4 Security Risks Plaguing Container Development

Here are four of the most common security risks developers need to consider in their app development and deployments for containers and Kubernetes

It is very risky for businesses to unveil an application without first making sure it passes a thorough security assessment. To increase agility, which is one of the main benefits of containers and Kubernetes, companies must have a renewed focus on security.

Enhanced feature velocity and quick application development are both key benefits to containerization. But when cybersecurity is not emphasized, they can also both come at the cost of sacrificing agility. This is why you must incorporate security in the development as well as the building phase to adequately address all potential challenges and avoid a potential security headache.

According to a survey conducted by Security Boulevard, 90% of respondents last year had security breaches within their Kubernetes environment. Furthermore, nearly half of respondents also reported that security issues have prevented their app from being deployed in a timely manner. These statistics underscore the renewed importance of security in DevOps and how vulnerabilities can negatively affect agility.

Understanding Security Risks

To avoid this pitfall, it is absolutely vital for app developers to never forget about the importance of security while developing and building their apps. In this article, we will talk about the top four most common security incidents and how to avoid them. Companies and organizations must be proactive in addressing these potential problems to avoid a costly delay in launching their new applications.

Exposures From Misconfigurations

This is one of the worst and most common security risks for Kubernetes environments. Configuration management can prove a big obstacle for security-focused app developers, especially when deploying containerized apps with Kubernetes.

There are many proven tools used for testing for vulnerabilities in container images, such as dynamic application security testing that uses a crawling feature to scan for vulnerabilities while your applications are running. However, configuration management is a little more nuanced. Pay heed to how you are utilizing images in your application and avoid non-essential third-party software when possible. This makes your security risks even worse, and especially if the image is pulled from an unverified source.

Make sure to utilize a secrets management tool and avoid baking in secrets unless they are absolutely necessary. Namespaces are also vital to ensure that if there is a security breach, the impact is limited and the attack is contained.

It’s also best to follow the principle of least privilege, especially when it comes to runtime privileges. This means that any module in a computing environment can only access information, resources or functions that are necessary for it to complete its necessary tasks.

Another pivotal cybersecurity control is network policies that can act as a roadblock for a would-be hacker. Be sure to have visibility to use and configure persistent storage as this is one of the only vectors in a Kubernetes and container environment.

Artificial intelligence-based automated configuration management is ideal to avoid these scenarios to eliminate the risk of human error. These kinds of measures are critical for protecting data that would otherwise be at risk, and since nearly 80% of data professionals agree that AI-based measures will have the greatest impact on security in the future, it’s reasonable to expect that such measures will become standard procedure over the upcoming years.

Finally, configuring your control-plane component is a must if you are running your own Kubernetes clusters. They control a cluster’s operations, and a breach in this component could prove to create a huge vulnerability for the entire cluster.

Runtime Threats

This phase is arguably the most important for ensuring the security of your containers because it has unique and serious security challenges. Aside from complications that can arise from misconfigurations, external threats can play an important role during runtime. Thankfully, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself from security risks.

Pay attention to process activity and network communication with containerized services by monitoring runtime activity. Using the build, anticipate the activity you expect to see during runtime so you can more easily pick up on red flags. You can use the anticipated activity to limit superfluous network communications and provide only the connections needed to handle the traffic for your application.

Consider creating a checklist by monitoring runtime and making note of all processes that are executed during normal application. You can use this as a point of reference to see what kind of activity is normal for your application, and which activity might be deemed suspicious.

Compliance Audit Failure

Hopefully, if you’ve followed all these tips, you won’t have to worry about a failed compliance audit. The following compliance standards are geared toward containers and Kubernetes: the CIS Benchmark for Kubernetes, CIS Benchmark for Docker and the NIST SP 800-190. There are also standards specific to industries, such as HIPAA compliant hosting or PCI-DSS 2 encryption standards. We cannot stress this enough: Always consider compliance requirements in the early stages of app development.

Don’t wait until your app is in production. According to a recent study by Hewlett Packard, 20% of developers did not conduct security testing until they reached the DevOps process, and nearly as many admitted to not using any security strategies at all before the application delivery stage.

Vulnerability Management Failure

Privilege escalation, cryptomining or similar malware installations and host access are common problems that come with known vulnerabilities. It’s important to make sure your app can avoid issues with malware to project user data.

Ideally, managing vulnerabilities should span the entire container lifespan. App developers must identify potential vulnerabilities in images and avoid utilizing these during production. Builds should be rejected that contain certain fixable vulnerabilities. Using custom-made or third-party admission controllers in Kubernetes clusters can prevent the scheduling of vulnerable container images.

Virtual private networks (VPNs) can also play a crucial role in ensuring container security as well. VPNs build a secure connection between servers and computers to anonymize your containers using double data encryption protocols, which will keep the conversation your container has with the server itself masked to reduce potential security gaps.

Conclusion

Reducing security risks from Kubernetes and containers will help increase agility for your application’s development. Understanding how images are built and their vulnerabilities, how infrastructure and workloads are configured, maintaining high visibility and focusing on compliance from the beginning are vital to creating a secure application.

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Gary Stevens

Gary Stevens is a technical copywriter and a front-end developer focused on the open-source/software community.

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