The risk of doing nothing

Usually development teams without deep security expertise are the first to use containers and Kubernetes. Ignoring security, however, exposes organizations to risk regardless of the type of infrastructure they use.

Configurations in both containers and Kubernetes are not secure by default. Kubernetes’ native security functionality must be actively configured to provide any security benefits. The fastest, easiest way to get an application live is often to give it too many privileges and/or to set resource limits far higher than the application needs — or to leave defaults as is. Although organizations can be tempted to neglect security at first, particularly as they familiarize themselves with containers and Kubernetes, doing so puts them at major risk. Malicious actors are able to exploit containerized applications on Kubernetes just as easily as they can exploit legacy applications.

The core risk of doing nothing is that the application will be compromised by malicious actors. How catastrophic that would be depends on the organization’s industry, the type of application in use, and the scope and type of breach. The likelihood that neglecting security will result in an incident also depends on factors such as whether the application is Internet facing.

Doing nothing to ensure your containerized applications are secure risks making your applications unnecessarily vulnerable. Ignoring security leads to:

Unpatched security vulnerabilities. New security vulnerabilities are discovered all the time, and some of them have been serious. Both the open-source community and malicious actors will know about these vulnerabilities as soon as they are published - failing to address them quickly is risky.

Lax permissions. While role-based access control (RBAC) is enabled by default in Kubernetes, it’s up to the developer to put the access controls in place. Without security guidance, developers will often create workloads that have too much access.

Non-isolated workloads. By default, everything can run in a single default namespace. Using namespaces to start isolating workloads is a basic security best practice. Without conscious attention to this step security, this level of isolation will not happen.

No control over network policies. Kubernetes Network Policies can help organizations control traffic, but they require a network plugin and for the policies to be configured.

Waiting to apply security controls will ultimately lead to disjointed security best practices, a security review bottleneck that reduces development speed, and increased risk of security incidents. Instead, help organization apply security controls early and often in the software development life cycle.

Last updated: Jul-3-2020