In recent years, the drive towards serverless and cloud-native applications has become more intense, and understandably so. With the countless advantages of flexibility, elasticity, and cost-effectiveness, the trend of serverless and cloud-native is a clear path forward. However, in this rush, we mustn't forget the importance of security. This blog will walk you through the various facets of securing serverless and cloud-native applications.

Understanding Serverless and Cloud-Native Applications

Before we delve into the nitty-gritty of security, let's understand what serverless and cloud-native applications mean.
Serverless computing is a model where the cloud service provider dynamically manages the allocation and provisioning of servers. Developers don't need to concern themselves with the operational aspects of the application's infrastructure. They can just focus on writing the code, while the infrastructure is automatically scaled up or down as needed, and Cloud-native development refers to the process of designing, building, and running applications in a cloud environment.

What is a Serverless Application?

The term serverless comes from the idea that the businesses or individuals that own these applications don't have to purchase, rent, or maintain their own servers to run their applications. Instead, those tasks are the responsibility of the cloud provider, who dynamically allocates the server space.

Serverless computing is a model where the cloud service provider dynamically manages the allocation and provisioning of servers. Developers don't need to concern themselves with the operational aspects of the application's infrastructure. They can just focus on writing the code, while the infrastructure is automatically scaled up or down as needed.

What Makes Up a Serverless Application?

Several components interact seamlessly to make a serverless application function. Let's explore them:

1. Functions as a Service (FaaS)
FaaS is the core of any serverless application. It's a type of cloud service that lets developers execute part of an application in response to events. Each function is a small piece of code that performs a specific task. Developers write these functions for everything from processing form submissions to user authentication and database operations. Examples of FaaS include AWS Lambda, Google Cloud Functions, and Azure Functions.

2. Backend as a Service (BaaS)

While FaaS represents the execution of application logic, BaaS is the application's backbone, providing necessary services such as databases, storage, user authentication, and more. BaaS allows developers to outsource the backend services to a cloud provider, further adhering to the serverless model. Examples of BaaS include Firebase, AWS DynamoDB, and MongoDB Atlas.

3. API Gateway
API Gateways play a crucial role in serverless applications. They act as a door that connects your serverless functions (FaaS) to the outside world. API Gateways handle request routing, composition, and protocol translation, which helps simplify the FaaS backend implementation. Examples of API Gateways include Amazon API Gateway, Microsoft Azure API Management, and Kong.

4. Event Sources
Serverless applications are event-driven. The execution of serverless functions often depends on triggering events. These events could be anything from a user clicking a button on a web page to a new file being uploaded to a cloud storage bucket.

Components of a Cloud-Native Application

Cloud-native applications are composed of multiple elements that contribute to their effectiveness. Let's delve into some of the key components:

1. Microservices Architecture

One of the cornerstones of cloud-native applications is the microservices architecture. Instead of a monolithic application structure, where all the application's functionality resides in a single instance, a microservices approach breaks the application down into small, modular components. Each microservice encapsulates a specific business functionality and can be developed, deployed, and scaled independently.

2. Containerization

Containerization is another significant aspect of cloud-native applications. Containers allow developers to package an application with its libraries and other dependencies, and ship it as one package. This ensures that the application runs quickly and reliably from one computing environment to another. Docker is one of the most well-known platforms offering containerization services.

Security Challenges

In the serverless and cloud-native landscape, we confront a unique set of security challenges:

  • Function event-data injection: Since serverless functions can be triggered by a wide range of event data, it opens up an opportunity for an attacker to inject malicious code.
  • Inadequate function monitoring and logging: In serverless architectures, functions are ephemeral, they appear and disappear which might leave a blind spot in traditional monitoring and logging practices.
  • Improper exception handling: Poorly handled exceptions can lead to a function’s runtime lingering longer than necessary, which can expose sensitive data.

Securing Serverless and Cloud-Native Applications

Given these challenges, let's explore how we can secure serverless and cloud-native applications effectively.

1. Design for least privilege
The principle of least privilege (PoLP) is a computer security concept in which a user is given the minimum levels of access necessary to complete his/her job functions. In the context of serverless, you should assign minimum privileges to your functions. Over-privileged functions can lead to malicious activities if they get compromised.

2. Employ input validation
Most serverless functions are event-driven, meaning they respond to a wide range of events, including HTTP requests, modified database entries, and more. As a consequence, input validation becomes more critical than ever. Applying rigorous input validation can help you prevent event data injection attacks.

3. Implement robust function monitoring and logging
Monitoring and logging are critical for identifying and debugging potential security issues. Solutions like AWS CloudWatch, Google Stackdriver, and Azure Monitor provide comprehensive monitoring services tailored for serverless architectures.

4. Use secret management systems
Serverless functions often need to use credentials to access other services. These secrets should not be stored in the code or configuration files. Secret management systems like AWS Secrets Manager, Azure Key Vault, and Google Secret Manager provide robust solutions to handle secrets in a secure manner.

5. Secure your CI/CD pipeline
A secure CI/CD pipeline is essential for the overall security of serverless and cloud-native applications. Incorporating security checks, like static code analysis and dependency scanning, can help identify security issues before the code is deployed.

6. Use micro-segmentation
Micro-segmentation is a security technique that enables fine-grained security policies to be assigned to data center applications, down to the workload level. This can prevent lateral movement of an attacker if one part of your application is compromised.

7. Implement secure function development practices
Adopt secure coding practices to ensure the function’s code is secure. Functions should have error and exception handling. Secure function development practices encompass a range of techniques and strategies to ensure that the serverless functions are built with security in mind right from the onset.

8. Automated Security Tests
Automate your security tests and incorporate them into your CI/CD pipeline using tools like This can include penetration testing, fuzzing, and other security tests. These tests should be run regularly and any issues should be immediately addressed.

9. Pipeline Monitoring and Pipeline Insights
Continuously monitor and audit your CI/CD pipelines. Logs should be retained for a sufficient period and should be easy to understand and track. Tools like insights with DORA metrics can help you keep an eye on your pipelines.

Embrace the Future: Secure Your Serverless and Cloud-Native Applications Today

In the rapidly evolving world of technology, security should never be an afterthought. From this blog post, it's clear that securing serverless and cloud-native applications is a complex but crucial undertaking.

By leveraging best practices and staying updated with latest trends, we can safeguard our applications and data from potential vulnerabilities. If you are ready to fortify your serverless and cloud-native applications, we invite you to take the first step today. Our team of experts is here to guide you in implementing effective security strategies that align with your unique business needs.

To get started, contact us today for a personalized consultation on securing your serverless and cloud-native applications.