5 Things DevOps Teams Can Do to Make Kubernetes Secure and Compliant

5 Things DevOps Teams Can Do to Make Kubernetes Secure and Compliant

The transition from centralized servers and virtual machines to containers has revolutionized enterprise digital infrastructure. Multinational companies are now able to quickly scale and extend their online systems when and where it’s most needed, providing an unprecedented level of versatility. Unfortunately, container management systems like Kubernetes are quite difficult to manage from a security and compliance perspective, leaving DevOps and security teams with the monumental task of shoring up these highly accessible systems.

A 2020 cyber-defense report from research firm Cyberedge Group reveals that enterprises routinely list containers as the least secure IT component in their multi-cloud application environment. This issue is endemic to the cloud-services industry as the adoption of systems like Kubernetes is drastically outpacing the implementation of robust security measures, leading to increasingly costly security and compliance errors. To make matters worse, the highly iterative nature of Kubernetes environments means a significant portion of IT attention is spent monitoring industry developments.

There are several ways that DevOps teams and security personnel can shore up enterprise container security in their multi-cloud environments. These methods address technical, procedural, operational, and policy shortcomings that leave Kubernetes environments exposed. From adopting a DevSecOps approach to implementing a robust tool like Nirmata Policy Manager for Kubernetes, here are 5 ways your IT professionals can improve container security and compliance.

1) An Extensive Running List Prioritizing Key Vulnerabilities

Iteration is truly the double-edged sword of cloud-based container systems. It allows enterprises to quickly develop and scale their digital operations, but it can also lead to a host of security vulnerabilities and compliance issues. While resources like the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures database are highly touted, they don’t address the vulnerabilities of individual containers.

Enterprises with extensive Kubernetes environments need to deploy comprehensive systems that constantly assess and rank configurations based on their vulnerability. To derive optimal insights from this resource, it should be a Kubernetes-native system that can relay highly contextual information about the specifics of the container environment.

2) Know the Difference Between Threat Anomalies and Behavioral Change

Just like diagnostic processes in medicine, mechanics, and other complex systems, container security is assessed relative to a baseline of normal functioning within the environment. A thorough understanding of expected behavior allows security and operations teams to monitor runtime environments for anomalies that may indicate a breach or compliance issue. Unfortunately, the baseline functioning within a Kubernetes environment is subject to constant change.

When oversight systems and personnel aren’t trained about updates of containerized applications, normal behaviors are increasingly flagged as security risks. This “system that cried wolf” scenario can lead to excessive false positives and a fatigued IT department that is unable to separate necessary application changes from suspicious behavior. Behavior modeling systems based on machine learning and artificial intelligence are key tools that help reduce the burden placed on operations and security personnel. 

3) Automation and Integration of Information Systems

From runtime data to memory and CPU statistics at the pod, namespace, cluster, and application levels, there is a wealth of information generated by Kubernetes environments. The current DevOps approach means that the development team is constantly sharing information with their operations counterparts, highlighting potential areas that may be problematic in production environments.

By further integrating the IT department with automated systems, CTOs and other IT stakeholders make certain that this vast wealth of information, generated by software iteration at the enterprise level, is leveraged to provide more beneficial outcomes across the entire Kubernetes environment.

4) Identity-Based Access Management

The use of Role-Based Access Controls (RBACs) in Kubernetes clusters was a groundbreaking development for container management. It allowed administrators and security teams to limit IT personnel access to the specific domains of their focus, usually on a namespace level. But, as the technology continues to develop, it’s increasingly apparent that RBACs can’t ensure compliance and security on their own.

With the addition of policy management engines like Kyverno, enterprises now have more fine-grained control over who can access what. This extends deeper than just the cluster and namespace level, allowing the development of secure access policies that better fit IT personnel workload in a highly-fluid Kubernetes environment. Policy engines are a significant component of identity-based access management that is becoming such an important component of the cloud services industry.

5) Embrace a DevSecOps Approach

From a personnel deployment and conduct perspective, development, operations, and security teams are sometimes working within a silo. Lack of real-time information sharing, whether it’s due to lack of systems integration or outdated IT policies, often leaves the development team with all the cards. These software professionals have the most intimate knowledge of applications and clusters within Kubernetes environments, but this information often doesn’t reach the rest of the IT professionals.

The aforementioned issues of threat detection and information silos are a direct result of segregation between development, operations, and, to a larger degree, security teams. By conceptualizing these different IT departments as a singular operational unit, DevSecOps, it becomes easier to develop the processes and information infrastructure necessary to effectively monitor container security and compliance.

Nirmata’s Policy Manager for Kubernetes

When it comes to policy management for multi-cloud, multi-cluster application environments, Nirmata is both an expert and pioneer. Our Kyverno policy engine is Kubernetes-native, meaning it integrates seamlessly with the most popular cloud managed Kubernetes system. Additionally, our team of experienced container software specialists helps you integrate the Kyverno system to achieve continuous compliance across all your clusters.

The last part is crucial because many enterprise-level Kubernetes environments require much more than just the application of Kyverno alone to ensure container security and compliance. With crucial insights into container software and policy engine best practices, we’ve structured our Policy Manager for Kubernetes service so it can derive the maximum benefit within the specific context of your multi-cloud application environment. Here are a few of the ways that Nirmata and Kyverno combine to provide your enterprise Kubernetes environments with continuous compliance:

  • Policy-as-Code functionality allows IT departments to manage policy resources in a more efficient workflow
  • Enabling policy resource validation, mutation, and generation functionality within clusters
  • Robust access controls that allow for secure self-service and remove delays in response time
  • A comprehensive reporting system that unlocks the full potential of a DevSecOps IT strategy

If you want to learn more about policy management for Kubernetes, give Nirmata a try.


image source:  https://unsplash.com/photos/EUsVwEOsblE

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