Kubernetes security and policy management: Top tools to reduce risks

Kubernetes has become a popular open-source project and key building block for modern containerized workflow-based applications. Though Kubernetes has several built-in mechanisms to ensure security, it is inherently not fully secure and lacks several aspects of security. For enterprise-grade security capabilities, Kubernetes infrastructure requires external security and lockdown capabilities such as access policies for individual pods, network policies, RBAC, and namespace access policies. Several tools available in the market can help you manage and keep track of these security-related issues. Let’s take a look at some of the most useful and popular tools.

1. Aporeto

Aporeto is a SaaS-based platform that secures your infrastructure by delivering cloud security and operational agility. This increases digital transformation and provides significant ROI for any infrastructure at any scale.

Aporeto provides secure access to applications and infrastructure using application identity rather than IP addresses. It also offers comprehensive cloud network security through micro-segmentation. It allows users to build and enforce distributed identity-based policies enabling authentication, authorization, and encryption across all workloads, including containers, Kubernetes, serverless, service mesh environments, and VMs. It protects against common cyberattacks and enables accelerated app migration, centralized management, and simplified proof of compliance.

The Aporeto platform has two components: Aporeto Security Orchestrator and Aporeto Enforcer. Orchestrator acts as the control panel, responsible for managing application identity. Its APIs allow the Aporeto platform to be integrated with a wide range of enterprise platforms. Aporeto Enforcer implements functions such as transparent network security, threat monitoring, and API authorization and authentication. It can be deployed in two ways, either as a container or as an enforcement node on the physical/virtual host or virtual machine.

Aporeto follows a Zero Trust security model to provide cloud security and offers uniform security across all hybrid and AWS cloud infrastructure. Aporeto can help accelerate the infrastructure deployment with security and compliance while reducing network complexity and compliance scope. It also automates security with the policy-as-code and monitors and protects applications through whitelisting. Aporeto also helps organizations meet the common regulatory compliance requirements like GDPR, NIST, PCI DSS, HIPAA, SOC 2, and FedRAMP.

2. Prisma Cloud

Prisma Cloud (formerly Twistlock) is a cloud-native security platform that offers security to hybrid, multicloud infrastructure and cloud-native applications. It provides comprehensive visibility, automation, detection, and the response of cloud risk using a single dashboard. It can dynamically discover changes in the cloud resource and continuously correlate raw, siloed data sources.

Prisma Cloud provides data security and the ability to protect cloud-native applications from every network attack path. It helps with cloud workload protection (CWP), cloud security posture management (CSPM), and IAM security.

Prisma allows analysts to prioritize risks and quickly respond to issues.

Prisma leverages the cloud providers’ APIs for read-only access to the organizational network traffic. Then it can analyze and correlate different datasets to identify any anomalies and detect possible threats. The output of its analysis is presented in a report for security analytics teams to take some action. It uses an agent-based approach to keep track of all nodes, including hosts, container, and serverless computing environments, and protects them against known vulnerabilities and malware threats. It also helps in keeping a check on compliance violations.

Prisma Cloud is available in two versions: Prisma Cloud Enterprise Edition (cloud-delivered or SaaS versions) and Prisma Cloud Compute Edition (self-hosted). Prisma Cloud Enterprise Edition offers all the capabilities for full stack and full application lifecycle security. It can help protect the host, container, and serverless nodes running in any cloud environment or on-premise infrastructure. Prisma Cloud Compute Edition is self-hosted software that can be downloaded and installed on any local infrastructure. With this, the organization remains the complete owner and custodian of its data. It can be used to protect hosts, containers, and serverless functions running across a wider variety of infrastructure, including fully air-gapped environments.

3. Falco

Falco is an open-source cloud-native project for runtime security. It works as the default Kubernetes threat-detection engine. It can help detect any unusual application behavior and send runtime alerts when any threats are monitored. Created by Sysdig in 2016, Falco is one of the first CNCF incubation-level projects based on runtime security.

