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Enhancing Cloud Security: Four Vital Practices for Kubernetes Security

Enhancing Cloud Security: Four Vital Practices for Kubernetes Security

Blog Article Published: 07/19/2023

Originally published by Tenable.

Written by Upkar Lidder.

In today's rapidly evolving cloud landscape, ensuring robust security measures for Kubernetes environments has become paramount for organizations. While the benefits of cloud-native infrastructure are undeniable, security teams often struggle to solve the security puzzle at the heart of Kubernetes management. They understand they need a way to embed security into the standard developer workflows and cluster deployments, but creating continuous and secure GitOps is — in a word — hard.

In this blog post, we will delve into four crucial best practices that can be immediately implemented to strengthen the security of your Kubernetes deployments and protect your cloud-native infrastructure.

Manage Kubernetes misconfigurations with solid policies

Establishing and enforcing solid policies is the first step in bolstering Kubernetes security. Consistently applying policies throughout the development lifecycle helps mitigate misconfigurations and reduces security risks. For example, policies can prohibit running containers with root privileges or restrict public access to the Kubernetes API server. Leveraging policy frameworks like Open Policy Agent (OPA) and industry benchmarks such as those from the Center for Internet Security (CIS) can assist in hardening Kubernetes environments and preventing misconfigurations from reaching production. Regularly revisit and update policies to align with evolving security requirements.

Implement security guardrails in the development process

Kubernetes security should start early in the development process. If your team adopts infrastructure-as-code (IaC) practices for provisioning and configuring systems, extend that approach to include policy-as-code. This ensures consistent application of security policies across the software development lifecycle. Developers can leverage security scanning tools to identify vulnerabilities in their code during local testing, continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipelines, container image registries, and Kubernetes environments. Utilizing developer-friendly tools, such as open source IaC static code-scanners, can seamlessly integrate security into the development process and help prevent insecure code from entering the environment.

Understand and remediate container image vulnerabilities

Container image vulnerabilities pose a significant challenge to Kubernetes security. It is crucial to have visibility into the content and construction of container images running in your environment. Developers often overlook image scanning due to concerns about slowing down the development process. However, neglecting to identify outdated operating system (OS) images, misconfigured settings, embedded credentials and secrets, unverified packages, unnecessary services, and exposed ports introduces security risks – and ultimately slows down the entire software-delivery process. Implement a comprehensive scanning process to detect and remediate vulnerabilities in container images. Pay attention to the security of registries and host infrastructure as well.

Holistic exposure management

To effectively manage Kubernetes security, it is essential to look at your infrastructure holistically. Not all policies apply in all cases, so how are you applying your exclusions? Not every vulnerability is critical, so how do you prioritize fixes and automate remediation? These questions can guide you to become less reactive and more proactive. Ultimately, visibility is central to managing security in Kubernetes and cloud-native environments. You must recognize when your configurations have drifted from your secure baselines, and identify failing policies and misconfigurations. Only then can you get the full picture of your attack surface.

The crusade to comprehensive cloud security

You might be feeling a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of attack vectors in cloud environments. But, with a solid game plan and taking to heart the best practices described above, you can move cloud-native security from runtimes to the entire development lifecycle. Shifting left to catch vulnerabilities using policy-as-code is a great first step toward ensuring the reliability and security of your cloud assets — and wrangling all the pieces of the Kubernetes security puzzle.

About the Author

Upkar Lidder is a senior product manager at Tenable. He has more than 10 years of experience in IT development, including team management, functional leadership and technical leadership roles. He brings a deep experience in full-stack technology. Upkar is currently focused on security and DevSecOps in shift left, containers and cloud-native environments.