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As per CNCF’s recent survey reports, around 78% respondents are leveraging Kubernetes in some way or another, seeing it is one of the best feature-packed container orchestration platforms. It efficiently automates configurations, provisioning and management of containers.
But managing containerized applications calls for advanced security to ensure seamless operations throughout. Businesses must enforce leading-edge security measures to secure the applications running on Kubernetes cluster. Although Kubernetes offers primary-level security for clusters, organizations still need to adopt advanced security monitoring and compliance management.
This is where Kubernetes vulnerability scanning comes in.
Here, we are going to look at the importance of using vulnerability scanner that helps you secure your K8s containerized applications:
With the rapid evolution of containers and micro-services, it is getting crucial to orchestrate them with Kubernetes to optimize costs and boost efficiencies. Kubernetes is a faster, portable and open-source platform that manages containerized applications and services, whilst offering automation as well as declarative configuration.
However, Kubernetes is prone to cyber-attacks and security breaches mainly due to highly permissive states and misconfigurations. According to StackRox's 2020 survey report, nearly 90% of respondents experienced some security incidents in their Kubernetes and container environments. Human error is commonly the main culprit for data breaches. Nearly 67% respondents had misconfiguration incidents, 22% had major vulnerabilities, 17% had runtime incidents whereas around 16% had audit failures.
Capital One had a massive Kubernetes security incident in July 2019 which gained quite a lot of attention. This security breach witnessed 30GB of credit application data being exfiltrated, affecting over 106M people. The main culprit of the incident was a misconfigured firewall, which allowed the attacker to remotely carry out arbitrary commands. Here, the IAM roles configured for the server were essentially broad, allowing the attacker to read and sync from S3.
This goes to show that identifying known vulnerabilities in the early stage helps prevent malicious activities and accidental cluster failure in the later stage. Vulnerability scanners and tools meticulously scan K8s pods and clusters to look for CVEs (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures) and determine whether your Kubernetes configurations contain risks.
Vulnerability is like a wide gap that exposes your enterprise’s entire cloud infrastructure. And with poor detection capabilities, identifying security risks gets even more challenging especially for complex cloud environments.
Vulnerability scanning is an optimal defensive measure to secure your K8s environment from potential threats.
Container image scanning is a process of thoroughly analyzing the build process and elements of a container image. The scanning helps us detect vulnerabilities, bad practices or security issues in the initial stage.
These vulnerability scanning tools collect information related to CVEs from various sources to look for vulnerabilities in images. Some of the advanced tools even offer critical scanning rules to pinpoint bad practices and security issues.
Image scanning can integrate right into your CI/CD pipeline to keep vulnerabilities away from the registry, or into your registry to prevent vulnerabilities present in third-party images or during runtime to block new CVEs. If done right, image scanning makes sure there is no bottleneck or downtime during deployment of K8s applications.
Container image scanner needs to be capable enough to scan the entire software in an image to identify vulnerabilities present in it. Most commonly, the images are based on a Linux distribution like Alpine, Ubuntu, and so on. In an enterprise, there might be multiple images based upon various distributions. Hence, the image scanner needs to support all distributions that your organizational images use.
By the same token, the image scanner needs to recognize vulnerability information from security advisories specific to that distribution, and not just from the NVD (National Vulnerability Database). This is due to the fact that every Linux distribution has a unique way to manage security patches.
Lastly, during the build process, the software is configured into the image with the help of a package manager. Thus, the image scanner must offer support for the package manager to read version information. Besides, you need to look for language support, as vulnerabilities may be present in language-specific libraries as well.
There are myriads of Kubernetes vulnerability scanners out there in the market. The question is how to choose the right vulnerability scanner?
Not all vulnerability scanners are created the same. So, “one size fits all” approach does not really fit here. Every business organization has unique requirements and will experience different kinds of vulnerabilities than fellow businesses.
Let’s look at the types of vulnerability scanners most commonly used in the market:
Software-based vulnerability scanners generally offer configuration auditing, targeted reports, pen testing and in-depth vulnerability analysis. These types of tools integrate with your mobile device managers, or OS system center to provide advanced patch management. Such scanners are able to scan servers, physical network devices, workstations as well as virtual machines, databases and BYOD mobile gadgets.
Software-based scanners demand less administrative interference due to its advanced UI and targeted analysis reports that state clear-cut remediation actions. You can filter the reports based on various criteria to identify trends in changes.
Cloud-based vulnerability scanners offer continuous monitoring and act as on-demand SaaS (Software as a Service). These modern tools execute continuous, hands-free monitoring of devices and computers across all network segments. Besides, these scanners do not require installation, manual maintenance or integration. All you need is subscribing to the service and configure/automate the scans.
Here are a few factors you need to consider when choosing a vulnerability scanner:
Many vulnerability scanners provide a list of security issues it can check, helping you decide which one is right for you. Review the documentation of the image scanner and check whether it can check the security issues of applications and dependencies in your enterprise’s infrastructure.
Each vulnerability scanner in the market varies in their offerings of unique features. Before choosing an image scanner, you need to scrutinize the features essential for your organization and which features you do not require.
Though we can manually run scans, it is always desirable to have an image scanner that automates vulnerability scanning on regular time intervals across all images. This will ensure there are no slowdowns during deployment of new functionalities in your K8s applications.
You need to automate vulnerability scanning during different lifecycle stages of your K8s application images, such as:
Running vulnerability scanning right in the build stage will check for mistakes or loopholes before it goes to development stage. If the scanner detects severe vulnerabilities, the build stage will fail and the container image will not be stored in the registry. This is how the scanner prevents the deployment of vulnerable images in the initial stage itself.
Often container images pass through various security checks and are successfully deployed in K8s cluster. But what if you want to run vulnerability scanning in running Kubernetes workloads to check for known vulnerabilities? Magalix allows you to run vulnerability scans right during the runtime to identify new known vulnerabilities.
Kubernetes is hands-down a powerful orchestration platform for enterprises that secures containers, workloads and clusters. But you need to leverage cutting-edge scanners and tools in order to reap maximum benefits K8s has to offer.
Magalix employs vulnerability scanning right in the build and deployment time to prevent failure and mitigate security risks before they seek their way into the production stage. Furthermore, Magalix efficiently carries out continuous security and compliance checks in the runtime to look for known vulnerabilities. We scan your cloud-native dependencies and generate regular compliance reports comprising best security practices, security policies and standards.