Entities in Cedar

An entity in Cedar is a stored object that serves as the representation for principals, actions, and resources that are part of your application.

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Overview of entities

An entity in Cedar has the following components.

  • An entity type – The type determines which attributes are required or supported for entities of that type. Examples include things like User, Photo, Album, Group, or Account. Define entity types as part of your application’s schema.
  • An entity identifier (EID) – The EID lets you reference a specific entity in your policy. The combination of entity type and an EID uniquely identifies an object for Cedar.

    This guide includes examples that use simple entity identifiers, such as jane or bob for the name of an entity of type User. This is done to make the examples more readable. However, in a production system it is critical for security reasons that you use unique values that can’t be reused.

    We recommend that you use values like universally unique identifiers (UUIDs). For example, if user jane leaves the company, and you later let someone else use the name jane, then that new user automatically gets access to everything granted by policies that still reference User::"jane".

    Cedar can’t distinguish between the new user and the old. This applies to both principal and resource identifiers. Always use identifiers that are guaranteed unique and never reused to ensure that you don’t unintentionally grant access because of the presence of an old identifier in a policy.

    Where you use a UUID for an entity, we recommend that you follow it with the // comment specifier and the ‘friendly’ name of your entity. This helps to make your policies easier to understand. For example:

    principal == User::"a1b2c3d4-e5f6-a1b2-c3d4-EXAMPLE11111", // alice
  • Attributes – Zero or more attributes that can be of any data type supported by Cedar. For example, an entity of type Photo might contain attributes like a name (a string), a createdDate (a string containing a date), a location (a set of type Decimal that represent coordinates), and the photographer (a reference to another entity representing the user who took the photo). Define the attributes relevant to an entity type as part of your application’s schema.

Entities can be grouped into logical hierarchies. You create a hierarchy by specifying a parent attribute that points to the group of which the entity is a member. Hierarchies allow you to arrange your entities according to the requirements of your scenario. For example, if your application has an entity that represents a Photo, then you can arrange those photos into one or more Album groups.

An entity can have multiple parent entities, and entities can be nested. For example, you could define an Album called trips that is the parent of another Album called vacations. That Album could then be the parent of several Photo entities. A photo in the Vacations album could at the same time also be in an album named picturesOfBob. To do this, you simply designate an additional parent attribute to the photo that points to the additional album.

You can use as many types of entities as your scenario requires. We recommend that you define these formally by using a schema.

This general structure lets Cedar support scenarios where a single entity type can perform in multiple roles. For example, consider a user directory, such as an LDAP system. Such a user directory must support fine-grained permissions to restrict who can read and write the contents of the directory. A policy in such a situation might need to express concepts like the following:

  • Any user can read their own data.
  • Any user who belongs to the Human Resources department can update the information for any other users.

In these scenarios, both the principal and the resource can be the same type of entity, or even the same user.

// Allow every user to read their own data in the user directory
permit (
    action == Action::"readUser",
when {
    principal == resource //The same entity

This example allows any principal to perform the readUser action on any resource, as long as the principal and the resource in the request are the same entity.

Except for action entities, which are prefixed with the reserved entity type Action, there is no way to distinguish whether an entity should behave as a principal, resource, or both without additional context. You can use entity types to constrain how an entity type can be used.

An entity may be unspecified, which means that its type is distinct from any type defined in the schema. Unspecified entities are not part of any hierarchy. They can be created by passing the None option in the principal and/or resource component of an authorization Request.


Entities support the following operators in a Cedar policy:

  • Equality – Using the == operator, you can compare two entities to see if they are the same. Equality in this context means that they are literally the same entity and have the same unique entity identifier. For more information, see == equality operator.
  • Hierarchy / membership – Using the in operator, you can determine if one entity is a descendant of (or a member of) another entity’s hierarchy. For more information, see in operator.
  • Attribute presence – Using the has operator, you can determine if the entity has a specific attribute. You can use this operator to ensure that an attribute is present before attempting to access its value. If you attempt to access an attribute that doesn’t exist for the specified entity, it generates an error.
  • Attribute access – Using the . operator, you can retrieve the value of one of the entity’s attributes using the syntax entityName.attributeName. You can define the attributes supported by your entities as part of the schema.


An entity can also be referenced in the context of multiple namespaces. This capability lets you infer a logical hierarchy of entity types. For example, PhotoFlash::Groups::Album::"vacation" refers to a specific entity with an entity ID of "vacation" and an entity type of PhotoFlash::Groups::Album. There is no real structure behind such a string, only what is logically inferred by the designer. You can create namespaces for an entity type when you define a schema.

Attributes of entities

An attribute is an additional detail about an entity. For example, a user typically has a name. An employee in a company can have an assigned department. A photo can have a description.

Attributes are referenced by using dot operator notation (entity.attribute), as shown by the following examples.

SomeUser.name                  //SomeUser is an entity of type user
SomeEmployee.department        //SomeEmployee is an entity of type employee
SomePhoto.description          //SomePhoto is an entity of type photo.

Alternatively, you can reference an entity’s attributes by using indexing notation (entity["attribute"]), as shown by the following examples which are equivalent to the preceding examples.


An attribute resolves to a value of a supported datatype. The attribute can be referenced anywhere that a value of that datatype is valid.