Google Cloud Security: How It Works and 10 Security Best Practices

What is Google Cloud Security?

Like all major cloud vendors, Google Cloud practices cloud security under the shared responsibility model, which requires both cloud provider and customer to implement security measures. Google Cloud is required to secure its infrastructure, while cloud users are expected to secure their cloud resources, workloads and data. 

Google Cloud implements comprehensive security measures to ensure and maintain the security of its infrastructure, including automated encryption, secure data disposal, secure Internet communication, and secure service deployment.

To help users secure their cloud assets, Google Cloud provides security tools that natively integrate with Google Cloud services, including tools for keys management, identity and access management, logging, monitoring, security scanners, asset management, and compliance. We’ll discuss the use of these tools and other best practices that can help you secure your Google Cloud workloads.

In this article, you will learn:

How Does Google Secure Its Cloud Infrastructure?

Secure Service Deployment

Google uses various measures to secure their infrastructure. Here are key security controls implemented to secure service deployment:

  • Cryptographic authentication and authorization—applied at the application level for all inter-service communication.
  • Service account identity—associated with any service that runs on the Google cloud infrastructure. The service must use its cryptographic credentials to receive or make remote procedure calls (RPCs) to other services, or identify itself to clients.
  • Segmentation and firewalls—Google cloud infrastructure is protected by firewalls, and uses ingress and egress filtering at important network junctions, to prevent IP spoofing.

Safeguards From Privileged Access Attacks

Google designs infrastructure with security in mind. This includes measures that safeguard against privileged access attacks that originate at the hypervisor, the operating system (OS) image, or the bootloader.

Data Disposal Features

Google provides data disposal, which frequently performs a thorough logical wiping of persistent disks and other storage devices. Once disks are wiped, an inspection follows, typically performed by an authorized individual. All processes are logged and stored alongside related outcomes. In the end of the process, all usable wiped drivers are sent for reuse and damaged disks are retired.

Encryption of Data

Google provides encryption for data at rest and in transit. This process is automated and does not require user intervention. Google uses AES-256 to encrypt persistent disks, managing encryption keys and rotation.

Secure Internet Communication

Google Front End (GFE) is an infrastructure service that secures services available on the Internet. GFE ensures that TLS connections use correct certificates and follow best practices, and also protects against Denial of Service (DoS) attacks.

Operational Security

Here are several operational security measures performed and implemented by Google:

  • Monitoring—covering network signals, infrastructure services, and host-based signals on individual devices. 
  • Machine learning analysis—analyses data and provides Google teams with warnings of possible incidents. 
  • Investigation—Google incident responders are responsible for prioritizing alert, investigating events, and responding to potential incidents. They operate 24/365 and conduct Blue Team/Red Team exercises to improve operational practices.

10 Google Cloud Security Best Practices

The following best practices can help you improve security for your Google Cloud deployments.

1. Use Google Cloud Security Command Center

Google Cloud’s Security Command Center (SCC) serves as a centralized platform for monitoring and managing security across all Google Cloud services. It provides visibility into potential security risks, such as misconfigurations, vulnerabilities, and threats. By utilizing SCC, organizations can proactively identify and remediate security issues before they escalate into breaches.

SCC integrates with various Google Cloud tools and third-party solutions, enhancing security detection and response capabilities. It offers actionable insights and recommendations to improve security posture, simplify compliance reporting, and optimize resource configurations.

2. Use Google Cloud Logging

To collect logs—which provide diagnostic information about the health of your assets—you can use Cloud Logging, which is a native Google Cloud service. Cloud Logging integrates with the majority of Google Cloud services. 

If you are using other cloud services, like Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), you can install a logging agent that automatically forwards logs from EC2 to Cloud Logging. Additionally, Cloud Logging provides an API that can write logs from any source, including on-premise applications. 

3. Use Google Cloud Monitoring

To monitor your assets, you can use Cloud Monitoring. This is a native Google Cloud service that enables you to gain information about the overall performance and health of your infrastructure and applications. 

Cloud Monitoring can ingest metrics, metadata, and events. It then generates insights, which are visualized in customizable dashboards. You can also get alerts when certain events occur.  Cloud Monitoring integrates with Cloud Logging, a wide range of Google Cloud services, and third party systems.

4. Utilize Google Cloud Security Blueprints

Google Cloud Security Blueprints provide predefined security configurations and best practices that can help secure cloud environments. These blueprints offer a starting point for deploying secure cloud architectures, covering aspects such as network design, identity management, and logging. By following these guidelines, organizations can accelerate their security setup process and ensure foundational security controls are in place.

