an example of an Amazon S3 access policy:

{ "Version": "2012-10-17", "Statement": [ { "Effect": "Allow", "Action": "s3:ListAllMyBuckets", "Resource": "arn:aws:s3:::" }, { "Action": [ "s3:ListBucket" ], "Effect": "Allow", "Resource": [ "arn:aws:s3:::b2bsalesdata" ] }, { "Action": [ "s3:GetObject", "s3:GetObjectVersion" ], "Effect": "Allow", "Resource": [ "arn:aws:s3:::b2bsalesdata/" ] } ]

Enabling QuickSight permissions in Lake Formation

To migrate QuickSight permissions to Lake Formation,  follow the steps described below (in the given order):

1.) Capturing the ARN for the QuickSight user and group

First, capture the QuickSight ARN for the business analyst user and marketing team group. You can use the describe-user API and the describe-group API to retrieve the user ARN and the group ARN, respectively. For example, to retrieve the ARN for the QuickSight group analystgroup, enter the following code in the AWS Command Line Interface (AWS CLI):

aws quicksight describe-group --group-name 'analystgroup' --aws-account-id 253914981264 --namespace default

Record the group ARN from the response, similar to the following code:

{ "Status": 200, "Group": { "Arn": "arn:aws:quicksight:us-east-1:253914981264:group/default/analystgroup", "GroupName": "analystgroup", "PrincipalId": "group/d-906706bd27/3095e3ab-e901-479b-88da-92f7629b202d" }, "RequestId": "504ec460-2ceb-46ca-844b-a33a46bc7080"

Repeat the same step to retrieve the ARN for the business analyst lf-qs-author.

2.) Granting permissions in the data lake

To grant permissions to the month_b2bsalesdata table in salesdb, complete the following steps:

  1. Sign in to the Lake Formation console as the data lake administrator.

A data lake administrator can grant any principal (IAM, QuickSight, or Active Directory) permissions to Data Catalog resources (databases and tables) or data lake locations in Amazon S3. For more information about creating a data lake administrator and the data lake security model, see AWS Lake Formation: How It Works.

  1. Choose Tables.
  2. Select month_b2bsalesdata.
  3. From the Actions drop-down menu, choose View permissions.

You see a list of principals with associated permissions for each resource type.

  1. Choose Grant.
  2. For Active Directory and Amazon QuickSight users and groups, enter the QuickSight user ARN.
  3. For Table permissions, select Select.
  4. Optionally, under Column permissions, you can grant column-level permissions to the user. This is a benefit of using Lake Formation permissions over QuickSight policies.
  5. Choose Grant.

  1. Repeat the preceding steps to grant select table permissions to analystgroup, using the ARN you recorded earlier.
  2. Select month_b2bsalesdata.
  3. From the Actions drop-down menu, choose View permissions.

The following screenshot shows the added permissions for the QuickSight user and group.

3.) Removing IAMAllowedPrincipal group permissions

For Lake Formation permissions to take effect, you must remove the IAMAllowedPrincipal group from the month_b2bsalesdata table.

  1. Select month_b2bsalesdata.
  2. From the Actions drop-down menu, choose View permissions.
  3. Select IAMAllowedPrincipals.
  4. Choose Revoke.

  1. Choose Revoke

4.) Registering your S3 bucket in Lake Formation

You can now register the S3 source bucket (b2bsalesdata) in Lake Formation. Registering the S3 bucket switches Amazon S3 authorization from QuickSight scope-down policies to Lake Formation security.

  1. Choose Data lake locations.
  2. Choose Register location.
  3. For Amazon S3 path, enter the path for your source bucket (s3://b2bsalesdata).
  4. For IAM role, choose the role with permissions to that bucket.
  5. Choose Register location.

5.) Cleaning up the scope-down policies in QuickSight

You can now remove the scope-down policies for the user and group in QuickSight. To find these policies, under Security and Permissions, choose IAM policy assignments.

6.) Creating a dataset in QuickSight

To create a dataset, complete the following steps:

  1. Log in to QuickSight as a user who is a member of analystgroup (someone besides lf-qs-author).
  2. Choose Manage data.
  3. Choose New data set.
  4. Choose Athena.
  5. For the data source name, enter Marketing Data.
  6. Choose Create data source.
  7. In the list of databases, choose salesdb.
  8. Choose month_b2bsalesdata.
  9. Choose Edit/Preview data.

The following screenshot shows the details of month_b2bsalesdata table.

You can also use custom SQL to query the data.


This post demonstrates how to extend the Lake Formation security model to QuickSight users and groups, which allows data lake administrators to manage data catalog resource permissions centrally from one console. As organizations embark on the journey to secure their data lakes with Lake Formation, having the ability to centrally manage fine-grained permissions for QuickSight authors can extend the data governance and enforcement of security controls at the data consumption (business intelligence) layer. You can enable these fine-grained permissions for QuickSight users and groups at the database, table, or column level, and they’re reflected in the Athena dataset in QuickSight.

Start migrating your fine-grained permissions to Lake Formation today, and leave your thoughts and questions in the comments.


About the Author

Adnan Hasan is a Solutions Architect with Amazon QuickSight at Amazon Web Services.