Mastering Kubernetes Security: Navigating Complexity and Securing Your Cloud Native Architecture
Blog Article Published: 06/29/2023
Originally published by Tenable.
Written by Shantanu Gattani.
Demystifying Kubernetes security is paramount for cloud security teams in today's landscape. As organizations increasingly adopt Kubernetes for their container deployments, understanding Kubernetes’ unique security challenges and implementing effective security measures becomes essential. In this blog post, we will delve into the intricacies of Kubernetes security and provide actionable insights that can help security teams tackle Kubernetes’ complexities and safeguard their cloud-native environments.
According to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation’s “Annual Survey 2021: The year Kubernetes crossed the chasm,” Kubernetes adoption has surged, with 96% of polled organizations saying at the time that they were either using or evaluating Kubernetes – a record high since the first CNCF survey in 2016. This marked increase demonstrates the power and potential of this open source platform for orchestrating large container deployments.
“Container adoption and Kubernetes has truly gone mainstream – usage has risen across organizations globally, particularly in large businesses,” the report reads.
However, complexity is the enemy of security, and Kubernetes introduces a new level of intricacy by encompassing multi-cloud environments, on-premises data centers, IoT devices, personal computers, edge devices and more.
To address these concerns, security teams must first assume a leadership role across all environments, including Kubernetes, which is often managed by an organization’s developers,who typically don’t prioritize security concerns.
Moreover, security teams also need to gain a base understanding of Kubernetes architecture, configurations and deployment processes to effectively manage risk, as security controls and proper configuration play pivotal roles in Kubernetes security.
To navigate the unique security challenges posed by Kubernetes, security teams must work in harmony with development teams. Together, they can tackle these three common hurdles.
A key challenge for security teams in securing Kubernetes and containers is dealing with short-lived workloads. Traditional runtime scanning can’t keep pace with the rapid deployment and termination of containers. To address this, embrace Kubernetes-native tools such as Kubernetes Network Policies, which offer granular control over network traffic within clusters. Security teams can also leverage Kubernetes Admission Controllers to enforce policies and validate configuration changes before applying them to the cluster.
Kubernetes arrives with a number of default configurations that may not be secure, such as:
- Privileged containers with access to the host operating system
- Unsecured Kubernetes API server
- Role-based access control (RBAC) settings that allow authenticated users to access and modify any Kubernetes resource
These default settings can lead to insecure deployments of Kubernetes clusters unless proactive measures are taken. To address these challenges, security teams must familiarize themselves with industry benchmarks like the Center for Internet Security (CIS) Kubernetes benchmark. These benchmarks provide best practices for securing Kubernetes clusters, and they address areas such as authentication, authorization, network policies and pod security policies to fortify your defenses.
The lack of defined security policies and processes can undermine security efforts across teams and environments. To prevent security gaps and inconsistencies in security posture, security teams should adopt policy-as-code, an approach that ensures consistent enforcement of policies throughout the development lifecycle. By integrating policy checks at various stages, from code commits to deployment pipelines, security teams can identify and rectify violations early, streamline compliance and bolster security posture holistically.
As security teams, it is our responsibility to master the intricacies of Kubernetes security. By understanding the complexities introduced by Kubernetes, collaborating with cloud teams and implementing effective security measures, we can safeguard our cloud-native architectures with confidence. Remember, securing Kubernetes is just one piece of the puzzle. By adopting a holistic approach to security and fostering a proactive mindset, we can protect our organizations from the ever-evolving landscape of cyber threats.
About the Author
In his role as Senior Director, Product Management, Shantanu is responsible for leading the development of Tenable cloud security. Shantanu is a seasoned product manager who has worked in the cybersecurity space for the last 10 years for industry leaders such as Symantec and Proofpoint. Prior to becoming a product manager, Shantanu worked as a developer and he brings with him a wealth of knowledge in the DevSecOps space. In his free time you can find Shantanu somewhere near water or on a boat.
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