I would like to run some scripts on hosts which are EC2 instances but I don't know how to be sure that the host is really an EC2 instance.

I have made some tests, but this is not sufficient:

  • Test that binary ec2_userdata is available (but this will not always be true)
  • Test availability of "http://169.254.169.254/latest/meta-data" (but will this be always true ? and what is this "magical IP" ?)
  • 1
  • It's an APIPA address actually, which is quite odd to use as a reference for a critical service like meta data retrieval. – Matthieu Cerda Jan 4 '13 at 9:52
  • 2
    The IP ranges of EC2s are public (though varying from time to time). If you keep up with a current list you can check the instances IP against that ranges. – Karma Fusebox Jan 4 '13 at 10:30
  • 2
    Don't rely on 169.254.169.254 if you want EC2 and only EC2 - EC2-alike systems like Eucalyptus also support it. engage.eucalyptus.com/customer/portal/articles/… – ceejayoz Jul 2 '13 at 14:21
  • 1
    Do you need the method to work against an attacker who has root on the host, and is trying to spoof you into thinking that it's an EC2 instance for his own malicious purposes? If you do, then it will be much harder. – Mike Scott Jun 22 '15 at 19:01

10 Answers 10

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Well actually, there is a very simple way to detect if the host is an EC2 instance: check the reverse lookup of your public IP. The EC2 reverses are quite hard to miss.

Also, if you did not modify it, the hostname should be your reverse, making it further easy to spot it.

You might also use the "magical IP" you talked about, as it is indeed the standard way to get EC2 Instance tags, however, if you are not on a EC2 network, you will have to wait for a timeout, which is generally not desirable...

If these methods are not enough, just do a whois of your IP and check if you are within and Amazon EC2 IP block.

EDIT: You may use this small shell bit:

#!/bin/bash
LOCAL_HOSTNAME=$(hostname -d)
if [[ ${LOCAL_HOSTNAME} =~ .*\.amazonaws\.com ]]
then
        echo "This is an EC2 instance"
else
        echo "This is not an EC2 instance, or a reverse-customized one"
fi

Careful though, [[ is a bashism. You may also use a Python or Perl uniline, YMMV.

  • 12
    this doesn't work in a VPC or an environment where you have changed the hostname; eg. if your machines are in domain.local – Preflightsiren Jan 28 '13 at 9:28
  • 2
    the hostname bit is just bound to fail. – Dan Pritts Feb 13 '14 at 19:28
  • 1
    hostname -d returns eu-west-1.compute.internal – Bulletmagnet Feb 22 '17 at 12:09

Changed Hannes' answer to avoid error messages and include example usage in script:

if [ -f /sys/hypervisor/uuid ] && [ `head -c 3 /sys/hypervisor/uuid` == ec2 ]; then
    echo yes
else
    echo no
fi

This doesn't work in Windows instances. Advantage over curl is that it's close to instantaneous on both EC2 and non-EC2.

  • 4
    AWS also seem to recommend doing it this way docs.aws.amazon.com/AWSEC2/latest/UserGuide/… – Mike Dec 27 '16 at 18:00
  • 3
    I like this method. Just be aware that a non-EC2 system running under a hypervisor could generate a UUID that starts with ec2 -- a false positive. It’s unlikely (a 1-in-256 chance) and only if you are using a hypervisor that populates that file. That’s why the documentation linked above says “you are probably looking at an EC2 instance”. – Nate Mar 24 '17 at 19:41
  • 1
    @Nate, good point, but shouldn't that be a 1 in 4096 chance? (16 x 16 x 16) – Wildcard Jul 18 '17 at 2:12
  • 2
    @Wildcard: I can’t edit my comment, but that’s right. – Nate Jul 19 '17 at 7:16
  • 3
    DANGER! This method had worked reliably for us for years... until just recently, with the latest c5 and m5 types which do not have this file present. So I have to add a fallback check of 169.254.169.254 to handle those instances. – Josh Kupershmidt Jan 3 at 19:11

Look for the metadata by the EC2 internal domain name instead of IP, which will return a fast DNS failure if you're not on EC2, and avoids IP conflicts or routing issues:

curl -s http://instance-data.ec2.internal && echo "EC2 instance!" || echo "Non EC2 instance!"

On some distros, very basic systems, or very early at installion stages curl is not available. Using wget instead:

wget -q http://instance-data.ec2.internal && echo "EC2 instance!" || echo "Non EC2 instance!"
  • 3
    Unfortunately, appears to fail in VPC! – Ashe Feb 6 '15 at 1:35
  • 2
    Also don't use the exclamation mark character inside double quotes -- your echo may blow up with -bash: !": event not found. Use single quotes for those echos instead. – Josh Kupershmidt Nov 10 '15 at 18:19
  • 1
    this probably assumes that the server is still using EC2s DNS servers that know about the ec2.internal zone and that nobody has changed /etc/resolv.conf to 8.8.8.8 or rolled their own DNS infastructure. – lamont Mar 31 '16 at 1:35
  • 1
    AWS appears to have broken this. I can no longer resolve instance-data.ec2.internal. instance-data.us-west-2.compute.internal works, though, at least for now. – Bryan Larsen Jun 24 '16 at 18:59

If the goal is to tell if it's an EC2 instance OR another kind of cloud instance, like google, then dmidecode works very nicely and no networking is required. I like this vs some of the other approaches because the metadata url path is different for EC2 and GCE.

