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5 Ways to Secure Your Microservices Architectures

In this article, we’ll explore ways to secure microservices architecture. We’ll also discuss best practices and security standards to adopt.

Microservices architecture focuses on creating small, modular services that can easily be deployed to create more complex applications. Each service in a microservices architecture is responsible for a specific function and can communicate with the others using APIs. 

One of the key advantages of microservices architecture is that it allows for greater scalability and flexibility. Since each service is independent, it’s easier to scale up or down without affecting the rest of the system. Additionally, this development architecture makes adding new features or services easier. 

However, as with any software development approach, security is critical in a microservices architecture. In this article, we’ll explore ways to secure your microservices architecture. 

How to Secure Microservice to Microservice Communication

Microservices have several advantages for the software development process, including less disturbance, faster time to market, frequent and simple deployments, and high scalability. However, just like other software architecture, microservices are susceptible to security threats. This is particularly because of their distributed and decentralized nature. Thus, it’s important to have systems in place to address any potential security threat. 

Here are some ways to secure your microservices architecture. 

1. Network Segmentation

Organizations can increase security by dividing their networks into segments. This restricts access to sensitive information and reduces the likelihood of a successful attack.  

Segmentation involves dividing the network based on different functions. An example would be separating a web server from an application server or a database server from an authentication server. This technique limits the avenues of attack available to hackers by preventing them from accessing everything if they get into one segment. 

2. Authentication and Authorization

Authentication can be implemented using various mechanisms such as tokens, certificates, or OAuth. Tokens are issued by an authentication server and used by microservices to authenticate requests. Certificates allow microservices to accept requests only from authorized sources. OAuth enables users to authenticate with a third-party provider. Thus, the microservices can use the access token issued by the provider to authenticate the user. 

Authorization can be implemented using access control lists (ACLs) or role-based access control (RBAC). ACLs provide fine-grained control over access to resources. Each resource can be configured to allow or deny access to specific users or groups. 

RBAC, on the other hand, provides a more flexible mechanism for managing access to resources based on roles. Users are given roles in RBAC, and these roles determine access to resources. 

3. Encrypting Communication Between Microservices

When you’re encrypting communications between microservices, it’s important to use strong encryption algorithms and key management protocols to ensure the secure transmission of data. Encryption protocols like Transport Layer Security (TLS) or Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) are a way to encrypt communications between services. Additionally, it’s important to securely store and manage encryption keys, as this will help ensure no compromise to the data. 

4. Monitoring and Logging

Monitoring and logging play a crucial role in securing microservices. They help to identify any suspicious or malicious activity on the system, enabling the detection of unauthorized access or changes to microservices and data. Logging records all system activity, including user access, system events, and application behavior. 

Here are some ways to secure microservices with monitoring and logging: 

  1. Implement an audit policy. The audit policy should define which activities require monitoring and logging, who should access the logs, how frequently the logs should be reviewed, and what actions to take in response to suspicious activity. For example, a simple audit policy could log all HTTP requests to the service and record the response code. Logs should be reviewed for any errors every day, and any login errors should be acted upon immediately.
  2. Implement monitoring and logging components in the solution. Monitoring and logging tools are used to monitor the audit policy’s security requirements, such as intrusion detection, firewall, WAF, anomaly detection, IPS, and HIDS/HIPS. Various monitoring tools are available, including ELK Stack, a popular open-source option, and commercial tools like Splunk and Sysdig.
  3. Configure the logging system to send logs from microservices in production to a central log management server. The central log management server should have sufficient storage capacity to retain logs for long-term compliance and analysis purposes. It can also provide advanced features such as log aggregation, correlation, and analysis to identify patterns and anomalies that may indicate security threats or system issues.

5. Slowdown Techniques and Rate Limiting

It’s essential to implement tactics that can delay and restrict the number of requests malicious attackers can make. This will prevent denial-of-service (DoS) assaults and limit any harm that could be caused. To impede attackers, you can employ techniques such as adding delays to replies, introducing random pauses, or making computations more complex for them to solve. These methods will take up more time and resources for the attacker to exploit system weaknesses, which may discourage them from continuing the attack. 

