5 Serverless Security Tips and Best Practices

For forward-thinking businesses, security is a primary focal point in 2021 and beyond. This is especially true in serverless environments where the threat vectors have changed and can be launched from any and all angles.

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What is Serverless Security?

In order to understand serverless security, you must first be clear on what serverless computing entails. 

 

In the most basic sense, serverless computing is the term given to the cloud-computing model where an application is broken down into several components, that when triggered, call upon the use of a server. The cloud provider runs the server and manages precise allocation of machine resources- not the organization. This means that the organization is only using what is needed to run that component of the application, instead of spinning up the entire application server. The most popular serverless frameworks include Google Cloud Functions, AWS Lambda Functions, and Azure functions. Each builds its own applications. 

The biggest benefit of this serverless architecture is that it’s automated and scalable. IT managers do not have to worry about scaling new servers, and there is minimal friction between developers and deployed code which means minimal delay in time to market. This makes it significantly easier to isolate and test the individual functions that are important in putting an application into use. 

 

From a cloud provider perspective, the movement to serverless computing represents a catalytic shift in server management responsibility from the consumer to the cloud provider. This reduces overhead costs, saves time, and (in some regards) lowers risk. 

 

Serverless security requires you to think about security in a totally different manner. Rather than looking at it as building security fences around applications as a whole, organizations are required to zoom in with surgical precision and weave together security solutions around each function within the application. 

 

This requires micro-segmentation and limited access control so that each function has separation from the surrounding ones in the chain. This allows individual functions to do what they’re intended to do, without placing the larger application at risk of undue harm.

 

Serverless security is highly beneficial for a number of reasons. Some of the key areas of improvement (over traditional security) include:

  • Because serverless applications consist of numerous small functions, security tools are able to observe detailed information and carefully filter and cleanse the flow of the application. 
  • By handing over the majority of the stack to the cloud provider, consumers deploying serverless applications no longer own admin rights, OS hardening, segmentation, and SSH. Cloud providers handle everything from runtime security of the server to patching – something that makes the entire process far more efficient and cost-effective. The consumer is still responsible for the runtime security of the serverless application and preventing threats.
  • The size of your attack surface is a major concern as the larger the attack surface, the more opportunities for infiltration. Anything you can do to reduce the size of this surface area is helpful. Serverless moves your organization to smaller microservices, which enables more fine-grained identity and access management.

 

Embracing serverless security is important and, arguably, necessary in today’s cyber landscape. However, it is not without concern. 

The Biggest Serverless Security Threats

As beneficial as serverless security is, threats and challenges to exist. They include: 

  • Suppressed visibility. Serverless increases the amount of information and the volume of resources. And with more functions to weed through, visibility is a challenge. If you don’t have the right system in place for identifying and extracting meaningful insights, confusion will overwhelm and frustrate your team.
  • More resources. When there are more resources, there are additional permissions to manage. This creates challenges with determining how to deal with each of them on an individual basis. 
  • Additional points of attack. Though serverless may diminish your attack surface, multiplying protocols and vectors increases the number of potential attack points. This must be managed carefully. 

Anytime you make a decision about how to proceed with an aspect of your cyber security, there are going to be tradeoffs. It’s up to you to determine the best and most logical path forward. In spite of these challenges, we still believe serverless security is the way forward.

5 Serverless Security Tips

In order to maximize serverless security in your organization, you need a proactive plan. Here are some tips and best practices to guide you as you move forward. 

1. Get Serious About Function-Level Perimeter Security

Perimeter security must be applied at the function level. With all of the fragmentation and tiny components within applications, attackers have lots of targets to choose from. Add new serverless security features in addition to your API Gateway and WAF. This will strengthen your underlying foundation and provide extra layers of protection moving forward.

2. Minimize Function Roles

When you go serverless, you’re significantly increasing the number of resources that can be acted upon. Carefully consider this and limit/minimize the number of permissions and roles for each individual function. Think lean. Go with the smallest set of privileges you can reasonably work with.

3. Be on the Lookout for Bad Code

With all of the infinite scaling and diverse triggers, tiny code errors can wreak major havoc on your system- especially when using third party libraries. These vulnerabilities can rapidly evolve into denial-of-service attacks from within the application. This allows bugs to turn into major security liabilities. You can fight back by keeping an eye out for bad code and constantly testing.

4. Employ API Gateways

One of the best ways to expose functions is through API gateways. They essentially act as reverse proxies – providing distinct separation between the user and the function. You can leverage API gateways to provide extra security defenses that lower attack surface through functions.

5. Monitor and Log Functions

A function can be very short-lived. As you scale up, most get lost in the mix and it becomes difficult to pinpoint precisely where errors are occurring. This makes it more challenging to identify malicious hacking attempts. 

As you scale, make sure you’re monitoring deployed functions so that you keep them in check. If nothing else, this provides increased peace of mind.

Contact Check Point Today

Now’s the time to be more intentional about your approach to serverless security. We’re living and operating in a dynamic environment that feels unpredictable at times. At Check Point, it’s our goal to simplify the complex and make security more accessible to you and your team. We do this by offering industry leading products, solutions, and support services that address the specific and pertinent challenges of the day.

Please contact us today to learn more about how we can help you avoid falling victim to the security threats that ravage millions of businesses every year.

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