Amazon S3 Logs: A Complete Guide 101

Last Modified: December 29th, 2022

Amazon S3 Logs - Featured Image

Amazon S3 Logs help you keep track of data access and maintain a detailed record of each request. These include resources specified in the request, request type, along with the date and time the request was processed. Once you enable the logging process, these are written to an Amazon S3 bucket. For auditing and compliance measures, you can maintain the Logs using either the AWS Server Access Logging, or AWS CloudTrail Logging, or use a combination of both. 

This article will talk about Amazon S3 Logs and AWS Server Access Logging in particular. This article will also explore the format, delivery process, and Analysis Reports of Amazon S3 Logs.  

Table of Contents

What are Amazon S3 Logs?

Amazon S3 Log: S3 Logo
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Amazon S3 Logs (server access logs here) are used to keep detailed records of the requests made to an Amazon S3 bucket. Amazon S3 Logging gives you web-server-like access to the objects in an Amazon S3 bucket. The key features of this type of Amazon S3 Logs are:

  • It is granular to the object.
  • Non-API access is included, for example, static website browsing.
  • It provides comprehensive information about the Amazon S3 Logs like HTTPStatus, ErrorCode, and BucketOwner to name a few.
  • It also provides information regarding Life Cycle Expiration, Restores, and Transitions

You can use these Amazon S3 Logs for security and access audits. It can also be used to give you a deeper insight into your customer base and understand the components of your Amazon S3 bill.

What is the Format of Amazon S3 Logs?

The Amazon S3 Logs consist of a sequence of Log records delimited by a newline. Every Log record stands for a request that contains space-delimited fields. Here is an instance of an Amazon S3 Log that contains three records.

1. 79a59df900b949e55d96a1e698fbacedfd6e09d98eacf8f8d5218e7cd47ef2be awsexamplebucket1 [06/Feb/2019:00:00:38 +0000] 79a59df900b949e55d96a1e698fbacedfd6e09d98eacf8f8d5218e7cd47ef2be 3E57427F3EXAMPLE REST.GET.VERSIONING - "GET /awsexamplebucket1?versioning HTTP/1.1" 200 - 113 - 7 - "-" "S3Console/0.4" - s9lzHYrFp76ZVxRcpX9+5cjAnEH2ROuNkd2BHfIa6UkFVdtjf5mKR3/eTPFvsiP/XV/VLi31234= SigV2 ECDHE-RSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256 AuthHeader TLSV1.1
2. 79a59df900b949e55d96a1e698fbacedfd6e09d98eacf8f8d5218e7cd47ef2be awsexamplebucket1 [06/Feb/2019:00:00:38 +0000] 79a59df900b949e55d96a1e698fbacedfd6e09d98eacf8f8d5218e7cd47ef2be 891CE47D2EXAMPLE REST.GET.LOGGING_STATUS - "GET /awsexamplebucket1?logging HTTP/1.1" 200 - 242 - 11 - "-" "S3Console/0.4" - 9vKBE6vMhrNiWHZmb2L0mXOcqPGzQOI5XLnCtZNPxev+Hf+7tpT6sxDwDty4LHBUOZJG96N1234= SigV2 ECDHE-RSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256 AuthHeader TLSV1.1
3. 79a59df900b949e55d96a1e698fbacedfd6e09d98eacf8f8d5218e7cd47ef2be awsexamplebucket1 [06/Feb/2019:00:00:38 +0000] 79a59df900b949e55d96a1e698fbacedfd6e09d98eacf8f8d5218e7cd47ef2be A1206F460EXAMPLE REST.GET.BUCKETPOLICY - "GET /awsexamplebucket1?policy HTTP/1.1" 404 NoSuchBucketPolicy 297 - 38 - "-" "S3Console/0.4" - BNaBsXZQQDbssi6xMBdBU2sLt+Yf5kZDmeBUP35sFoKa3sLLeMC78iwEIWxs99CRUrbS4n11234= SigV2 ECDHE-RSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256 AuthHeader TLSV1.1
Amazon S3 Logs: Bucket Diagram
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Here is a list of Amazon S3 Logs fields, which will help you understand the log records mentioned above:

  • Bucket Owner: The Bucket Owner is the user Id(canonical) of the Amazon S3 source bucket. This user Id is another type of AWS account Id. This is how the Bucket Owner is represented in Amazon S3 Logs:
  • Bucket: This is the name of the bucket for which the request was made. If the request received by the system is incorrect, this might lead to the system’s inability to determine the bucket. This also means that the request won’t appear in the server access logs. This is how the bucket name is represented in Amazon S3 logs:
Amazon S3 Logs Settings
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  • Time: This refers to the time when the request was received. The dates and times are written in the UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) format. Using the strftime() function, the time in Amazon S3 Logs is represented as follows:
[06/Feb/2019:00:00:38 +0000] 
  • Remote IP: This is the internet address of the requester as seen by the server. Firewalls and intermediate proxies might mask the actual IP address of the machine that made the request. Here is an example of Remote IP: 
  • Requester: This refers to the user Id of the requester. For requests that are unauthenticated, a – is used. On the other hand, if the user is an IAM user, the Requester field returns the IAM user name of the requester and the AWS root account of the IAM user. This field is also used for the purpose of access control.
  • Operation: This field is written as
REST.HTTP_method.resource_type,WEBSITE.HTTP_method.resource_type, SOAP.operation, or S3.action.resource_type, or BATCH.DELETE.OBJECT.

Here is an example of the representation of the Operation field in Amazon S3 Logs.

  • Request Id: Amazon S3 uses Request Id, a string to uniquely identify each request. This is what a Request Id looks like in Amazon S3 Logs:
  • Request URI: It is the Request URI part of the HTTP request message. Here is an example of a Request URI:
"GET /awsexamplebucket1/photos/2019/08/puppy.jpg?x-foo=bar HTTP/1.1" 
  • Key: This refers to the “Key” portion of the HTTP request message represented as an encoded URL. It is represented as a – when no key parameter is specified. Here is what a Key looks like in Amazon S3 Logs:
  • Error Code: This refers to the Amazon S3 error code. It is represented as a – in case no error occurred. Otherwise, this is the representation of the error code:
  • Bytes Sent: This refers to the number of bytes sent in response to the HTTP request. This does not include the HTTP protocol overhead. Here is an example:
  • HTTP Status: This refers to the HTTP status code of the HTTP response. It is represented as follows:
  • Total Time: This field measures the number of milliseconds for which the request was in transit from the perspective of the server. This is measured from the time your request is received till the time the last byte of the HTTP response is sent. If this measurement was taken from the client’s perspective, network latency would factor in to make the measurement longer. Here is how it is represented:
  • Object Size: This refers to the total size of the object. This is how it is represented:
  • Turnaround Time: This is the time spent by the Amazon S3 server to process your request. This is measured from the time the last byte of your request was received till the first byte of your response was sent. This is how it is represented in Amazon S3 Logs:
  • User-Agent: This is the value of the HTTP User-Agent Header. This is how it is represented:
  • Referrer: This field talks about the value of the Referrer header if present. Generally, this field is the URL associated with the linking or embedding page, when you make a request. This is what it looks like:
  • Host Id:  This field refers to the x-amz-id-2 or Amazon S3 extended request Id. This is how it looks:
  • Version Id: This is the Version Id of the request. This is how it looks:
  • Cipher Suite: This is the SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) cipher used for an HTTPS request. This is how it looks:
  • Signature Version: This is the version of the Amazon S3 bucket signature, SigV2 or SigV4. This is used to authenticate the requests. This is how it looks:
  • Authentication Type: There are two types of authentication used. QueryString for query strings, and AuthHeader for authentication headers. This is how it looks:
  • TLS Version: The Transport Layer Security (TLS) version that is used by the client. It can be any one of the following: TLSv1, TLSv1.1, TLSv1.2, or – if the client is not using TLS. This is how it looks:
  • Host Header: This is the endpoint that you can use to link to Amazon S3. This is how it looks:
Amazon S3 Logs Representation
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Understanding the Amazon S3 Logs Analysis Reports

Once you enable Access Logging, the Amazon S3 Logs are written to the Amazon S3 bucket. Once you grant Cloud Security Plus read access to this Amazon S3 bucket, you can analyze and represent the Amazon S3 Logs as Traffic Analysis Reports. Traffic Analysis Reports can be used for:

  • Understanding the error conditions.
  • A better understanding of the data access patterns.
  • Analyzing the security and access audits.

Here are the different kinds of Traffic Analysis Reports available at your expense:

  • Requests Based on HTTP Status: These display the results corresponding to an HTTP status code. Say, for instance, if the HTTP status code is shown as 404 then the requests based on HTTP status will display unsuccessful results.   
  • Operation-Based Requests: Here the report results are based on the data request operation that you enter in a given field. For instance, if the “REST.GET.OBJECT” is the entry, then the corresponding results are displayed. 
  • Remote IP-Based Requests: The requests made by any remote IP are displayed under Remote IP-Based requests.
  • S3 Access Requests: All the details regarding every data request made to an Amazon S3 bucket presented in the Cloud Security Plus Console, are presented. 
  • Error Access Requests: These Traffic Analysis Reports show the inaccurate requests made by the users. It provides the HTTP error code and the details of the error code. 

How to Enable Amazon S3 Access Logs?

