As security threats and opportunities to tamper with organizations escalates, it’s increasingly important for organization to assess their system’s attack surface to identify all possible points of vulnerability. Container Security is a critical part of a comprehensive security assessment. It is the practice of protecting containerized applications from potential risk using a combination of security tools and policies. Container Security manages risks throughout the environment, including all aspects of the software supply chain or CI/CD pipeline, infrastructure, and container runtime, and lifecycle management applications that run on containers. When implementing solutions for container network security, ensure your strategies are integrated with the underlying container orchestration to provide context awareness of the application.
While containers offer some inherent security advantages, including increased application isolation, they also expand an organization’s threat landscape. The significant increase in container adoption in production environments makes containers an appealing target for malicious actors and adds to system workloads. A single vulnerable or compromised container could potentially become a point of entry into an organization’s broader environment.
Potential threats continues to increase as more access points become available to attackers. One of the most common container security threats is from malware that is embedded in container images. In August 2021, Docker found five malicious container images with code that secretly mined cryptocurrency using 120,000 users’ systems. In a similar attack, a separate Docker image was pulled 1.5 million times, demonstrating how quickly this type of threat can spread.
A rise in east-west traffic traversing the data center and the cloud combined with limited security controls monitoring this source of network traffic underscores the importance of container security. Traditional network security solutions do not offer protection against lateral attacks. It’s crucial to create specific strategies for securing containers to reduce your organization’s security risks.
Container security has become a primary concern as container usage becomes more popular. The increasing awareness about container security is beneficial, as various stakeholders are acknowledging its importance and beginning to invest in it through various platforms, processes, and training programs.
Because container security is concerned with all aspects of protecting a containerized app and its infrastructure, this focus is leading to a wealth of benefits. Container security is quickly becoming a catalyst and force multiplier for improving IT security overall. By requiring continuous security monitoring across development, testing, and production environments (also known as DevSecOps), organizations can enhance security in total—for instance, by introducing automated scanning earlier in your CI/CD pipeline.
While container security is best thought of as a holistic field, in practical application, its primary focus is on the container itself. The National Institute of Standards and Technology published its Application Container Security Guide, which summarizes several fundamental approaches for securing containers. Here are three important considerations from NIST’s report:
NIST also recommends using a hardware-based root of trust, such as the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) that is suitable for containers and cloud-native development. This strategy adds another layer of security and confidence. It is also important to reinforce your organization’s focus on security by building it into your culture and processes (such as DevOps or DevSecOps). An important aspect of DevOps beyond maintenance and management is monitoring for attacks and protecting the organization.