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    Top Security Best Practices for Google Cloud Platform (GCP)

    In the fast-paced and ever-evolving digital landscape, cloud computing has become the backbone of modern businesses. Among the many players in the cloud service provider arena, Google Cloud Platform (GCP) stands out for its robust infrastructure and innovative solutions. However, the power of GCP comes with a significant responsibility to ensure the security of your data and systems. To help you navigate the complex world of cloud security, we've compiled the top 11 security best practices for GCP.

    1. Secure Identity and Access Management (IAM)

    Start with a strong foundation by implementing the principle of least privilege. Restrict access to only what is necessary for each user or service. Regularly audit your IAM roles to prevent unauthorized access.

    Google Cloud's Identity and Access Management (IAM) is a powerful tool to help you control access to your resources. By assigning specific roles to users and services, you can ensure that everyone has the right level of access. The principle of least privilege is a key concept in security. It means that users and services should only have the permissions necessary to perform their tasks. 

    IAM allows you to grant permissions at a very granular level. You can control who can create, modify, or delete resources within your GCP environment. For example, you might have a group of developers who need access to create virtual machines, but not to modify the network configuration. With IAM, you can define these roles and apply them to your users and services.

    Regularly auditing your IAM roles is equally important. As your organization evolves, access requirements can change. Users may switch roles, and services may need different permissions. Auditing helps ensure that everyone has the right level of access and that there are no unauthorized privileges granted.

    2. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

    Enforce MFA for all accounts, especially for privileged users. MFA adds an extra layer of security by requiring a secondary authentication method, like a token or mobile app, in addition to a password.

    Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is a simple but effective way to enhance the security of your GCP environment. With MFA enabled, users must provide two or more separate factors of identification to access their accounts. Typically, this involves something they know (like a password) and something they have (like a mobile device).

    MFA significantly strengthens your access control. Even if someone has your password, they can't access your account without the second factor. This is especially important for privileged users who have access to critical systems and data.

    GCP provides various MFA options, including text messages, phone calls, and mobile apps. You can choose the method that works best for your organization and your users. For details on how to enable MFA click here.

    3. VPCs and Firewall Rules

    Set up Virtual Private Clouds (VPCs) to segment your network. Create firewall rules to control traffic between your instances and other networks, allowing only necessary communication.

    Virtual Private Clouds (VPCs) are a fundamental building block of network security in GCP. They allow you to create isolated, private networks to host your resources. Segmenting your network into VPCs is a best practice because it limits the exposure of your resources. If an attacker gains access to one VPC, they won't automatically have access to the entire network.

    Firewall rules are essential for controlling the traffic that flows in and out of your VPCs. By creating firewall rules, you can specify which IP addresses are allowed to access your resources and which ports are open for communication.

    It's crucial to follow the principle of least privilege when configuring firewall rules. Open only the ports that are necessary for your applications to function. Avoid opening ports for testing or development purposes and remember to audit your firewall rules regularly.

    4. Encryption Everywhere

    Use encryption at rest and in transit. Implement GCP's default encryption for cloud storage and databases. Secure your data with SSL/TLS for data in transit.

    Encryption is a critical component of data security in the cloud. Google Cloud provides robust encryption options to safeguard your data.

    Encryption at rest ensures that data stored on GCP's infrastructure is protected. Google Cloud Storage, for example, automatically encrypts your data using the 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES-256). You can also use Customer-Managed Encryption Keys (CMEK) to manage your encryption keys.

    Encryption in transit, on the other hand, protects data as it travels between your GCP resources and across networks. Google Cloud provides Secure Sockets Layer/Transport Layer Security (SSL/TLS) support to secure communication.

    5. Regular Backup and Disaster Recovery

    Regularly back up your data and create disaster recovery plans. GCP offers solutions like Google Cloud Storage and Cloud SQL for robust backup capabilities.

    Regular data backups and disaster recovery plans are essential aspects of security and business continuity. Data loss or system outages can have severe consequences for your organization, making regular backups a critical best practice.

    Google Cloud provides several services to help you manage data backups and disaster recovery, such as Google Cloud Storage and Cloud SQL. These services offer automated and scalable backup solutions, making it easier to safeguard your critical data.

    Developing a disaster recovery plan that outlines how your organization will respond to data loss or system failure is equally important. The plan should include procedures for data recovery, failover to backup systems, and communication with stakeholders. Regularly test and update your disaster recovery plan to ensure it remains effective.

    6. Monitoring and Logging

    Leverage GCP's monitoring and logging tools, such as Cloud Monitoring and Cloud Logging, to gain real-time insights into your system's security. Set up alerts to detect suspicious activities.

    Effective monitoring and logging are essential for maintaining a strong security posture. Google Cloud provides a comprehensive set of tools to help you monitor and log activities within your environment.

    Cloud monitoring offers real-time insights into the performance, uptime, and overall health of your GCP resources. It allows you to create custom dashboards and set up alerts to be notified of critical events. Alerts can be configured to detect suspicious activities, such as unexpected resource changes or a surge in traffic.

