Understanding the Lambda execution environment - AWS Lambda

Understanding the Lambda execution environment

When your functions are invoked, the Lambda service runs your code inside an execution environment. Lambda scrubs the memory before it is assigned to an execution environment. Execution environments are run on hardware virtualized virtual machines (MicroVMs) which are dedicated to a single AWS account. Execution environments are never shared across functions and MicroVMs are never shared across AWS accounts. This is the isolation model for the Lambda service:


            security ops figure 1

A single execution environment may be reused by subsequent function invocations. This helps improve performance since it reduces the time taken to prepare and environment. Within your code, you can take advantage of this behavior to improve performance further, by caching locally within the function or reusing long-lived connections. All of these invocations are handled by a single process, so any process-wide state (such as static state in Java) is available across all invocations within the same execution environment.

There is also a local file system available at /tmp for all Lambda functions. This is local to each function but shared across invocations within the same execution environment. If your function must access large libraries or files, these can be downloaded here first and then used by all subsequent invocations. This mechanism provides a way to amortize the cost and time of downloading this data across multiple invocations.

While data is never shared across AWS customers, it is possible for data from one Lambda function to be shared with another invocation of the same function. This may be intended, when used for caching common values or sharing libraries. However, if you have information only intended for a single invocation, you should:

  • Ensure that data is only used in a local variable scope.

  • Delete any /tmp files before exiting, and use UUID naming to prevent different instances from accessing the same temporary files.

  • Ensure that any callbacks are complete before exiting.

For applications requiring the highest levels of security, you may also implement your own memory encryption and wiping process before a function exits.

At the function level, the Lambda service does not inspect or scan your code, and using Lambda does not fundamentally change how you should approach securing your code. Many of the best practices in security for software development continue to apply in serverless software development.

The security posture of an application is determined by the use-case but developers should always take precautions against common risks such as misconfiguration, injection flaws, and handling user input. Developers should be familiar with common security concepts and security risks, such as those listed in the OWASP Top 10 Web Application Security Risks and the OWASP Serverless Top 10. The use of static code analysis tools, unit tests, and regression tests are still valid in a serverless compute environment.

To learn more, read Amazon Web Services: Overview of Security Processes, Compliance validation for AWS Lambda, and Security Overview of AWS Lambda.