Even if they use your root account, Amazon S3 bucket logging provides detailed information on object requests and requesters.

To enable S3 server access logging, the steps to be carried out are as follows:

  • Step 1: Navigate to Amazon S3 Console.
  • Step 2: Choose the bucket where you want to enable logging.
  • Step 3: Now, left-click on the bucket.
  • Step 4: Go to the Properties section.
  • Step 5: Select the “Server Access Logging” tile. Server access logging dialog appears.
  • Step 6: Check the “Enable logging” field.
  • Step 7: Enter the name of the target bucket. Choose a target prefix that will help distinguish your logs. Target Bucket and main bucket should be different but in the same AWS region for the Amazon S3 bucket logging to work properly.
  • Step 8: Click on the “Save” button. Logging for the Amazon S3 bucket is now enabled, and logs will be available for download in 24 hours.

How to Get Access to Amazon S3 Bucket Logs and Read Them?

You can use MSP360 Explorer for Amazon S3, which includes a log viewer to make reading easier. The steps to be followed are as follows:

  • Step 1: Right-click the bucket for which you enabled logging.
  • Step 2: Select “Logging” and then click on “View Server Access Log”.
Amazon S3 Logs: View Server Access Log
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  • Step 3: A new window pane will appear, displaying a complete bucket log for a specific time period. 
Amazon S3 Logs - Server Access Log
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You can interpret the most important parameters to determine who and when had to access and edited the objects.

  • Remote IP: The IP address of the user who performed the operation is displayed. It should be kept in mind that proxies and firewalls can conceal the actual address.
  • Requester: The unique identifier of the user who requested the file in your bucket. If the user was not authorized, the entry will be “Anonymous,” but if the user has an IAM role, it will return the IAM user name as well as the root AWS account to which the IAM user belongs.
  • Operation: It contains a list of the operations performed on the file and the bucket.
  • Object Size: It determines the total size of the requested object.

You’ve now enabled Amazon S3 server access logging for a specific bucket in order to improve account security and monitor user operations over time.

Monitor Amazon S3 Lifecycle Management

Customers frequently want to how they can tell if their S3 Lifecycle rules are functioning properly. S3 server access logging includes information on S3 Lifecycle processing activity, such as object expirations and object transitions.

In this example, a new data frame is created for logs stored in the same centralized logging bucket but with a different prefix. This time, the prefix corresponds to the name of an S3 bucket with lifecycle rules enabled.

lifecycle_log_objects = []
paginator = s3_client.get_paginator('list_objects_v2')
result = paginator.paginate(Bucket = bucket, Prefix = 'demo-lifecycle')
for each in result:
    key_list = each['Contents']
    for key in key_list:
lifecycle_log_data = []
for lifecycle_log in lifecycle_log_objects:
    lifecycle_log_data.append(pd.read_csv('s3://' + bucket + '/' + lifecycle_log, sep = " ", names=['Bucket_Owner', 'Bucket', 'Time', 'Time_Offset', 'Remote_IP', 'Requester_ARN/Canonical_ID',
               'Operation', 'Key', 'Request_URI', 'HTTP_status', 'Error_Code', 'Bytes_Sent', 'Object_Size',
               'Turn_Around_Time', 'Referrer', 'User_Agent', 'Version_Id', 'Host_Id', 'Signature_Version',
               'Authentication_Type', 'Host_Header', 'TLS_version'],
        usecols=[0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24]))
lifecycle_df = pd.concat(lifecycle_log_data)


<class 'pandas.core.frame.DataFrame'>
Int64Index: 4609 entries, 0 to 0
Data columns (total 25 columns):
 #   Column                      Non-Null Count  Dtype
---  ------                      --------------  -----
 0   Bucket_Owner                4609 non-null   object
 1   Bucket                      4609 non-null   object
 2   Time                        4609 non-null   object
 3   Time_Offset                 4609 non-null   object
 4   Remote_IP                   4609 non-null   object
 5   Requester_ARN/Canonical_ID  4609 non-null   object
 6   Request_ID                  4609 non-null   object
 7   Operation                   4609 non-null   object
 8   Key                         4609 non-null   object
 9   Request_URI                 4609 non-null   object
 10  HTTP_status                 4609 non-null   object
 11  Error_Code                  4609 non-null   object
 12  Bytes_Sent                  4609 non-null   object
 13  Object_Size                 4609 non-null   object
 14  Total_Time                  4609 non-null   object
 15  Turn_Around_Time            4609 non-null   object
 16  Referrer                    4609 non-null   object
 17  User_Agent                  4609 non-null   object
 18  Version_Id                  4526 non-null   object
 19  Host_Id                     4609 non-null   object
 20  Signature_Version           4609 non-null   object
 21  Cipher_Suite                4609 non-null   object
 22  Authentication_Type         4609 non-null   object
 23  Host_Header                 4609 non-null   object
 24  TLS_version                 4609 non-null   object
dtypes: object(25)
memory usage: 936.2+ KB

