Are you an entrepreneur who’s looking to give your business a complete digital makeover? Or perhaps you’re a software developer who’s looking for a more efficient way to deploy cloud-native applications? In either case, chances are Kubernetes has already caught your attention.
It’s 2021 and unless you’ve gone completely off the grid, you’re likely already familiar with Kubernetes. Despite being a relatively new tool, it’s already grown to become the third most preferred software platform for today’s developers.
However, the rising use of Kubernetes also poses a broad spectrum of unique security threats. In this blog, we’ll take a deep dive into the world of Kubernetes security and highlight a few best practices to protect the integrity of your applications. Let’s get started.
What is Kubernetes?
Simply put, Kubernetes (also known as K8s) is an open-source container orchestration tool. It provides a platform to automate the process of deploying, scaling, and managing containerized applications on the cloud.
In recent years, Kubernetes has become the go-to platform for the deployment of containerized applications. This isn’t surprising considering that it eliminates various manual tasks from this process, thereby making it quick and efficient.
This has also been accompanied by many cloud platforms offering their own managed services for Kubernetes. These include:
- Amazon EKS (Elastic Kubernetes Service)
- Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE)
- Azure Kurbernetes Service (AKS)
However, the prevalent use of Kubernetes has also caught the attention of cybercriminals. From crypto mining and ransomware attacks to data breaches – your Kubernetes clusters are vulnerable to a wide range of cyberattacks.
Kubernetes Security Challenges
One of the most prominent examples of Kubernetes security breaches happened in early 2018 and involved Tesla. It happened because Tesla’s Kubernetes administrative console wasn’t password-protected
This allowed the attacker to gain admin privileges to the cluster and run a cryptocurrency mining script. Also, it enabled them to access various pods and access the login credentials for Tesla’s AWS ecosystem. This, in turn, meant that sensitive data, such as vehicle telemetry details, were exposed to the attacker.
It’s worth mentioning here that another major Kubernetes security flaw was identified in December 2018. Researchers found that a malicious third-party could establish a connection to a backend server via the Kubernetes API server. This, in turn, would allow hackers to compromise clusters and pods, as well as install malicious software.
Kubernetes Security Best Practices
Although Kubernetes provides a few tools to secure a cluster, it doesn’t offer any in-built security controls to protect the containers within a cluster. This, in turn, has made it imperative for developers to implement suitable Kubernetes security measures to safeguard various clusters.
Here are a few effective techniques you can use to secure your Kubernetes ecosystem:
1. Know Your Threats
Before you start defining your Kubernetes security policy, make sure you have an extensive understanding of various cyberattacks that could affect your applications. Typically, Kubernetes clusters are prone to the following types of attacks:
- Container compromise
- Network compromise
- Data exfiltration
2. Use the Latest Version
This goes without saying. The older the version of Kubernetes you’re using, the greater your risk of becoming the victim of a cyberattack. This is because newer versions are equipped with more advanced security features and controls.
That’s why it is recommended that you upgrade to the latest version of Kubernetes before deploying any new applications.
3. Prioritize Vulnerability Scanning
Don’t wait till your applications/containers are ready to be deployed to start identifying potential threats. The key to protecting your Kubernetes ecosystem is to bake security into the CI/CD pipeline.
This involves performing extensive vulnerability scanning for all images used within a container. As a ground-rule, make sure you only download images from trusted sources. Next, scan each image and its associated code to identify any security threats.
Also, create a private registry to store all authorized images for a particular container. Make sure you have strict policies in place to scan and approve images before they’re stored in private registries.
4. Implement RBAC
Role-based access control (RBAC) is the key to protecting your pods from internal and external threats. Depending on the version of Kubernetes you’re using, RBAC might be enabled by default. However, it’s recommended that you check the settings and make sure it’s effectively implemented.
While you’re at it, make sure you avoid giving cluster-wide permissions. Instead, utilize namespaces to judiciously group your resources and provide relevant users with access to individual namespaces.
What security measures are you using to secure your Kubernetes ecosystem? Share your suggestions in the comments section below.