Cloud Security

Container Vulnerability Scanning: Top 5 Tools

In software engineering, containers have evolved as fundamental elements for bundling, disseminating, and executing applications. These compact and self-contained executable packages house everything needed to run software, from the code itself to system tools, libraries, and configurations. Nevertheless, as with technological innovation, they are not immune to threats and require specific steps to ensure security. […]

Mahendra D.

Written by Mahendra D.

August 17, 2023 | 8 min read

In software engineering, containers have evolved as fundamental elements for bundling, disseminating, and executing applications. These compact and self-contained executable packages house everything needed to run software, from the code itself to system tools, libraries, and configurations. Nevertheless, as with technological innovation, they are not immune to threats and require specific steps to ensure security. This brings us to the critical aspect of container vulnerability scanning.

Container vulnerability scanning is a critical component of any cyber-defense blueprint; it focuses on detecting, categorizing, and prioritizing weak spots in computer systems, software, and network infrastructures. This offers vital visibility into potential threats that could undermine the system’s security, thus paving the way for suitable remediation strategies.

In this piece, we delve deep into Container Vulnerability Scanning – a fusion of the above-mentioned concepts, where we scrutinize potential vulnerabilities inherent to containers. We will elaborate on the types of container vulnerabilities, how they can materialize, various container vulnerability scanning methodologies, and finally, suggest the top five tools for effective container vulnerability scanning.

Table of Contents:

What is Container Vulnerability Scanning?

Container vulnerability scanning is a specific kind of vulnerability scanning focused on unearthing security risks in container images. You can think of container images as the blueprint from which containers spring into action, complete with the application and its sidekicks, aka dependencies. If there’s a chink in this blueprint, each container derived from it will inherit that chink. That’s why spotting and patching vulnerabilities right at the source – the image level – is essential for keeping a container environment safe.

Now, let’s chat about how this scanning works. It’s like giving a container image a thorough health check to find known vulnerabilities. These could be hiding anywhere within the container – in the application code, system libraries, or other dependencies. This check-up usually happens automatically and uses a database chock full of known security issues to compare with the contents of a container image.

But there’s something important to remember here. Container vulnerability scanning isn’t something you do once and forget about. It needs to be woven into the fabric of the software development process. The ideal way to do this is to run scans at every stage – when crafting images, just before you launch them, and constantly after they’re live. That way, even if new vulnerabilities pop up after a container is live, they can be tracked down and tackled quickly, helping to make your application environment more secure overall.

What are the Different Types of Container Vulnerabilities?

Container technologies, while revolutionizing software deployment, bring new vulnerabilities that can compromise your system’s security. Understanding the diverse types of container vulnerabilities is the first step in devising an effective security strategy.

1. Image Vulnerabilities

These are probably the ones you’ll encounter most frequently. They spring up when the images used to mold containers are either out-of-date or insecure. Picture an image as a sort of container clone – it’s a blueprint that becomes a live container. If this blueprint carries old software packages or libraries known to be riddled with security flaws, those same flaws will infiltrate the living container.

So, how can you tackle these vulnerabilities? One approach is to ensure your images are regularly spruced up with the freshest, safest versions of software and libraries. And let’s not forget about container vulnerability scanning tools – they’re excellent at pinpointing the risks within your container images.

2. Runtime Vulnerabilities

These security issues crop up while a container is actively running. Think of apps operating with privileges they don’t need, containers set up with flimsy configurations, or unsecured runtime settings for containers.

It’s wise to stick to the principle of least privilege or PoLP to put a lid on runtime vulnerabilities. In a nutshell, your applications should only be armed with the bare minimum of permissions they need to operate effectively. Adhering to good practices for securely setting up containers can go a long way. Don’t underestimate the power of runtime security tools, either – they’re great at monitoring container behavior, spotting, and dealing with these risks before they can cause trouble.