# From a google compute VM
$ sudo dmidecode -s bios-version
Google

# From an amazon ec2 VM
$ sudo dmidecode -s bios-version
4.2.amazon
  • I'd expect this to work fine in other VM environments and even on real hardware - I don't expect any hardware vendors to ship systems where the bios version says "amazon"... – Guss Aug 14 '16 at 16:20

First, I felt the need to post a new answer because of the following subtle problems with the existing answers, and after receiving a question about my comment on @qwertzguy's answer. Here are the problems with the current answers:

  1. The accepted answer from @MatthieuCerda definitely does not work reliably, at least not on any VPC instances I checked against. (On my instances, I get a VPC name for hostname -d, which is used for internal DNS, not anything with "amazonaws.com" in it.)
  2. The highest-voted answer from @qwertzguy does not work on new m5 or c5 instances, which do not have this file. Amazon neglects to document this behavior change AFAIK, although the doc page on this subject does say "... If /sys/hypervisor/uuid exists ...". I asked AWS support whether this change was intentional, see below †.
  3. The answer from @Jer does not necessarily work everywhere because the instance-data.ec2.internal DNS lookup may not work. On an Ubuntu EC2 VPC instance I just tested on, I see: $ curl http://instance-data.ec2.internal curl: (6) Could not resolve host: instance-data.ec2.internal which would cause code relying on this method to falsely conclude it is not on EC2!
  4. The answer to use dmidecode from @tamale may work, but relies on you a.) having dmidecode available on your instance, and b.) having root or sudo password-less ability from within your code.
  5. The answer to check /sys/devices/virtual/dmi/id/bios_version from @spkane is dangerously misleading! I checked one Ubuntu 14.04 m5 instance, and got a bios_version of 1.0. This file is not documented at all on Amazon's doc, so I would really not rely on it.
  6. The first part of the answer from @Chris-Montanaro to check an unreliable 3rd-party URL and use whois on the result is problematic on several levels. Note the URL suggested in that answer is a 404 page right now! Even if you did find a 3rd-party service that did work, it would be comparatively very slow (compared to checking a file locally) and possibly run into rate-limiting issues or network issues, or possibly your EC2 instance doesn't even have outside network access.
  7. The second suggestion in the answer from @Chris-Montanaro to check http://169.254.169.254/ is a little better, but another commenter notes that other cloud providers make this instance metadata URL available, so you have to be careful to avoid false positives. Also it will still be much slower than a local file, I have seen this check be especially slow (several seconds to return) on heavily loaded instances. Also, you should remember to pass a -m or --max-time argument to curl to avoid it hanging for a very long time, especially on a non-EC2 instance where this address may lead to nowhere and hang (as in @algal's answer).

Also, I don't see that anyone has mentioned Amazon's documented fallback of checking for the (possible) file /sys/devices/virtual/dmi/id/product_uuid.

Who knew that determining whether you are running on EC2 could be so complicated?! OK, now that we have (most) of the problems with listed approaches listed, here is a suggested bash snippet to check whether you are running on EC2. I think this should work generally on almost any Linux instances, Windows instances are an exercise for the reader.

#!/bin/bash

# This first, simple check will work for many older instance types.
if [ -f /sys/hypervisor/uuid ]; then
  # File should be readable by non-root users.
  if [ `head -c 3 /sys/hypervisor/uuid` == "ec2" ]; then
    echo yes
  else
    echo no
  fi

# This check will work on newer m5/c5 instances, but only if you have root!
elif [ -r /sys/devices/virtual/dmi/id/product_uuid ]; then
  # If the file exists AND is readable by us, we can rely on it.
  if [ `head -c 3 /sys/devices/virtual/dmi/id/product_uuid` == "EC2" ]; then
    echo yes
  else
    echo no
  fi

else
  # Fallback check of http://169.254.169.254/. If we wanted to be REALLY
  # authoritative, we could follow Amazon's suggestions for cryptographically
  # verifying their signature, see here:
  #    https://docs.aws.amazon.com/AWSEC2/latest/UserGuide/instance-identity-documents.html
  # but this is almost certainly overkill for this purpose (and the above
  # checks of "EC2" prefixes have a higher false positive potential, anyway).
  if $(curl -s -m 5 http://169.254.169.254/latest/dynamic/instance-identity/document | grep -q availabilityZone) ; then
    echo yes
  else
    echo no
  fi

fi

Obviously, you could expand this with even more fallback checks, and include paranoia about handling e.g. a false positive from /sys/hypervisor/uuid happening to start with "ec2" by chance and so on. But this is a good-enough solution for illustration purposes and probably nearly all non-pathological use-cases.