To listen to the Linux kernel, Falco requires a driver. This could be either an extended Berkeley Packet Filter (eBPF) probe or an open-source kernel module. With this arrangement, Falco allows users to track all syscall activities, including any security events, commands, and connections.

Falco provides native integration with Kubernetes API audit logs, which can help obtain automated alerts on suspicious activities or unexpected orchestrator actions by any malware. Falco also provides integration with cloud audit logs, thus providing threat detection and alerting for other cloud environments.

Falco follows both signature-based and behavior-based monitoring to detect threats. Behavioral monitoring-based approaches help detect policy violations with community-sourced detections of malicious activity and CVE exploits. Falco provides users the ability to create detection rules to define complex application behavior. Using Falco for runtime detection helps strengthen container security by using a single policy language across containers, hosts, and cloud environments. In addition, it leverages the most current detection rules and helps reduce risk further via immediate alerts. It can be integrated with Helm, Kubernetes, Open Policy Agent1, Prometheus, Amazon Web Services, Azure, Datadog, Elastic Search, Google Cloud, IBM Cloud, InfluxDB, Grafana Loki, Opsgenie, Red Hat, Slack, and StatsD.

Vendors such as Sysdig, Logz.io, Rancher, Shujinko, and Sumo Logic leverage the Falco engine under the hood for runtime security and cloud threat detection. The end-user list of Falco includes several renowned brands such as Booz Allen Hamilton, Coveo, Frame.io, GitLab, League, Preferral, Shopify, Sight Machine, and Skyscanne.

kubernetes security

4. Sysdig Secure

Sysdig Secure is a part of Sysdig’s container intelligence platform. It offers unified security and compliance for containers, Kubernetes, and the cloud and reduces visible risks. Sysdig Secure uses an open-source stack to accelerate security and drive standardization.

It offers continuous cloud posture management and raises alerts for any misconfigurations and suspicious activities or threats. Sysdig Secure validates compliance against standards like PCI, NIST, and SOC2. It consolidates scanning of containers and hosts in a single workflow, thus automating the CI/CD pipeline and registry scanning process. It blocks all the known vulnerabilities before deployment and continuously monitors for new vulnerabilities as they get identified. It can be used to investigate any threat event and initiate a unified incident response across containers, CaaS (such as AWS Fargate), and cloud. It also provides continuous threat detection based on cloud logs like suspicious logins and file access for AWS and GCP clouds.

Sysdig Secure is built on top of an open-source stack, leveraging Falco, Cloud Custodian, and sysdig OSS, and extends their features across any cloud. Sysdig Secure extends Falco’s detection capabilities with prevention (Pod Security Policies), allowing users to block threats. Sysdig Secure also offers additional features and capabilities such as asset discovery and cloud risk insights. It provides deployment prevention (via Admission Controller) and runtime prevention (via Pod Security Policy Advisor).

5. Kubesec.io

Kubesec is an open-source tool that allows the secure secret management of Kubernetes. It is used to assess the security risk of the workloads based on the YAML configuration. It supports clusters with gpg, Google Cloud KMS, and AWS KMS backends. It allows users to encrypt secrets so that they can be stored in the Version Control System (VCS) repository along with the rest of the resources. It is written in the Go language.

Kubesec scans the Kubernetes resources (deployments and pods) against a predefined list of security features. It also provides a severity score for each vulnerability along with an overall tally. It helps verify, validate and align resource configurations to Kubernetes security best practices. It also checks for vulnerabilities such as privilege escalation-based intrusion, running images as a non-root, and other common threats.

You can have access and security with Kubernetes

By using third-party security and monitoring tools, you can reduce security risks faced by Kubernetes clusters. These viable alternatives enable users to securely manage Kubernetes clusters with ease. Based on your requirements, you can configure and define Kubernetes while keeping a balance between the often-competing requirements of access vs. security.

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