Microservices are on the wind after enterprises identified the exploits of monolithic applications. The monolithic style applications became more and more bottleneck for extensibility, easy maintenance, rigid, etc. Adopting microservices has its own set of challenges, we would be discussing them in detail later on. These are to be scrutinized for security compliance, which would widely vary from use-cases to use-cases. Monolithic applications on the other hand have easier security, where the communications are internal and do not traverse outside. Let’s get this discussion of microservices architecture security forward by talking more about challenges in adopting or migrating to microservices based enterprises architectures.
Before starting with microservices challenges, I would like to elaborate more on the monolithic systems vulnerability. Monolithic systems have a large surface for cyber attacks, an attack might cascade as the system is based on lumping many functionalities together. So you attack one and it does harm to all, voilà. On the other hand, many independent applications are like small working modules, attacking them all at one is near to impossible. That actually helps minimizing damages, and makes the system somewhat rugged.
It’s brilliant how spring microservices break giant applications into smaller independent working units(services or applications which do single tasks rather than the entire world). But this complicates the process multi-folds, some components to secure and worry about. Each service application might have its own datastore (Or a metastore), now these independent applications probably have different ideologies/techniques, which becomes difficult to secure. The solution is to provision security while building the application itself rather than creating it and then adapting it to the rest of the system. A single devops manual appropriately synced with devsecops elucidating security standards.
How to secure microservices architecture
The design of microservices security architecture boils down to three main pillars:
- Hierarchical designing
- Automating security visibility
We would be discussing each one of them here.
Creating a set of processes to develop and integrate new microservices helps organising and automating security. This helps minimizing efforts in securing application, which would rather become pain later on. Securing applications on the go as part of the development process helps create traceability. Integrating tools and technologies to do the job faster and in an automated fashion.
Automating security visibility
After discussing the importance of taking care of security while building the application, we now come to the part where we would want to assess the possible vulnerabilities, back doors, and unfortified applications. There is a need for a tool to gauge these risks. Automating this creates holistic visibility of the entire microservices architecture and act upon a possible risk.
Finally creating compartmental isolation within the architecture helps bifurcating or logically grouping applications to minimize cascading damages on an advent of a cyber attack. In layman’s terms, this means to reduce the blast radius of a possible attack. Not all applications would fall (end of the world) rather just a particular component, which can be later fixed and restored. Second concern is privacy and security in microservices architecture, i.e. role based security. Modularization helps quantify/categorize the components by giving people limited access to what they need. Developers would have access to bare minimum, admins would have more access, internal users would have only read access to limited applications.
Further Readings on Microservices Architecture