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Why a Serverless Architecture Improves the Security of Cloud-Native Applications

Why a Serverless Architecture Improves the Security of Cloud-Native Applications

Blog Article Published: 06/03/2024

Originally published by Tenable.

Cloud-native architecture has revolutionized developer practices, decentralizing components from monolithic server setups into easily consumable services. Consequently, organizations have migrated to the cloud at an accelerated pace, decreasing development time, maintenance overhead and cost.

Nevertheless, it can be difficult to protect cloud-native applications that leverage serverless functions like AWS Lambda, Google Cloud Functions, and Azure Functions and App Services. This article looks into serverless architectures and how they can help you protect cloud-native applications.


Understanding serverless architectures

A serverless architecture lets organizations construct application components without the hassle of managing individual servers. Instead, applications run on cloud services that the cloud service provider (CSP) manages and maintains. The functions are snippets of code deployed into the environment. Because the CSP handles the infrastructure on which these components run, developers are able to focus on the application’s core functionality instead of on server maintenance and security. Plus, a serverless architecture offers benefits including increased scalability, improved performance and cost savings.


How can serverless help?

Serverless architectures offer several security advantages, leveraging both inherent features and provider-specific security offerings.

Benefits of a serverless architecture include:

Isolation and reduced attack surface: Cloud functions eliminate the need for server management, thereby saving organizations from having to patch servers and maintain security updates. Serverless functions often run within containers in the CSP’s infrastructure. Therefore, the containers won’t impact other serverless functions or the host operating systems, both in terms of security and resource allocation.

Event-driven execution: With serverless, code is only executed in response to specific events, such as an API call, a message in a queue or a change in a database. Thus, the function is only active and accessible when it needs to be, which can further reduce the attack surface.

Automatic scaling: Serverless functions let developers automatically scale up or down instances in response to traffic demands. This auto-scaling functionality can minimize costs and ensure that the application’s performance remains stable, while allowing for business agility

Access control: Cloud environments allow administrators to grant or deny access to cloud functions based on users’ identities, helping to ensure that only authorized users have access. This also gives administrators more direct control over who can make changes or invoke functions. Solutions like just-in-time access take this further by governing access on an ongoing basis and eliminating standing privileges. Least privilege and role-based access control can be easily performed in the identity management environment for each provider.

Data encryption: Serverless functions allow developers to configure data encryption at-rest and in-transit using a CSP’s key management service (KMS). This helps protect sensitive information from unauthorized access. Data encryption is an important security measure for any organization, especially when dealing with sensitive customer or financial information.

Security and configuration management tools: Most CSPs offer security tools and services that can be used with serverless architectures to improve security. These tools can help to detect security issues and to remediate them quickly and automatically. They can also help ensure that the desired state is maintained by applying secure configurations across every deployment in a uniform way.

Cost efficiency: Serverless architectures offer a cost-effective alternative to traditional hosting models, because you’re charged based on the number of function executions or data usage rather than fixed infrastructure costs, such as hosting or purchasing a server and the licensing of operating systems. Thus, a serverless architecture may help reduce the overall application and labor costs of the traditional model.


In summary

A serverless architecture streamlines application development and fortifies security by offloading infrastructure management to service providers. Access controls, scalability, cost-effectiveness and enhanced performance characterize this approach, enabling organizations to deploy resilient applications efficiently and affordably.

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