How to track AWS account activities using AWS CloudTrail (Part 1)?

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Someone logged into your AWS Console and forced the shutdown of an EC2 instance, and you need to discover who did it as it was a critical instance for production, but you have no records. Here AWS CloudTrail comes to your rescue! In your AWS infrastructure, you can use AWS CloudTrail for logging, continuously monitoring, and retaining account activity related to all day-to-day operations.

In this blog, we will explore AWS CloudTrail’s benefits, features, use cases, pricing, and customer stories. In part 2 of this blog, we demonstrated the full implementation of how to track AWS account activities using AWS CloudTrail with step-by-step instructions.

In this blog, we will cover:

  • What is AWS CloudTrail?
  • CloudTrail VS CloudWatch
  • How does AWS CloudTrail work?
  • AWS CloudTrail best practices
  • Use Cases of AWS CloudTrail
  • Pricing of AWS CloudTrail
  • Companies using AWS CloudTrail
  • Conclusion

What is AWS CloudTrail?

AWS CloudTrail is a service that lets you manage the governance, compliance, operational auditing, and risk auditing of your AWS account. With CloudTrail, you can track, monitor, and save account activity linked to actions throughout your AWS infrastructure. All actions taken through the AWS Management Console, AWS SDKs, command-line tools, and other AWS services are recorded by it This event history simplifies security analysis, resource change tracking, and troubleshooting. It can also be used to spot unusual activity in your Amazon Web Services accounts. These features make troubleshooting and operational analysis easier.

What is AWS CloudTrail?

EventBridge consumes S3 events via AWS CloudTrail. You can configure which data events are recorded for one or more S3 buckets using a single trail. It’s advisable to keep CloudTrail log files in a different S3 bucket. After this is set up, EventBridge can receive any event that is registered in the trail.

What is AWS CloudTrail?

CloudTrail VS CloudWatch

Monitoring, logging, and data collection for analysis are all necessary for a variety of reasons, according to AWS Best Practice. But, because both CloudTrail and CloudWatch accomplish this, how are you supposed to tell the difference?

The key difference between AWS CloudTrail and AWS CloudWatch is what we term the “who” or “what” question:

  • AWS CloudTrail focuses on “Who did what on AWS?” and API calls to the service or resource.
  • AWS CloudWatch is primarily concerned with “What’s going on on AWS?” and logging all events for a certain service or application.
CloudTrail VS CloudWatch


By documentation, AWS console actions, and API requests, including who made the call, from which IP address, and when, AWS CloudTrail provides far more visibility into user behavior. It logs high-volume activity events on other AWS services like Lambda, S3, and EC2, and is enabled by default when you create an AWS account.

CloudTrail focuses on the corresponding API calls for these services, including any creation, change, or deletion of the settings or instances within. Additionally, the logs themselves can be automatically uploaded to an S3 bucket, ensuring that you have access to all data when it’s time to investigate.


CloudWatch can collect logs from a much wider range of resources, including native logs from AWS services, optionally published logs from over 30 AWS services, and any custom logs from other apps or on-premise resources. It also allows users to dive deeper into the data and extract only the ones that are useful to them. AWS CloudWatch monitors over 70 AWS services and provides a number of built-in metrics to help you understand how well your resources are performing, including latency, errors, and state changes.

CloudWatch logs, analytics, and alerts function in a clear and straightforward way to assist users in locating, diagnosing, and resolving issues in order to maintain a high-performance cloud environment.

How does AWS CloudTrail work?

How does AWS CloudTrail work?


Insights: Unusual activity in your AWS accounts, such as resource provisioning spikes, bursts of AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) actions, or gaps in periodic maintenance work, should be investigated. CloudTrail Insights events can be enabled for your entire AWS organization or for specific AWS accounts in your CloudTrail trails.

Management events: Management events give information about the management (“control plane”) operations carried out on your AWS account’s resources. Administrative operations such as the creation, deletion, and change of Amazon EC2 instances, for example, can be logged. You can retrieve information on the AWS account, IAM user role, and IP address of the user who initiated the action, as well as the timing of the action and which resources were impacted, for each occurrence.

Data events: You can record object-level API activity and receive specific information such as who made the request, where and when the request was made, and other details by activating data event recording in CloudTrail. The resource operations (data plane actions) conducted on or inside the resource are recorded in data events. Data events are frequently high-volume operations. Amazon S3 object-level APIs, AWS Lambda function Invoke APIs, and Amazon DynamoDB item-level APIs are all included in CloudTrail data event recording.

Logfile encryption: By default, AWS CloudTrail uses Amazon S3 server-side encryption to encrypt all log files delivered to your designated Amazon S3 bucket (SSE). Optionally, encrypt your CloudTrail log files with your AWS Key Management Service (AWS KMS) key to add an extra layer of security.

