Microservice architecture refers to the style of building applications. A product created this way comprises smaller parts, each holding a different responsibility. The individual unit can be implemented independently and loosely coupled with other components. An application can call on multiple minor services to create a response whenever it receives a request.
Offering back-end development services based on such an architecture means that many development teams can work simultaneously on delivering various capabilities and ensuring fast microservices deployment. Also, by breaking up large, complex applications into smaller, easier-to-manage services, they can get more flexibility and scalability, which lets them quickly create and release applications that meet the changing needs of their users.
Microservices can be built for different operating systems. For example, .NET development techniques can be used if you’re interested in building an app on Microsoft.
Despite many benefits, working with distributed components comes with several challenges, and securing microservices is one of the most significant issues the organization deploying this architecture must face.
Every microservice can be composed of hundreds of units, each with security vulnerabilities. Key aspects to watch out for when addressing security challenges include:
- Network security: Microservices are typically deployed across multiple nodes, making it difficult to ensure consistent network security. This can leave the system vulnerable to Distributed Denial of Service or Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attacks.
- Multi-cloud deployment and data security: In a microservices architecture, sensitive data is often distributed across multiple services, cloud providers, and hosts, making it more difficult to protect data.
- Service-to-Service Communication and Access Management: Inter-service communication is critical to securing microservices architecture as it expands the attack surface. Developers need to secure communications between services, including using encryption keys for data in transit and implementing access security controls.
- A novel approach to monitoring and logging: Traditional methods are not well-suited to microservices architecture. Instead, developers need to implement a distributed, continuous monitoring and logging method that can provide visibility into the performance of individual services and the overall system. This involves implementing tools and processes for collecting, aggregating, and analyzing log data from multiple services.
- Faulty-collaboration mitigation: With as many independent services as there are designed, the responsibility for their functionality lies with numerous teams, who all have to take responsibility for their failures and communicate effectively, updating each other about any bugs, changes, and developments. Collaboration is a key aspect of application security.
Unfortunately, microservices tend to be more vulnerable than monolithic applications. Built using a wide range of tools, open-source codes, and containers (sometimes without security protocols), they require strategy and established security processes that ensure functionality despite the implemented third-party dependencies.
Identifying risks is a critical step in developing a robust microservices security strategy. Here are some key considerations to keep in mind when identifying challenges:
Map Out the System: It’s essential to know how the microservices system is built and what its parts are if you want to find potential security risks. Developers must identify all services, their dependencies, and the data flows and network communication between them.
Evaluate Third-Party Dependencies: Security teams must perform this task and ensure the dependencies are properly secured and maintained.
Identify Sensitive Data: It is vital to find and protect sensitive data, such as personally identifiable information (PII) and financial data.
Perform Threat Modeling: It involves identifying security threats and vulnerabilities and assessing their impact and likelihood. This can help developers prioritize and implement security measures and allocate resources accordingly.
Stay Up-to-Date with Security Threats: Regular security audits can help catch the application’s vulnerabilities and weaknesses on time.
Here are a few ways to make sure that authentication and access control in the application are safe:
Decoupling authorization logic from the application: If you don’t code the authorization rules into the product, you can easily change them without changing the app. For example, you can use the Open Policy Agent to set up one policy logic that multiple teams and cloud environments can use.
JSON Web Token Validation This standard generates an access token for an application and facilitates secure communication between two entities.
API gateway: It’s an entry point to all provided microservices. API gateway sends the external caller’s credentials to the authorization server, which, in turn, generates the abovementioned tokens. Finally, the requests and access tokens are sent to the microservice responsible for a specific resource. The multi-factor authentication mechanism can be used at the API gateway. It will require the requestor to provide two or more forms of identification to access a system.
Role-based access control (RBAC): This solution limits access based on a person’s level of responsibility within the network.
Single Sign-On solution: With SSO, users only need to log in once to access all the applications and systems they are authorized to use. In this case, the service account must be authorized, not an individual user.
