Hacking Your Way Through Microservice Architecture

Sudip Sengupta Hacker Noon profile picture

Solution Architect | Technical Content Writer

With an emerging pattern of organizations embracing the DevOps framework, adopting Microservice Architecture is steadily gaining the respect it deserves. 

While DevOps eliminate organizational silos by enabling efficient collaboration, streamlining workflow integration, and automating application delivery. Microservice Architecture acts as an essential enabler to achieve a DevOps model by distributing an application into multiple deployable services. Microservices work as autonomous applications, decoupled from each other, and can be built, scaled, and deployed independently. This lets teams comprehend the application architecture easily and speed up delivery pipelines.

The above image shows a typical application broken down into a set of microservices. Each of these services are essentially miniature applications hosted on individual containers, while communicating with each other through a Service Proxy. Any external entity(depicted in Green), be it a user or an external service, would access the application (through a secured API Gateway) as a whole rather than an individual microservice. 

Apparently, the benefits of a Microservices based DevOps model are a dime a dozen. But then, there are challenges in maintaining a Microservice Architecture too. Specifically, dealing with an elaborate security implementation. 

Vulnerabilities within a Microservice Architecture

Microservices are considered to be four times more vulnerable than traditional monolithic applications. Due to its distributed structure, each service API and network layer expose susceptible entry points to potential attack vectors. 

Microservices are uniquely orchestrated using a broad range of tools when compared to a monolithic framework. Usually, such tools rely on pre-built repositories, open-source code, and containers with/without validated security protocols. With extensive usage of third-party unpatched libraries within each of those containers, implementing a security strategy gets complicated, thereby increasing overall risk. Additionally, as microservices are containerized applications in its core, a single compromised container enables attack vectors to replicate the hack across a wider surface quickly.

Typically service calls are secured by implementing an API gateway, which acts as the single entry point to receive a call and then route traffic onto different services. This approach of having a single entry point through authentication has its own merits and demerits. Theoretically, an API gateway limits the attack surface; however, it also turns out to be a single point of failure for potential attack vectors. Recent research also suggests that most traditional attack vectors target an application through API calls.

Image Source: https://docs.microsoft.com/Additionally, monitoring of microservices is considered as a critical aspect in maintaining security within a microservice framework. The absence of an efficient load balancing and

application monitoring worsens an organization's combat position in isolating threats and negating a quick quarantine. Effective monitoring for microservices is crucial to be administered across all layers, including API Payload, query strings, cookies, and HTTP headers.