Implementing security blueprints facilitates compliance with industry standards and regulatory requirements. These templates are based on best practices and recommendations from security experts, ensuring that configurations meet security benchmarks. Organizations can customize blueprints to fit their specific needs.

5. Limit External Exposure

Limiting external exposure is critical in minimizing the attack surface of cloud environments. Organizations should adopt the principle of least privilege, ensuring that only essential services are accessible from the internet. Implementing network security controls, such as firewalls and security groups, can restrict access to resources based on predetermined policies.

Regularly reviewing and updating access controls and permissions prevents unauthorized access and reduces the risk of data leaks. Organizations should also employ encryption for data in transit and at rest, adding an additional layer of security. By carefully managing external exposure, companies can protect their cloud assets from unauthorized access and potential threats.

6. Prevent Misconfigurations

Many cloud data breaches occur due to misconfigurations. Here are some best practices you can implement to protect your cloud environment:

  • Continuously manage access controls—to ensure permissions are always relevant and assigned according to current roles. You can do this by monitoring IAM policies to ensure they are properly implemented.
  • Enforce the principle of least privileges—you can do this by only giving users only the permissions they require for their jobs. 
  • Automate as much as possible—automate deployment of Google Cloud resources to ensure they are deployed securely and avoid human error.

7. Carefully Define Your Resource Hierarchy

A well-defined resource hierarchy is key to managing and securing your Google Cloud resources efficiently. The resource hierarchy in Google Cloud consists of organizations, folders, projects, and resources. Start by organizing your cloud resources in a way that reflects your organizational structure and operational needs. This approach helps in applying consistent policies and permissions across your projects and resources, making it easier to manage access controls and comply with security policies.

Use projects to group resources that share the same trust boundary or lifecycle. For instance, you can separate development, testing, and production environments into different projects. Leverage folders to group projects by team, application, or any other logical division that suits your organization.

8. Utilize Cloud Identity-Aware Proxy (IAP)

Google Cloud’s Identity-Aware Proxy (IAP) offers secure access to applications running on Google Cloud. It controls access based on user identity and the context of the request, without requiring a traditional VPN. IAP integrates with Google’s IAM, providing fine-grained access controls and enhancing security for application access.

By leveraging IAP, organizations can ensure that only authenticated and authorized users can access their cloud applications. It simplifies access management and reduces the risk of exposing applications to the internet. Implementing IAP is a best practice for securing application access, aligning with zero-trust security principles.

9. Promote Cloud Security Awareness and Education

Training and awareness are key components of an effective cloud security strategy. Educating staff about security best practices, potential threats, and proper incident response procedures enhances an organization’s security posture. Regular training sessions ensure that personnel remain up to date with the latest security trends and techniques.

Creating a culture of security awareness encourages employees to take an active role in protecting organizational assets. It also reduces the likelihood of human error, which is a common cause of security incidents.

10. Use Secret Manager to Store Sensitive Data

Google Cloud’s Secret Manager is a useful tool for managing and accessing sensitive information such as API keys, passwords, and certificates within your cloud environment. It offers a centralized and secure repository that enables the storing and management of confidential data across Google Cloud services. It integrates with Google Cloud’s IAM, allowing for precise control over who can access specific secrets. 

With Secret Manager, organizations can automate the rotation of secrets, enhancing security by ensuring that sensitive information is updated regularly without manual intervention. Secret Manager also simplifies the process of handling secrets and enables audit logging. It allows teams to monitor access and changes to secrets, providing visibility into the usage of sensitive data and helping to meet compliance requirements.

Google Cloud Security Q&A

What Should I do if my Google Cloud Project has Been Compromised?

Google Cloud, like all cloud providers, operate under the shared responsibility model. Google Cloud is responsible for securing the infrastructure, and cloud users are responsible for securing their projects. If your project has been compromised, you can implement the following steps:

  • Stop—the instance.
  • Notify—impacted all users to let them know why the service is down.
  • Identify—the origin of the vulnerability. You can do this by analyzing the behavior of the instance and the software it runs.
  • Update—check to ensure your software is up to date.  
  • Check—your software for known vulnerabilities and implement the latest security patches.
  • Adopt—extended security measures to ensure your project is not compromised.
  • Reinstall—after completing all checks, completely reinstall your project.

How do I Block Consumer Accounts from Accessing the Google Cloud Console on My Network?

You can use G Suite or a managed domain to enforce a web proxy that restricts access to the Google Cloud console.

The Cloud Native Experts
"The Cloud Native Experts" at Aqua Security specialize in cloud technology and cybersecurity. They focus on advancing cloud-native applications, offering insights into containers, Kubernetes, and cloud infrastructure. Their work revolves around enhancing security in cloud environments and developing solutions to new challenges.