Last year was challenging for data security. In the first nine months alone, there were 5,183 breaches reported with 7.9 billion records exposed. Compared to mid-year 2018, the total number of breaches was up 33.3 percent and the total number of records exposed more than doubled, up 112 percent.

Zero Trust Security 2019

What does this tell us? That, despite significant technology investments and advancements, security is still hard. A single phishing email, missed patch, or misconfiguration can let the bad guys in to wreak havoc or steal data. For companies moving to the cloud and the cloud-native architecture of microservices and containerized applications, it’s even harder. Now, in addition to the perimeter and the network itself, there’s a new network infrastructure to protect: the myriad connections between microservice containers.

With microservices, the surface area available for attack has increased exponentially, putting data at greater risk. Moreover, network-related problems like access control, load balancing, and monitoring that had to be solved once for a monolith application now must be handled separately for each service within a cluster.

Zero-Trust Security and Service Mesh

Security is the most critical part of your application to implement correctly. A service mesh allows you to handle security in a more efficient way by combining security and operations capabilities into a transparent infrastructure layer that sits between the containerized application and the network. Emerging today to address security in this environment is the convergence of the Zero-Trust approach to network security and service mesh technology.

Here are some examples of attacks that a service mesh can help mitigate:

  • Service impersonation
    • A bad actor gains access to the private network for your applications, pretends to be an authorized service, and starts making requests for sensitive data.
  • Unauthorized access
    • A legitimate service makes requests for sensitive data that it is not authorized to obtain.
  • Packet sniffing
    • A bad actor gains access to your applications private network and captures sensitive data from legitimate requests going over the network.
  • Data exfiltration
    • A bad actor sends sensitive data out of the protected network to a destination of their choosing.

So how can the tenets of Zero-Trust security and how a service mesh enable Zero Trust in the microservices environment? And how can Zero-Trust capabilities help organizations address and demonstrate compliance with stringent industry regulations?

Threats and Securing Microservices

Moat and Castle ApproachTraditionally, network security has been based on having a strong perimeter to help thwart attackers, commonly known as the moat-and-castle approach. With a secure perimeter constructed of firewalls, you trust the internal network by default, and by extension, anyone who’s there already. Unfortunately, this was never a reliably effective strategy. But more importantly, this approach is becoming even less effective in a world where employees expect access to applications and data from anywhere in the world, on any device. In fact, other types of threats — such as insider threats — have generally been considered by most security professionals to be among the highest threats to data protected by companies, leading to more development around new ways to address these challenges.

In 2010, Forrester Research coined the term “Zero Trust” and overturned the perimeter-based security model with a new principle: “never trust, always verify.” That means no individual or machine is trusted by default from inside or outside the network. Another Zero-Trust precept: “assume you’ve been compromised but may not yet be aware of it.” With the time to identify and contain a breach running at 279 days in 2019, that’s not an unsafe assumption.

Starting in 2013, Google began its transition to implementing Zero Trust into its networking infrastructure with much success and has made the results of their efforts open to the public in BeyondCorp. Fast forward to 2019 and the plans to adopt this new paradigm have spread across industries like wildfire, largely in response to massive data breaches and stricter regulatory requirements.

While there are myriad Zero-Trust networking solutions available for protecting the perimeter and the operation of corporate networks, there are many new miles of connections within the microservices environment that also need protection. A service mesh provides critical security capabilities such as observability to aid in optimizing MTTD and MTTR, as well as ways to implement and manage encryption, authentication, authorization, policy control and configuration in Kubernetes clusters.

Security Within the Kubernetes Cluster

While there are myriad Zero-Trust networking solutions available for protecting
the perimeter and the operation of corporate networks, there are many new miles of connections within the microservices environment that also need protection. A service mesh provides critical security capabilities such as observability to aid in optimizing MTTD and MTTR, as well as ways to implement and manage encryption, authentication, authorization, policy control and configuration in Kubernetes clusters.

Here are a few ways to approach enhancing your security with a service mesh:

  • Simplify microservices security with incremental mTLS
  • Manage identity, certificates and authorization
  • Access control and enforcing the level of least privilege
  • Monitoring, alerting and observability

A service mesh also adds controls over traffic ingress and egress at the perimeter. Allowed user behavior is addressed with with role-based access control (RBAC). With these controls, the Zero-Trust philosophy of “trust no one, authenticate everyone” stays in force by providing enforceable least privilege access to services in the mesh.

Aspen Mesh can help you to achieve a Zero-Trust security posture by applying these concepts and features. As an enterprise- and production-ready service mesh that extends the capabilities of Istio to address enterprise security and compliance needs, we also provide an intuitive hosted user interface and dashboard that make it easier to deploy, monitor, and configure these features.

Learn More About Zero-Trust Security and Service Mesh

Interested in learning more about how service mesh can help you achieve Zero-Trust security? Get the free white paper by completing the form below.