In addition to using JSON web tokens, implementing mutual Transport Layer Security (TLS), such as HTTPS, is a great way to ensure infrastructure security. TLS protocol encrypts data while sending it over the internet to keep it safe. You can use Transport Layer Security to encrypt the communication between microservices, ensuring that sensitive data is not intercepted or tampered with. With this solution, each microservice holds a key that provides two-way identification. TLS is used for service-to-service communication controlled by the service mesh infrastructure layer.
You can virtualize or containerize different application units as you isolate them. With the former solution, each microservice can be deployed on a virtual machine, which can be isolated from other similar machines. A virtual machine acts like a computer but doesn’t require a physical server.
A microservice container is a lightweight, standalone package that contains all the dependencies required to run a microservice. A containerized microservice typically includes the application code, runtime environment, libraries, and system tools. Containers are designed to be portable and can run on any platform that supports containerization, such as Docker.
Using trusted base images, making minimal container images, implementing network segmentation, using a container orchestration tool, monitoring container activity, regularly scanning for vulnerabilities, and hardening the host system are good ways to ensure container security. A description of all these practices requires a separate article, but we hope you can see that, although it’s not easy, there are ways to mitigate container security risks.
Aggregating logs from all the microservices into a single location is possible through centralized logging, simplifying log analysis, and problem-solving. In addition, standardizing log formats ensures uniformity and makes log analysis less complicated, while using log levels enables prioritization of logs based on their level of seriousness.
Real-time monitoring permits prompt identification of issues and responses, whereas tracing helps locate performance bottlenecks and troubleshoot problems spanning several microservices. Early cases can be detected by setting up alerts based on predefined thresholds, and logging and monitoring can be included in testing and deployment.
A good starting point is to evaluate all the basic functions to evaluate microservices security. Next, assess each microservice unit and the safety of its communications. Finally, the endurance performance will help establish if your app can handle multiple requests, calls, etc.
Microservices architecture can be subject to both dynamic and static analysis security testing.
Dynamic analysis security testing involves assessing the behavior of the microservices in a running system. This type of testing helps identify security weaknesses that may manifest only when the microservices are in operation.
Static analysis, on the other hand, involves analyzing the code of the microservices without running them. It can be beneficial for catching security issues early in the development process.
Maintaining continuous security practices with microservices is crucial to protecting the applications and data. Therefore, it is essential to implement security measures at each stage of the microservices lifecycle, including development, testing, deployment, and maintenance in the microservices environment.
As microservices rely heavily on API calls to interact with each other, monitoring these calls can provide valuable insights into the application’s performance. In addition, monitoring container-specific metrics can also be very informative.
To get insights into the state of the system, use metrics. Now, there are many kinds that you can log and audit. These include:
- In-app and platform-related metrics
- Service level metrics for the performance and availability of individual microservices (response time, error rate, and throughput).
- Infrastructure metrics that include CPU usage, memory usage, and network throughput
- Tracing metrics, e.g., request latency, number of requests, and success rate.
- Business metrics, for example, customer satisfaction and user engagement.
Secure microservices architecture can significantly boost your business outcomes when compared to monolithic applications. We listed some benefits for you:
- Scalability: When the traditional architecture is applied, traffic can overload the whole application. Each microservice, however, has different resources and can be individually scaled.
- Resilience: Since every microservice runs autonomously, the failure of one does not negatively impact the app. However, the distributed systems must also be secured from the back-end service dependencies.
- Business agility: Microservice adaptability means that organizations can respond quickly to changes in customer needs and market conditions.
- Freedom to choose the technology stack and programming languages: In the described architecture, one can connect microservices that run on any platform and are created with any programming language.
- Shorter time to market: Development teams can quickly create or change a microservice and add it to the architecture with little risk of code conflicts or service outages.
In this article, we delved into details of microservice security. This type of architecture brings multiple benefits but also involves the implementation of protocols and security configurations. The best way to benefit from the optimized app-building method is by partnering with an experienced software development company. Contact us to gain insights on app development techniques.