Container technology is one of the best ways to ensure that your apps and services run great everywhere, all of the time. Unfortunately, not all businesses that could be making use of containers are making use of containers — and cybersecurity is one of the biggest reasons why not.
The upside to this is that businesses can mitigate the cybersecurity risks associated with container tech by investing in tools that will secure their organization.
To be clear, tools are not a fix-all solution. However, they can play an important role in strengthening the security processes and procedures that businesses put into place when using container technology.
What are the security risks of container technology?
Before covering the benefits of container security tools and how to pick the right tools for your business, let's start by looking at the specific risks involved with container tech.
Generally speaking, all container cybersecurity risks can be divided into two categories:
- Compromise of a container image (or the container as a whole). This is a localized threat that can impact anything connected to or being propped up by your container, such as services and workflows associated with your business.
- Misuse of a container to attack other containers. This sort of risk occurs whenever a bad actor abuses one container, using it as a vessel to then attack others.
Taking it a step further, below is a more comprehensive breakdown of the specific associated risks to be on the lookout for.
Image risks are anything that affects the actual container image (or application) that you’re using. That could include embedded malware, bad configurations, embedded clear text secrets, inherent vulnerabilities, and so on.
In other words, it's the most fundamental type of risk your container can present. The container itself has been tampered with or is faulty in some way, which can turn into a cybersecurity risk.
Containerized apps are often built using images from registries like the one maintained by Docker to store and distribute images. Registry risks occur when images stored in a container registry are compromised. That could mean that the registry has insufficient security restrictions or authentication (which can act as a doorway into the rest of the container image), or that the connection to the registry is in some way insecure.
Another issue that could lead to registry risks is stale images within the registry, which contain vulnerabilities which were only discovered after the images were published. Vulnerabilities in these stale images can be exploited and used as a gateway to abuse the container itself.
Containerized applications are complicated as they often depend on large numbers of containers working together. This necessitates the orchestration provided by platforms like Kubernetes. While this can simplify and amplify certain workflows, an orchestration platform can come with its own cybersecurity risks.
For the most part, these risks stem from a lack of strong or sufficient security posture and deployment architecture within the orchestrator. Poorly separated traffic, unbounded administrator access, and a mixing of workload sensitivity levels can all become potential risks whenever you opt to use an orchestration platform.
It's also completely possible for the risks to stem from the container itself. The container could be using insecure runtime configurations, possess vulnerabilities within its software, have general app vulnerabilities, and otherwise be subject to insecurities.
These insecurities represent a very direct route to abusing the container and the software being contained. When these insecurities are present, it might not be within the power of your business to directly address them. This is where container security tools come into play — but more on that in just a moment.
Host OS risks
Lastly, there are host OS risks. These are any risks that are present as a result of the operating system that the container is installed/running on. This provides a large and complex attack surface and can occur whenever file systems have been tampered with, user access rights are exploited/mismanaged, or the OS itself has inherent vulnerabilities.
Again, there is little a business can do to overcome these sorts of security risks outside of using container security tools to counteract these issues. It is also a good idea to use a host OS distribution that is designed for hosting containers.
Container security tools: an introduction
With the coverage of the security risks of container technology out of the way, it's time to talk about container security tools.
These tools can play an important role in securing your containers — and yet container security tools are still a relatively new kind of cybersecurity solution. They might not be as powerful as the existing cybersecurity solutions your business is accustomed to today.
That’s expected to change relatively fast, though. Especially since big names like Google are getting involved in securing container technology.
So, what is a container security tool? Typically, this is a software tool that can be used to manage, protect, and secure containerized solutions. Administrators can use these tools to automate policies that secure your containers and the networks, apps, and operating systems that support them.
What are the features of good container security tools?
Like any cybersecurity solution, not all container security tools are created equal. To ensure you find the right option for your business, you'll want to look for the following features.
Centralized monitoring and management
First, a solid container security tool will provide centralized monitoring and management. That means it'll provide you with the ability to enforce rules and control access roles and permissions.
And all of this can be done from a single app.
Comprehensive scanning and testing
Scanning features allow you to look for red flags and vulnerabilities across your whole container stack, while testing allows you to check for malware and ensure that the policies you've set up are functioning as expected.
Reporting, auditing, and detection
The reporting, auditing, and detection capabilities of a container security tool might just be the most crucial in this list. These features will bring to your attention weak credentials, insecure configurations, naked data, suspicious behavior, and other high-risk issues.
Increase your container visibility with Samurai's Cyber Threat Sensor technology
While using containers can sandbox your apps and services, it doesn't exempt your business from needing to monitor your network activity. That's where Samurai's Cyber Threat Sensor Technology can help. It provides network analysis capability, which feeds telemetry into Samurai, improving your visibility of what is entering and leaving your container environment.
For more information on Samurai's cybersecurity services, reach out to our team of experts today.
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