How Can Container Security Be Enhanced?

container security

Experts believe security must not be an afterthought, especially with containers and should be at each step if you have CI/CD workflows. 

With the widespread adoption of DevOps, containers and container management solutions are becoming the prime components of an enterprise. Containers are being adopted not only by applications developers but also by data scientists to effectively manage their workflows while working on various projects. 

Yet, 94 % of security professionals are concerned about container security, vulnerable containers running in production, according to a report. And many of them do not even have visibility into container image security. For this reason, most experts believe security must not be an afterthought, especially with containers and security should be at each step if you have CI/CD workflows. 

Container security safeguards the software integrity of containers and encompasses all the way from apps it holds to the infrastructure they depend on. According to Red Hat, container security is about securing the container pipeline and the application, securing the container deployment environment(s) and infrastructure, and integrating with enterprise security tools and meeting or improving existing security policies.

Why Containers Security Is Critical

Containers provide a straightforward approach to easily create, deploy and run applications by packaging individual dependencies like libraries, data files, and more into one package. However, unlike virtual machines, it doesn’t contain operating (OS) system images as it works on top of engines that work on OS. Therefore, to deploy, manage, and scale, it relies on the orchestrator like Kubernetes. 

This orchestrator consists of various components such as API server that interacts with other applications to create or distribute containers, thereby providing authority to users for controlling containers. As a result, this becomes a preferred target for hackers to breach into containers. Cloud can do great things but so can the attacker, if an attacker gets your credentials, they can own your entire environment in seconds. Protecting cloud APIs becomes critical. Since attackers are devising new strategies for penetrating into containers to take control of the entire cluster, consider these steps to fortify cyberattacks.

Source: Docker

Scanning The Images

The supply chain begins with the developers who are creating the container images and then pushing them to the container registry. With Docker Enterprise, for example, you get Docker Trusted Registry, which comes with two important security capabilities, scanning and cryptographically signing the images. Those two steps are important because you only want to run trusted images in your enterprise, and not those that may contain vulnerability of any sort. Also, you can make sure that only signed trusted images on a container platform are executed and deployed in the enterprise. Scan your containers and images, including your base images (particularly if they are used prior to checking for vulnerabilities. Use a private or trusted registry and sign your container images. For continuous vulnerability management, ensure that the solution you are leveraging can use both signatures and behaviour based technologies. 

Access And Authorisation

Determining the flow of data across the environment is crucial for drastically reducing the risk of unauthorised access. One needs to understand the operating state of applications to lock down the access and ensure the security of containers.

Many companies have been a victim of configuration failure of containers as well as vulnerabilities in the past. This allowed hackers to access several components of the containers like API servers. Container security should be able to integrate with existing CI/CD orchestration solutions, with plugins for solutions like Jenkins. Container security solutions should also be able to give you a very detailed set of APIs so you can leverage the information as you see fit. This will ensure all information can flow seamlessly into your Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tool. 

Besides, protecting the gateways through access control to sensitive clusters of data will avoid data leaks and unintentional exposure of information. Thus, evaluating the requirements of data is essential to secure the environment. The Center for Internet Security (CIS) reports on Kubernetes, and Docker states that access control, proper configuration, and protecting cluster components are three top container security considerations. You can also find the right container security solution, including Twistlock, Qualys, Tenable, Aqua and more. Choosing the right solution that works for your DevSecOps stack is crucial.

Security While Delivering Bespoke Solution

Based on the solution the company is providing, it should apply various compliance measures for applications’ security. Organisations must keep in mind the industry they are offering solutions to, customers who operate the applications, and type of data they handle. Firms should be sceptical of the way the applications work in different industries and plan accordingly. For instance, if they are catering to the healthcare industry, applying HIPAA compliance controls for obtaining high-level security of data, and in turn, the containers. 

Leverage compliance and vulnerability management agents or credentialed scans on your hosts or Kubernetes nodes so you can get proper visibility even if they are deployed automatically by your cloud provider. Organisations should also adopt the strategy of “least privilege” and “need to know” by leveraging proper access control, particularly when it comes to privilege access on your container hosts and container orchestration solutions. You can also leverage control groups and namespaces to segment your container deployments. 

Containers Visibility

One of the most vital aspects of any cybersecurity architecture is gaining visibility for your assets. When it comes to containers, existing solutions are usually blind and only see your hosts and their existing processes. Instead, select a solution that can provide a complete inventory of your containers, container images and hosts. Hosts run your container, and if a bad actor were to gain control of one, it could control (and damage) your entire container stack. Get solutions that can monitor rogue containers by looking at signatures and image drifts. Don’t forget to monitor your Docker Swarm and Kubernetes slaves and masters.

A great dashboard can allow you to consolidate your container inventory, container images, access control, logs and your compliance and vulnerability management. Getting visibility on what OS, libraries and processes are running on your containers is critical so you can monitor your drifts and rogue software. Most solutions will allow you to correlate and consolidate your container logs, giving you the necessary visibility. Ensure that the solution can ingest your containers’ metadata so you can search or filter your container inventory by labels or tags.

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Vishal Chawla
Vishal Chawla is a senior tech journalist at Analytics India Magazine and writes about AI, data analytics, cybersecurity, cloud computing, and blockchain. Vishal also hosts AIM's video podcast called Simulated Reality- featuring tech leaders, AI experts, and innovative startups of India.

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