Features of AWS CloudTrail

Logfile integrity validation: You may check the integrity of AWS CloudTrail log files in your Amazon S3 bucket to see if they’ve changed, been edited, or been deleted since they were delivered to your Amazon S3 bucket by CloudTrail

Multi-region configuration: For a single account, you may enable AWS CloudTrail to distribute log files from several regions to a single Amazon S3 bucket. All settings are applied consistently across all existing and newly launched regions using a configuration that applies to all regions.

Event history: Your recent AWS account activity can be searched for and downloaded. This gives you visibility on changes in your AWS account resources, allowing you to improve your security processes and resolve operational issues more quickly.

Always on: AWS CloudTrail is activated by default on all AWS accounts and captures all account activity. Without having to manually set up CloudTrail, you may browse and download the last 90 days of your account activity for creating, editing, and deleting activities of supported services.


Security automation: AWS CloudTrail allows you to monitor account behavior that may jeopardize the security of your AWS resources and respond immediately. You can design workflows that run when events that could lead to security vulnerabilities are recognized using the Amazon CloudWatch Events integration. For example, when CloudTrail logs an API request that makes an Amazon S3 bucket public, you may design a workflow to apply a certain policy to that bucket.

Visibility into user and resource activity: By capturing AWS Management Console activities and API requests, AWS CloudTrail gives you more visibility into your user and resource usage. You can see which users and accounts phoned AWS, as well as the source IP address from which the calls were made and when they were made.

Benefits of AWS CloudTrail

Security analysis and troubleshooting: By capturing a detailed history of changes that occurred in your AWS account during a specific period of time, you may uncover and troubleshoot security and operational concerns with AWS CloudTrail.

Simplified Compliance: Simplify your compliance audits with AWS CloudTrail, which automatically records and stores event logs for actions performed in your AWS account. Integration with Amazon CloudWatch Logs makes it easy to look through log data, spot out-of-compliance occurrences, speed up incident investigations, and respond quickly to auditor demands.

AWS CloudTrail best practices

AWS CloudTrail gives you a history of AWS calls for your account, including API calls made through the AWS Management Console, AWS SDKs, and command-line tools. As a result, you can identify:

  • Which users and accounts used AWS APIs to access CloudTrail-compatible services.
  • The source IP address the calls were made from.
  • When the calls occurred.

Use Cases of AWS CloudTrail

Unusual activity detection: By enabling CloudTrail Insights, you may notice odd behavior in your AWS accounts. You can, for example, swiftly detect and respond to operational concerns such as erroneous resource provisioning spikes or services exceeding rate limitations.

Data exfiltration: Data exfiltration can be detected by collecting activity data on S3 objects via CloudTrail object-level API events. After the activity data has been collected, you can utilize other AWS services to trigger reaction procedures, such as Amazon CloudWatch Events and AWS Lambda.

Use Cases of AWS CloudTrail

Operational issue troubleshooting: You can use the AWS API call history created by AWS CloudTrail to diagnose operational issues. You may, for example, easily detect the most recent changes made to resources in your environment, such as AWS resource creation, update, and deletion (e.g., Amazon EC2 instances, Amazon VPC security groups, and Amazon EBS volumes).

Security analysis: By importing AWS CloudTrail events into your log management and analytics systems, you can do security analysis and uncover user behavior patterns.

Compliance aid: By providing a history of activities in your AWS account, AWS CloudTrail makes it easier to confirm compliance with internal policies and regulatory standards.

Pricing of AWS CloudTrail

By tracking your AWS account activities, AWS CloudTrail allows auditing, security monitoring, and operational monitoring. CloudTrail keeps track of two sorts of events: management events, which record control plane actions like establishing or deleting Amazon S3 buckets, and data events, which record high-volume data plane activity like reading or writing an Amazon S3 object.

Companies using AWS CloudTrail


Datadog is a hybrid cloud application monitoring solution that helps enterprises improve agility, efficiency, and end-to-end visibility across the application and the organization. These capabilities are available through a SaaS-based data analytics platform that helps DevOps and other teams to speed go-to-market operations, assure application uptime, and finish digital transformation initiatives successfully.


Cloudnexa is an Amazon Web Services Premier Consulting Partner and Authorized Reseller. We use the cloud to help clients reach their infrastructure and business goals. Our vNOC Cloud Management Platform, which is designed to give clients the automated capabilities they need to manage cloud services on AWS, is a critical component of that success. CloudNexa interacts with AWS CloudTrail to give clients the tools they need to troubleshoot and audit their IT systems.


In this blog, we have discussed AWS CloudTrail and its benefits, features, use cases, pricing, customers, and how it works. Throughout your whole AWS infrastructure, you can utilize AWS CloudTrail to log, continuously monitor, and retain account activity related to operations. We will demonstrate the full implementation of how to track AWS account activities using AWS CloudTrail with step-by-step instructions in our upcoming blog. Stay tuned to keep getting all updates about our upcoming new blogs on AWS and relevant technologies.

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