3. Orchestrator Vulnerabilities

These spring up in the management systems that keep the containers in check, like Kubernetes or Docker Swarm. Remember, an orchestrator is a boss – it has the power to start, pause, and network containers. If a hacker manages to take the reins of the orchestrator, they could wreak havoc on your entire container landscape.

How to fend off orchestrator vulnerabilities? Start by buttoning up access to the orchestrator. Ensure that only the right people have access, and keep that list as short as possible. Staying up to date with orchestrator software is also crucial – don’t let old, insecure versions expose you to unnecessary risk. And, of course, always use robust authentication methods. Stay vigilant with these orchestrator security best practices to significantly lower this risk.

4. Supply Chain Vulnerabilities

These issues occur when bad actors get their way into the software supply chain, and like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, they lace malicious code into open-source libraries or components. These elements can then find their way into your container images without raising any alarms.

Dealing with this type of vulnerability requires a keen eye because it’s not just about scrutinizing your code – you must go beyond that. Every library and component your application uses must be put under the microscope. A strong software composition analysis tool, capable of scanning every single component of your software, becomes an essential ally in your security arsenal to ward off this threat.

Importance of Container Vulnerability Scanning

With the rise in popularity of containerization technologies, the security of these containers has become paramount. Container Vulnerability Scanning is a critical practice that every organization should adopt to ensure the safety of their software and data. Here, we’ll discuss four main reasons why Container Vulnerability Scanning is essential.

1. Early Detection of Vulnerabilities

Regular container vulnerability scanning allows organizations to catch vulnerabilities at the earliest stages of the software development cycle. Detecting and nipping these issues in the bud before they have a chance to become a real headache saves both time and resources that might have otherwise been drained fixing post-deployment issues. Not just that, but it also minimizes potential damage that could spiral out of unchecked vulnerabilities.

With early detection, the number of containers with chinks in their armor that manage to infiltrate the production environment is drastically cut down. Consequently, this reduces the overall risk profile of an organization’s software infrastructure, making the services they roll out to users considerably more secure.

2. Compliance with Regulations

Many industries have stringent regulations, compelling companies to conduct regular vulnerability evaluations of their IT systems. In settings where containers are an integral part of the framework, container vulnerability scanning takes center stage in these assessments.

Carrying out routine scans has the added benefit of furnishing necessary documentation, and demonstrating compliance with the regulations. It provides organizations with a solid method to assure regulators that they leave no stone unturned to shield their IT systems from identified vulnerabilities.

3. Keeping Up with Threat Landscape

We’re living in a world where the threat landscape isn’t static; it’s always shifting, with new vulnerabilities coming to light and older ones getting patched up. Regular container vulnerability scanning lets organizations stay in sync with these incessant changes.

By routinely updating their vulnerability databases and scanning their containers, organizations can establish assurance of protection against the most recent threats known. This practice further aids in sustaining the security of their systems as the newest updates and patches roll out.

Types of  Container Vulnerability Scanning

Different strategies and tools are required in cybersecurity to keep up with the ever-evolving threat landscape. This also holds for container vulnerability scanning, where different types cater to various aspects of container security. Here, we dive into four main types of container vulnerability scanning.

1. Static Analysis

Also known as Static Application Security Testing (SAST), Static Analysis scans container images without launching them. This examination sifts through the code, libraries, and dependencies housed in the image, searching for recognized vulnerabilities.

The benefit of this approach is that it uncovers vulnerabilities at an early stage in the development cycle, even before the containers are dispatched. It can seamlessly integrate into the Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) pipeline, enabling automated examinations during the build phase.

2. Dynamic Analysis

Dynamic Analysis, or Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST), evaluates running containers for potential weak spots. It offers a real-time snapshot of how containers behave and perform, thereby aiding the identification of problems that may only crop up during runtime.

This examination is particularly handy in spotting vulnerabilities associated with runtime settings and configuration, which might not be discernible in static analysis. It’s also adept at identifying insecure inter-container communication and potential container breakout vulnerabilities.

