GKE audit logging information

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This document describes the audit logs created by Google Kubernetes Engine as part of Cloud Audit Logs.


Google Cloud services write audit logs to help you answer the questions, "Who did what, where, and when?" within your Google Cloud resources.

Your Google Cloud projects contain only the audit logs for resources that are directly within the Cloud project. Other Google Cloud resources, such as folders, organizations, and billing accounts, contain the audit logs for the entity itself.

For a general overview of Cloud Audit Logs, see Cloud Audit Logs overview. For a deeper understanding of the audit log format, see Understand audit logs.

Available audit logs

The following types of audit logs are available for GKE:

  • Admin Activity audit logs

    Includes "admin write" operations that write metadata or configuration information.

    You can't disable Admin Activity audit logs.

For fuller descriptions of the audit log types, see Types of audit logs.

Audited operations

The following summarizes which API operations correspond to each audit log type in GKE:

Audit logs category GKE operations
Admin Activity audit logs io.k8s.authorization.rbac.v1

Audit log format

Audit log entries include the following objects:

  • The log entry itself, which is an object of type LogEntry. Useful fields include the following:

    • The logName contains the resource ID and audit log type.
    • The resource contains the target of the audited operation.
    • The timeStamp contains the time of the audited operation.
    • The protoPayload contains the audited information.
  • The audit logging data, which is an AuditLog object held in the protoPayload field of the log entry.

  • Optional service-specific audit information, which is a service-specific object. For earlier integrations, this object is held in the serviceData field of the AuditLog object; later integrations use the metadata field.

For other fields in these objects, and how to interpret them, review Understand audit logs.

Log name

Cloud Audit Logs log names include resource identifiers indicating the Cloud project or other Google Cloud entity that owns the audit logs, and whether the log contains Admin Activity, Data Access, Policy Denied, or System Event audit logging data.

The following are the audit log names, including variables for the resource identifiers:





Service name

GKE audit logs use one of the following service names:

Service name Display name Description
k8s.io Kubernetes The k8s.io service is used for Kubernetes audit logs. These logs are generated by the Kubernetes API Server component and they contain information about actions performed using the Kubernetes API. For example, any changes you make on a Kubernetes resource by using the kubectl command are recorded by the k8s.io service. Kubernetes audit log entries are useful for investigating suspicious API requests, for collecting statistics, or for creating monitoring alerts for unwanted API calls.
container.googleapis.com Kubernetes Engine The container.googleapis.com service is used for GKE control plane audit logs. These logs are generated by GKE and contain information about actions performed using the GKE API. For example, any changes you perform on a GKE cluster configuration using a gcloud CLI are recorded by the container.googleapis.com service.

For a list of all the Cloud Logging API service names and their corresponding monitored resource type, see Map services to resources.

Resource types

GKE audit logs use the following resource types:

Resource type Display name Description
k8s_cluster Kubernetes Cluster Log entries written by the Kubernetes API server apply to the k8s_cluster resource type. These log entries describe operations on Kubernetes resources in your cluster, for example, Pods, Deployments, and Secrets.
gke_cluster GKE Cluster Operations Log entries written by the Kubernetes Engine API server apply to the gke_cluster resource. These log entries describe operations like cluster creation and deletion.

For a list of all the Cloud Logging monitored resource types and descriptive information, see Monitored resource types.

Enable audit logging

Admin Activity audit logs are always enabled; you can't disable them.

Permissions and roles

IAM permissions and roles determine your ability to access audit logs data in Google Cloud resources.

When deciding which Logging-specific permissions and roles apply to your use case, consider the following:

  • The Logs Viewer role (roles/logging.viewer) gives you read-only access to Admin Activity, Policy Denied, and System Event audit logs. If you have just this role, you cannot view Data Access audit logs that are in the _Required and _Default buckets.

  • The Private Logs Viewer role(roles/logging.privateLogViewer) includes the permissions contained in roles/logging.viewer, plus the ability to read Data Access audit logs in the _Required and _Default buckets.

    Note that if these private logs are stored in user-defined buckets, then any user who has permissions to read logs in those buckets can read the private logs. For more information about log buckets, see Routing and storage overview.

For more information about the IAM permissions and roles that apply to audit logs data, see Access control with IAM.

View logs

To query for audit logs, you need to know the audit log name, which includes the resource identifier of the Cloud project, folder, billing account, or organization for which you want to view audit logging information. In your query, you can further specify other indexed LogEntry fields, such as resource.type. For more information on querying, see Build queries in the Logs Explorer.

You can view audit logs in Cloud Logging by using the Google Cloud console, the Google Cloud CLI, or the Logging API.


In the Google Cloud console, you can use the Logs Explorer to retrieve your audit log entries for your Cloud project, folder, or organization:

  1. In the Google Cloud console, go to the Logging> Logs Explorer page.

    Go to Logs Explorer

  2. Select an existing Cloud project, folder, or organization.

  3. In the Query builder pane, do the following:

    • In Resource type, select the Google Cloud resource whose audit logs you want to see.

    • In Log name, select the audit log type that you want to see:

      • For Admin Activity audit logs, select activity.
      • For Data Access audit logs, select data_access.
      • For System Event audit logs, select system_event.
      • For Policy Denied audit logs, select policy.

