Table of Contents:
Containers - Background
What is Container Security?
Container Security Solutions - Top Features
Why is Container Security Important?
Common Container Security Challenges
How to Secure Containers
Container Security Best Practices
Container Security - Mistakes to Avoid
Securing Container Infrastructure with Cloud4C

Containerized applications are all around us. Reports suggest, as of last year, more than 70% of organizations will be running more than two containerized applications. These resource-efficient, highly scalable and portable containers are increasingly becoming the go-to choice for modern software development. The numbers are predicted to only increase in 2024.

As opportunities to revamp or modernize organizations' IT architecture increases, the need for a robust security posture also increases. And Container Security is no exception. It presents unique challenges compared to traditional security methods, given the heightened complexity and dynamism of the container environment. Prompting a crucial question - “How can I guarantee the safety and security of my digital assets on containers?” That is exactly what we will discuss in this blog. Let us dive in.

Containers A Background Check

Initially inspired by shipping containers that standardize cargo transportation, the concept of encapsulating applications within self-contained units gained great traction. However, it wasn't until Docker popularized container technology around 2013 that containerization became a mainstream solution for modern application development and deployment.

Around 2016, with the wide adoption of container-based applications, systems became more complex and risks for attacks increased. This laid the groundwork for container security. A shift left strategy was implemented along the software development lifecycle, making it a key part of each stage in container app development, also known as DevSecOps. The goal was to build secure containers from the ground up without reducing time to market. 2017 was when container security tools really started maturing, and till date continue to improve the way organizations secure their containerized environments - now offering advance solutions for vulnerability scanning, runtime protection, access control, compliance monitoring and more.

To know more about Containers and Container Management services, head to our blog on: Container Management: A Short Guide

What is Container Security?

Container security involves safeguarding containerized applications and their infrastructure against potential risks throughout their lifecycle - spanning from development through deployment and runtime. Container security aims to mitigate risks such as unauthorized access, data breaches, malware infections, and service disruptions, thereby enabling organizations to leverage the benefits of containerization while minimizing security threats. The process of securing containers is continuous.

The container orchestrator, particularly Kubernetes, is pivotal when it comes container security, providing valuable contextual data for enhanced visibility and compliance. For instance, Kubernetes' network policies enable controlled pod-to-pod communication, reducing the impact of potential attacks.

Container Security Solutions: Key Features

Container security solutions should provide the following core features:

Container Security Solutions: Key Features

Why is Container Security Important?

Just like VMs, containers can be compromised through various attacks or left vulnerable through misconfigurations or unpatched components.

A common reason for attacking containers today is to abuse compute resources, for example, for cryptocurrency mining. Attackers could also try to escape the container to get to the node, which can give numerous attack opportunities, including a chance to propagate to other nodes in the cluster. If a malicious actor compromises a container and receives the privileged “Container escape” access, they could potentially access information running even in the other containers.

The good news is - you can proactively increase your container security, by:

Shifting left: To avoid friction issues between teams, it is important to bring in security into the process at the earliest build stages.

Securing containers from build to runtime: Container security management doesn't end with deployment. Monitoring running containers in production is critical due to their ephemeral nature

Leveraging the right tools: What is the right mix for integrating continuous security and monitoring into container environments? Determine where and at what cadence security should integrate into the containerized process.

Common Container Security Challenges

  • Lack of expertise in how to build secure containers.
  • Visibility is a significant challenge in container environments, it can create blind spots in security monitoring.
  • Security teams need to identify each vulnerability as a higher or lower risk based on its potential impact, thus proper evaluation is crucial.
  • Multi-tenancy in containerized deployments.
  • Compliance with industry standards and regulatory requirements.

Top 5 Steps to Secure Containers

Container users need to ensure they have purpose-built, full-stack security to address vulnerability management, compliance, runtime protection, and network security requirements. Here's what can be done:

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1) Container Network Security

Container network security proactively minimizes unwanted communication, and prevents threats from attacking your apps via a multitude of strategies. Micro-segmentation, access control, and encryption are critical components of network security.

2) Container Runtime Security

Cloud-native runtime security identifies new vulnerabilities in running containers and protects the application against them. Organizations that use containers should leverage enhanced runtime protection to establish behavioral baselines upon which anomaly detection relies.

