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Top container and Kubernetes security best practices

As the de facto container orchestration system, Kubernetes makes container management possible but also introduces potential security vulnerabilities into infrastructure environments. The differences between security with containers and Kubernetes and virtual machines and a continued skills gap with regards to Kubernetes security can lead to unnecessary security risks.

Security best practices for Kubernetes, like all security best practices, include both best practices to make the application and infrastructure more secure as well as organizational and cultural practices to get centralized control over security.

Creating and enforcing organizational security policies is a best practice regardless of the tech stack the company relies on. Security is a process of risk management, and tools cannot be relied on to decide how much risk is acceptable for each application, for example. This kind of decision has to be made by humans who can take into account how much risk is acceptable for the organization in general, for individual business units, and for each application.

Central control of security. Related to the first point, organizations need a way to ensure that the security and governance policies it has set are being followed. Central teams need to have visibility into configurations and vulnerabilities throughout the entire distributed application, and should have a way to easily visualize and prioritize potential problems. In addition, they need to be able to create guardrails so that individuals get instant feedback when a risky configuration, insecure image, or other potential security risk is part of a build.

Partner with security earlier. ‘Shifting left’ and partnering with security earlier in the development process not only helps remove the security review bottleneck and helps get applications out the door quicker, but also decreases the likelihood of errors resulting in a vulnerability or misconfiguration being exploited.

Leverage automation. Particularly as the Kubernetes footprint expands to multiple clusters and hundreds of namespaces, managing configurations or monitoring runtime behavior manually is no longer possible.

There are also some very important technical best practices specific to making Kubernetes as secure as possible.

Keep Kubernetes up to date. Because security patches are not always released for older versions, it’s a good idea to run a newer, supported release.

Use role-based access control. Access should always be configured on a least-privilege access basis.

Limit communications between pods. Limits should be as restrictive as possible for the pods to function as designed.

Use network segmentation. Each pod should be able to communicate only with the internal or external resources it needs to and remain isolated from all other resources.

Last updated: Jul-3-2020