The purpose of container security is to protect containerized environments, which are much more complex than traditional workloads. Production environments deploy massive amounts of containers. Security experts and administrators need to secure more components in a containerized environment than they would in traditional deployments.
Container security involves the implementation and maintenance of security controls that protect containers and the underlying infrastructure. Integrating security into the development pipeline can help ensure that all components are secured from the initial development phase and until the end of their lifecycle.
In this article, you’ll learn about the following container security best practices:
You’ll also learn about:
Containers offer many advantages, but also pose certain security challenges that can be difficult to overcome. Perhaps the most noticeable security challenge is the larger attack surface containers create, as opposed to traditional workloads, because of the large number of containers based on many different underlying images, each of which can have vulnerabilities.
Another key issue is the underlying kernel architecture shared by containers. Securing the host is not enough to ensure protection. You also need to maintain secure configurations to limit container permissions and ensure proper isolation between containers.
Because containerized environments are highly dynamic, containerized workloads also pose visibility challenges. This is because traditional monitoring tools may not be able to see which containers are running, what they are running, or scrutinize their network behavior. It is critical to improve visibility as much as possible to ensure timely remediation and prevent breaches.
Container images are used to create containers. A misconfiguration or malicious activity in container images can introduce vulnerabilities into containers deployed in production. To ensure the health of your containerized workloads and applications, you need to secure container images. Here are several ways to do this:
Container images are usually stored in private or public registries. It is critical to secure these registries to ensure all team members and collaborators are using images that are as free of vulnerabilities as possible. Here are several ways to secure container registries:
Here are several methods that can help you secure your deployments:
Here are several best practices that can help you secure runtime:
Containers are designed to be ephemeral and lightweight. They are not supposed to be used like servers. You should not constantly add files to the container or update only every couple of weeks or months. This approach can weaken your security posture because, essentially, you are creating a larger attack surface that is not maintained on a regular basis.
You should strive to minimize the number of components in each container and keep all containers as thin as possible. This approach can help reduce the attack surface. Additionally, when identifying vulnerabilities in standard images, you should quickly resolve the issue and then deploy a new, clean container.
Container orchestration platforms, like Kubernetes, provide native security capabilities. However, these controls are not enough to ensure the security and health of containerized applications. A particular challenge is ensuring that none of the third-party software components included in the workload contain critical vulnerabilities.
Containers can be vulnerable to rogue processes, which may be able to bypass isolation and gain unauthorized access to other containers and container images. If a container image includes a vulnerability, it may be deployed in applications. Additionally, misconfigured permissions might multiply these issues.
You can mitigate security risks by using container security tools, which can help you manage access, test security, and protect your infrastructure. You can employ tools that help you gain visibility into activity across your containerized applications. Testing features can help you develop security policies, simulate attacks from common threat sources, and discover zero-day vulnerabilities.
Containerized workloads are highly dynamic. One container image often has multiple running instances. Additionally, new images and new versions are deployed at a high-paced speed. Issues can, therefore, quickly propagate across multiple containers and applications. This is why it is highly critical to identify these issues quickly and remediate each issue at the source.
Containerized workloads require a granular level of monitoring, to provide visibility for IT and security teams into elements running inside the environment.
Monitoring tools enable seamless container security and operations. They help identify anomalous behaviors and respond to events in a timely and appropriate manner. For example, the timely identification of a faulty image can ensure that admins quickly fix it and rebuild all relevant containers using the new image.
To maintain security, you should implement security practices and tools that can help you achieve observability for the following components:
Related content: Read our guide to Docker container monitoring
Calico Enterprise and Calico Cloud offer the following unique features for container security: