How to: Launch a AWS Linux Instance using Encrypted Boot Volumes

Using encrypted boot volumes for AWS Linux Instances is not very well documented.   Here is a how to for launching a AWS Linux instance using encrypted boot volumes.

Note that encryption has a performance impact on the instance, and thus it will require a larger instance size to run.  You will not be able to get a t2.micro instance to boot as it does not have enough CPU performance.

The process is broken down into 4 steps

  1. Create a Role for the EC2 instance to access encryption keys
  2. Create the Encryption key
  3. Create a custom AMI using your Encryption key
  4. Launch the Instance using your custom AMI.

All the instances launched from the custom AMI will use the same encryption key.  Create another custom AMI if you need different encryption keys.


Step 1: Create a IAM role which will be used by the EC2 instance.  (Used to access encryption keys to boot etc.)

  • Sign in to the IAM console at
  • In the navigation pane of the IAM console, click Roles, and then click Create New Role.
  • For Role name, type a role name that can help you identify the purpose of this role. Role names must be unique within your AWS account. After you type the name, click Next Step at the bottom of the page.


Role names must be unique within an account. They are not distinguished by case, for example, you cannot create roles named both “PRODROLE” and “prodrole”.

  • Expand the AWS Service Roles section, and then select the Amazon EC2 click Select.
  • Click Next Step to review the role. Then click Create Role.


Step 2: Create a EBS encryption key to be used to encrypt the target <instance_name> volumes.

  • Sign in to the AWS Management Console and open the Amazon RDS console at
  • In the top right corner of the Amazon RDS console, choose the region in which you want to create the encryption key
  • In the navigation pane, choose Encryption Keys.
  • Click Create Key.
  • Enter a name for the encryption key in the Alias field.  Example: <instance_name>_ebs_key
  • Enter a description for the encryption key. Example: EBS encryption key for the <instance_name>
  • Click Next Step
  • Add tag meta data
  • Click Next Step
  •  In the Key Administrators field, select the users and or roles who will have administrative rights to administer the key.
  • Click Next Step
  • In the Define Key Usage Permissions – This Account  Select the <instance_name> role you created above
  • Click Next Step
  • Review the Key Policy and if acceptable, click Finish. 


Step 3: Create a custom AMI based on the current Amazon Linux AMI which contains encrypted volumes/snapshots.

This will allow for encrypted volumes on the target instance.

  • Locate the latest Amazon Linux AMI in your region by attempting to launch a new EC2 instance.
  • From EC2 Console, Click Launch Instance. The latest current Amazon Linux AMI will be listed at the top of the Quick Start List. Copy the ami-xxxxxxx number.
  • From the EC2 Console, Select AMIs from the left navigator.
  • Paste in the copied ami-xxxxxx into the search filter
  • Choose Actions > Copy AMI, select the Destination region and check the Encryption checkbox option
  • For Master Key choose the EBS encryption key you created above and assigned to the target instance role you created in step 1.
  • Click Copy AMI.
  • The AMI is being copied to your account using the encrypted volumes/snapshots.


Step 4: Launch a Linux Instance using the custom AMI with your Encrypted EBS Volumes

  • Sign in to the AWS Management Console and open the Amazon EC2 console at
  • In the top right corner of the Amazon EC2 console, choose the region in which you want to create the new EC2 instance.
  • In the navigation pane, choose Instances.
  • Click the Launch Instance
  • Choose the custom Linux AMI you created in Step 3
  • Choose the instance type and click Next: Configure Instance Details
  • NOTE: Encrypted EBS volumes requires a larger instance size due to the encryption/decryption overhead.  A m3.large or larger is recommended.
  • Set the Network, Subnet-Availability Zone, and Auto-assign Public IP options as required.
  • For IAM role, choose the Instance Role you created in step 1 above.
  • Set the Shutdown behavior to Stop, and check the Protect against accidental termination box to enable termination protection on the instance.
  • Click Next: Add Storage to proceed to the next step.
  • Review the default EBS volume configuration of 8 GB root volume using general purpose SSD.  Adjust the volume size if needed and click Next: Add Tags.
  • Click Next: Configure Security Group.
  • Assign an existing Security Group or create a new Security Group as needed. Click Review and Launch.
  • Review the instance settings and Click Launch to launch the instance.
  • On the Select an existing ssh key pair or create a new key pair screen, either create a new ssh key or assign an existing key pair. Click Launch Instances to launch the new instance.
  • Wait for the new instance to launch and connect to instance to verify.