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Pull an image from AWS ECR with OIDC

1 month ago2 min read
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Follow this how-to guide to configure a docker job to pull an image from AWS ECR using OIDC authentication.

Introduction

When you want to run jobs in the Docker execution environment, you have access to CircleCI convenience images for those containers. Alternatively, you can specify the use of other Docker images. One option is to pull an image from AWS ECR.

The best practice approach when using AWS ECR is to pull images using OpenID Connect (OIDC). Steps for this are described on this page.

For alternative methods, see the the AWS ECR section of the Docker authenticated pulls page.

Some advantages to using OIDC over using AWS credentials to pull images from ECR:

  • Improved security: By using OIDC authentication, storing AWS credentials directly in your CircleCI configuration or environment variables is avoided, reducing the risk of exposure.

  • Simplified credential management: OIDC allows CircleCI to automatically manage the authentication process, eliminating the need to manually manage and rotate AWS credentials.

  • Fine-grained access control: By associating an IAM role with the OIDC authentication, exact permissions granted to CircleCI for pulling ECR images can be controlled, ensuring a least-privilege approach.

Prerequisites

1. Set up IAM role

If you followed the Set up AWS instructions, you will have created an IAM role associated with your CircleCI identity provider. You can now use that role, and update the permissions policy, or you can create a new IAM role for this task. Steps for creating a new IAM role are described here.

  1. Visit the Creating a role for web identity or OIDC section of the AWS docs and follow the steps. You will need to select the following:

    • The Identity Provider that you created for CircleCI.

    • For Audience, choose the only option, which is your organization ID.

  2. On the Add Permissions page, choose Create Policy and create a new permissions policy for your IAM role. The minimum permissions required is as follows (you will need to substitute YOUR_ECR_REPO_ARN):

    {
      "Version": "2012-10-17",
        "Statement": [
            {
                "Action": [
                    "ecr:BatchGetImage",
                    "ecr:GetDownloadUrlForLayer"
                ],
                "Effect": "Allow",
                "Resource": "<your-ECR-repo-ARN>"
            },
            {
                "Action": [
                    "ecr:GetAuthorizationToken"
                ],
                "Effect": "Allow",
                "Resource": "*"
            }
        ]
    }
  3. Navigate back to the the Add Permissions page and refresh to find your new policy, and carry on following the AWS instructions to complete the role creation.

2. Update .circleci/config.yml to pull image

  1. Identify a job in your .circleci/config.yml file where you want to use your image stored in ECR, and update the job as follows:

    jobs:
      job_name:
        docker:
          - image: <your-image-uri>
            aws_auth:
              oidc_role_arn: <your-iam-role-arn>
  2. Replace <your-image-uri> with the URI of the ECR image you want to pull. This URI typically follows the format aws_account_id.dkr.ecr.region.amazonaws.com/repository:tag.

  3. Replace <your-iam-role-arn> with the ARN of the IAM role you want to assume. This is the role you created in the last section.

  4. Save the changes to your CircleCI configuration file. Next time the job runs, CircleCI will use the specified IAM role and act as an OIDC provider to authenticate and pull your specified ECR image.


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