Runtime Lambda Protection (Part 2) – Monitoring, Analytics and Alerts (Real-Time)

In the last blog, we discussed about how traditional defense solutions are not sufficient for protection of lambda functions and how 'protectlambda', a small utility from the 'lambdaScanner' toolkit, can be used to guard incoming as well as outgoing stream through a set of predefined rules. Please refer to (here) for more details. 

In this blog post, we are going to build over the 'protectLambda' function to set up a strong real time monitoring, analytics and alerts capability using Amazon CloudWatch. Amazon CloudWatch, a component of AWS that collects monitoring and operational data in form of logs, metrics, graphs and events, provides a unified view for AWS resources and applications running on AWS infrastructure. Moreover, CloudWatch allows to customize and set filters, triggers, alarms to troubleshoot issues and take automated actions. As shown in the below figure, all these functionalities can be leveraged to set up real time analysis of the lambda functions.

As discussed in the last blog post, we can introduce the 'protectLambda' utility for lambda functions, define a set of rules for the event stream and the outgoing stream and then monitor and track the logs for rule violations using CloudWatch. A customized dashboard can be created to monitor logs based on filters, correlate logs and metrics, view data in graphs and set alerts with CloudWatch alarms. This dashboard can then be leveraged for real time monitoring of the attacks on lambda functions and for checking how these attacks are blocked by the 'protectLambda' utility. Alarms and notifications can be configured to inform the team of attack on lambda functions and violations of pre-defined rules.

Below is an example for creating a dashboard by defining basic filters, graphs and alarms: -

1.    Setting up Metric Filters on lambda function logs

We can define filters, using the Logs Metric Filter, for specific log groups. In this case, we are creating a filter for the records logged from the 'protectLambda' function (the function added to protect the incoming and outgoing stream of the lambda functions through a set of predefined rules). The 'protectLambda' function blocks the event stream and outgoing response according to a defined regex and logs a "Violation" entry as and when it blocks something. Thus, we define a filter for the word "Violation" which will keep tracking for the word "violation" in this group of logs. This metrics can later be plotted on a graph.


2.    Build Dashboard and Graphs

The metrics from the above filter can be plotted on a graph as shown below. The graph show the number of instances of violations defended by the 'protectLambda' utility.

3.    Setup Alarms, Alerts and Notification

We can create attack notification alarms for the created metric filters as shown below. In this case, we have created an alarm for the filter 'protectLambda' which looks for the word "violation" in the selected log group.

We can define a rule where an alarm notification will be triggered as soon as we get one instance of attack in a specific window of 5 minutes.


Thus, we can see that as soon as a lambda function is attacked and 'protectLambda' defends an attack on the function we get a notification on our dashboard.


We can also configure to receive these notifications in email or on the CloudWatch mobile application as shown below.

(email notification and alert)

(mobile app)
Looking at the inbuilt capabilities of CloudWatch, there is no need to set up and create a dashboard on a different domain. The provided functionalities can be easily leveraged to monitor the lambda functions, analyse logs in real time and in turn perform the required actions depending on the analysis.