Google Cloud Identity and Access Management (IAM)

  • Create and manage permissions for your Google Cloud resources with Identity Access Management (IAM).
  • Provides a unified view into your organization’s security policy with built-in auditing to ease compliance purposes.


  • Lets you authorize who can take specific actions on resources to give you full control and visibility on your Google Cloud services centrally.
  • Permissions are represented in the form of service.resource.verb
  • Can map job functions into groups and roles.
  • With IAM, users only get access to what they need to get the job done.
  • Cloud IAM enables you to grant access to cloud resources at fine-grained levels, well beyond project-level access.
  • You can leverage Cloud Identity to easily create or sync user accounts across applications and projects.
  • IAM lets you set policies at the following levels of the resource hierarchy:
    • Organization level
      • The organization resource represents your company.
      • IAM roles granted at this level are inherited by all resources under the organization.
    • Folder level
      • Folders can contain projects, other folders, or a combination of both.
      • Roles granted at the highest folder level will be inherited by projects or other folders that are contained in that parent folder.
    • Project level
      • Projects represent a trust boundary within your company.
      • Services within the same project have a default level of trust. For example, App Engine instances can access Cloud Storage buckets within the same project.
      • IAM roles granted at the project level are inherited by resources within that project.
    • Resource level
      • Grant certain users permission to a single resource within a project.


  • A role contains a set of permissions that allows you to perform specific actions on Google Cloud resources.
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  • You don’t directly grant users permissions in IAM. Instead, you grant them roles, which bundle one or more permissions.
  • To make permissions available to members, including users, groups, and service accounts, you grant roles to the members.
  • There are three types of roles in Google Cloud IAM:
    • Basic Roles
      • Includes Owner, Editor, and Viewer role that existed prior to the introduction of IAM.
    • Predefined Roles
      • Provides granular access for a specific service and is managed and defined by Google Cloud.
      • Prevents unwanted access to other resources.
      • Google is responsible for updating and adding permissions as necessary.
    • Custom Roles
      • Provides granular access according to a user-defined list of permissions.
      • You can create a custom IAM role with one or more permissions and then grant that custom role to users or groups.
      • Custom roles are not maintained by Google.
    • You can grant multiple roles to a user or a group.

Service Accounts

  • A service account is a special kind of account used by an application or a virtual machine (VM) instance, not a person.
  • Applications use service accounts to make authorized API calls, authorized as either:
    • the service account itself
    • as Google Workspace
    • as Cloud Identity users through domain-wide delegation
  • A service account is identified by its email address, which is unique to the account.
  • Each service account is associated with two sets of public/private RSA key pairs used to authenticate to Google.
  • Types of service accounts:
    • User-managed service accounts
    • Default service accounts
      • Google creates a user-managed service account when you use Google Cloud services. These accounts are called default service accounts.
      • The default service accounts help you get started with Google Cloud services quickly.
    • In addition to being an identity, a service account is also a resource with IAM policies attached to it, which means you can define who can use the account and who can perform specific actions on the service account.


  • A policy is a collection of bindings, audit configuration, and metadata.
  • A binding associates (or binds) one or more members with a single role and any context-specific conditions that change how and when the role is granted.
  • Each binding includes the following fields:
    • A member, known as an identity or principal, can be a:
      • User Account
      • Service Account
      • Google group
      • Domain
    • A role, which is a named collection of permissions that grant access to perform actions on Google Cloud resources.
    • A condition, which is a logical expression that further constrains the role binding based on attributes about the request, such as its origin, the target resource, and more.


  • Groups help you manage your users at scale. It is a simple way to attach roles to users with the same job functions.
  • Each member of a Google group inherits the Identity and Access Management (IAM) roles granted to that group.
  • A user can belong to multiple groups.

Best Practices

  • Enforce least privilege at all times.
  • Mirror your Google Cloud resource hierarchy structure to your organization structure.
  • Set policies at the organization level and at the project level rather than at the resource level.
  • It is easier and better to manage members in a Google group than to update an IAM policy.
  • In deciding how to use a service account, use the following flow-chart to guide you in your decision-making process.

  • Rotate your service account keys using the IAM service account API.
  • For production workloads, it’s best practice to use user-managed service accounts instead of the default service accounts.


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