Cloud-native applications now consist of loosely coupled components (microservices), with all application services (e.g., authentication, authorization, load balancing, etc.) provided through a dedicated infrastructure (service mesh) independent of the application code. The requirements of the authorization service in this environment are: (a) to build the concept of zero trust by enabling all authorizations for every interaction to be based on the identity of the user, service, or device irrespective of the location or nature of the requesting service and (b) a robust access control mechanism based on an expressive access control model such as Attribute-based Access Control (ABAC) that can be used to express a wide set of policies and is scalable in terms of the user base, objects (resources), and deployment environment.
NIST announces the publication of NIST Special Publication (SP) 800-204B, Attribute-based Access Control for Microservices-based Applications using a Service Mesh. Its purpose is to provide guidance for building an ABAC-based deployment within the service mesh that meets the requirements stated above. The security assurance provided by the deployment, the supporting infrastructure needed, and the advantages of the Next Generation Access Control (NGAC), the ABAC model representation developed at NIST that is used in the deployment are also discussed.