Step 1: Get a count of lifecycle operations performed

For this test, 40 objects are uploaded to three different prefixes in the Amazon S3 bucket, and rules are applied based on prefix name to expire or transition to S3 Glacier Deep Archive. Following that, additional objects are added to the expiration prefix to provide more examples.

lifecycle_df[(lifecycle_df['Requester_ARN/Canlifecycle_df[(lifecycle_df['Requester_ARN/Canonical_ID'] == 'AmazonS3')]['Operation'].value_counts()
onical_ID'] == 'AmazonS3')]['Operation'].value_counts()


S3.EXPIRE.OBJECT            180
Name: Operation, dtype: int64

Step 2: Get a list of objects that have been expired and the date they were expired

By changing the API call in the operation, you can also use this to generate reports on object transitions. The Time and Time–Offset columns are joined to a single Date column in this example.

lifecycle_df['Date'] = lifecycle_df[['Time', 'Time_Offset']].agg(' '.join, axis=1)
lifecycle_df[(lifecycle_df['Operation'] == 'S3.EXPIRE.OBJECT')][['Key', 'Date']]


0folder2/test001.txt[14/Dec/2021:10:50:38 +0000]
1folder2/test002.txt[14/Dec/2021:10:50:38 +0000]
0expire/[01/Jul/2021:18:59:38 +0000]
1expire/test21.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
2expire/test12.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
41expiration/test39.txt[04/Nov/2021:18:47:52 +0000]
42expiration/test43.txt[04/Nov/2021:18:47:52 +0000]
43expiration/test41.txt[04/Nov/2021:18:47:52 +0000]
44expiration/test44.txt[04/Nov/2021:18:47:53 +0000]
45expiration/test45.txt[04/Nov/2021:18:47:53 +0000]

Step 3: Get a list of objects that were expired on a specific day

lifecycle_df['Date'] = lifecycle_df[['Time', 'Time_Offset']].agg(' '.join, axis=1)
lifecycle_df[(lifecycle_df['Operation'] == 'S3.EXPIRE.OBJECT') & (lifecycle_df['Date'].str.contains('01/Jul/2021'))][['Key', 'Date']]


0expire/[01/Jul/2021:18:59:38 +0000]
1expire/test21.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
2expire/test12.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
3expire/test39.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
4expire/test17.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
5expire/test32.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
6expire/test26.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
7expire/test10.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
8expire/test34.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
9expire/test27.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
10expire/test19.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
11expire/test29.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
12expire/test36.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
13expire/test15.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
14expire/test20.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
15expire/test14.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
16expire/test33.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
17expire/test07.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
18expire/test02.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
19expire/test22.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
20expire/test38.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
21expire/test06.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
22expire/test03.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
23expire/test37.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
24expire/test04.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
25expire/test23.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
26expire/test25.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
27expire/test13.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
28expire/test01.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
29expire/test30.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
30expire/test28.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
31expire/test16.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
32expire/test18.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
33expire/test24.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
34expire/test11.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
35expire/test40.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
36expire/test05.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
37expire/test08.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
38expire/test35.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
39expire/test31.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]
40expire/test09.txt[01/Jul/2021:18:59:39 +0000]

Step 4: Write a list of expired object keys to a file.

expired_object_keys = []
expired_object_keys.append(lifecycle_df[(lifecycle_df['Operation'] == 'S3.EXPIRE.OBJECT')]['Key'])
with open('expired_objects_list.csv', 'w' ) as f:
    for key in expired_object_keys:
        f.write("%sn" % key)

Step 5: Get the UTC timestamp when a specific key was expired

lifecycle_df['Date'] = lifecycle_df[['Time', 'Time_Offset']].agg(' '.join, axis=1)
expirations = lifecycle_df[(lifecycle_df['Operation'] == 'S3.EXPIRE.OBJECT')]
expirations[(expirations['Key'] == 'expiration/test25.txt')][['Key','Date']]


26expiration/test25.txt[07/Aug/2021:00:34:36 +0000]
30expiration/test25.txt[03/Nov/2021:21:16:20 +0000]
37expiration/test25.txt[04/Nov/2021:18:47:51 +0000]


This article talks about Amazon S3 Logs in detail while exploring the format of Amazon S3 Logs and the Analysis Reports that you can use to understand the data access patterns, error conditions, and access audits. 

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Content Marketing Manager, Hevo Data

Amit is a Content Marketing Manager at Hevo Data. He enjoys writing about SaaS products and modern data platforms, having authored over 200 articles on these subjects.

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