[†] Got back this explanation from AWS support about the change for c5/m5 instances:

The C5 and M5 instances use a new hypervisor stack and the associated kernel drivers do not create files in sysfs (which is mounted at /sys) as the Xen drivers used by the other/older instance types do. The best way to detect whether the operating system is running on an EC2 instance is to account for the different possibilities listed in the documentation you linked.

  • 2
    Yes fellow traveler in 2018... this is the answer you've been looking for. – russellpierce May 1 at 22:14

Hostnames are likely to change, run a whois against your public IP:

if [[ ! -z $(whois $(curl -s shtuff.it/myip/short) | grep -i amazon) ]]; then 
  echo "I'm Amazon"
else 
  echo "I'm not Amazon"
fi

or hit the AWS meta-data url

if [[ ! -z $(curl -s http://169.254.169.254/1.0/) ]]; then 
  echo "I'm Amazon"
else 
  echo "I'm not Amazon"
fi
  • 2
    Add a --connect-timeout 1 to the second curl statement to fail quickly if you're not running on EC2. – Jonathan Oliver Sep 25 '13 at 12:27
  • 1
    FWIW, using the metadata URL can indicate it's running as a cloud instance, but cannot conclusively determine if it is specifically EC2. OpenStack and Eucalyptus also use the same metadata URI. I know this is picking nits, but for my work, which cloud provider matters. – EmmEff Feb 20 '14 at 15:53

This also works well for Linux hosts in ec2 and does not require the network and any related timeouts:

grep -q amazon /sys/devices/virtual/dmi/id/bios_version

This works, because Amazon defines this entry like so:

$ cat /sys/devices/virtual/dmi/id/bios_version 4.2.amazon

  • 2018-05-01; appears to be invalid on M5 instances running Ubuntu. – russellpierce May 1 at 17:46
test -f /sys/hypervisor/uuid -a `head -c 3 /sys/hypervisor/uuid` == ec2 && echo yes

but I don't know how portable this is across distributions.

  • 2
    Well, it's certainly not going to work on Windows EC2 instances. – ceejayoz Jun 4 '15 at 3:24
  • 1
    I prefer this method since it doesn't involve a network interaction which can hang for all kinds of reasons. Using timeouts for an HTTP exchange is not guaranteed to prevent hangs. I don't care about Windows instances. – Hannes Jun 11 '15 at 1:34
  • That is exactly what I needed! Way better than curl'ing something, thanks! – qwertzguy Jun 22 '15 at 18:38
  • 1
    Consider using the full UUID, just in case some other vendor's hypervisor UUID also starts with "ec2". The chance of that happening is 1 in 4096 which is not negligible. – Hannes Jun 23 '15 at 2:07
  • 1
    Actually, comparing the entire UUID does not work since I have seen multiple different hypervisor UUIDs in the wild. They all start with "ec2" though, so this answer works as is. – Hannes Aug 19 '15 at 20:16

Perhaps you can use "facter":

"Facter is a cross-platform library for retrieving simple operating system facts, like operating system, linux distribution, or MAC address."

http://www.puppetlabs.com/puppet/related-projects/facter/

For example, if we take a look to the ec2 fact (facter-1.6.12/lib/facter/ec2.rb):

require 'facter/util/ec2'
require 'open-uri'

def metadata(id = "")
  open("http://169.254.169.254/2008-02-01/meta-data/#{id||=''}").read.
    split("\n").each do |o|
    key = "#{id}#{o.gsub(/\=.*$/, '/')}"
    if key[-1..-1] != '/'
      value = open("http://169.254.169.254/2008-02-01/meta-data/#{key}").read.
        split("\n")
      symbol = "ec2_#{key.gsub(/\-|\//, '_')}".to_sym
      Facter.add(symbol) { setcode { value.join(',') } }
    else
      metadata(key)
    end
  end
end

def userdata()
  begin
    value = open("http://169.254.169.254/2008-02-01/user-data/").read.split
    Facter.add(:ec2_userdata) { setcode { value } }
  rescue OpenURI::HTTPError
  end
end

if (Facter::Util::EC2.has_euca_mac? || Facter::Util::EC2.has_openstack_mac? ||
    Facter::Util::EC2.has_ec2_arp?) && Facter::Util::EC2.can_connect?

  metadata
  userdata
else
  Facter.debug "Not an EC2 host"
end

If you have curl installed, this command will return 0 if you are running within EC2 and non-zero if you are not:

curl --max-time 3 http://169.254.169.254/latest/meta-data/ami-id 2>/dev/null 1>/dev/null`

It tries to pull the EC2 metadata declaring the AMI-ID. If this does not succeed after 3 seconds, it assumes it is not running in EC2.

Your Answer

 

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.