Cloud Security

What are Container Security Vulnerabilities?

Like the fast-paced tech world, our ways of making and rolling out apps are also morphing. And lately, one thing that’s been turning heads is containerization. It’s a big deal in today’s DevOps scenario because of its super practical, adaptable nature that makes packaging and running applications a breeze. But, as we all know, every […]

Mahendra D.

Written by Mahendra D.

August 22, 2023 | 8 min read

Like the fast-paced tech world, our ways of making and rolling out apps are also morphing. And lately, one thing that’s been turning heads is containerization. It’s a big deal in today’s DevOps scenario because of its super practical, adaptable nature that makes packaging and running applications a breeze. But, as we all know, every rose has its thorns. And in this case, it’s security. We’re starting to see more and more container security vulnerabilities. These sneaky gaps can open doors for threats to an organization’s IT environment, potentially putting confidential data at stake.

In this write-up, we’re going to dive head-first into these vulnerabilities. We want you to get the full picture of these issues, understand their categories, and get the low-down on the different types. Plus, we’ll run you through a list of the usual suspects regarding Container Security Vulnerabilities that you should keep your guard up for. And not to leave you hanging, we’ll show how PingSafe, a badass security solution, can help you put up a good fight against these risks. By the time you’re done with this read, you’ll have a handle on the basics of container security vulnerabilities and be all set to protect your turf.

Table of Contents:

What are Container Security Vulnerabilities?

Container Security Vulnerabilities are potential weaknesses, gaps, or glitches in how container technologies are set up or function. These can be gateways for unwanted guests to sneak in, tamper with data, or mess with the applications running in these containers. In the software development and IT world, these container security vulnerabilities can create big-time problems like confidential data leaks, service disruptions, or even complete system hijacks.

In the usual virtualization-based environments, every virtual machine (VM) has its operating system (OS). But containers? They all share the same OS kernel. So, a vulnerability in one container might affect others on the same host. This is why it’s super important to have a solid container security strategy prepared for all kinds of threats. These container security vulnerabilities can show up at any stage of the container lifecycle, from building container images to their deployment and runtime. So, we’ve got to keep our eyes peeled at all times for their detection and fixing.

What are the Container Security Vulnerabilities Categories?

Now we’re diving deeper into the world of container security vulnerabilities. And guess what? Vulnerabilities can crop up from different parts of the container’s structure and its operations. To get a grip on these, we need to pin them to the right categories. It’s like sorting puzzle pieces – you know where to place each piece for the whole picture to come together. To uncomplicate things, let’s talk about container security vulnerabilities in four key categories: Application Vulnerabilities, Configuration Vulnerabilities, Network Vulnerabilities, and Image Vulnerabilities.

1. Application Vulnerabilities

Let’s talk about Application Vulnerabilities first. These are all about the code that’s running inside your containers. Since containers bundle everything you need to run an application, any hiccup in your application code or the stuff it depends on can open the door to security problems. Think about it – if your application uses outdated software or libraries with known weak spots, you’re rolling out the red carpet for the bad guys. The risk multiplies when these vulnerabilities get together with containers having more privileges – it’s like giving the attackers a VIP pass!

Often, these vulnerabilities can come up from shaky coding practices. Maybe you’re not handling user input properly, and then you have something like SQL Injection on your hands. Or maybe your error handling isn’t up to scratch, and now you’re leaking information. To tackle application vulnerabilities, it’s not just about scanning for known weak spots and patching them up. You also need to get your coding practices in line with security standards.

2. Configuration Vulnerabilities

Next, we have Configuration Vulnerabilities. These issues tend to pop up because of misconfigurations in the container environment setup or the host operating system. Think about it like this – you’ve got containers running with way more privileges than they need. If an attacker manages to get in, they can step out of the container and stroll straight into your host system. Then you’ve got sloppy use of namespaces, which can leave system resources out in the open for containers.

Also, issues like not keeping a lid on the resources in your containers can cause major damage. If you’re not careful, a single container could gobble up most of your system’s resources, leaving other containers on the same host high and dry – denial-of-service (DoS) scenario. So, how do you deal with configuration vulnerabilities? It’s all about understanding and managing your container setups and keeping a keen eye on them for any changes that could put you in danger.

3. Network Vulnerabilities

Switching tracks, let’s talk about Network Vulnerabilities. In the container networking world, a lot can go wrong. Let’s say you’ve got containers communicating with each other with no restrictions, an attacker could sneak into one container and then hop, skip, and jump to the others in your network – welcome to the world of east-west attack propagation. Then you’ve got container orchestrators, if they aren’t set up just right, they’re sitting ducks for network-based attacks, putting your whole container fleet (infra) at risk.

And then there’s the issue of insecure APIs for managing containers. If your APIs are exposed and lack proper security, they can lead to potential security risks. So how do you overcome these issues? Secure communication channels, your APIs, and enforcing network segmentation are your best bets here.

4. Image Vulnerabilities

When we’re talking about Image Vulnerabilities, we’re referring to potential issues in the container images. Troubles often begin when we use old or unsafe images to start our containers. These images might be riddled with unresolved security weak points, becoming a playground for attackers who can exploit them to take over the container.

The plot thickens when images are sourced from registries that haven’t been vetted or have insecure security protocols. Images like these could potentially be altered or carry a payload of malicious code. To sidestep these issues, it’s wise to use images only from registries you trust and make it a habit to keep them up-to-date regularly. Moreover, get into the routine of scanning your container images for known weak spots before you deploy, this can be a significant boost for the security of your applications that run in containers.

