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Automate the ingesting of event logs from managed nodes into AWS CloudTrail Lake with AWS Systems Manager

AWS CloudTrail Lake is a managed data lake for capturing, storing, accessing, and analyzing user and API activity on AWS for audit, security, and operational purposes. You can aggregate and immutably store your activity events, and run SQL-based queries for search and analysis.

On Jan 2023, we released a new feature that expands the capabilities of CloudTrail Lake by allowing the ingestion of events from non-AWS sources, such as on-premises systems or other cloud providers, into CloudTrail Lake. This new capability opens new possibilities for organizations to centralize and analyze event logs from various sources in a single location.

In Linux based systems, /var/log/secure or /var/log/auth.log file contains security related event logs such as logins, root user actions, and output from pluggable authentication modules (PAM). Backing up and storing these logs in secure centralized locations is a security best practice for organizations.

In this blog post, we will guide you on how to automate the ingestion of events from Linux-based nodes managed by AWS Systems Manager into CloudTrail Lake, providing you with a solution that brings significant benefits. By leveraging an AWS Systems Manager Automation Document, we can parse the /var/log/secure file from the nodes managed by AWS Systems Manager and deliver them to CloudTrail Lake as custom audit events using the PutAuditEvents API. Additionally, with an AWS Systems Manager State Manager, you can invoke the automation on the managed nodes on a scheduled basis, providing you with a reliable and consistent approach to event ingestion.

This solution helps to streamline your event management process, saving you time and effort while improving the accuracy and efficiency of your audit trail. In addition, with this knowledge, you will be able to automate and centralize your event log management process and reduce the time required to your auditing and security analysis.

By the end of this blog post, you will have a better understanding of the AWS Systems Manager capabilities and the steps involved in automating the ingestion of event logs from non-AWS sources into CloudTrail Lake.

Solution Overview

Solution Architecture Diagram

Figure 1: Solution architecture for the automatic ingestion of event logs from managed instances into CloudTrail Lake


Before we dive into the solution, let’s look at the prerequisites that are required to get started:

  1. An AWS account with access to the AWS Management Console.
  2. AWS CLI to deploy the necessary artifacts using AWS CloudFormation,
  3. EC2 instances and/or On-premise nodes running Amazon Linux 2 OS with AWS Systems Manager Agent installed.
  4. Ensure the Linux hosts have logrotate installed to ensure /var/log/secure logs are rotated after being ingested into CloudTrail Lake.

Deploying the solution

  1. Download the CloudFormation template from the solution hosted in AWS Samples github repo, to your local machine.
  2. Using AWS CLI, deploy the required resources for the solution, such as CloudTrail Lake event data store, CloudTrail Lake integration channel, SSM Document, SSM Association, IAM Roles, IAM policy, S3 bucket and S3 Bucket Policy using the CloudFormation template downloaded in the previous step.
    aws cloudformation deploy --template-file cloudformation.yaml --stack-name aws-sample-exportlogeventstoctl --capabilities CAPABILITY_NAMED_IAM

    Waiting for stack create/update to complete

    Successfully created/updated stack -

    After the deployment succeeds, run the describe-stacks command to note the IAMRoleForInstance name from the outputs, which is required in a subsequent step.

