Serverless Users Not Adopting Application Security Best Practices
June 28, 2018

More than a third of companies that use serverless functions are not employing any application security best practices and are not using any tools or standard security methodologies to secure them, according to the State of Serverless Security survey, conducted by PureSec.

35% of companies that responded to the survey told PureSec they had no security guidelines or tools for securing their serverless code, potentially exposing the functions to a variety of application-level attacks.

Those companies who do use tools or security best practices to help secure their serverless often used multiple solutions including static code analysis (77%) and manual penetration testing (72%) to detect vulnerabilities, but mostly don't employ any kind of runtime protection that could prevent attacks in real time.

The survey revealed a mixed picture when it comes to security posture for companies using cutting-edge serverless platforms like AWS Lambda, Microsoft Azure Functions and Google Cloud Functions. On the one hand, almost half of the responses to the survey (48%) said they want more security visibility into their serverless apps. Companies with only a few serverless functions were more likely to be satisfied with security visibility, while those with more functions were much less comfortable. At present, there is limited visibility into serverless functions across the board, which is a consequence of abstracting away the environment and the lack of real-time application-layer security monitoring solutions.

Despite this, though, companies are largely confident in the security of their serverless apps. 76% say they are confident or very confident in the "resilience of their serverless applications to cyber attacks". Security confidence was correlated with security testing; companies that test more were more likely to be confident in their security.

There was significant confusion over who in a company should "own" serverless application security, with answers roughly evenly choosing developers, DevSecOps, DevOps, AppSec and Security Engineers. In part, this could reflect different companies' broader internal security practices, but it does suggest a lack of clarity on who should be in charge of security of pure code when there's no clear infrastructure to secure or to deploy application security solutions on.

However, no respondents said that application security was the responsibility of the cloud provider, reflecting an awareness that serverless application security is ultimately the responsibility of the application owner rather than the cloud provider as part of the "shared responsibility model."

Companies are using serverless computing for varied purposes. Almost two-thirds (65%) of companies said they used serverless for cloud automation tasks that might previously have been handled by scripts, while 45% said they deployed serverless as the back-end for running web sites. Other popular uses included data processing (38%) and as providing back-end services for mobile applications (35%).

"Many software companies quickly switched to serverless computing and are using it in diverse and creative ways, from websites to chatbots to the Internet of Things," commented PureSec CEO and co-founder Shaked Zin. "Serverless is so versatile it's easy to quickly create and deploy functions without fully thinking about the security implications."

"The security paradigm is different for serverless applications," added PureSec CTO and co-founder Ory Segal. "Serverless functions exist in the cloud, outside of a company's "wall" of traditional security solutions. Cloud providers do an excellent job of securing the underlying infrastructure, but companies still have responsibility for the code itself."

About the Survey: The online survey conducted in April and May questioned 304 technology professionals to get an understanding of a fast-emerging market.

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