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Google Cloud

Building trust through Access Transparency

March 22, 2018
Joseph Valente

Product Manager

Auditability ranks at the top of cloud adopters’ security requirements. According to an MIT Sloan Management Review survey of more than 500 IT and business executives, 87% of respondents cited auditability as an important factor in evaluating cloud security—second only to a provider’s ability to prevent data compromises. While Google’s Cloud Audit Logging and similar products help answer the question of which of your administrators did what, where, when and why on your cloud objects, you’ve traditionally lost this audit trail once support is engaged. This is why we’re pleased to introduce Access Transparency, a new logs product unique to Google Cloud Platform (GCP) that provides an audit trail of actions taken by Google Support and Engineering when they interact with your data and system configurations on Google Cloud.

Access Transparency logs are available in beta for Compute Engine, App Engine, Cloud Identity and Access Management, Cloud Key Management Service, Cloud Storage and Persistent Disks— with more services becoming available throughout the year. Together, Cloud Audit Logs and Access Transparency Logs provide a more comprehensive view of admin activity in your cloud deployment.

Expanding your visibility with Access Transparency 

In the limited situations that access by Google employees does occur, Access Transparency logs are generated in near-real time and delivered to your Stackdriver Logging console in the same manner as Cloud Audit Logs. The logs not only show what resources were accessed and the operations performed, they also show the justification for that action. For example, they may include the ticket number you filed with support asking for help.

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You can also choose to export your Access Transparency logs into BigQuery and Cloud Storage, or to other tools in your existing audit pipeline through Cloud Pub/Sub. This allows you to integrate with your existing audit pipeline, where you may already be exporting your Cloud Audit Logs. You can then audit your Access Transparency logs with a combination of automated and manual review, in the same way you would with audit logs of your own internal activity.

Enabled by industry-leading data protection controls 

At Google Cloud, our philosophy is that our customers own their data, and we do not access that data for any reason other than those necessary to fulfill our contractual obligations to you. Technical controls require valid business justifications for any access to your content by support or engineering personnel. These structured justifications are used to generate your Access Transparency logs. Google also performs regular audits of accesses by administrators as a check on the effectiveness of our controls.

This system is built around limiting what employees can do, with multi-step processes to minimize the likelihood of misjudgment, and transparency to allow review of actions. Feedback loops also exist between Google’s audits and customer feedback to continue improving our processes and further limit the need to access your data in order to solve your problems.

Getting started with Access Transparency 

Access Transparency is available at no additional charge to customers with Platinum or Gold Support coverage, however spaces in our beta are limited. To apply for access, use our signup form. To find out more about Access Transparency, read the Access Transparency Documentation, or contact your dedicated support representative.

Access Transparency also continues to be available through SAP’s Data Custodian solution, which uses Access Transparency and other logs to support a managed GRC solution for your GCP deployments. For more information on Data Custodian, visit the SAP website.

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