Cloud Native Application Design – Infrastructure Security

When talking about security in the cloud, we can broadly categorize it into the following three areas.

  • Infrastructure Security
  • Application Security
  • Data Security

Infrastructure Security

Infrastructure security is about making sure that the infrastructure we are using is accessed only by authorized personnel. This is about both physical and virtual access. An important aspect when it comes to cloud security is understanding that it is a shared responsibility of the public cloud provider and development team.

  • Physical security: At the lowest level of security, one needs to consider the fact that physical machines can be accessed and tampered with. This is more possible when we have on-premise hardware infrastructure than on the cloud. But even when one is choosing a cloud platform, it makes sense to understand and question the level of physical security implemented by the cloud service provider to avoid any unauthorized access. This aspect is handled by the cloud service providers as part of shared responsibility.
  • Virtual access to infrastructure/ Role-based access (RBAC): The next level of access is someone gaining virtual access to the machines manually, programmatically, or through malware. Role-based access to make sure only authorized personnel or code can access data, having security groups and firewalls in place, and making sure security patches and antivirus definitions are always updated can help mitigate this threat.
  • Use Virtual Networks: Create Virtual Networks to group together resources needed by an application. For example, if a service API can only be accessed by an API gateway or a database should only be accessed by a particular microservice, we can make sure these components are in a virtual network and cannot be accessed from the outside world.
  • Manual Errors/ Infrastructure as a Code: A misconfiguration causing a VM exposed through unwanted open ports can be another problem. Implementing infrastructure as a code where automated scripts are responsible for creating and maintaining infrastructure can be helpful in avoiding manual errors.
  • Storage/ Data Access: Who can access a service or a filesystem or a database? What kind of access is required? How can the resources be accessed? One needs to answer these questions before getting started with the application development process. Role-based access is an important tool that can help architects making sure proper security. For example, a user or an application might just need read access on the file system or database, then rules should not allow any read or update access.
  • Audit Tracing: Most cloud service providers allow you to see any changes being done on infrastructure. You can monitor which resources were updated by whom and when. This is an important tool for teams to keep a track of changes.