G Suite alert centre

G Suite alert centre

In the last few days, Google began rolling out the G Suite Alert Center to all G Suite customers. It provides extensive visibility into threats detected in G Suite tenants. In this post, we explore how G Suite administrators and security teams can leverage security orchestration automation and response (SOAR) platforms, like Tines, to centralise, triage and respond to alerts from the G Suite Alert Center.

What is the G Suite Alert Center?

When Google announced the launch of G Suite Alert Center it was with the stated aim of providing “a single, comprehensive view of essential notifications, alerts, and actions across G Suite”. Admins can manage alerts more efficiently through the unified view that the alert center provides. Additionally, it provides insights that help them assess their organization’s exposure to internal and external security issues at the domain and user levels.

Out of the box, G Suite Alert Center includes the following types of alerts:

Accessing G Suite Alert Center

When logged into the G Suite Admin portal click “Security” and then chose “Alert Center”.

Accessing the G Suite Alert Center

On the next page, the G Suite Alert center displays all the alerts for your G Suite tenant. From this view, G Suite admins can view details of the alerts. Additionally, G Suite customers on the Enterprise plan can perform remediation actions from within the G Suite Alert Center itself. Later in this post, we’ll show how Tines can be used to automate the same remediation actions in real time regardless of your G Suite plan.

G Suite Alert Center Screenshot

Tines and the G Suite Alert Center

The alerts produced by the G Suite Alert Center provide valuable insight into potential security issues in G Suite tenants. However, the alerts are at their most valuable when, rather than being treated in isolation, we include them as part of a larger threat detection and response effort. By automating interaction with the G Suite Alert Center through Tines, we can use the alerts as both a threat source and as source of additional context when investigating other incident types. By using Tines to integrate with the G Suite Alert Center, we’re also centralising our response and aligning it to existing security response processes.

Connecting Tines to the G Suite Alert Center

In a previous blog post, we described the steps required to connect Tines to G Suite, we’ll use a similar method to connect to the Alert Center.

Enabling the G Suite Alert Center API

Follow these steps, based on those from developers.google.com to set up the Alert Center API:

  1. Create a service account that can be used by your G Suite application (see instructions on creating a service account).
  2. Download the key file, it will be a JSON file containing your private key and other sensitive information.
G Suite Service Account Key File
  1. Enable the Alert Center API (for instructions, see section on enabling and disabling APIs).
Enable G Suite Alert Center API

Authorizing the service account

In order for Tines to access user data in G Suite, a G Suite administrator needs to authorise the account we just created in the G Suite admin console, this is a process known as delegating domain-wide authority.

  1. Go to your G Suite domain’s Admin console.
  2. Select Security from the list of controls. If you don’t see Security listed, select More controls from the gray bar at the bottom of the page, then select Security from the list of controls. If you can’t see the controls, make sure you’re signed in as an administrator for the domain.
  3. Select Show more and then Advanced settings from the list of options.
  4. Select “API Controls" and then "Manage Domain Wide Delegation"

Select "Add New" to add your Client ID and OAuth Scopes

In the OAuth Scopes field, enter the list of scopes that your application should be granted access to. In this case, type the following value: https://www.googleapis.com/auth/apps.alerts.

Click Authorize.

Creating a Tines Credential

Before Tines can connect to the G Suite Alert Center API, we need to configure a JWT credential type. For detailed instructions on how to use JWTs with G Suite, see here.

Use the information from your service account key file to fill in the required JWT fields. When you’re finished, the credential page will resemble the below.

G Suite Alert Center Tines Credential

After saving the credential, we can begin automating interaction with the G Suite Alert Center.

G Suite Alert Center Automation Story

Get a G Suite Auth Token

To begin orchestrating and automating activities in the G Suite Alert Center, we first need to retrieve an auth token. This will allow us interact with the Alert Center API. We’ll do this with a HTTP Request agent, configured as shown below:

{
  "url": "https://www.googleapis.com/oauth2/v4/token",
  "content_type": "form",
  "method": "post",
  "payload": {
    "grant_type": "urn:ietf:params:oauth:grant-type:jwt-bearer",
    "assertion": "{% credential G-Suite-Alert-Center %}"
  }
}

When this agent runs, it will emit an event containing a bearer token which we will use in subsequent agents.

Get All Alerts from G Suite Alert Center

The G Suite Alert Center API is available at https://alertcenter.googleapis.com. We’ll use the list call in a HTTP Request Agent to get all alerts associated with our G Suite tenant.

{
  "url": "https://alertcenter.googleapis.com/v1beta1/alerts",
  "method": "get",
  "headers": {
    "Authorization": "Bearer {{.get_g_suite_auth_token.body.access_token}}"
  }
}

When this agent runs and there are alerts in our tenant, the G Suite Alert Center API will return an array of alerts.

Get alerts in last five minutes

Additionally, we can use filters to find alerts that match certain criteria. For example, the below HTTP Request Agent uses the date liquid filter to find alerts created in the last 5 minutes (current time in seconds – 300 seconds, converted into Google’s preferred Timestamp format: RFC 3339).

{
  "url": "https://alertcenter.googleapis.com/v1beta1/alerts",
  "method": "get",
  "headers": {
    "Authorization": "Bearer {{.get_g_suite_auth_token.body.access_token}}"
  }
  "payload": {
    "filter": "create_time >= \"{{ \"now\" | date: \"%s\" | minus: 300 | date: \"%Y-%m-%dT%TZ\" }}\""
  }
}

Get alert details from the G Suite Alert Center API

We can also use a HTTP Request Agent configured as below to find details about a specific alert, using its ID.

{
  "url": "https://alertcenter.googleapis.com/v1beta1/alerts/{{.explode_alerts.alert.alertId}}",
  "method": "get",
  "headers": {
    "Authorization": "Bearer {{.get_g_suite_auth_token.body.access_token}}"
  }
}

A sample automation story

In the above automation story, we’ve created a blueprint for getting started with automatic handling of G Suite Alert Center threats. To begin, at five minute intervals, we fetch all alerts. Next, an Event Transformation Agent is used to explode the array of alerts so each alert can be treated individually. Then we use several Trigger agents to emit events based on the alert type. Finally, we create an incident ticket based on the alert’s priority (this could be in Jira or another case management system) and add the alerts details to the ticket.

From here, it would be trivial add additional threat intelligence sources or automate data gathering log searches in a SIEM. We could also automate remediation activity like blocking malicious senders, quarantining devices and resetting compromised accounts all without requiring human intervention.

Conclusion

When considering threat detection tools for their technology stack, it’s easy for security operation teams and security operation centers to overlook assets like the G Suite Alert Center. However, as enterprises continue their move to the cloud, these non-traditional sources of threat intelligence and security alerts are becoming increasingly valuable.

By using security automation and orchestration tools like Tines to respond to threats surfaced by data sources similar to the G Suite Alert Center, an enterprise incident response team can ensure their standardized workflow is followed. Additionally, their detection and response is smarter, quicker and less prone to human-error.


To learn more about Tines, book a demo or get started with a fully-featured Community Edition account. It’s free to use, requires no up-front commitment and includes a generous automation capacity.

Eoin Hinchy
Eoin Hinchy
Founder, Tines