Security, efficiency and reliability are among the most important concerns in the Kubernetes space. But because containerized workloads are not secure by default, the topic of Kubernetes security continues to be a top priority. Organizations looking to reduce security risk need to work intentionally—and remember how applications demand the proper settings to function correctly and securely. In fact, Kubernetes security is directly linked to the way containerized workloads are managed and deployed—and yes, how they are configured.
When Kubernetes security is not addressed through best practices—along with well-considered governance and guardrails—critical areas like cost optimization, performance, reliability and efficiency are affected. All of these issues are interconnected and directly addressed through proper configuration. In fact, misconfigurations are now considered one of the greatest threats to container security. As such, practitioners need to perform numerous checks around their Kubernetes clusters to ensure they are running at optimal performance and are reliable, efficient and secure.
Best Practices and Configuration Management
Benchmarking shows that not even half of all organizations are on solid footing with their Kubernetes configurations. Yes, health checks are critical to Kubernetes security, yet only 35% of organizations have correctly configured most (meaning more than 90%) of their workloads with liveness and readiness probes. While configuration validation, also known as infrastructure-as-code (IaC) scanning helps, the ability to scale remains an issue.
DevOps teams, along with platform and security leaders, can quickly lose visibility and control into what is happening. This reality points to the need for automation and policies to enforce consistency and provide the appropriate guardrails across the organization. The bottom line is proper Kubernetes configuration is vital to the success of cloud-native adoption. Without IaC scanning, there is no way to identify security holes before they become full-blown digital breaches.
Containerized workloads are a great concept because they are a self-contained package of everything the software needs to run in production. This feature greatly facilitates the hand-off of software from development to operations and speeds up the delivery process. As businesses become more and more familiar with Kubernetes, keeping security vulnerabilities (or other problems) out of production because of negligence or lack of experience is crucial. A single workload may require significant configuration to ensure a more secure and scalable application. Stack on technical debt and organizational hurdles and even the most experienced Kubernetes professionals struggle to get things right every time.
Human error is the most-cited cause of security breaches. When developer-friendly (but unsecure) default configurations are combined with human oversight, container security lies in the balance. Moreover, configuration management poses a unique challenge for Kubernetes users because it requires more consideration. While many tools are available for vulnerability scanning of container images, proper configuration and oversight demand careful handling. Even though practitioners may understand the need to avoid deploying the Kubernetes dashboard, configuring a pod’s security content or implementing RBAC are other examples of the challenging setting these teams are facing.
Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) Scanning
Infrastructure-as-code (IaC) refers to the technology and processes used to manage and provision infrastructure using code. It enables DevOps processes such as version control, peer reviews, automated testing, tagging, continuous integration and continuous delivery to successfully take place.
Each specific framework has its own conventions and syntax, but IaC is generally made up of resource declarations, input variables, output values, configuration settings and other parameters. IaC is most often JSON, HCL or YAML-based and contains all the configurations needed to spin up your infrastructure—compute, networking, storage, security, identity access management (IAM) and more. And because IaC uses code to define what’s needed to get resources up and running, it enables the ability to automate and scale cloud provisioning with improved repeatability.
IaC and Container Security Together
IaC provides a crucial opportunity for collaboration across teams. By provisioning cloud resources across environments and clouds with a unified, common language, developers and operations can more easily stay on the same page and work together to keep cloud-native applications secure.
Adding security checks directly into your build and release pipelines is a complicated and time-consuming process. Intelligent orchestration and effective IaC scanning can isolate security vulnerabilities into a dedicated pipeline that integrates with existing ones. This means teams can leverage IaC to enforce cloud security earlier in the development life cycle to minimize risk and maintain cloud compliance.
This type of IaC security is automated for efficiency, to improve developer productivity and team efficiency by shifting cloud security left and automating it. It also empowers engineering teams to implement IaC security best practices with security-as-code, thereby codifying processes at the source. Furthermore, IaC security streamlines workflows by embedding directly into developer workflows to maintain cloud insight in both run and build time. In this way, DevSecOps has paved the way for teams to automate security by embedding it into the DevOps life cycle. While there are numerous challenges related to leveraging DevSecOps to secure the cloud, IaC makes it all possible.
Although the world of cloud-native technologies and Kubernetes is still relatively new, the core business challenge remains the same. Organizations must figure out how to accelerate development speed while also maintaining robust security practices. These two business objectives are still vying for equal attention in the container space.