Top 12 Container Security Best Practices


The process to protect containerized applications from possible threats is known as container security. These containerized applications are vulnerable and not limited to only vulnerable containers, but also misconfigured containers, lack of isolation, supply chain attacks, and many others. In this blog, we have captured 12 container security best practices for you to get started on your container security journey. These practices are based on their priority levels from High to Medium to Low.

High Priority

Enforcing the least privilege principle

The least privilege minimizes the potential damage caused by a compromised container. With the least privilege, the workload (or user) gets access to only services required to perform their tasks and attackers gain minimal access and ability to exploit the system.

It is recommended that organizations should use container security tools to get granular access controls for each container, restricting access to specific resources and functionalities.
The principle of least privilege maintains that a user or entity should only have access to the specific data, resources, and applications needed to complete a required task.”

Ensure secure container images

Vulnerable container images are prime targets for attackers. You can mitigate these risks by using trusted sources and scanning images before deployment. There are three simple ways to secure container images;

  • Obtain container images from official registries and trusted vendors only.
  • Deploy security tools like Cloudanix and scan for vulnerabilities to identify security weaknesses in container images before deploying them in production.
  • Try a multi-stage build approach where; each stage builds upon the previous one, this gives more secure final images with only the necessary components.

Reducing attack surface

A smaller attack surface resonates with fewer potential entry points for attackers. Eliminating unnecessary processes and components reduces the risk of vulnerabilities being exploited. Removing unnecessary functionalities or libraries that are not intended for the container will reduce the attack surface to a great extent.

We recommend keeping your cloud containers lean and focused on their core tasks for the least vulnerabilities.

Implement network segmentation

Network segmentation prevents lateral moments within the network and isolates container applications. The benefit of implementing a strong network segmentation is if one container is compromised, the damage is contained and other applications are less likely to be affected.

Secrets Management

Storing sensitive information like usernames and passwords, or API keys in your containers is a significant security risk that most organizations overlook. Dedicated secrets management solutions offer secure storage and access control.
Implementing a secret or password manager will keep your credentials safe and secure.

Another recommendation is to integrate the secret management solution with your container orchestration platform to allow containers to access secrets securely without embedding them directly into images or configuration files.

Medium Priority

Integrating robust container security tools

Container security tools provide valuable features like vulnerability scanning, runtime protection, and threat detection, to name a few which enhance an organization’s overall security posture. Evaluate and select a container security tool that meets your requirements.

Today companies use hybrid and multi-cloud environments which have unique protection requirements for their workloads. This complicates their ability to get consistent visibility into their workloads. Network-based technologies do not work well in cloud environments, it may put their enterprise data at high risk.

Updating and patching regularly

Addressing threats and promptly applying security patches reduces the risk of attackers exploiting vulnerabilities. Organizations should establish a regular patching schedule for container images, and container runtime environments. Automate the patching process whenever possible to ensure timely application of critical security fixes.

Protecting container orchestration

Secure container orchestration platform (e.g. Kubernetes) should be a compulsory practice as it manages and controls container deployments. Implementing strong authentication and authorization to control access to the container orchestration platforms will help. Additionally, regular monitoring of the platform for suspicious activities is something not to forget.

Low priority

Preparing an incident response plan

Having an incident response plan that outlines procedures for detection, containment, eradication, and recovery in case of security incidents helps you respond effectively to security incidents. Because we are sticking to container security only, include specific steps for handling container-related incidents. Remember to regularly test and update your incident response to ensure its effectiveness.

Regular audits

Conducting regular security audits of your containerized applications and infrastructure including container images, systems, and platforms helps you identify potential threats and vulnerabilities available in your container environment. Make sure you have qualified security professionals and the right auditing tools in place for the best possible results.

Continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD)

Integrating security checks into your CI/CD pipelines helps you identify threats and vulnerabilities early in your deployment lifecycle. This prevents insecure code from reaching your production environment. Integrate vulnerability scanners and security testing tools into your CI/CD pipeline to automatically assess container images for potential security weaknesses.

Runtime monitoring and Threat detection

We recommend organizations implement runtime monitoring tools to track container activities for early detection of suspicious behavior and potential threats. For more rigorous security, you can also implement intrusion detection/prevention systems (IDS/IPS) to detect and block potential threats in real-time.

Remember, security is an ongoing process, and the specific priority of these practices may vary depending on your unique risk profile and threat landscape. Continuously evaluate your security posture, adapt your strategies, and leverage these best practices to maintain a secure and resilient cloud container environment. Along with CSPM and CIEM, Cloudanix also provides you with an integrated container security platform. Your team gets a real-time view of the threats and vulnerabilities so that they can be addressed just in time. The best part is, that getting started is less than 5 minutes of work.

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