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Hackernoon logoIntroducing Microservices Security in Action by@prabath

Introducing Microservices Security in Action

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@prabathPrabath Siriwardena

The book Microservices Security in Action, which I authored with Nuwan Dias is now available to buy online from Amazon and Manning. Nuwan and I spent last 27+ months writing/re-writing the book. It was a marathon effort, but yet a great experience, and we both are very glad to see how it came out at the end! This is the story, which lead us to write the book.

While working at WSO2 for more than a decade, we’ve seen how the integration domain evolved over time from SOAP-based services to JSON/RESTful services and then to microservices. We spent most of our early days at WSO2 contributing to the Apache Axis2 project, which was a popular SOAP engine in those days, and to the Apache Rampart project, which implements many Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) standards for web services security.

Even though SOAP was quite promising in those days, it started to fade rapidly over time, and clearly JSON/RESTful services had won. Most of the microservice implementations we see today follow RESTful design principles.

In the last two to three years, we’ve seen a genuine interest from many companies we’ve worked with to move into microservices architecture, and projects starting from scratch are adopting microservices principles. Most of the early adopters of microservices just wanted to get things done, and worried mostly about implementing functional requirements. They didn’t worry too much about security, although they should have. In many cases, securing microservices would mean securing the interactions among microservices with Transport Layer Security (TLS), and may be, for some, enforcing mutual TLS for service-to-service authentication. But none of them are quite adequate. There are two main reasons many didn’t worry much about security: complexity and awareness.

Some time back, we found that most tools for securing microservices were not easy to use or couldn’t address the challenges specific to microservices deployments. This complexity was a barrier to securing microservices. At the same time, people who didn’t put much effort into security weren’t fully aware of the risks. We started hearing these stories from many of our customers as well as from the extended open source community we work with. That motivated us to write this book on securing microservices. Bringing an idea from inception to reality takes considerable time and effort.

We lived with this idea of writing a book for more than two years until Manning reached out to us. During that period, with the increased adoption of microservices, the infrastructure around microservices security also evolved.

Writing a book about a rapidly evolving domain is bit of a challenge; you never know when your book will be obsolete. After discussing this challenge with the publisher, we decided to put more weight on principles and patterns, and use tools just to demonstrate how to apply those principles and patterns in practice. This was our ground rule in picking up the technology stack for the book. We use Spring Boot / Java to develop all the samples, though we don’t expect you to know either Java or Spring Boot in detail. If you have development experience in any programming language, you should be able to follow all the samples in the book with no difficulty.

Security itself is a larger domain. Securing microservices can mean different things to different people, based on their experiences and expectations. This fact was highlighted by one of the reviewers of the book, who comes from a security testing background.

In our book, we wanted to focus on managing access to microservices. In other words, we wanted to focus on securing access to microservices with authentication and authorization. So, the book doesn’t talk about protecting microservices against different types of attacks, such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), cross-site request forgery, and so on.

After a marathon effort that spanned slightly more than two years, we are glad to see that our book on microservices security is out. We are also excited that this is the very first book on securing microservices. We hope you will enjoy reading it!

The book has five sections and 13 chapters. Part 1 takes you through the fundamentals in securing microservices:

  • Chapter 1 teaches you why securing microservices is challenging, and takes you through the key principles in securing a microservices deployment.
  • Chapter 2 teaches you how to build your first microservice in Spring Boot and secure it with OAuth 2.0. You will also learn how to set up an OAuth 2.0 token issuer.

Part 2 takes you through securing a microservice at the edge (or entry point) in a typical microservices deployment:

  • Chapter 3 takes you through the consumer landscape of your microservices and teaches you how to deploy a Spring Boot microservice behind the Zuul API gateway. You will also learn how to enforce OAuth 2.0-based security at the Zuul API gateway.
  • Chapter 4 teaches you how to develop a single-page application (SPA) with Angular. You will also learn how to secure a SPA with OpenID Connect.
  • Chapter 5 teaches you how to extend the use case you built in chapter 4 by engaging throttling, monitoring, and access control at the Zuul API gateway.

Part 3 takes you through the process of securing interactions among microservices once a request from a client application passes through the security at the edge and enters into your microservices deployment:

  • Chapter 6 teaches you how to secure communications among microservices that take place over HTTP, with mutual Transport Layer Security (mTLS).
  • In chapter 7, you learn how to share contextual data (for example, the end user context) among microservices by using JSON Web Token (JWT).
  • Chapter 8 teaches you how to secure communications among microservices that take place over gRPC, with mTLS and JWT.
  • Chapter 9 teaches you how to secure reactive microservices. It also teaches you how to set up Kafka as a message broker, and how to enforce access-control policies for Kafka topics.

Part 4 takes you through deploying and securing microservices in a containerized environment:

  • Chapter 10 teaches you how to deploy your microservices in Docker and to secure service-to-service interactions with mTLS and JWT. You also learn some of the built-in security features related to Docker.
  • Chapter 11 teaches you how to deploy your microservices as Docker containers in Kubernetes and to secure service-to-service communications with JWT over mTLS.
  • Chapter 12 teaches you how to offload the security processing overhead from your microservices by using the Istio service mesh.

Part 5 takes you through security testing in the development process:

  • Chapter 13 teaches you how to automate security testing of your microservices with SonarQube, Jenkins, and OWASP ZAP.

In general, you should be sure to read the first two chapters so that you have the right mindset to take on the challenges of securing microservices and that you’ve gotten your feet wet and are ready to build more complex security patterns, which the book teaches you. The appendices provide information on OAuth 2.0, JWT, gRPC, Docker, Kubernetes, Istio, Open Policy Agent (OPA), and SPIFFE. This information supplements the chapters.

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