    Cloud logging allows you to capture and store logs from your applications and resources. By centralizing your logs, you can more easily analyze and search for potential security issues. It's crucial to retain logs for an extended period, as some incidents may not become apparent until weeks or months later.

    7. DDoS Protection

    Use Google's global infrastructure to protect against Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. Implement the Google Cloud Armor web application firewall to safeguard your applications.

    Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks can cripple your online services by overwhelming them with traffic. Google Cloud offers robust DDoS protection through its global infrastructure, which can absorb the largest and most complex DDoS attacks.

    One of the key components of DDoS protection in GCP is Google Cloud Armor, a web application firewall (WAF). It provides protection against application-layer DDoS attacks and helps safeguard your applications from threats like SQL injection and cross-site scripting.

    To further enhance your DDoS protection, consider using Google Cloud Load Balancing, which can distribute traffic across multiple regions to prevent bottlenecks that can be targeted in DDoS attacks.

    8. Vulnerability Scanning and Patch Management

    Googles Security Command Center provides services like Google Clouds Web Security Scanner, Rapid Vulnerability Detection, Security Health Analytics to help you identify and address security issues promptly.

    Regularly and promptly investigating vulnerability alerts generated by the Security Command Center is a crucial part of maintaining the security of your GCP environment. Regularly checking helps you identify and address potential security weaknesses before they can be exploited by attackers.

    In addition to automated tools, it's essential to conduct manual security assessments and vulnerability scans on your GCP instances and applications.

    Patch management is equally important in combating vulnerabilities. Keep your GCP instances up to date with the latest security patches and updates. Google Cloud provides tools to help you manage this, but it's essential to have a well-defined patch management process in place.

    9. Forensics and Incident Response

    Being impacted by an incident is a ‘when, not if’ situation, so ensuring you have the data you need to investigate and respond to active threats is vital to appropriately managing cloud risk. Configure your GCP environment to store security data and log information to the integrated monitoring tools such as Stackdriver Logging and Stackdriver Trace. An important note about GCP is that many logging options are disabled by default such as data access audit logs. These tools can help gather insights at the hardware, service, and cluster levels for the purpose of forensics investigation and incident response. While logs are an important source, they aren't everything. It's also critical to capture additional data sources such as full disk and memory to get the full picture. This ability is not native in GCP and would require an external forensics and incident response tool set.

    Container technology on the other hand must be treated differently as these resources are ephemeral by nature, constantly spinning up and down. This means critical incident evidence can disappear in the blink of an eye if an analyst is not quick to capture it. In this case, automated data collection is key. In terms of the data sources that should be considered, a comprehensive investigation of Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) containers for example, requires system logs and files from within the container, details about the container's running processes and active network connections, logs from the container host system and container runtime (if accessible), the container host's memory (if accessible), and GCP VPC flow logs for the VPC associated with the container.

    Further, post data collection, it's important that you have the means to effectively correlate, enrich and analyze these data sources in a single pane of glass to be able to quickly respond.

    10. Secure DevOps

    Implement secure DevOps practices from the beginning. Integrate security into your CI/CD pipeline (Google has excellent documentation on doing this), and use tools like Google Cloud Security Command Center to continuously monitor your environment.

    Secure DevOps practices are essential for maintaining security throughout the development and deployment lifecycle. In a DevOps culture, security isn't a separate consideration but is integrated into every phase of the software development process.

    Implement security controls into your Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) pipeline. This involves automated security testing, code analysis, and vulnerability scanning. By integrating security into the pipeline, you can identify and address issues early in the development process, reducing the risk of vulnerabilities making their way into production.

    Google Cloud provides tools like the Google Cloud Security Command Center, which offers continuous monitoring of your environment. It helps you detect security threats and vulnerabilities and provides real-time insights into your security posture.

    11. Compliance and Auditing

    Understand the regulatory requirements specific to your industry and region. GCP offers various compliance certifications and audit logs to help meet these requirements.

    Compliance is a critical aspect of security, especially for organizations in regulated industries such as healthcare, finance, and government. Understanding the specific regulatory requirements that apply to your industry and region is essential.

    Google Cloud offers various compliance certifications, including ISO 27001, HIPAA, and SOC 2, which can help you meet the requirements of different regulatory frameworks.

    Audit logs are also crucial for demonstrating compliance. GCP provides robust auditing and monitoring capabilities, allowing you to retain and search audit logs to ensure that you're meeting regulatory requirements. Regularly review and analyze these logs to confirm your compliance with industry-specific regulations.

    How can Cado help?

    As you embark on your GCP security journey, consider leveraging specialized tools and platforms like the Cado platform, designed to enhance your cloud incident response and threat detection capabilities.

    The Cado platform automates as much of the incident response as possible, from data capture to root cause analysis and response, leveraging the power of the cloud. This platform offers rapid access to detailed forensic data in various environments like multi-cloud, containers, and serverless setups. By processing evidence in parallel from sources such as logs, containers and volatile memory, it greatly increases the speed of  investigations. It empowers security analysts by highlighting key incident details and supports quick attack containment.

    Interested in learning more? Contact our team to see a demo

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