    If you don't see these options, then there aren't any audit logs of that type available in the Cloud project, folder, or organization.

    If you're experiencing issues when trying to view logs in the Logs Explorer, see the troubleshooting information.

    For more information about querying by using the Logs Explorer, see Build queries in the Logs Explorer.


The Google Cloud CLI provides a command-line interface to the Logging API. Supply a valid resource identifier in each of the log names. For example, if your query includes a PROJECT_ID, then the project identifier you supply must refer to the currently selected Cloud project.

To read your Cloud project-level audit log entries, run the following command:

gcloud logging read "logName : projects/PROJECT_ID/logs/cloudaudit.googleapis.com" \

To read your folder-level audit log entries, run the following command:

gcloud logging read "logName : folders/FOLDER_ID/logs/cloudaudit.googleapis.com" \

To read your organization-level audit log entries, run the following command:

gcloud logging read "logName : organizations/ORGANIZATION_ID/logs/cloudaudit.googleapis.com" \

To read your Cloud Billing account-level audit log entries, run the following command:

gcloud logging read "logName : billingAccounts/BILLING_ACCOUNT_ID/logs/cloudaudit.googleapis.com" \

Add the --freshness flag to your command to read logs that are more than 1 day old.

For more information about using the gcloud CLI, see gcloud logging read.


When building your queries, supply a valid resource identifier in each of the log names. For example, if your query includes a PROJECT_ID, then the project identifier you supply must refer to the currently selected Cloud project.

For example, to use the Logging API to view your project-level audit log entries, do the following:

  1. Go to the Try this API section in the documentation for the entries.list method.

  2. Put the following into the Request body part of the Try this API form. Clicking this prepopulated form automatically fills the request body, but you need to supply a valid PROJECT_ID in each of the log names.

      "resourceNames": [
      "pageSize": 5,
      "filter": "logName : projects/PROJECT_ID/logs/cloudaudit.googleapis.com"
  3. Click Execute.

For example, to view all the project-level audit logs for GKE, use the following query, supplying a valid resource identifier in each of the log names:

OR "projects/PROJECT_ID/logs/cloudaudit.googleapis.com%2Fdata_access"
OR "projects/PROJECT_ID/logs/cloudaudit.googleapis.com%2Fsystem_event"
OR "projects/PROJECT_ID/logs/cloudaudit.googleapis.com%2Fpolicy")
protoPayload.serviceName="k8s.io" OR protoPayload.serviceName="container.googleapis.com"

Route audit logs

You can route audit logs to supported destinations in the same way that you can route other kinds of logs. Here are some reasons you might want to route your audit logs:

  • To keep audit logs for a longer period of time or to use more powerful search capabilities, you can route copies of your audit logs to Cloud Storage, BigQuery, or Pub/Sub. Using Pub/Sub, you can route to other applications, other repositories, and to third parties.

  • To manage your audit logs across an entire organization, you can create aggregated sinks that can route logs from any or all Cloud projects in the organization.

For instructions about routing logs, see Configure and manage sinks.


For information about Cloud Logging pricing, see Google Cloud's operations suite pricing: Cloud Logging.

Example filters for your Admin Activity audit log

Here are some examples of filters that you can try in the Google Cloud console. In each case, replace PROJECT_ID with your project ID.

Find changes to Role-Based Access Control, excluding automated system changes:

NOT protoPayload.authenticationInfo.principalEmail:"system"
NOT protoPayload.authenticationInfo.principalEmail:"system"
NOT protoPayload.authenticationInfo.principalEmail:"system"

You can use similar queries to find changes to clusterroles and clusterrolebindings.

Find certificate signing requests:


Find unauthenticated web requests:


Find kubelet bootstrap identity calls:


Find node authenticated requests:


Find calls outside an IP range:

NOT protoPayload.requestMetadata.callerIp:"ip-prefix"

Find entries in your Admin Activity audit log that apply to the k8s_cluster resource type and describe creating a Deployment:


Find entries in your Admin Activity audit log that apply to the k8s_cluster resource type and have a principalEmail value of system:anonymous. These entries probably represent failed attempts to authenticate:


Find entries in your Admin Activity audit log that apply to the gke_cluster resource type and describe cluster creation:


Find entries in your Admin Activity audit log that apply to the gke_cluster resource type and have a severity value of ERROR:


Find entries in your Admin Activity audit log that apply to the k8s_cluster resource type and describe a write request to a Secret:

NOT protoPayload.methodName:"get"
NOT protoPayload.methodName:"list"
NOT protoPayload.methodName:"watch"

Find entries in your Admin Activity audit log that apply to the k8s_cluster resource type and describe a Pod request from a particular user:


Setting up metrics and alerts

To set up metrics based on your log entries, you can use Cloud Monitoring. To set up charts and alerts, you can use log-based metrics.

Audit policy

The Kubernetes audit policy determines which log entries are exported by the Kubernetes API server. The Kubernetes Engine audit policy determines which entries go to your Admin Activity audit log and which entries go to your Data Access audit log.

For more information about audit policies in Kubernetes Engine, see Kubernetes Engine Audit Policy.