Top 10 Security Risks in Serverless Architecture

icon Posted by: Praveen Joshi
icon November 18, 2022

In Brief

Serverless Architecture Gives Rise to New Security Risks

The serverless system architecture is growing in popularity and demand due to its cost-cutting quality. Businesses save a lot on their IT expenditure as it does not require any physical setup. Also, it is quite salable. You can use serverless for handling a few requests throughout the day to hundreds of thousands of requests in a second. However, the same dynamic environment is the reason behind the serverless being susceptible to a wide variety of Complex Security Risks. The code sprawl in serverless systems architecture delays the identification of vulnerabilities. As a result, they are not patched in time and eventually turn into business-level risks. Most organizations have not cracked the code on how to approach security in serverless. This also makes the security risks in a serverless architecture more prominent.

50%

or more development professionals are using serverless functions for the last three years.

$1.5

billion was the evaluation of the global serverless market in 2021.

$17.84

is the mark where the value of this market is estimated to reach by 2030.

31.1%

is the forecasted Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of the serverless systems market from 2022 to 2030.

10 Major Security Concerns in Serverless Architecture

1. Function Event-Data Injection

Injection vulnerabilities are among the most common security concerns in serverless systems. These flaws occur when untrusted input is passed directly, and the interpreter executes it. There is a wide range of event sources offered by most serverless architectures. These event sources can initiate the evaluation or execution of serverless functions. This can increase the potential attack surface of serverless functions for a wide range of event-data injections.

Some common injection vulnerabilities in serverless:

  • SQL injection
  • NoSQL injection
  • Operating System (OS) command injection
  • Pub/Sub Message Data Tampering (e.g., MQTT data injection)
  • Function runtime code injection (e.g., Node.js/JavaScript, Python, Java, C#, Golang)
  • XML External Entity (XXE)
  • Object deserialization attacks
  • Server-Side Request Forgery (SSRF)

2. Insecure Configurations

Although serverless has been around for a while now. But it is still relatively a new thing to handle for the operators working on them. It offers different customization and configuration settings for any specific need. You need to change it according to the task and environment. This predominantly increases the chance of misconfigurations which might result in security issues.

3. Broken Authentication

Serverless architecture has numerous functions, one for each specific purpose. Some of these functions might leave the web API exposed. If you do not apply a robust authentication protocol to your serverless systems in order to protect every relevant function, it might lead to unauthorized access and breaches.

4. Inadequate Monitoring and Logging of Functions

It is important to collect real-time logs from different serverless functions and cloud services. This would help you detect an intruder’s action and contain the situation instantly with better effect and efficiency. The pieces of log information you need to collect are Change reports, Authentication and authorization reports, Network activity reports, and Critical errors and failures reports. VAPT Testing can help you generate these reports from time to time.

5. Over-Privilege Function Permission

Giving access to any user more than they require can lead to data breaches and internal attacks. Therefore, it is advised to follow the principle of least privilege. There are hundreds of functions you need to define access controls for. You need a proper management system to do this task otherwise there is a huge scope for security gaps.

6. Insecure Third-Party Dependency

At last, a serverless function is a coded program to perform discrete tasks. It is dependent on a lot of third-party services and open-source libraries for carrying out various functions. This opens up a door for a variety of security risks coming from insecure third parties.

7. Unsafe Storage for Application Secrets

Applications are gradually becoming more and more complex, sophisticated, and critical with their functionalities. Therefore, it is crucial that you keep the application secrets like API keys, Database credentials, Encryption keys, and Sensitive configuration settings in a secure storage environment.

8. Denial of Service

Serverless architecture is on a pay-per-function model hosted by a service provider. Denial of service attacks is quite a possibility on these functions. AWS VPC IP addresses depletion and Financial Resource Exhaustion are the two major attack vectors to lead such an activity. In order to avoid such an incident, you need to properly define execution limits when you are deploying the serverless application in the cloud.

9.  Functions Execution Flow Manipulation

An attacker tries to manipulate the application flow to subvert the application logic, elevate user privileges or even cause Denial of Service attacks. Serverless often follows the microservices design paradigm. So, you can secure the overall application’s logic to avoid such an attack.

10. Improper Exception Handling and Verbose Error Messages

You do not get that much leverage with Line-by-line debugging services for serverless architecture. So, developers adopt verbose error messages while debugging. Later they forget to clean the code and the application goes into production. This can potentially expose the core architecture of the application along with all its weaknesses to the end user.

Before You Go!

  • The security concerns for serverless architecture are different from the conventional hardware-based one. Hence, you need a lot more than traditional VAPT Testing to secure them.
  • However, you do not need to take all the load on yourself. There are a lot of cyber security services that can help you with it.

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