Achieving Kubernetes Security Posture Management (KSPM)

Kubernetes has emerged as the de facto standard for container orchestration. It introduces powerful management capabilities, but it also presents some formidable security challenges—especially in multi-cloud environments. These include a lack of visibility into settings, the misuse of images, breakdowns in communication and runtime monitoring difficulties.

A 2021 Red Hat State of Kubernetes Security Report of more than 300 DevOps, engineering and security professionals found that these issues result in real-world problems, including DevSecOps breakdowns and security incidents that result in lost revenue or customers. In fact, 59% of respondents said unaddressed security and compliance risk to containers was a top concern.

Gaining a Deeper View

At the heart of the Kubernetes challenge is the need to manage a large, dynamic estate of cloud workloads in a highly orchestrated way. Understanding how various components work and closing all of the security gaps is vital. Cloud workload protection (CWP) and cloud security posture management (CSPM) tools, while remarkably useful, do not deliver the level of visibility and control required for Kubernetes in complex multi-cloud frameworks.

For instance, CWP scans and monitors containers for vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, malware, anomalous behavior and exposed data. It helps to prioritize these risks so that stakeholders can allocate and adjust resources accordingly. But container risks are only one piece of the puzzle.

On the other hand, CSPM tools conduct basic levels of configuration risk analysis, environmental mapping, compliance reporting and deviation from policy guardrails. But they lack visibility into identity and entitlement components that span containers and clouds, which requires cloud infrastructure entitlement management (CIEM).

All of these technologies—even when used together—provide only a baseline approach to Kubernetes security. For example, while CWPs scan cloud containers, most of these tools can’t see inside Kubernetes components that manage the containers. As a result, they are unable to detect misconfigurations and other risks that frequently go undetected.

The potential problems don’t stop there, however. Using siloed tools introduces a high level of false positives, forcing developers to sort through the noise, which impacts their productivity and can lead to unaddressed risks.

Good Posture Matters

Comprehensive cloud protection is possible. It’s based on an organization’s ability to develop a fully orchestrated and holistic security framework with specialized KSPM capabilities. Research firm Gartner has coined this technology cloud-native application protection platforms, or CNAPP. They unify CSPM, CWP and CIEM in one platform that addresses three crucial areas in addition to container security:

  • Managing service resources such as clusters. This deeper view into settings and configurations at the Kubernetes level is crucial for detecting security weaknesses before they explode into real-world problems. A single-pane-of-glass view of your cloud environment should deliver visibility into resources beyond containers, including virtual machines, serverless functions and Kubernetes clusters.
  • Visibility into role-based access control (RBAC). A borderless world of systems and data translates directly into a need to lock down service account identities and permissions inside containers for granular oversight and control that includes the Kubernetes IAM mechanism.
  • Network configuration. It’s crucial to gain control over various network-related issues, including API access, misconfigured policies that allow unauthorized access between pods, insecure communications and exposed dashboards. A robust identity management framework for Kubernetes ensures that only those who are authorized to access network resources can do so. It also aids with auditing and compliance while making it possible to take visibility, risk detection, anomaly detection—along with mitigation and auto-remediation—to a higher and far more secure level.

Security Beyond the Container

A well-devised KSPM framework delivers continuous monitoring and management capabilities to protect an organization and ensure that it’s compliant with industry standards and regulations. Organizations that embrace an orchestrated approach find they are equipped to build adequate security and access controls into Kubernetes. This includes better protecting container images, monitoring threats and performing regular and effective security audits.

A best-practice KSPM approach doesn’t discount CWP, CSPM and other container security methods. All of these resources continue to provide valuable capabilities that boost protection and help construct a more manageable and secure cloud framework. However, individually, none of these tools are fully equipped to address the complexity of clouds, containers and Kubernetes.

On the other hand, the right combination of these techniques delivers a security fabric that tames the chaos and complexity of Kubernetes. When organizations embrace CNAPP for KSPM, security teams are suddenly in a position to correlate, prioritize and remediate risk in a way that maximizes the value of Kubernetes—and unleashes cloud innovation at scale.

Arick Goomanovsky

Arick Goomanovsky is co-founder and Chief Business Officer of Ermetic. He is a cybersecurity, national security, and cyberwarfare expert. Previously, he was a co-founder of Sygnia Consulting, a cyber consulting and incident response firm that was acquired by Temasek Holdings. He also worked at McKinsey & Company in London, where he focused on strategy and operations. Arick served for 15 years in the Intelligence Unit of the Israel Defense Forces in senior leadership R&D positions.

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