Microservices Software Security Best Practices and Techniques

Microservices Software Security Best Practices

The application development industry saw a mass adoption of microservices. This lead to certain risks, but the security testing lagged behind and could not keep up with the pace of the microservices affectation to address the vulnerabilities it posed the developers. The engineers and architects have to solve the security issues of the microservices at the software development life cycle (SDLC) stage so that they do not reach and threaten the production phase.

All instances of microservices allow entry paths to additional, unaddressed attack vectors by exposing their own set of communication paths, APIs, and entry points. For this reason, the usual way to confront the issue is to test each microservice for its vulnerabilities. But the already complex and lengthy process becomes highly time-consuming and extremely difficult to perform when the architecture of the microservices is complex. Here, we will discuss the microservices software security best practices so that you can design effective and efficient security into your microservices applications to prevent security threats and challenges.

Security at Container Level

Containers are based on images that make them highly vulnerable to threats. Unfortunately, most of the microservices are based on container technology. To ensure that you do not employ any images that contain security issues, threats, and vulnerabilities, you need to perform regular scanning. It is really one of the most effective and simple microservices software security best practices.

It is crucial to protect the containers at runtime as your first and foremost step. Adoption of the principle of least privilege (POLP) is highly effective in this regard as a container has threat surfaces both externally and internally. Following are the different strategies you can deploy:

  • With different levels of sensitivity, define isolation with appropriate rules for resources.
  • As you cannot limit the access to the container to only yourself, you should avoid keeping secrets and confidential information on them.
  • Try to restrict the access to the container to just the host operating system. Always keep control over the use of available resources and limit them as per your needs.
  • To run different services, avoid the use of a privileged account or sudo.
  • Pertaining to the service roles, limit all permissions to the users except only for necessary and required ones.

Use OpenID or OAuth2.0

Using OAuth 2.0 and OpenID are effective ways of securing user access as they generate tokens that enable the respective security. Using these two authentication systems can smoothly make microservices security more efficient by offering a resource server that ensures the users obtain permissions to all the resources prior to getting access to them. OAuth provides the following types of authentication tokens:

  • Client
  • Authorization server
  • Resource owner
  • Resource server

Until and unless the tokens expire, they can be used to access any resources. After the original tokens get expired, there is a mechanism in OAuth that allows you to refresh them.

Isolation

Applications have isolated and separate parts as their services in a microservices architecture. The key is to be able to update, extend, modify, maintain, and implement the microservices without having any impact on the microservices that are nearby. Isolation is effective at all the layers of the infrastructure. You should perform it in the database as well. The data that belongs to a specific microservice should be restricted and limited to it alone, and any other microservice should not be able to access it.

Isolation at all layers provides you with eminent microservices security as an attacker that threatens a microservice cannot attack the other parts of the system by simple performing lateral movement.

API Gateway

Microservices use a variety of protocols, interfaces, and technologies. It also spans several different networks. By creating a single entry point and gateway that provides all the systems and the client access, that microservice is an effective way of securing that microservice as you can protect a single entry point much more easily. You can filter requests to sensitive information and resources and use the API gateway to perform authorization and authentication. You can design a system so that all the clients and systems always firstly connect to the API gateway that would authenticate service roles and users before allowing them the appropriate and adequate access pertaining to their needs.

This is not all as API gateways also offer additional capabilities of security, such as:

  • Catching of requests
  • Routing
  • Monitoring
  • Protocol conversion
  • SSL termination

Avoid Showing Sensitive Data as Plain Text

One of the most vital microservices software security best practices is quitting showing PIIs as clear text. Both users, as well as machines, can easily copy and read plain text. Therefore, you need to protect your personally identifiable information (PII) by making sure it is never displayed in clear or plain text. When you are saving records or logs, make sure you mask or strip all usernames as well as passwords.

There is a common misconception that you can store data at rest in an unsecured manner, and adding HTTPS, or TLS will solve the problem. Another ineffective measure that developers take is that they encrypt logs. However, attackers who have direct access to the memory of your system can still reach and exploit it. All this makes avoiding showing crucial and confidential information and data as plain and clear text the only solution and the safest route to prevent weak security.

Conclusion for Microservices Software Security Best Practices

Even simple microservices architectures have several and multiple components. Complex and advanced ones have even more. Each component comes with its own security risks and vulnerabilities. These microservice challenges, such as the rapid rate of application changes, data management, access control and identity management, isolation and segmentation, and multi-cloud deployments and infrastructure design, etc., make it extremely difficult to secure modern applications. However, by following the above-mentioned microservices software security best practices, you can ensure that your microservices are safe and secure in any environment.

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