Log your VPC DNS queries with Route 53 Resolver Query Logs

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The Amazon Route 53 team has just launched a new feature called Route 53 Resolver Query Logs, which will let you log all DNS queries made by resources within your Amazon Virtual Private Cloud. Whether it’s an Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instance, an AWS Lambda function, or a container, if it lives in your Virtual Private Cloud and makes a DNS query, then this feature will log it; you are then able to explore and better understand how your applications are operating.

Our customers explained to us that DNS query logs were important to them. Some wanted the logs so that they could be compliant with regulations, others wished to monitor DNS querying behavior, so they could spot security threats. Others simply wanted to troubleshoot application issues that were related to DNS. The team listened to our customers and have developed what I have found to be an elegant and easy to use solution.

From knowing very little about the Route 53 Resolver, I was able to configure query logging and have it working with barely a second glance at the documentation; which I assure you is a testament to the intuitiveness of the feature rather than me having any significant experience with Route 53 or DNS query logging.

You can choose to have the DNS query logs sent to one of three AWS services: Amazon CloudWatch Logs, Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3), and Amazon Kinesis Data Firehose. The target service you choose will depend mainly on what you want to do with the data. If you have compliance mandates (For example, Australia’s Information Security Registered Assessors Program), then maybe storing the logs in Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) is a good option. If you have plans to monitor and analyze DNS queries in real-time or you integrate your logs with a 3rd party data analysis tool like Kibana or a SEIM tool like Splunk, than perhaps Amazon Kinesis Data Firehose is the option for you. For those of you who want an easy way to search, query, monitor metrics, or raise alarms, then Amazon CloudWatch Logs is a great choice, and this is what I will show in the following demo.

Over in the Route 53 Console, near the Resolver menu section, I see a new item called Query logging. Clicking on this takes me to a screen where I can configure the logging.

The dashboard shows the current configurations that are setup. I click Configure query logging to get started.

The console asks me to fill out some necessary information, such as a friendly name; I’ve named mine demoNewsBlog.

I am now prompted to select the destination where I would like my logs to be sent. I choose the CloudWatch Logs log group and select the option to Create log group. I give my new log group the name /aws/route/demothebeebsnet.

Next, I need to select what VPC I would like to log queries for. Any resource that sits inside the VPCs I choose here will have their DNS queries logged. You are also able to add tags to this configuration. I am in the habit of tagging anything that I use as part of a demo with the tag demo. This is so I can easily distinguish between demo resources and live resources in my account.

Finally, I press the Configure query logging button, and the configuration is saved. Within a few moments, the service has successfully enabled the query logging in my VPC.

After a few minutes, I log into the Amazon CloudWatch Logs console and can see that the logs have started to appear.

As you can see below, I was quickly able to start searching my logs and running queries using Amazon CloudWatch Logs Insights.

There is a lot you can do with the Amazon CloudWatch Logs service, for example, I could use CloudWatch Metric Filters to automatically generate metrics or even create dashboards. While putting this demo together, I also discovered a feature inside of Amazon CloudWatch Logs called Contributor Insights that enables you to analyze log data and create time series that display top talkers. Very quickly, I was able to produce this graph, which lists out the most common DNS queries over time.
Route 53 Resolver Query Logs is available in all AWS Commercial Regions that support Route 53 Resolver Endpoints, and you can get started using either the API or the AWS Console. You do not pay for the Route 53 Resolver Query Logs, but you will pay for handling the logs in the destination service that you choose. So, for example, if you decided to use Amazon Kinesis Data Firehose, then you will incur the regular charges for handling logs with the Amazon Kinesis Data Firehose service.

Happy Logging

— Martin

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