Monitor, Evaluate, and Demonstrate Backup Compliance with AWS Backup Audit Manager

Today, I’m happy to announce the availability of AWS Backup Audit Manager, a new feature of AWS Backup that helps you monitor and evaluate the compliance status of your backups to meet business and regulatory requirements, and enables you to generate reports that help demonstrate compliance to auditors and regulators.

AWS Backup is a fully managed service that provides the ability to initiate policy-driven backups and restores of AWS applications, simplifying the process of protecting data at scale by removing the need for custom scripts and manual processes. However, customers still needed to use their own tooling for verifying that backup policies were being enforced and, as part of proving adherence to auditors, parsing backup transcripts to convert them into auditable reports.

With AWS Backup Audit Manager, you can now continuously and automatically track your backup activity, such as changes to a backup plan or backup vault, and generate automatic daily reports. AWS Backup Audit Manager provides built-in, customizable, compliance controls. Simply put, controls are procedures with backup policy parameters, for example the backup frequency or the retention period, that align with your business compliance and regulatory requirements.

You create a framework, scoped to an account and Region, and add the controls you need to it. Backup activities are tracked against the controls, automatically detecting violations of your defined data protection policies, enabling you to take quick corrective actions. To enable tracking of backup activities, AWS Backup Audit Manager requires you to enable monitoring through AWS Config for your backup plans (AWS::Backup::BackupPlan resource type), backup selection (AWS::Backup::BackupSelection), vaults (AWS::Backup::BackupVault), recovery points (AWS::Backup::RecoveryPoint), and AWS Config resource compliance (AWS::Config::ResourceCompliance). You can check the recording status of these resources in the AWS Backup console, using the Resource Tracking section of the Frameworks page.

Once you’ve added the controls you need to your framework, you deploy it. If you have different internal or regulatory standards to meet, you can create and deploy additional frameworks of controls. Once the framework is deployed, you can set up automatic daily reports of your backup activity. These are displayed in a dashboard, and you can also request on-demand reports at any time. You can also import your findings into AWS Audit Manager, a service I wrote about during AWS re:Invent 2020 in this news blog post.

This short video gives a brief overview of the new AWS Backup Audit Manager feature.

Available Controls and Backup Reports
AWS Backup Audit Manager provides five backup governance control templates and backup activity reporting on your backup jobs, copy jobs, and restore jobs. These reports improve visibility into backup activities for a single account and Region, helping you monitor your operational posture and identify failures that may need further action.

When creating a framework, you provide a name, an optional description, and you select whether to use the provided AWS Backup framework type, which includes five pre-defined controls, or you can opt to customize your framework.

Creating a backup audit framework

Choosing Custom framework expands the panel to show the available controls, their parameters, and the option to include or exclude them from your framework. The five available controls are titled Backup resources protected by backup plan, Backup plan minimum frequency and minimum retention, Backup prevent recovery point manual deletion, Backup recovery point encrypted, and Backup recovery point minimum retention. To the right of each control’s title you’ll find an info link that describes what the control evaluates, how frequently, and what it means for a resource to be compliant with the control.

Let’s examine a couple of controls. The Backup resources protected by backup plan control enables you to select all supported resources, or those identified by a tag, by type, or a particular resource. This control helps identify gaps in your backup coverage.

Backup resources protected by backup plan control resource selection

The Backup plan minimum frequency and minimum retention control has parameters governing how frequently the backup plan should be taking backups, and for how long recovery points should be maintained. The default settings require backups to occur every hour, and recovery points should be retained for a month, but you can customize the settings to meet your business compliance requirements.

Setting backup frequency and retention period controls

You complete your selections for the remaining controls, including them and setting appropriate parameter values for your needs, or excluding them from the framework, and then click Create framework to complete the process. The new framework will be created and deployed, which will take a few minutes. If needed, you can go back and edit the controls and parameters in a framework at any time.

Once deployed, the controls in the framework will start to evaluate compliance and you can inspect compliance status in the console by selecting the framework. The summary section reports the overall compliance status of the framework and the number of controls in the framework that are compliant or non-compliant, based on your deployed control definitions.

Summary of framework and control compliance

Below the summary, you’ll find a list containing compliance details for each of the controls in the framework, which can be filtered by status. Each control details whether it’s compliant or non-compliant, and how many resources monitored by the control are non-compliant. Clicking a control title will take you directly to the AWS Config dashboard, where you can view more details on the resources identified by the control.

Control compliance detail

Automated reports on backup activity can be used to demonstrate compliance to auditors and regulators. To set up reports, first click the Reports entry in the navigation toolbar, and then click Create report plan. You’ll be asked to select a report template.

Selecting audit report template

With the template selected (I chose Backup jobs report), you fill in a name and optional description, choose where in your Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) buckets you want the report to be delivered, and the report file formats, and then click Create report plan. Your report will update every 24 hours, and you can run an on-demand report at any time.

Editing report settings

Once a report has been run, either automatically or on-demand, you can view the report data by first selecting the report in your Report plans list, followed by clicking View report. You’ll be taken directly to the chosen S3 location of the report files, where you’ll see one object (report) per chosen file type.

Selecting a report to view

Report files in Amazon S3

Downloading the file shows you the time period in which the resources were evaluated, the backup job details, failure or completion status, status messages, the resource type and backup plan, and more. Here I’ve opened the CSV format file in a spreadsheet.

Backup report data

Open Raven Launch Partnership
With this launch, we’re excited to have Open Raven join us as an AWS Backup partner. Open Raven is a cloud-native data security platform purpose-built for protecting modern data lakes and warehouses. From finding all data locations to proactively identifying exposure, their platform solves a broad spectrum of problems that organizations commonly face when living with large amounts of cloud-based data.

Open Raven Chief Technology Officer Mark Curphey had this to say about the new AWS Backup feature: “To successfully recover from a ransomware attack, organizations need to plan ahead by completing two foundational tasks, identifying critical data and systems and backing them up as per organizational requirements so that they can be protected and recovered. The combination of AWS Backup Audit Manager and Open Raven streamlines this effort, eliminating guesswork and hours of manual toil.”

Start Using AWS Backup Audit Manager Today
AWS Backup Audit Manager is available today in the US East (N. Virginia, Ohio), US West (N. California, Oregon), Canada (Central), EU (Frankfurt, Ireland, London, Paris, Stockholm), South America (Sao Paulo), Asia Pacific (Hong Kong, Mumbai, Seoul, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo), and Middle East (Bahrain) Regions.

For more information about Backup Audit Manager, refer to this section in the AWS Backup Developer Guide. To get started, visit the AWS Backup console.

— Steve