1. Cloud Incident Response Wiki
  2. GCP Forensics and Incident Response

GCP Forensics Acquisition: Diving into the Digital Crime Scene

Welcome to the ever-evolving landscape of cloud security, where the traditional boundaries of digital forensics blur amidst the intricate web of virtual machines and ephemeral resources. In this realm, Google Cloud Platform (GCP) emerges as a powerful platform, not just for hosting applications, but also for conducting comprehensive incident response and forensic investigations. But navigating the intricacies of GCP forensics acquisition can be daunting, especially for the uninitiated. Fear not, for this blog post serves as your compass, guiding you through the essential steps of acquiring digital evidence in the GCP environment.
    • We've built a platform to automate incident response and forensics in AWS, Azure, and GCP you can grab a demo here. You can also download a free playbook we've written on how to respond to security incidents in Google Cloud.
Preparing the Groundwork: Understanding the Nuances


Before we delve into the technical nitty-gritty, let's acknowledge the fundamental shift that cloud forensics demands. Unlike a physical server where you can simply yank out the hard drive, GCP presents a dynamic ecosystem of ephemeral resources and distributed data. This necessitates a paradigm shift, moving from static disk acquisition to live memory capture, network traffic analysis, and log collection.


Equipping Yourself: The Arsenal of Forensic Tools


Fortunately, GCP offers a rich tapestry of tools to aid your forensic voyage. From native offerings like Cloud Audit Logs and Cloud Monitoring to specialized options like Chronicle and Cloud SIEM, a plethora of resources awaits. Remember, the ideal toolset depends on the specific nature of your investigation and the type of evidence you seek.


Charting the Course: A Step-by-Step Guide


Now, let's embark on the actual acquisition journey, breaking it down into manageable steps:


1. Containment and Preservation:


Identify the affected resources: Pinpoint the GCP project, VMs, and storage buckets potentially compromised.


Isolate the compromised system: Prevent further data exfiltration or tampering by disabling network access and stopping suspicious processes.


Enable audit logging: Ensure comprehensive logging is activated across all relevant resources for future analysis.


2. Evidence Acquisition:


Capture volatile memory: Tools like Chronos and Memorystore for Redis can help acquire RAM snapshots of running VMs, preserving fleeting processes and network connections.


Collect logs and events: Gather audit logs, system logs, and application logs from various GCP services like Cloud Logging and Cloud Monitoring.


Download persistent data: Securely copy potentially relevant data from storage buckets and Cloud SQL databases.


3. Documentation and Chain of Custody:


Maintain meticulous records: Document every step of the acquisition process, including timestamps, tools used, and any modifications made.


Employ hashing and digital signatures: Ensure the integrity of acquired evidence by generating cryptographic hashes and maintaining a chain of custody.


Beyond the Basics: Advanced Techniques


While the above steps provide a solid foundation, the world of GCP forensics offers a treasure trove of advanced techniques, such as:


Live network forensics: Capture and analyze network traffic using tools like Cloud DNS Logging and VPC Flow Logs to identify malicious connections and data exfiltration attempts.


Timeline analysis: Utilize forensic frameworks like Plaso or Timesketch to visualize and correlate events from various data sources, piecing together the chronological narrative of the attack.


Malware hunting: Leverage specialized tools like Chronicle and VirusTotal to detect and analyze suspicious files and processes within your GCP environment.


Remember: The path of GCP forensics acquisition is a continuous learning journey. Stay updated on the latest threats, tools, and best practices to navigate this dynamic landscape effectively. By equipping yourself with the right knowledge and tools, you can transform GCP from a potential crime scene into a powerful platform for unearthing the truth and securing your cloud environment.


This blog post has merely scratched the surface of GCP forensics acquisition. As you delve deeper into this realm, remember, the key lies in understanding the unique characteristics of the cloud, employing the right tools and techniques, and maintaining meticulous documentation throughout the process. Let the digital investigation begin!