<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=521127644762074&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

Navigating Kubernetes and Cloud-Native Security

The era of cloud-native applications has arrived, and new security challenges have emerged for those developing cloud-native applications. Many modern business applications live in cloud native computing environments today because the cloud offers scalability, speed, and flexibility that are difficult or impossible to deliver in purely on-premises data centers. Traditional security practices frequently don’t work as well against the new set of vulnerabilities introduced in Kubernetes, the open source container orchestration system, and cloud environments. That’s why it's crucial to design and implement a robust cloud-native security strategy designed to shield your infrastructure, data, and applications from attackers.

Defining Cloud-Native Security

Cloud-native security refers to practices that protect the integrity of applications built in cloud environments. Cloud-native security is designed specifically for the dynamic nature of cloud ecosystems, focusing on individual microservices instead of monolithic applications and examining the best practices for enhancing security in your cloud-native environment. Cloud-native applications, by definition, are designed to leverage the benefits of cloud environments. These applications are typically composed of microservices running in Docker containers. These apps and services are orchestrated using Kubernetes and often adopt  Infrastructure as Code (IaC) approaches to automation and scaling.

It’s important to also consider the role of DevOps (and DevSecOps) as well as platform engineering teams and development teams. Most organizations deploy on the major public cloud providers — Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and Microsoft Azure. Some organizations also use hybrid cloud, on-premises, and serverless architectures.

Building a strong cloud-native security posture requires you stay informed about cloud-native security measures, such as how to  harden Kubernetes using guidance from the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). In addition, you need to know how to avoid common  Kubernetes misconfigurations and vulnerabilities.

Understanding the Security Demands of Cloud-Native Applications

Cloud-native security approaches for Kubernetes must consider both the application and infrastructure level. They should focus on securing APIs, which are the communication backbone of microservices, and  container images, which can contain security vulnerabilities. Security teams must check for misconfigurations, maintain strong access control and authentication measures, and continuously monitor and protect workloads.

One of the key challenges lies in managing the workload. Cloud-native applications require a significant level of automation, which can complicate security. Containers need to be scaled, updated, and sometimes replaced entirely within a matter of minutes. This dynamic nature can increase the attack surface because it introduces a high rate of change and can reduce visibility into what is happening in the Kubernetes environment. In addition, new open source vulnerabilities are frequently disclosed, but it can be challenging to find and identify those vulnerabilities in multiple layers of containers.

Integrating security into the software development life cycle (SDLC) is critical in cloud-native environments. This approach — shifting security left in the development process, is commonly known as DevSecOps. It creates an environment where security is a shared responsibility with development that begins with secure application development and extends to runtime. Automating security through the SDLC pipeline can catch some security vulnerabilities early in the development process. Tools that can automatically scan repositories for insecure dependencies, validate IaC for misconfigurations, or scan  container images for vulnerabilities are indispensable.

Kubernetes policy enforcement can help you implement guardrails that minimize human error and make it easier for platform engineering, development, and security teams to work together as apps and services move to cloud-native infrastructure.

Building Your Defense

A successful cloud-native security strategy heavily involves DevOps. With a deep understanding of the operational requirements of cloud-native applications, DevSecOps and platform teams can help manage security issues in cloud-native environments. This isn't a task they can tackle alone, however — collaborative effort with development and security teams is crucial to building a solid defense.

DevOps and security teams working together can implement measures to protect cloud infrastructure and apps and services deployed in Kubernetes environments. This includes vulnerability management, patching vulnerabilities in a timely manner, and following secure coding practices. It's crucial to establish these practices early in the SDLC, making security a priority from the onset of application design and development and continuing to deployment.

An integral part of many cloud-native applications is the microservices architecture. Microservices are small, independent processes that communicate with each other to form a complete application. They enable scalability and the ability to deploy, upgrade, scale, and restart services independently. However, this architecture introduces its own security challenges. Each microservice presents a potential attack surface that needs to be secured.

Protecting cloud infrastructure involves securing the individual nodes and the networking between them. For example, in a Kubernetes cluster, each node should be hardened, and network security policies such as firewalls must be appropriately configured to limit the attack surface.

Misconfigurations are among the most common security vulnerabilities in cloud infrastructure. Security teams must have strategies for  automatic remediation of such issues. Bad actors often take advantage of common misconfigurations to carry out ransomware attacks and other malicious activities.

The Role of Cloud Providers

Multi-cloud and hybrid cloud strategies have their unique security challenges. Many organizations use multiple cloud providers to meet their diverse needs, which creates an additional layer of complexity in managing and securing workloads across different platforms. Each cloud environment has its own unique set of risks and vulnerabilities, requiring an approach to security designed around cloud-native architecture. While cloud providers such as Amazon AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure offer a lot of security capabilities, other security responsibilities remain in users’ hands. In addition, differences between these cloud providers’ implementations require specialized understanding to correctly implement appropriate security controls.

