Discovering EC2 hosts by using AWS Systems Manager

Discovering EC2 hosts by using AWS Systems Manager (SSM) enables you to perform detailed discovery of EC2 hosts running in AWS, without the requirement for a direct ssh connection. BMC Helix Discovery has previously been able to scan hosts in AWS without using SSM, but it has required a direct ssh connection from BMC Helix Discovery. Also, it is limited to hosts with a public IP address and requires ssh ports, host credentials, and EC2 key pairs.

Discovering EC2 hosts by using SSM uses an existing AWS credential to access AWS and SSM. SSM returns the EC2 hosts that can be accessed by using the AWS credential, and BMC Helix Discovery creates implicit scans to discover those hosts. The advantages of using SSM to discover EC2 hosts are as follows:

  • Your entire AWS estate can be discovered by using your existing AWS credentials; no additional credentials to manage.
  • Irrespective of how your AWS deployment's network is segmented, the single AWS SSM credential enables you to discover all of it.
  • No requirement for ssh configuration and EC2 key pairs.

When you discover EC2 hosts by using SSM, the target is known to be hosted in AWS, so cloud detection is disabled and only the appropriate AWS methods are used. In a normal IP scan of a host, cloud detection is used to determine whether the target is cloud hosted, and if so, to detect the cloud provider. 

This section introduces AWS SSM and AWS Session Manager. The AWS Session Manager is a capability that BMC Helix Discovery uses.

AWS Systems Manager overview

AWS Systems Manager  is an AWS service that enables you to view operational data from multiple AWS services.  AWS Session Manager , which is a capability of AWS Systems Manager, enables you to establish secure connections to, and manage your EC2 instances by using the AWS CLI.

Setting up permissions in AWS

Before you can discover EC2 hosts by using AWS Systems Manager, at a minimum you must apply the 'ReadOnlyAccess' AWS managed policy, and then configure the correct permissions in the AWS console. The following policy document lists the permissions to apply for a user SSM session:

    "Version": "2012-10-17",
    "Statement": [
            "Effect": "Allow",
            "Action": "ssm:StartSession",
            "Resource": [
            "Effect": "Allow",
            "Action": [
            "Resource": "*"

Discovering EC2 hosts by using AWS Systems Manager

To discover EC2 hosts by using AWS Systems Manager, you must enable Systems Manager Sessions when you add a new Amazon Web Services discovery run

Discovering Windows hosts by using AWS Systems Manager

The discovery of Windows AWS EC2 hosts by using AWS Systems Manager is provided by using a currently undocumented, non-interactive mode. Support for undocumented features is not guaranteed by AWS, so there is a possibility it might change, or be removed.

The non-interactive command mode, runs individual scripts, as a single string, in separate sessions. As the script is executed as a single string, powershell.exe discovery_script, you must:

  • use semicolon statement delimiters
  • put comments on separate lines (not use end of line comments). 


For IP addresses scanned through AWS SSM, the scope of an IP address is set as the AWS VPC identifier (vpc-xxxxxxxxxx).

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