    aws cloudformation describe-stacks --stack-name aws-sample-exportlogeventstoctl


        "Stacks": [
                "StackId": "arn:aws:cloudformation:us-east-2:123456789012:stack/aws-sample-exportlogeventstoctl/bbe9bbd0-e2ec-11ed-9599-0abc498bf4af",
                "StackName": "aws-sample-exportlogeventstoctl",
                "ChangeSetId": "arn:aws:cloudformation:us-east-2:123456789012:changeSet/awscli-cloudformation-package-deploy-1682374190/37a193df-d36b-415f-9e3d-a52e53c1b818",
                "Description": "**WARNING** This AWS CloudFormation StackSets template is part of SSM Automation Sample to export log events to CloudTrail Lake. It creates a CloudTrail EventDataStore, CloudTrail Lake Channel, SSM Document, SSM Association, S3 Bucket, IAM Roles and IAM policies required for the Solution. You will be billed for the AWS resources used if you create a stack from this template.\n",
                "CreationTime": "2023-04-24T22:09:51.280000+00:00",
                "LastUpdatedTime": "2023-04-24T22:09:56.830000+00:00",
                "RollbackConfiguration": {},
                "StackStatus": "CREATE_COMPLETE",
                "DisableRollback": false,
                "NotificationARNs": [],
                "Capabilities": [
                "Outputs": [
                        "OutputKey": "AutomationAssumeRole",
                        "OutputValue": "arn:aws:iam::123456789012:role/aws-sample-exportlogeventstoctl-IAMRole-KUG0MK1TOSM7",
                        "Description": "AutomationAssumeRole ARN"
                        "OutputKey": "SSMAssociation",
                        "OutputValue": "3544302d-cd28-4dec-bde3-09c15e5d1fe1",
                        "Description": "SSM Association"
                        "OutputKey": "CTLakeChannel",
                        "OutputValue": "arn:aws:cloudtrail:us-east-2:123456789012:channel/2df7bb17-cbc9-4fae-b17a-5c80d7e112b5",
                        "Description": "CloudTrail Lake channel ARN"
                        "OutputKey": "IAMInstanceProfile",
                        "OutputValue": "aws-sample-exportlogeventstoctl-IAMRoleForInstance-18YOZHSNW7JJ8",
                        "Description": "Instance Profile for Managed Nodes"
                        "OutputKey": "IAMRoleForInstance",
                        "OutputValue": "aws-sample-exportlogeventstoctl-IAMRoleForInstance-18YOZHSNW7JJ8",
                        "Description": "Instance Role for Managed Nodes"
                        "OutputKey": "TempS3Bucket",
                        "OutputValue": "aws-sample-exportlogeventstoctl-s3bucket-ikij87gq84t",
                        "Description": "Name of the temporary bucket to store logs"
                        "OutputKey": "SSMDocument",
                        "OutputValue": "SSMDocument-8rXM8OSLkW55",
                        "Description": "SSM Document"
                        "OutputKey": "CTLakeEventDataStore",
                        "OutputValue": "arn:aws:cloudtrail:us-east-2:123456789012:eventdatastore/2df2ada5-50c1-4661-a3ef-da2313dd55c2",
                        "Description": "CloudTrail Lake Event Data Store"
                "Tags": [],
                "EnableTerminationProtection": false,
                "DriftInformation": {
                    "StackDriftStatus": "NOT_CHECKED"

    Now that the necessary AWS Resources for this sample are deployed, we can target this solution to existing managed nodes by adding the tag Key=varlogsecurebackup, Value=true.

  3. Tag your EC2 instance using this command.
    aws ec2 create-tags  --resources i-1234567890abcdefg --tags 'Key="varlogsecurebackup",Value=true'
  4. Run the following command to tag your on-premises managed instances.
    aws ssm add-tags-to-resource --resource-type "ManagedInstance" --resource-id "mi-1234567890abcdefg" --tags "Key= varlogsecurebackup,Value=true"
  5. Using AWS CLI, Attach the Systems Manager Instance Profile to the managed nodes where AWS Systems Manager would need to connect and execute the Automation document. Example:
    aws ec2 associate-iam-instance-profile --iam-instance-profile Name= aws-sample-exportlogeventstoctl-IAMRoleForInstance-18YOZHSNW7JJ8 --instance-id i-1234567890abcdefg


        "IamInstanceProfileAssociation": {
            "AssociationId": "iip-assoc-09eeb311eddaa7984",
            "InstanceId": "i-1234567890abcdefg",
            "IamInstanceProfile": {
                "Arn": " aws-sample-exportlogeventstoctl-IAMRoleForInstance-18YOZHSNW7JJ8",
                "Id": "AIPA6IX7L7O2V6KM5KAWS"
            "State": "associating"

    Refer to for additional details on how to attaching instance profiles via console.

