Understanding audit logs

This page describes Cloud Audit Logs log entries in detail: their structure, how to read them, and how to interpret them.

Cloud Audit Logs provides the following audit logs for each Google Cloud project, folder, and organization:

  • Admin Activity audit logs
  • Data Access audit logs
  • System Event audit logs
  • Policy Denied audit logs

For a general overview of Cloud Audit Logs, see Cloud Audit Logs.

Format of audit log entries

An audit log entry is a type of Cloud Logging log entry. Like all Logging log entries, an audit log entry is stored in a LogEntry object. What distinguishes an audit log entry from other log entries is the protoPayload field. In audit log entries, the log entry's protoPayload field contains an AuditLog object that stores the audit logging data.

In short, every audit log entry is characterized by the following information:

  • The project, folder, or organization that owns the log entry.
  • The resource to which the log entry applies. This information consists of a resource type from the Monitored resource list and additional values that denote a specific instance. For example, you can view audit log entries from a single Compute Engine VM instance or from all VM instances.
  • A timestamp.
  • A service: Services are individual Google Cloud products, such as Compute Engine, Cloud SQL, or Pub/Sub. Each service is identified by name: Compute Engine is compute.googleapis.com, Cloud SQL is cloudsql.googleapis.com, and so forth. This information is listed in the protoPayload.serviceName field of the audit log entry.

    Resource types belongs to a single service, but a service can have several resource types. For a list of services and resources, go to Mapping services to resources.

  • A payload, which is the protoPayload type. The payload of each audit log entry is an object of type AuditLog, which defines a set of fields specific to Cloud Audit Logs, such as serviceName and authenticationInfo. It also has an optional field, metadata, that Google Cloud services use to list service-specific information in the audit log entry. Some Google Cloud services still use the older serviceData field to list service-specific information. For a list of services that use the serviceData field, see Service-specific audit data.

  • A log name: Audit log entries belong to logs within projects, folders, and organizations. The log names are listed below:





Within a project, folder, or organization, these log names are typically abbreviated activity, data_access, system_event, and policy.

Sample audit log entry

This section uses a sample audit log entry to explain how to find the most important information in audit log entries.

The following sample is an Admin Activity audit log entry written by App Engine to record a change to an Identity and Access Management (IAM) policy with PROJECT_ID my-gcp-project-id. For brevity, some parts of the log entry are omitted, and some fields are highlighted:

      protoPayload: {
        @type: "type.googleapis.com/google.cloud.audit.AuditLog",
        status: {},
        authenticationInfo: {
          principalEmail: "user@example.com"
        serviceName: "appengine.googleapis.com",
        methodName: "SetIamPolicy",
        authorizationInfo: [...],
        serviceData: {
          @type: "type.googleapis.com/google.appengine.legacy.AuditData",
          policyDelta: { bindingDeltas: [
              action: "ADD",
              role: "roles/logging.privateLogViewer",
              member: "user:user@example.com"
          ], }
        request: {
          resource: "my-gcp-project-id",
          policy: { bindings: [...], }
        response: {
          bindings: [
              role: "roles/logging.privateLogViewer",
              members: [ "user:user@example.com" ]
      insertId: "53179D9A9B559.AD6ACC7.B40604EF",
      resource: {
        type: "gae_app",
        labels: { project_id: "my-gcp-project-id" }
      timestamp: "2019-05-27T16:24:56.135Z",
      severity: "NOTICE",
      logName: "projects/my-gcp-project-id/logs/cloudaudit.googleapis.com%2Factivity",

Here is the query that was used to select the audit log entry sample above. It can be used in the Logs Explorer, Logging API, or Google Cloud CLI. The project identifier is in the log's name, and the query is fast because the logName field is indexed:

    resource.type = "gae_app"
    logName = "projects/PROJECT_ID/logs/cloudaudit.googleapis.com%2Factivity"

If you are looking for audit logs from a single instance of a resource type, such as gce_instance, add an instance qualifier:

    resource.type = "gce_instance"
    resource.instance_id = "INSTANCE_ID"
    logName = "projects/PROJECT_ID/logs/cloudaudit.googleapis.com%2Factivity"

Interpreting the sample audit log entry

In the audit log entry sample above, the protoPayload, insertId, resource, timestamp, severity and logName fields shown are part of the LogEntry object. The value of the protoPayload field is an AuditLog object. It encapsulates the audit logging data.

Looking at the audit log entry sample above, you might have some questions:

  • Is this an audit log entry? It is, which you can tell in two ways:

    • The protoPayload.@type field is type.googleapis.com/google.cloud.audit.AuditLog.

    • The logName field includes the domain cloudaudit.googleapis.com.

  • What service wrote the audit log? The log was written by App Engine. This information is listed in the protoPayload.serviceName field of the audit log entry.

  • What operation is being audited? SetIamPolicy, as specified in the protoPayload.methodName field, is being audited. More information about the audited operation is in the AuditData object in protoPayload.serviceData.

  • What resource is being audited? An application running in App Engine, associated with a Google Cloud project my-gcp-project-id, is being audited. You can determine this from the resource field, which specifies the resource type gae_app and the project identifier my-gcp-project-id. In this example, you would find details on the resource type in the monitored resource type list.

For more information, see the LogEntry type, the AuditLog type, and the IAM AuditData type.

Large or long-running audit log entries

A single audited operation splits across multiple log entries if the operation runs asynchronously or if it generates a large AuditLog record. When there is more than one log entry for the same operation, the LogEntry object will contain an operation field and the entries for the same operation will have the same value for LogEntry.operation.id and LogEntry.operation.producer.

In the preceding audit log entry sample, the operation field is not present, meaning that all the audit information is contained in a single log entry.

Service-specific audit data

Some services extend the information stored in their AuditLog by placing a supplementary data structure in the audit log's serviceData field. The following table lists the services that use serviceData field and provides a link to their AuditData type.

Service Service data type
App Engine type.googleapis.com/google.appengine.v1.AuditData
App Engine (legacy) type.googleapis.com/google.appengine.legacy.AuditData
BigQuery type.googleapis.com/google.cloud.bigquery.logging.v1.AuditData
IAM type.googleapis.com/google.iam.v1.logging.AuditData

Viewing audit logs

You can query for all audit logs or you can query for logs by their audit log name. The audit log name includes the resource identifier of the Google Cloud project, folder, billing account, or organization for which you want to view audit logging information. Your queries can specify indexed LogEntry fields, and if you use the Log Analytics page, which supports SQL queries, then you can view your query results as a chart.

For more information about querying your logs, see the following pages:

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 Google Cloud project, folder, or organization:

  1. In the navigation panel of the Google Cloud console, select Logging, and then select Logs Explorer:

    Go to Logs Explorer

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

  3. To display all audit logs, enter either of the following queries into the query-editor field, and then click Run query:

  4. To display the audit logs for a specific resource and audit log type, 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.
    • Click Run query.

    If you don't see these options, then there aren't any audit logs of that type available in the Google 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. For information about summarizing log entries in the Logs Explorer by using Gemini, see Summarize log entries with Gemini assistance.


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 Google Cloud project.

To read your Google 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 Google 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.