Saturday, 2 March 2019

How to create a dynamic DNS with AWS Route 53

Have you ever wanted to host some pet project or even a small website on your own domestic network? If so, you must have stumbled across the DNS resolution issue: since we depend on our ISP to get our "real IP address", there's no guarantee that the IP we see today will stay any longer the same.

You could update your domain's DNS records every time you detect the IP has changed, but obviously that's tedious and error prone. That's when dynamic DNS (DDNS) comes in. Services like No-IP,Duck DNS,etc can be helpful.

In this post I'll go through the steps involved when it comes to setting up your own DDNS service when you own a domain that has been registered in AWS Route 53.


Before running the commands I suggest here, we need a couple of things to set up. Let's start by installing the required packages if you haven't already installed them.

  • sudo apt-get install awscli
  • sudo apt-get install jq

Configure AWS credentials

$ aws configure
AWS Secret Access Key [None]: wJalrXUtnFEMI/K7MDENG/bPxRfiCYEXAMPLEKEY
Default region name [None]: eu-west-1
Default output format [None]: json

A hosted zone in AWS Route 53

$ aws route53 list-hosted-zones
    "HostedZones": [
            "ResourceRecordSetCount": 5, 
            "CallerReference": " ... ", 
            "Config": {
                "Comment": "HostedZone created by Route53 Registrar", 
                "PrivateZone": false
            "Id": "/hostedzone/Z2TLEXAMPLEZONE", 
            "Name": ""

What's the plan?

The scenario I'm covering here is probably one of the most common. I want to create a new subdomain that points to my external IP and update that record as the external IP changes. To achieve that, we'll follow the steps:

  • Find out the external IP.
  • Get the desired hosted zone.
  • Create the A record (or update it if it already exists).
  • Set it up to run regularly (cron job).

Script step by step

Lest's start like any script, the shebang indicator. Then, input variables, in this case we define the domain name and the public record, notice the "." at the end of the public record, this is required by route 53.


Find the external IP, there are many ways to obtain this value, but since we're using AWS, let's get it from checkip endpoint. For debugging purposes we echo the IP found.

IP=$(curl -s
echo Found IP=$IP

Determine the hosted zone id, this step is optional if you want to use a hard-coded zone id that can be copied from the AWS Route 53 console. In this case I've invoked list-zones-by-name command which gives the hosted zone information for a specific domain, the format is as above in the prerequisites section. To extract the exact id I used a combination of jq and sed commands.

R53_HOSTED_ZONE=`aws route53 list-hosted-zones-by-name \
--dns-name $DOMAIN_NAME \
--query HostedZones \
| jq -r ".[] | select(.Name == \"$DOMAIN_NAME.\").Id" \
| sed 's/\/hostedzone\///'`

Now that we have all the required information, let's prepare the A record JSON input that will be used by aws route53 change-resource-record-sets command. the action "UPSERT" creates or updates the record accordingly, otherwise we'd need to manually check if it exists or not before updating it. Again for debugging purposes, we echo the final JSON.

read -r -d '' R53_ARECORD_JSON << EOM
  "Changes": [
      "Action": "UPSERT",
      "ResourceRecordSet": {
        "Name": "$PUBLIC_RECORD",
        "Type": "A",
        "TTL": 300,
        "ResourceRecords": [
            "Value": "$IP"

echo About to execute change
echo "$R53_ARECORD_JSON" 

With the input ready, we invoke the Route 53 command to create/update the A record. This command will return immediately but the operation will take a few seconds to complete. If we want to make sure we know when it's completed, then we need to get the change id returned by the command, in this case, it's stored in the variable. This is optional, as well as the next step.

R53_ARECORD_ID=`aws route53 change-resource-record-sets \
--hosted-zone-id $R53_HOSTED_ZONE \
--change-batch "$R53_ARECORD_JSON" \
--query ChangeInfo.Id \
--output text`

echo Waiting for the change to update.

At this point, the request to create/update the A record is in progress, we could finish the script right now. However, I'd like to get a final confirmation that the operation has been completed. To do that, we can use the wait command providing the change id from the previous request.

aws route53 wait resource-record-sets-changed --id $R53_ARECORD_ID

echo Done.

And now it's actually completed. You should save this to a file, maybe name it It will need execute permission.

$ chmod u+x ./

Set up cron job

In this particular instance I want this script to run in one of my raspberry pis, so I proceeded to copy the script file to pi user's home directory (/home/pi/)

pi@raspberrypi:~ $ ls

Now we'll set up a user cron job, we do that by running the command crontab -u followed by the user under which the job should run, this job doesn't require any system-wide privilege therefore it can run as the regular user, pi. -e to edit the file.

pi@raspberrypi:~ $ crontab -u pi -e

All we need to do is append the following text to the file content you are prompted with. The first two numbers correspond to minute and hour to run. For testing purposes I set it near the current time at the moment of testing it. The script output is appended/redirected to a text file so we can review afterwards if desired.

23 22 * * * /home/pi/ >> /home/pi/cron-update-dns.txt

See it in action

Once we've saved the crontab file, if it's the time where the cron job is about to start, we can test it by running tail -f command

pi@raspberrypi:~ $ tail -f cron-update-dns.txt

Finally, don't forget to update the port forwarding section on your home router so your open port directs traffic to a specific device, in my case, to that particular raspberry pi.


  1. thanks!... I had problems with the JSON creation step "read -r -d '' R53_ARECORD_JSON << EOM ..." then I had to add the Json directly to the change-resource-record-sets comand.

    result =>

    R53_ARECORD_ID=`aws route53 change-resource-record-sets \
    --hosted-zone-id $R53_HOSTED_ZONE \
    --change-batch '{ "Changes": [ { "Action": "UPSERT", "ResourceRecordSet": { "Name": "'"$DOMAIN_NAME"'", "Type": "A", "TTL": 300, "ResourceRecords": [ { "Value": "'"$IP"'" } ] } } ] }' \
    --query ChangeInfo.Id \
    --output text`

    1. I'm glad it helped you, regarding the issue with read command, what exactly was wrong with it? I tried it again just copying what's in the post and it worked for me.