Now that we’ve deployed the sample solution and targeted managed nodes, it’s time to test it to make sure it’s working as expected.

Testing the Solution

After the SSM document has completed execution based on the scheduled expression, you can verify that the logs have been delivered to CloudTrail Lake by running the following query against the CloudTrail Lake event data store.

Login to the AWS Console, Navigate to CloudTrail -> Lake and Query. Execute the following query against the CloudTrail Lake event data store. You will have to replace the values in the query with Event Data Store ID and Channel ARN from your environment prior to execution.

SELECT * FROM 153da6de-d363-4593-abc3-e983475c882f where metadata.channelArn = 'arn:aws:cloudtrail:us-west-2:123456789012:channel/67c498cb-71f8-4ab3-ba30-317e59aede0a'/>
Screenshot of CloudTrail Lake Query

Figure 2: Screenshot of AWS CloudTrail Lake Query

In addition, If you would like to audit all the ‘sudo’ activity across your managed instances you can run the following CloudTrail Lake Query.

SELECT * FROM 2df2ada5-50c1-4661-a3ef-da2313dd55c2 where metadata.channelArn = 'arn:aws:cloudtrail:us-west-2:123456789012:channel/67c498cb-71f8-4ab3-ba30-317e59aede0a' and eventData.useridentity.type like '%sudo%'

If everything is working as expected, you should see the log events from the system logs appearing in the CloudTrail Lake Event Data Store. Congratulations, you’ve successfully automated the ingestion of events from non-AWS sources into CloudTrail Lake!

Customize the Solution

You can further customize and extend this solution to support your specific use case, such as, supporting managed nodes running different operations systems, exporting custom audit log files and different export schedules.

Clean Up

Using AWS CLI, Run the following command to undeploy the Cloudformation Stack.

aws cloudformation delete-stack --stack-name aws-sample-exportlogeventstoctl


In this blog post, we showed you how to automate the ingestion of events from non-AWS sources into CloudTrail Lake using AWS Systems Manager Automation Document. By using Systems Manager Automation Documents, we can automate the ingestion of events from non-AWS sources into CloudTrail Lake. The document pulls system logs from a non-AWS source and delivers them to CloudTrail Lake on a periodic basis. This solution provides a convenient and automated way to centralize and analyze event logs from a variety of sources in a single location.

However, it’s important to note that this solution may not be suitable for every use case, and customization of the Run Document code may be necessary to meet the specific needs of an organization. Additionally, it’s important to ensure that the IAM role used to execute the Run Document has the appropriate permissions to access CloudTrail and S3 resources.

Overall, this solution offers a valuable tool for organizations looking to improve their event log management process and streamline troubleshooting of issues related to AWS resources. With AWS Systems Manager and CloudTrail Lake, organizations can achieve a more comprehensive and centralized record of all API calls, events from their AWS accounts and audit events meeting regulatory compliance requirements, internal compliance policies and improving resource management.

For further reading and to learn more about AWS Systems Manager and CloudTrail Lake, we recommend checking out the official AWS documentation:

AWS Systems Manager documentation:

AWS CloudTrail documentation:

About the authors

Picture of author Jegan Sundarapandian

Jegan Sundarapandian

Jegan Sundarapandian is a Sr. Technical Account Manager with AWS. He works with AWS Customers to implement AWS best practices and keep them operationally healthy and secure.

Picture of the author Samrat Lachimane

Samrat Lamichhane

Samrat has been a Solutions Architect at AWS for more than three years. He has worked with multiple segments of customers from Enterprise to Startup, where he has helped our customers architect their solutions and migrate to AWS. In his free time, Samrat enjoys traveling to new places and immersing himself in new technologies whenever possible.