3) Container Register Security

Getting security into the container build phase means shifting left instead of reacting at runtime. During the build phase, security should be focused on removing vulnerabilities, malware, and insecure code.

4) Container Orchestration Security

This process implements appropriate access control measures to mitigate risks from overprivileged accounts, network attacks, and unauthorized lateral movement. By utilizing identity access management (IAM) and least-privileged access, security teams can ensure that users only execute commands based on appropriate roles.

5) Host Operating System (OS) Security

The OS that hosts the container environment is perhaps the most important layer in terms of security. An attack that compromises the host environment may allow intruders access to all other areas in your stack. That is why hosts need to be scanned for vulnerabilities and protected from weak access controls (Docker commands, SSH commands, pseudo commands, and so on).

Container Security Best Practices

Create Immutable Containers

Immutable infrastructure is a paradigm in which servers are never modified after deployment and can only be rebuilt. If there is an increase in defects or vulnerabilities in containers, developers can rebuild and redeploy them.

Regularly Scan the Container Base

In a CI/CD environment, vulnerabilities can arise at any time. When deployments and updates are released regularly, a security team must be able to detect or spot every possible vulnerability. Regular scanning to identify vulnerabilities is imperative to a container security management program.

Secure Code and Its Dependencies

Even after positive tests and passes, issues may still arise during post-deployment testing. That is why it is critical to use a solution that includes a consistent set of security checks across the entire CI/CD pipeline. This allows teams to address misconfigurations and policy violations without delaying deployment.

Establish Guardrails for Container Orchestration

If a company is going to invest in container infrastructure, it is best to secure it up to the application layer and establish guidelines for how the containers will be provisioned. Monitoring containers and tracking critical container events in real time can help to improve application performance. It is also a good practice to leverage real-time performance monitoring and analytics such as CPU, memory, and network usage for all running containers.

Include Containers in the Broader IAM Strategy

Like other cloud resources, containers and the processes that run within them are assigned roles/permissions that need to be tracked and managed with an identity and access management (IAM) plan, preferably following least privilege access (LPA).

Keep Containers Lightweight

Usually, containers are lighter than virtual machines (VMs). While running containers, it is possible to load too many packages, but lightweight containers should be chosen for more reliability.

Container Security Mistakes to Avoid

  • Forgetting basic security hygiene - For example, keeping your systems patched and updated—whether an operating system, container runtimes, or other tools—remains an important tactic.
  • Failing to configure and strengthen container tools and environments - Good container and orchestration tools—just like many cloud platforms—come with significant security capabilities. However, you must configure them for your particular environments to reap full benefits—default settings will not suffice.
  • Inability to monitor, log data, and test - This is a significant risk that some teams fail to recognize. It is particularly relevant for highly distributed systems that run across multiple cloud environments and on-premises infrastructure to minimize unknown vulnerabilities and other blind spots.
  • Not securing all phases of the CI/CD pipeline - Another potential shortcoming in your container security strategy is ignoring other elements of your software delivery pipeline. A “shift left” philosophy, prioritizing security as early as possible and consistently applying tools and policies can help.

To expedite adoption and swiftly capitalize on the advantages of containers, many technology leaders are turning to container management service providers.

Securing Container Infrastructure: Cloud4C's End-to-End Solutions

According to reports, 94% of container users are concerned about container security, among those 71% predicted that container breach incidents are likely to increase in the future. It is imperative to manage containers end to end, this is where Cloud4C steps in.

We recognize the significance of container security and provide top-tier containerization and managed security services. Our cutting-edge technology stack ensures proactive deployment with built-in monitoring and enterprise-grade security. Backed by a dedicated team of 2000 experts available round-the-clock, we prioritize risk mitigation and performance optimization. Our services include end-to-end security for microservices containers and host systems, integrating cutting-edge security tools, continuous monitoring, container scanning, and CI/CD pipeline solutions. Additionally, we also conduct comprehensive security audits, vulnerability assessments, and compliance checks, along with efficient risk and incident management, data modernization, DevOps, security, disaster recovery (DR), and much more.

Is your container infrastructure secure enough? Don't know? We can find out.

Contact us to know more!

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Team Cloud4c
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Team Cloud4c

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