How to Secure Your Serverless Applications




Wissen Team


May 28, 2024

There is a growing awareness among enterprise tech leaders about the prominence of serverless architecture for their application development initiatives. 

In fact, it is estimated that by 2028, there will be a USD 36.84 billion worth of market globally for serverless architecture. From faster deployment to lower costs, serverless applications offer plenty of benefits for both enterprises and the developer community.

With the rapid growth of the cloud-based SaaS product market globally, serverless architecture is increasingly being tipped as a mainstay in enterprise technology stacks moving forward. However, there is one aspect of serverless applications which needs a more holistic approach and understanding - security.

In April of 2022, security researchers discovered Denonia, the first malware designed specifically to execute in AWS Lambda services. We all know that AWS Lambda is one of the foremost serverless service providers leveraged by businesses ranging from SMB’s to Fortune 100. This is a wake-up call.

For most enterprises, serverless is just another new innovative architecture that they perceive will be protected by existing security measures. However, serverless applications have their own unique requirements and security frameworks that need to be followed for a risk-free business environment.

Let us examine the top five ways to secure serverless applications today:

Encourage security as a key development principle

One of the best ways to improve security credentials is to make it a holistic foundation element in the application development cycle itself. Just as how testing and validation are ingrained into a modern agile development lifecycle, security policies and best practices must be integrated early in the development life cycle. This will help in eliminating loose ends or vulnerable entry points in the application, which under normal cases, remain undetected before production release or deployment. 

Another advantage of bringing security norms into granular levels of the software lifecycle is the huge savings on costs that would have been incurred if the security flaw made its way into a live deployment. Hence, fostering secure development from the very basic start of an app development lifecycle is ideal for any development architecture. Serverless makes no exception in this case.

Leverage only trusted dependencies and 3rd party services

Serverless applications derive most of their working or computational logic from 3rd party SaaS services or from dependent modules. In effect, there is a chain of interconnected services that constantly feed data and insights to your serverless applications. While this may provide operational flexibility, there is a higher risk of supply-chain vulnerabilities in such a setup. It is important to ensure that only trusted 3rd party services and verified dependent modules are allowed to exchange data and information with your serverless applications. It is also possible that cloud configuration errors or mistakes at a 3rd party SaaS service can create a vulnerable loophole for hackers to exploit and enter your serverless application. So, it is important to have continuous monitoring and audit of all dependencies and eliminate any risks that may arise from connection points.  

Enforce least privilege permissions

As explained before, a serverless application will be dealing with multiple 3rd party services and dependencies to ensure smooth operations. By default, there should be minimal access privileges made available to any service that accesses databases, storage, or other core systems in your digital landscape. This will erect an additional gateway to prevent unauthorized entry. 

Additionally, it will set off alarms or notify concerned security watchdogs and firewalls when a request to access is received. It builds a more resilient and safer way for 3rd party services to interact with your serverless application. If by any chance, all system checks are bypassed by a hacker and a serverless endpoint is accessed, then they would only be given a very limited attack surface and damage can be limited.

Enable autonomous security checks for CI/CD pipeline

No area should be left untouched for security governance and compliance. The enterprises’ CI/CD pipeline needs to be securely guarded and monitored against every possible threat. However, it is equally important to ensure that deployment pipelines remain unaffected and disruption-free when security checks are put in place. This is where automation and autonomous security checks can become a lifesaver. Rather than having to manually verify and check for security threats in the CI/CD pipeline, every serverless application in the pipeline can be autonomously checked for risky behavior like misconfigurations, privilege levels, enforcing security policies on functions, and much more.

Leverage security services from cloud service providers

In addition to taking measures to protect their own serverless applications through best practices, it is recommended that enterprises also make use of trusted security configurations and services provided by their cloud service providers as well. This will ensure a second layer of security, thereby minimizing risks considerably.

Building digital ambitions with serverless architecture entitles you to enjoy several benefits. But it should never be at the cost of security. As more critical consumer services move to cloud-based digital services, serverless will continue its march into the heart of the digital economy. It is the duty of enterprise leaders to ensure that the foundations of your serverless application development initiatives are secure to ensure risk-free service delivery. 

This is where guidance by an experienced digital advisory partner can make a difference. Talk to us today to know more about building secure serverless applications for your business.