Types of Container Security Vulnerabilities

Type 1 – Insecure Images

Regarding container vulnerabilities, insecure images rank high on the list. These are images for containers that contain software past its prime with vulnerabilities that are already known, or they could be coming from registries that haven’t been verified or are known to be insecure. In essence, an insecure image is a security headache waiting to happen. It lays out a welcome mat for those with harmful intentions to take advantage of the known weak spots or run harmful code tucked away in the image. To get a handle on these threats, it’s crucial to do regular sweeps for any issues with images, use images from sources you trust, and keep those images up to date.

Type 2 – Container Breakouts

Container breakouts, also known as container escapes, are a nasty business. They happen when some villainous software or person travels out of their confined container and strolls right onto the host system. Once they’re out, they can play puppeteer with other containers or seize control of your whole system. This typically happens due to insecure container configurations or flaws in the host system, like a high Change Failure Rate indicating a system prone to faults.

Type 3 – Denial of Service

When we chat about container security, the topic of Denial of Service or DoS attacks can’t be overlooked. Think of a DoS attack as an unplanned outage in your DevOps. It’s an attack on availability, one of the cornerstones of the security triad. In the container world, a DoS attack could see a specific container getting overwhelmed with too many requests, causing it to buckle under pressure. This in turn, could deny service to the other containers sharing the same host. It’s akin to one bug in the code causing the entire deployment frequency to tumble.

Type – 4 Poisoned Orchestration API

Let’s move on to another major concern in container security – Poisoned Orchestration API. Consider the orchestration tools such as Kubernetes that leverage APIs to manage diverse container operations. These are a bit like the lifeblood of your DevOps organization. But what if they’re not properly secured? That’s like a loophole in the DevOps metrics that can be exploited.

Attackers, spotting the weakness, could manipulate the container deployments and orchestrate a ‘poisoned orchestration API’ situation. The damage? Unauthorized access, data theft, or even more malicious activities – a bit like a massive failure rate in the production environment.

List of common Container Security Vulnerabilities

Let’s delve into some Common Container Security Vulnerabilities that every organization utilizing container technology should know.

#1 Use of Untrusted Images

When it comes to building containers, images are the blueprints we use. However, just like in construction, if the blueprint isn’t reliable, it could lead to many problems down the line. This is when untrusted or insecure images are used in container development – it’s akin to inviting trouble into your system.

These unreliable images could carry malicious software or hidden backdoors. It’s like unknowingly hosting a thief within your walls – jeopardizing your container and its entire hosting environment.

#2 Absence of Resource Limits

You’re inviting trouble when you don’t have a cap on the resources a container can consume. This is how resource exhaustion attacks happen. A container goes on a binge, consuming too many resources and triggering system instability, or worse, causing crashes. The result is that other processes or containers on the same host system get starved of service. So what’s the fix? Organizations must roll up their sleeves, place well-defined resource quotas for each container, and enforce them diligently.

#3 Misconfigured Access Controls

One of the major pitfalls in a container environment arises from improper configuration of access controls. Such a scenario could pave the way for unauthorized access – anything from a user who’s not supposed to have permission to land access to a container to an external attacker wresting control over the container environment. The solution lies in implementing access controls correctly, making them a key pillar of container security.

#4 Inadequate Isolation Practices

Containers are fundamentally built to offer a degree of isolation – from the host system and other containers. But without the right configuration, this isolation shield can be inadequate. This can give rise to scenarios of container escapes, where a malignant process manages to break free from its container. To beef up the wall of isolation, you can consider using security tools like user namespaces, seccomp, and a few other Linux security modules.

How Pingsafe Can Help?

PingSafe is an advanced security solution designed to help organizations navigate and counter the complex landscape of container security vulnerabilities. With a rich feature set tailored to address various challenges associated with containerized applications, PingSafe is equipped to ensure your applications remain secure throughout their lifecycle. Let’s explore how several of PingSafe’s key features can help you avoid potential threats.

  • Security Scanning and Monitoring

PingSafe sits at the heart of your security strategy by undertaking robust scanning and continuous oversight of both serverless and server-centric container environments. It takes the load off your shoulders in widely-used environments such as ECS, AKS, EKS, Fargate, Kubernetes, and Docker images.

  • Configuration Defect Detection and Misconfiguration Management

PingSafe further enhances your security posture by identifying container configuration defects. It scrutinizes your configurations, benchmarking them against recognized standards like CIS and PCI, to pinpoint inconsistencies or breaches that could pave the way for possible vulnerabilities.

  • Embedded Secrets and Vulnerability Detection

A particularly vital component of PingSafe’s toolset is the capability to uncover embedded secrets within container images and host virtual machines. These secrets can become conduits for security transgressions if compromised. In addition, PingSafe is skilled at unearthing vulnerabilities in container images housed in ECS/Kubernetes clusters and private container registries, empowering you to fortify your applications from their origin point.

Conclusion

Addressing Container Security Vulnerabilities is a complex endeavor that requires a profound comprehension of the container landscape and its inherent risks. Nonetheless, with appropriate tools, businesses can efficiently tackle these challenges, crafting a secure sphere for their container-based applications.

PingSafe, laden with many functionalities, stands as a dependable partner in this voyage. Be it pinpointing configuration anomalies, unearthing embedded secrets, or perpetually surveilling your container landscape, PingSafe is there to ensure your enterprise remains a stride ahead of potential dangers. Don’t let container security vulnerabilities impede your advancements. Discover the offerings of PingSafe and shield your container ecosystem this very day.