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What kind of security techniques and tools are most useful for securing microservices?

What is Microservices?

In simple terms, microservices are processes for developing software applications where the application is made up of integrated services. Each microservice is deployable and runs a unique process. They connect through a well-defined mechanism to serve business goals. A microservice tries to address a single concern, like a data search, a logging function, or a web service function. Hence, such an approach increases flexibility in certain ways. For instance, it helps in updating the code of a single function freely and redeploying the rest of the microservices architecture.

A typical Microservice Architecture involves Clients, Identity Providers Gateway, Messaging Formats, Database, Static Content, Management, and Service Discovery.

To protect microservices, the following techniques and tools are put into place:

  • Most of the microservices support internal API and are not visible to external agents. Suppose anyone tries to break the API (which is a framework through which developers can interact with web applications). In that case, they can only get limited access to HTTP.
  • Domain boundaries are secured through role-based authentication. The security starts from the database tier to Application API with precise role functions of who can access, deploy and scale.
  • Ensuring standard protocol for accessing control in the API architecture, such as tokens, certificates, and networks using open-source cloud platforms like cloud foundry and Kubernetes.
  • The erstwhile secure socket layer (SSL) with its new version TLS (transport layer security) are cryptogenic protocols that allow communications security over computer networks. API gateway keys allow access to application developers to get access to API. Similarly, IP whitelisting is another security feature that allows only trusted users to access or create a list of the trusted IP address. API gateways are a commonly used solution in microservice security.
  • A regular security scan helps to plug a leak. Also, when designing with developers and architects, one must think about security at the outset. A single point entry with an API gateway and security platforms in place is the best option.
  • Apart from application security, API security is equally important. Here ID becomes critical, and the need to integrate different layers, such as onboarding and to authorize access, becomes essential.
  • APIs govern Microservices architecture. Developers use them as contracts on what microservices can do and what they cannot. Therefore, it is easier for central IT to manage and govern microservices as their SLA (Service level agreement) is managed through API gateways. As API gateways act as a proxy for microservices, they ensure the right balance between IT governance and domain flexibility.
  • If one is running microservices, then SELinux (Security-Enhanced Linux) is a must thing to do. It’s a security architecture for Linux systems, and it allows administrators to have better control over anyone who can access a system. It also prevents a program from running anything on the system that is not relevant. This narrows the options for an attacker to compromise the container and make them helpless. Knowing how to use SELinux is vital as any production workload container, and its dependent container would need regular tests and updates.
  • The SSO (Single sign-on) authentication scheme allows users to log in with a single ID and password for multiple applications linked to microservices. When designing projects with several services like serving data and web applications such as serving HTML, many developers find microservices as a good option and perfect fit. There can be several approaches to implementing SSO. One can authenticate only once to access all applications and different services. There are two ways to approach such as
  1. Adding an Identity service and application would ensure that any service that has protected resources will interact with Identity service to ensure that its credentials are valid. If they are not, then it will redirect the user for authentication.
  2. Implement and OpenID and have each service handle its own identities. This means that a user needs to authorize a service or application individually. Still, after that, it will be SSO only.

The problem is that developers focus so much on application modernization for businesses and thus try to have a security model which suits the existing system. This is not the correct approach, as any current vulnerability will remain overlooked. Another way for double protection or encryption would be to use the JWT (JSON web token) technique for an SSO between a custom application and another application.

  • Integrating static application security testing into the inbuilt process works better for microservices. This will enhance the existing security process, and at the same time help in detecting the risks clearly once the application is deployed.
  • The security technique's efficiency depends on the environment and the tools that a microservice is deployed in. Another way is to ensure full disc encryption, authorizing, and automating. Security is further enhanced when both architecture and encryption ensure security compliance from an audit point of view. Documentation, auditing, and certifying security process are to ensure that everything is locked down for PCI, ISO, and other compliance requirements.


Securing microservices means working in coordination with architects, engineers, and information security. Regular code reviews and static analysis are required for reports highlighting the patterns and proofs that predict attacks. As one manages microservices with smaller team responsibilities, a supply chain approach to delivery with proper role-based access controls is also feasible.

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