GCP Forensics Data Sources: Demystifying the Digital Crime Scene

When a cyberattack claws its way into your Google Cloud Platform (GCP) environment, understanding the scope and root cause becomes paramount. This is where digital forensics, the methodical investigation and analysis of digital evidence, steps in. But unlike a physical crime scene, the digital realm presents a unique challenge – volatile data that can vanish with a single refresh. This is where GCP’s rich tapestry of data sources shines, offering forensic investigators a treasure trove of clues to reconstruct the attacker’s nefarious journey.

  • 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.

Memory: The Fleeting Witness

Imagine RAM as the attacker’s notepad, scribbled with incriminating commands and processes. Live forensics tools like Chronicle can capture this volatile memory, revealing running malware, hidden connections, and even fragments of exfiltrated data. This ephemeral evidence, often overlooked in traditional forensics, can be the Rosetta Stone deciphering the attacker’s motives and methods.

Logs: The Whispering Trail

Across GCP, a symphony of logs hums, chronicling every system activity. Cloud Audit Logs track API calls, IAM changes, and resource modifications, painting a detailed picture of the attacker’s movements. VPC Flow Logs map network traffic, pinpointing unauthorized connections and data exfiltration attempts. And don’t forget Stackdriver logs, offering granular insights into application behavior and potential anomalies. Analyzing these logs in concert unveils the attacker’s path, highlighting compromised accounts, suspicious activities, and the sequence of events that led to the breach.

Storage: The Buried Treasure

While memory fades and logs whisper, storage buckets hold the physical remnants of the attack. Snapshots of Compute Engine disks or Cloud Storage buckets can be frozen in time, preserving a pristine image of the compromised system at the moment of investigation. Forensic tools like Google Cloud Forensics Toolkit (GCFT) can then dissect these snapshots, unearthing hidden files, malware artifacts, and traces of malicious activity.

Metadata: The Hidden Clues

Beyond the raw data, metadata – the information about the data itself – holds hidden clues. File timestamps reveal access patterns, object owners point to compromised accounts, and version histories expose attacker modifications. Tools like Cloud Data Loss Prevention (DLP) can analyze data at rest within Cloud Storage, searching for sensitive information that may have been accessed or exfiltrated.

Beyond the Usual Suspects:

But the data trail doesn’t end there. VPC Service Controls logs track network service invocations, potentially exposing unauthorized API calls or resource modifications. Cloud Functions logs reveal triggered functions and their execution contexts, while Kubernetes logs shed light on container activity and potential malware deployments. Every corner of GCP holds a piece of the puzzle, waiting to be discovered and analyzed.

Correlating the Clues: From Data to Insight

Collecting data from these diverse sources is just the first step. The true magic lies in piecing them together like a digital mosaic. Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tools like Chronicle can ingest and correlate data from across GCP, identifying patterns, anomalies, and suspicious activity sequences. This holistic view paints a clear picture of the attack, helping investigators understand the attacker’s tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs).

Mastering the Art of GCP Forensics

Understanding the wealth of data sources available within GCP empowers forensic investigators to navigate the digital crime scene with confidence. By combining live memory analysis with meticulous log parsing, scrutinizing storage snapshots, and extracting hidden clues from metadata, investigators can reconstruct the attack timeline, identify the culprit, and minimize the damage. Remember, in the fast-paced world of cybersecurity, every piece of data matters. So, arm yourself with the knowledge of GCP’s forensic data sources, and become the detective who cracks the case in the digital Wild West.

Further Reading:

https://cloud.google.com/blog/products/identity-security/how-to-use-live-forensics-to-analyze-a-cyberattack
https://medium.com/@cloud_tips/google-cloud-gcp-forensics-best-practices-and-tools-a99ed21e5ae5
https://www.cadosecurity.com/navigating-the-cloud-the-art-of-digital-forensics-and-incident-response-in-google-cloud-platform-gcp/


By delving deeper into these resources, you can hone your GCP forensics skills and become a master of the digital investigation. Remember, knowledge is power, and in the battle against cybercrime, data is your weapon.