Rate limiting can protect microservices architecture by restricting the number of requests made within a particular timeframe. This will help reduce the risk of system overload and potential exploitation by hackers. The rate limit can be set according to the maximum number of requests per minute or hour or from a specific IP address/user account. 

Comparison of Security Between Microservices and Monolithic and Serverless Architecture

When it comes to security, microservices architecture has some advantages over monolithic architecture and serverless architecture.  

Here are some reasons why: 

  • Smaller attack surface: Microservices are broken down into smaller components that communicate with each other through APIs. Each microservice has a smaller attack surface than a monolithic application. If a hacker gains access to one microservice, they don’t have access to the entire system automatically.
  • Isolation: Each microservice can run in its own container. This container provides an isolated environment for the application. Thus, disruption doesn’t happen because of a compromised microservice.
  • Polyglotism: Microservices can be written in different programming languages. Hence, developers can choose the best language for the task at hand. This can improve security since different languages have different strengths and weaknesses, and using the best language for the job can make the system more secure.
  • Scalability: Microservices can be scaled independently, which means that resources can be allocated to the microservices that need them. This can improve security by ensuring the system always has the resources to operate securely.

When it comes to security, microservices architecture has some advantages over monolithic architecture and serverless architecture.

In contrast, monolithic architecture has a larger attack surface, and a vulnerability in one part of the application can compromise the entire system. Serverless architecture has similar advantages to microservices. However, securing codes can be difficult since they’re executed in a third-party environment. 

Best Practices for Securing Microservices Architecture

Securing microservices architecture requires a different approach than securing monolithic or serverless architectures. You can achieve this by following these best practices: 

  • Implementing zero trust security: Zero trust security is a security model that assumes all users, devices, and services are untrusted and need to be verified before accessing any resources. This approach can help mitigate the risk of unauthorized access to microservices.
  • Implementing RBAC: RBAC is a security model restricting resource access based on the user’s role. This way, only authorized users can access microservices.
  • Implementing API security: Since microservices rely on APIs to communicate with each other, API security becomes crucial. Implementing measures such as API gateways, rate limiting, and authentication can help ensure the security of microservices.

What Are the Security Standards of Microservices?

Enterprises can use several security standards to ensure the security of their microservices architecture. 

Some of the most popular standards include the following: 

  • OWASP API Security Project: The OWASP API Security Project provides guidelines and best practices for securing APIs, which are crucial to microservices architecture.
  • NIST Cybersecurity Framework: The NIST Cybersecurity Framework provides a framework for managing and reducing cybersecurity risk.
  • CIS Controls: The CIS Controls provide a prioritized set of actions organizations can take to improve their cybersecurity posture. 

Additionally, many enterprises adopt compliance standards such as HIPAA, PCI DSS, and GDPR to ensure their microservices architecture meets regulatory requirements. 

Tackle Security with Control Plane

Microservices architecture offers several benefits over traditional monolithic architecture and serverless architecture. However, it also comes with its own set of security challenges. To ensure the security of microservices, enterprises must follow best practices and adopt security standards. 

Alternatively, you can explore Control Plane, an AI-powered cost optimization platform for running microservices. Control Plane automates your DevOps infrastructure and life cycle, enabling you to build, deploy, and adopt a multicloud architecture. And you can add your Kubernetes cluster, tools, and procedure without worrying about the restrictions and lock-in associated with most DevOps platforms. 

Give Control Plane a try today by signing up or scheduling a demo. Let’s ease your engineering burden!   

This post was written by Ifeanyi Benedict Iheagwara. Ifeanyi is a data analyst and Power Platform developer who is passionate about technical writing, contributing to open source organizations, and building communities. Ifeanyi writes about machine learning, data science, and DevOps, and enjoys contributing to open-source projects and the global ecosystem in any capacity.