When it comes to the cloud native and Kubernetes landscape, security is among the top concerns of modern practitioners. Along with reliability and efficiency, Kubernetes security must always be top-of-mind, especially considering containerized workloads are not secure by default. Businesses hoping to reduce security risk must proceed with caution, always remembering how applications need the proper settings to function safely and successfully. In this way, container security is directly connected to the manner in which your clusters are managed and maintained, a reality that directly relates to proper Kubernetes configuration.
If organizations do not establish a clear set of best practices and effective governance around their Kubernetes workloads, other critical areas of concern, such as performance, cost, reliability and efficiency are all negatively impacted. These issues are all interrelated—and equally so, directly affected by configuration management. In Kubernetes, misconfigurations happen more often than not, which means users must perform numerous checks around their clusters to ensure they are running at optimal performance—reliable, efficient and secure.
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Our recent Kubernetes Configuration Benchmark Report tells, not even half of all organizations are on sure footing here. We know health checks are key to Kubernetes security, and yet only 35% of all businesses have managed to properly configure more than 90% of their containerized workloads with liveness and readiness probes. Configuration validation, also known as infrastructure-as-code (IaC) scanning offers some assistance, but scalability remains a problem for most. More on IaC scanning in a moment…
Platform and security leaders, along with DevOps teams, can easily lose visibility and control around their Kubernetes clusters. This issue reminds us of the need for automation and policies designed to enforce consistency, providing the right organizational guardrails. Proper Kubernetes configuration is vital to the success of cloud native adoption. Identifying security holes without IaC scanning is an almost impossible task and a sure path to a digital breach.
Containerized workloads are great because they are essentially self-contained software with everything necessary to run in production. Development and operations teams rely on this feature to make handing off software easier and faster. As organizations become increasingly comfortable with Kubernetes and the cloud native environment, they need to be aware of their own lack of experience and possible negligence. A single Kubernetes workload may require significant configuration to ensure a more stable and scalable application. Add on organizational challenges and technical debt, and even the most knowledgeable Kubernetes users will admit they struggle to keep misconfigurations at bay.
Of all the Kubernetes security threats, human error is the greatest. When default configurations (that seem developer-friendly but are actually not secure) mix with human oversight, container security is jeopardized. Although Kubernetes configuration management helps, it poses a unique challenge for users because of its complexity. Many tools are available for vulnerability scanning of container images, but proper configuration and oversight require significant attention. Practitioners may understand the need to avoid deploying the Kubernetes dashboard, but configuring pod security content or implementing RBAC also represent challenging areas.
Back to IaC scanning. It refers to the technology and processes used to manage and provision infrastructure using code. IaC scanning helps DevOps teams handle things like version control, peer reviews, automated testing, tagging and continuous integration and delivery.
Every framework has its own syntax and conventions, but IaC scanning is typically composed of resource declarations, input variables, output values, configuration settings and other parameters. Most often, IaC is JSON, HCL or YAML-based, containing all the configurations necessary to spin up infrastructure: compute, networking, storage, security, identity access management (IAM) and more. Because IaC scanning uses code to determine what is needed for resources to get up and running, it allows for automation and the ability to scale cloud provisioning, with better repeatability.
Provisioning cloud resources across different environments and clouds with a common, unified language, developers and operations teams can remain collaborative to keep cloud native applications safe. Adding security checks directly into build and release pipelines is a complex and resource intensive process. Intelligent orchestration and effective IaC scanning can isolate security vulnerabilities into a dedicated pipeline that integrates with current ones. As a result, teams can use IaC to enforce cloud security earlier in the software life cycle to reduce risk and maintain regulatory compliance.
Automated for efficiency, this type of IaC security improves developer productivity and overall efficiency by moving security “left” and automating it. Engineering teams are also empowered to implement IaC security best practices with security as code, which results in a codified process at the source. Moreover, IaC security streamlines workflows by embedding directly into developer workflows to maintain cloud insight in both run and build time. Think about the principles of DevSecOps. It has taught teams how to automate container security by embedding it into the DevOps life cycle. Even though many challenges remain while leveraging DevSecOps for cloud security, IaC is still what makes it all possible.
Kubernetes and other cloud native technologies might be new, but the core business challenge is the same. Businesses need to learn how to accelerate software development speed while also maintaining potent security practices, two practices that still vie for equal consideration in the world of Kubernetes.
Fairwinds Insights offer this level of professional expertise and partnership. As a security and governance platform for Kubernetes, Insights provides DevOps teams with a safety net for scalability, reliability, resource efficiency and security while also empowering developers to innovate and ship faster. DevOps teams can then prevent misconfigurations throughout the CI/CD pipeline and provide remediation advice to developers, free from manual intervention. With Fairwinds Insights, managing multiple clusters and teams across the enterprise becomes easier—and in many cases, possible—as it operationalizes open source tools into a single platform for better oversight and management.
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