In terms of cloud-native security, the role of cloud providers is both complex and critical. Major cloud providers often have robust security measures in place, offering features like data encryption, infrastructure security, and a variety of compliance certifications. However, while these features are comprehensive, businesses must still secure their own cloud-native applications. It's up to the organizations themselves to secure their applications, data, and user access. Security teams within organizations must manage application security in the cloud meticulously. Network security practices, such as segmenting networks, configuring firewalls, and implementing intrusion detection and prevention systems are essential in limiting the attack surface. Access control and authentication solutions ensure only authorized entities can access your workloads. Kubernetes supports  role-based access control (RBAC), which you can use to limit the permissions of different entities in the system. Also consider application-level firewalls,  RBAC management tools, secure pipelines, and more.

To support security efforts, it's also very helpful to implement  cloud-native guardrails. These guardrails provide boundaries within which teams can safely operate, helping to prevent misconfigurations and other common Kubernetes security missteps. They can help your development team deliver secure applications in new ways that  avoid traditional governance approaches.

Harnessing Security Tools

Taking control of your security involves using a variety of open source and proprietary security tools designed to detect and help security teams remediate misconfigurations, patch vulnerabilities, and handle data breaches. There is a wide range of application security solutions that can help scan application code (among many other capabilities). It’s particularly important to adopt container scanning security solutions and  infrastructure as code scanners in cloud-native environments.

These tools form part of a robust defense system that can monitor your apps and services deployed on Kubernetes for vulnerabilities, automate  policy enforcement, and aid in vulnerability remediation. For instance, firewalls and access control measures play a crucial role in a cloud service environment by regulating incoming and outgoing network traffic based on predetermined security rules.

Security in a Hybrid World

As organizations continue to diversify their infrastructure deployment models, the security considerations become more complex. Hybrid cloud, on-premises, and serverless architectures each introduce unique challenges that security teams need to address.

In a hybrid cloud environment, organizations need to consider how data moves between public and private clouds and on-premises infrastructure. On the other hand, serverless architectures, such as Azure Functions or  AWS Lambda, require a paradigm shift in security practices. Security threats in serverless architectures are not rooted in the infrastructure, as the service provider manages this. Instead, threats often emerge from  misconfigurations and vulnerabilities in the application layer itself.

On-premises environments remain a mainstay for many businesses, especially those dealing with sensitive information or complying with specific regulatory requirements. However, on-premises security measures usually differ from those of cloud environments, requiring an integrated security strategy that can span these environments.

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) plays a significant role in managing and maintaining security across diverse environments. IaC allows developers to define and manage their infrastructure using a descriptive language, similar to how software is developed. This means infrastructure can be version-controlled, peer-reviewed, and automated, making it a powerful tool for maintaining consistency, limiting human error, and improving the speed of deployments.

As organizations move to cloud-native environments, Kubernetes is a vital tool for managing containerized applications. To avoid costly missteps, follow  Kubernetes best practices to guide your organization towards a successful cloud-native deployment.

Adopting Cloud-Native Security Best Practices

Cloud-native security platforms offer innovative solutions to many of the challenges described above. They provide a unified view of the security posture across the cloud-native computing environment. Platforms that can provide end-to-end security across multiple cloud environments, on-premises infrastructure, and serverless components are becoming increasingly valuable.

In the rapidly evolving world of cloud-native applications, robust security practices are not a choice but a necessity. The cloud environment's distinctive characteristics — such as dynamic workloads, microservices architecture, and automation — demand unique security strategies.

Ensuring cloud-native security involves different stakeholders, each playing a critical role. DevOps and platform teams serve as the frontline of defense, tackling the security issues arising in a cloud-native environment while deploying and managing applications. In parallel, security teams shoulder the responsibility of protecting cloud infrastructure, developing application security pipelines, and remediating vulnerabilities. Together, these teams can construct a well-rounded, robust security posture.

Public cloud providers and their offerings are part of maintaining cloud-native security. Security tools help detect and remediate misconfigurations, while implementing firewalls and access control measures contribute to a secure cloud environment.

The demands of cloud-native security don't stop at the cloud's edge, however. They extend to hybrid, on-premises, and serverless architectures, requiring the adoption of infrastructure as code and the continuous monitoring and management of diverse environments.

Each cloud-native journey is unique and the road to a secure environment can be complex. Robust security practices are critical in cloud-native environments, as are Kubernetes guardrails that help your development teams follow best practices, so make sure you find the right solutions and  partners to help you strengthen your organization's cloud-native security posture.

Learn how Fairwinds Insights helps PagerDuty achieve compliance and security without slowing down.