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Kubernetes Risk Management: What it Is & How to Get Started

As cloud-native technology becomes increasingly popular, Kubernetes stands as the de facto solution for container orchestration. However, Kubernetes' power comes with a wide range of complexities and risks — from potential spikes in cloud costs to unexpected outages to newly discovered security vulnerabilities and operational inconsistencies. As Kubernetes risks become more common and complex, the only way to manage those risks is by building a mature Kubernetes risk management program. And while cloud risk management tools exist, most of them do not look at Kubernetes. Without that critical component, your governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) strategy will not fully address cloud risk.

A comprehensive risk management strategy is needed for organizations who are modernizing their apps on the cloud or digitizing their business operations. A risk management solution must take into account scenarios where Kubernetes is run across multiple clouds, teams, and clusters. This guide outlines what Kubernetes risk management is, tackling not only security and compliance but also cost management and operational reliability, as well as how you can get started.

“To reduce risk, an organization needs to apply resources to minimize, monitor and control the impact of negative events while maximizing positive events. A consistent, systemic and integrated approach to risk management can help determine how best to identify, manage and mitigate significant risks.”
IBM:  What is risk management?

What Are Kubernetes Risks?

Sudden Spikes in Your Cloud Bill

Kubernetes doesn't naturally  limit resource utilization. Without proper management of resources, you may find surprising spikes in your cloud billing due to over-provisioning of resources or stale resources that go unnoticed but still add to your cloud spend.


The distributed nature of Kubernetes means that, unless properly configured, you could see some outages. A  misconfiguration or a failed update can create impacts across the cluster, leading to service interruptions that harm both your reputation and bottom line.

Security and Compliance Issues

Cloud-native approaches for  Kubernetes security must assess both the application and infrastructure level, focusing on securing configuration and  container images. Security teams need to check for vulnerabilities and misconfigurations, maintain strong access control and authentication measures, and continuously monitor and protect workloads to protect Kubernetes workloads. Compliance programs like FEDRamp require organizations to implement risk management controls that ensure security from source to production.

Configuration Drift

In large clusters or multi-cluster environments, maintaining configuration consistency becomes a significant task if done manually. This can lead to  configuration drift, which may compromise security and performance, or make it difficult to upgrade and resolve production issues

What Is Kubernetes Risk Management?

Similar to cloud risk management, Kubernetes risk management relies on some basic elements: visibility, context, and risk prioritization. Basically, you need to identify risks, understand what they are and the potential impacts of them, determine how to address them (and in what order), and how to manage them going forward.

  • Identify Risks Automatically: Kubernetes dynamically changes, as do the containers it is orchestrating. Manually monitoring every container and cluster for risks is too expensive and time consuming to be a viable solution. Automated identification enables your teams to respond to risk before it can be exploited. Some ways to do that include  Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) scanning container vulnerability scanning, and runtime monitoring can all help you identify risks in your Kubernetes infrastructure.
  • Adding Context to Identified Kubernetes Risks: Anyone familiar with security scanning solutions knows that there are a whole lot of risks identified, but not all of them carry the same weight. Collecting and presenting contextual information about where the risk originates, the severity of the risk, and which images are impacted enables platform teams to evaluate potential risks.
  • Prioritizing Risks: Once you have identified risks and have some context, you can prioritize them based on potential impacts and likelihood of occurrence. This enables security, platform, and finance teams to manage the biggest threats to your business, whether they are related to security, downtime, or cost efficiency.
  • Consolidating Visibility: Many clusters and teams create visibility gaps. Plus, having a large number of tools and results to review can consume your teams’ time. Having a dashboard that enables you to get complete visibility across your organization’s entire Kubernetes infrastructure is key to effective Kubernetes risk management.
  • Remediating at Scale: Kubernetes provides a great deal of flexibility and power, but this also means that it requires a lot of configuration. Once you have consolidated visibility, you need to remediate risks as efficiently as possible. That requires you to be able identify security, cost, or reliability risks and set rules to turn them into Jira tickets or Slack notifications. It also requires the ability to automatically fix issues (one GitHub PR to fix many issues). This enables your team to remediate risks more easily at scale.

Kubernetes Risk Management with Fairwinds Insights

Managing risk in your containers and Kubernetes environments can be challenging due to the ephemeral nature of the environments and the many possible configurations. Yet, as organizations shift to cloud native technologies and deploy more applications and services to production Kubernetes environments, it is critical to manage risks at scale. Fairwinds Insights provides the capabilities that your organization needs to effectively manage risk across your Kubernetes infrastructure. Insights creates guardrails that allow developers to work with Kubernetes without worrying about increasing risks related to security, reliability, and cost efficiency, while also ensuring that platform teams have the visibility they need to manage Kubernetes risks at scale.

If you want to see Insights in action and learn how it can help you manage Kubernetes risks but you are not currently a customer,  try our free tier for environments up to 20 nodes, two clusters, and one repo. (This post walks you through the simple process of getting started with Fairwinds Insights.)

Learn how to manage Kubernetes spend without putting scalability and  reliability at risk!