In recent times, the majority of organizations are increasingly embracing serverless computing for its cost-effectiveness and convenience. But there are few companies who are blindly embracing this innovative technology in cloud services without consulting the security peers. And because of this, the chances that the cyber-attacks may increase as there is a lack of adequate protection that can target the environments of serverless computing. Therefore, in this blog, we will learn about the security challenges of this technology and while drafting this whole article, software developers has helped to frame this subject.
Serverless computing is popularly known as functions-as-a-service or event-driven computing. Generally, when any organization requires a server, they might use their own or use a service from cloud computing providers to store the data virtually and on which the application can run. But when it comes to using the serverless computing approach, it is taken step by step and the server gets abstracted itself. In serverless computing, the servers are still involved in the process but it is called serverless because of the architecture it holds and it doesn’t come with fixed resources like traditional servers, so the development team can run multiple applications using the same single server. Basically, serverless computing is a model that provides backend services that are based on an as-used concept. It enables the users to write and deploy the application code without any issue. All the backend services that any organization wants, can get from a serverless vendor who charges as per their computation usage.
Here are some of the major advantages of serverless computing -
Serverless computing enables the app developers to make use of full micro-service architecture where every function is a service.
The organization doesn’t have to manage anything as the serverless providers manage the servers and also all the computation instances.
The company that hires serverless computing providers only has to pay for the time they need to execute any function.
Here are some of the cons of serverless computing -
When we are talking about serverless computing, the latency to execute the functions is not present on the server is running for a longer period of time.
The existing policies and server management skills of your system don’t always go well with serverless deployments.
There are chances that the microservice architecture in a serverless computing model can add complexity to the delivery workflow of the application.
Let us have a look at the top security challenges that companies face while working with serverless computing.
When it comes to serverless applications it should follow the least-privileged principle. The reason behind this is that if the application users have more access to the routine activities than they require then it might compromise their account and it will eventually damage the application. Therefore, it is advisable that the serverless functions must only contain the privileges that the users require.
When any application is created for the serverless architecture, it often contains many serverless functions and each of these functions have a specific purpose. These functions are connected with each other to form the logic of the overall system, but there are chances that few of these functions may expose public web APIs, while others may consume events from various source types, and others may have some issues with coding that may increase the chances for exploit and attacks. All these can eventually lead to unauthorized authentication.
One of the most common risk factors is having injection flaws in the applications and this can not only be triggered through untrusted input like a web API call but is also triggered due to the potential attack on the surface of the serverless model. This risk comes from the cloud storage events, code changes, IoT telemetry signals, NoSQL databases, message queue events, and others. A survey says that the rich set of event sources is the reason behind the increase in the potential attack surface and it brings some complexities when the development team tries to protect serverless functions.
It has been observed by the security firm that misconfiguration of cloud services and incorrect settings are common themes. This creates an entry point for attacks against the serverless model, confidential information, and the leak of sensitive, and potentially Man-in-The-Middle attacks.
The phase where the threat actors attempt to get insight into a network's weaknesses and defenses is a very crucial point for cybersecurity systems to find out the suspicious behavior of the application and shut it down. But with serverless architectures, there is an issue that as it resides in cloud environments, the on-premise real-time solutions for cybersecurity cannot reach out to the application on time and because of this, any attack on it can be missed. Therefore, serverless systems are only capable of providing logging capabilities and are not a perfect match to offer audits or security monitoring.
The serverless computing model debugs the code line-by-line debugging and there are some limitations in this process. Because of this, mobile app developers adopt verbose error messages and if they enable the debugging after this and in any case, they forget to clean the code of the application when it is moved to production, then it might affect the working of the app.
Distributed denial-of-service attacks have a risk to the serverless computing model as there may be duration per function, execution limits, and memory allocation. Therefore, the poor configuration of data and default limitations can enable latency struggles and DDoS attacks
There are applications that need to store the secret information in an encrypted form like passwords, API keys, database credentials, and configuration settings. But it happens that the development team or security team of the company stores the information in plain text and this allows the intruders to easily access all the confidential data.
There are chances that the attackers can subvert the serverless application logic by tampering with its flows. This leads towards access control bypass, denial-of-service attacks, and privilege escalation.
When it comes to handling serverless security risks, having appropriate policies and controls at the right place is a must. Therefore, here we will go through some tips that can help a mobile app developer and the app security team of the mobile app development company to manage the security factors while working with serverless computing.
When the functions of the application that calls out the service from the same cloud service provider or a new one, there must be an authentication and access control that can limit the risk. For this, the cloud providers must follow guidance on best practices that can help to ensure the enforcement of serverless authentication and this must be followed by the administrators.
As you know that the serverless functions are event-driven and stateless. Therefore, looking at real-time activity may result in missing most activities. Therefore, if the cloud providers monitor and log the functions of serverless applications, it is possible to have a useful audit trail.
In serverless computing, there are functions that have more permissions than required. Therefore, if it is possible then the app development team must reduce the permissions to significantly lessen the attack surface. By profiling the behavior of the functions, it is possible to see which privileges are actually used by the functions. This can help the team to dial down the access and enable the privileges that are required.
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As seen in this blog, serverless computing is one of the most used concepts in the market but if the app development company fails in understanding this architecture and taking advantage of its features, then it might cause security breaches. Therefore, having a proper understanding of the security challenges and learning the ways to handle them can help in having a perfectly running application.
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