3. Software Composition Analysis

Software Composition Analysis (SCA) is an approach that inspects the open-source components incorporated into container images. It pinpoints recognized vulnerabilities in these elements that could compromise the containers’ security.

Considering the extensive adoption of open-source tools and libraries in software development, SCA has emerged as a pivotal part of container vulnerability scanning. It fortifies the software supply chain, guaranteeing that the open-source components deployed in your containers are devoid of known vulnerabilities.

4. Runtime Protection

Runtime protection implies overseeing the behavior of active containers to discern any irregularities that might signal a security risk. It leverages preset rules or machine learning algorithms to spot actions that deviate from the expected behavior.

This scanning is vital to intercepting threats that may have been missed during static or dynamic analysis. It offers uninterrupted security for your containers, assuring that any emerging threats are detected immediately as they appear.

Top 5 Tools for  Container Vulnerability Scanning

Choosing the right tool for container vulnerability scanning is vital for effective security. The tool should identify vulnerabilities and offer comprehensive features to mitigate and manage those vulnerabilities. Here, we list the top 5 commercial tools for container vulnerability scanning.

1. PingSafe

PingSafe is a potent tool built to safeguard your containerized environments, honing in on Kubernetes, Docker, and serverless security. It boasts an extensive set of features, such as:

  • Examining and supervising containers like ECS, AKS, EKS, Fargate, Kubernetes, Docker images, etc., and orchestration components for potential vulnerabilities.
  • Identifying container configuration flaws against renowned standards like CIS, PCI, etc., ensuring your container configurations align with industry best practices.
  • Spotting concealed secrets in container images and host VMs, aiding in preventing unauthorized access to confidential information.
  • Capability to find vulnerabilities in container images housed in ECS/Kubernetes clusters and private container registries, offering a thorough vulnerability evaluation.
  • Graph-based depiction of ECS/Kubernetes clusters, facilitating easy comprehension and control of your container environment.

2. Aqua Security

Aqua Security is a top-tier container security instrument that delivers container image scanning and runtime protection. It boasts features such as:

  • Thorough scanning of container images for known vulnerabilities.
  • Identification of misconfigurations in container deployments.
  • Synchronization with CI/CD pipelines for early detection and remediation of vulnerabilities.

3. Sysdig Secure

Sysdig Secure is a tool crafted specifically for container and Kubernetes security. It proposes features like:

  • Scanning of container images located in registries and within CI/CD pipelines.
  • Detection of runtime threats based on pre-established rules and machine learning.
  • Detailed forensics and audit trails for containers.

4. Twistlock by Prisma Cloud (Palo Alto Networks)

Twistlock, incorporated within Prisma Cloud, is a holistic cloud-native security platform. It provides features such as:

  • Scanning for vulnerabilities in container images and serverless functions.
  • Runtime defense mechanisms for both containers and hosts.
  • Compliance verification and enforcement are rooted in industry standards.

5. StackRox

Now under the Red Hat umbrella, StackRox provides a security platform built specifically for Kubernetes. Its offered features encompass:

  • Scanning for vulnerabilities within images in both registries and deployments.
  • Spotting hazardous configurations and deployments that don’t comply with the rules.
  • Utilizing machine learning for threat detection during runtime.

These applications offer a well-rounded strategy for container vulnerability scanning, including various features designed to spot and manage vulnerabilities in your containerized setups. The appropriate tool for you will depend on the unique needs of your organization and the nature of your container deployment.


In sum, safeguarding your containerized applications is indispensable to current software development. Incorporating Container Vulnerability Scanning through efficient tools can substantially fortify your resistance against potential hazards. Recognizing diverse vulnerabilities and applying the best practices can notably diminish the risk levels associated with your containerized applications.

For those seeking an all-encompassing solution to fortify your containerized settings, PingSafe is worth considering. Offering a broad range of features, from scanning both server-based and serverless containers to spotting configuration flaws and hidden secrets, PingSafe delivers a sturdy and exhaustive approach to container security. Don’t delay; make the initial move toward securing your containerized settings with PingSafe today.