There’s a practice that is being followed in the cybersecurity world for a long time- “Constant change or evolution is the only way to keep applications safe forever”.
In the past, inter-component authentication was a hassle for many applications. Apps were required to validate themselves to different middleware and back-end components in cloud API to gain access. However, application authentication in a web API is an essential process.
The existing mechanism for validation is a static application login. But there are security issues with this method: –
- Login credentials get updated every now and then.
- It decreases the capability of a firm to check and record activities of an application.
TLS Mutual Authentication
However, one of the best ways to aid cloud API security is to introduce TLS (Transport Layer Security) mutual authentication when components or processes communicate with each other.
Let us assume that RESTful API components already uses the TLS mutual authentication technique. It asks applications to present a client certification to validate themselves. Thus, it can aid in improving the application security infrastructure strategy.
The Problem with The Traditional Process
Activities in the regular process are categorized together under one user ID according to back-end components. This classification makes it tough to find events through the entire event information that are related to an application. The situation becomes worse when you can’t find the event during a cyber-attack. Security professionals cannot differentiate between benign and harmful applications. This particular problem is prevalent since a decade and is yet unresolved.
For RESTful APIs, they are still required to validate each other and they just take the help of HTTP-aware methods to perform authentication. For instance, a hidden value is integrated with HTTP request headers to validate the requester. This process is called HTTP basic authentication. It is applied disregarding the fact whether cloud applications are in the cloud or on premises. Whether you use PaaS or IaaS, inter-component authentication is still an unresolved problem.
How TLS Helps
Basically, you need to take benefit from the features of TLS to enhance authentication mechanisms you implement. In case, if TLS is not utilized for web surfing, it backs mutual validation between peers that are transacting with each other.
The server authenticates the requestor just like a browser authenticates a remote website. The HTTP protocol is used as a transport for cloud APIs but we can still allow mutual validation between components. In TLS mutual authentication, we can particularly limit the parameters of certificates that are acceptable. It means that cloud applications just need to present specific certificates or serial number and even from specific certificate authority. Moreover, you can combine TLS method with a static hidden value or a password. Although implementing TLS mutual authentication approach in cloud does have some dependencies. Primarily, cloud API should be customizable to set up TLS mutual authentication. It means that you should have an IaaS environment so that you can modify the configuration. Otherwise, it should be a PaaS environment where you are allowed to switch on this functionality. You can take the example of cloud experts like AWS and Microsoft Azure.
Advantages Of TLS Mutual Authentication
There are some amazing benefits you can enjoy while using TLS mutual authentication. One of the most prominent advantage with TLS mutual authentication is less fuss about maintaining passwords or secret values. Using and managing passwords or static hidden values is a cumbersome task as it includes processes such as modifying passwords periodically, checking its usage, creating complex passwords, ensuring its protection etc. However, TLS mutual authentication reduces the extra hassle of maintaining passwords. Although passwords are used few times while enabling the authentication method, TLS can decrease the role of passwords in the long term.
Besides that, TLS mutual authentication uses certifications and private keys that are less portable than passwords. Therefore, even though certifications and private keys can be compromised like other digital entities, it still increases the difficulty level for hackers, at least in terms of logistics while the hacker wants to masquerade as remote API caller.
As far as monitoring of applications is concerned, TLS keeps record of components or applications that make API requests with more clarity. With passwords, it’s a complex process.
Demerits Of TLS Mutual Authentication
There are few demerits while you implement TLS mutual authentication. However, none of them should discourage you to implement the technique.
The following demerits should be taken into account to enhance the method: –
First and foremost, certificates expire. Therefore, one should always remember to reissue a certificate before it expires. In case, you forget to reissue a certificate, results can be disastrous as it’s hard to debug the problem. Ensure that you always keep a track of expiration dates of the certificates to proactively replace expired certificates.
Altogether, TLS mutual authentication is a constructive method to improve security for cloud APIs. At least, TLS mutual authentication can help security experts to assess application security on cloud.