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Docker Security Issues: Top 10 Issues

Docker is one of the most popular containerization technologies in the cloud industry and can increase security for various applications and services. However, it introduces multiple attack surfaces and is prone to several vulnerabilities. Account hijacking, compromises with the Docker Engine, and loopholes in container configuration profiles are some of the most common causes of […]

Mansi B.

Written by Mansi B.

September 25, 2023 | 6 min read

Docker is one of the most popular containerization technologies in the cloud industry and can increase security for various applications and services. However, it introduces multiple attack surfaces and is prone to several vulnerabilities. Account hijacking, compromises with the Docker Engine, and loopholes in container configuration profiles are some of the most common causes of data breaches. Docker registries house thousands of images, API secrets, and validated private keys that contain sensitive information.

A recent study showed that over 4 million public Docker hub images had critical vulnerabilities and hidden malware, and most organizations were unaware of them. There is a need to perform dynamic scanning on repositories, analyze runtime behaviors, and improve the searchability of databases. Docker security tools can help remediate Docker Security Issues so that companies don’t have to suffer severe consequences in the future. 

Docker APIs and containers communicate with each other and are not secure by default. A lack of security monitoring and no proper enforcement of security policies makes them vulnerable to critical threats. Docker security is essential because it prevents unauthorized data access, privilege escalations, and other unknown exploits from cropping up. It changes how customers interact with containers, minimizes attack surfaces, and optimizes the usage of Docker resources. Untrustworthy users should not be allowed to control the Docker daemon, and access needs to be restricted to the control socket. Organizations should invest in Docker security as it prevents their business reputation from getting ruined and builds credibility among consumers. Many security implications go unnoticed until Docker security solutions scan and monitor such environments. Organizations can also gain better insights into their overall security posture when they apply Docker security. 

This blog covers why Docker security is important and explains the top Docker security issues faced by global organizations.

Table of Contents:

  1. Top 10 Docker Security Issues
    1. CVE-2019-5736: RunC Container Breakout Vulnerability
    2. CVE 2022 0847: Dirty Pipe
    3. CVE 2021 21285: Uncontrolled resource consumption
    4. CVE 2014 9356: Directory traversal
    5. CVE 2019 14271: Improper initialization
    6. Unrestricted network traffic and communications
    7. Unverified Docker images
    8. Lack of regular updates and inconsistent patching
    9. Kernel-level threats
    10. Docker misconfigurations
  2. How PingSafe Solves Docker Security Issues?
  3. Conclusion

Top 10 Docker Security Issues

Docker applications are designed to be deployed and scaled with multiple technology stacks and cloud environments. Docker security encompasses securing Kubernetes clusters and Helm charts to orchestrate Docker containers. It involves identifying the top Docker security issues and securing various aspects of containers, such as base images, container runtime, and the Docker daemon. There are additional aspects of Docker security that mitigate supply chain risks and ensure business continuity.

Businesses that apply the best Docker security practices recover faster and can prevent disruptions. Customers trust companies more if they implement the latest Docker security solutions, as Docker security tools adhere to the best industry benchmarks. Good Docker security can help prevent lawsuits and legal compliance issues and address various security flaws throughout the organization.

Below is a list of the Top 10 Docker Security Issues experienced by organizations of all sizes.

1. CVE-2019-5736: RunC Container Breakout Vulnerability

The RunC Container Breakout Vulnerability allows attackers to exploit the Docker host, escalate privileges, and obtain root access. It is a common vulnerability among Docker instances that run on Oracle Linux 8 and up. The compromised containers can overwrite the host’s runC binary code and perform root-level execution. It can also gain unauthorized file access and cause a system data breach.

How to avoid it: Upgrade the ‘container-common’ attribute for all Docker instances.

2. CVE 2022 0847: Dirty Pipe

Dirty Pipe attacks are where the malicious actor changes the contents of Docker files and overrides permissions. Users lose the ability to change permissions, and the attackers escalate privileges.

How to avoid it: To prevent it, users must upgrade all Linux hosts to the latest patched versions.

3. CVE 2021 21285: Uncontrolled resource consumption

Older versions of Docker experience a common vulnerability known as uncontrolled resource consumption. It’s when the malicious actor makes an application hog all system resources and affects the overall functioning and delivery of Docker container services.

How to avoid it: Set resource quotas for CPU and memory per container. It will prevent resource overutilization and eliminate operational disruptions.

4. CVE 2014 9356: Directory traversal

Directory traversal happens when third parties gain access to files they usually shouldn’t have access to. These files may contain sensitive application code, and attackers can bypass container protection mechanisms.

How to avoid it: Organizations can protect file paths by upgrading Docker to the latest patched version.

5. CVE 2019 14271: Improper initialization

Improper initialization is a Docker code injection vulnerability. It happens when malicious code enters the application and changes the contents of the container. The application also executes unauthorized code, and the name service switch dynamically loads the library inside the change root operation.

How to avoid it: Upgrade the Docker CLI to eliminate it.

6. Unrestricted network traffic and communications

Attackers can exploit root access for containers and attack the host. It may lead to additional exposure of sensitive data and expand the attack surface.

How to avoid it: Apply the principle of least privilege access. Separate user accounts, isolate containers and eliminate root access to prevent lateral movement between containers.

7. Unverified Docker images

Docker container images can be left with critical vulnerabilities if they are not canned properly. Unverified Docker images have compatibility issues and are not verified by trusted publishers. Using unverified images can introduce malware to systems and compromise overall security.

How to avoid it: Use Docker image scanning tools to analyze and verify the authenticity of Docker container images. Check if the images are pulled from public or private repositories and sourced responsibly. 

8. Lack of regular updates and inconsistent patching

Not updating Docker containers regularly can make them vulnerable to various security threats. Developers add new bug fixes and correct errors in upcoming releases. Inadequate patching practices can make the Docker host susceptible as well.

How to avoid it: Fully patched Docker versions and applying regular updates can help users stay protected.

9. Kernel-level threats

Docker kernel is shared between the host and containers. Host kernel vulnerabilities are widespread and may lead to container distress. It is essential to prevent attackers from exploiting them and secure the entire host.

How to avoid it: Monitor the Docker host and apply regular security updates. Ensure that host operating systems are updated and leverage virtual machines to prevent hypervisor attacks.

10. Docker misconfigurations

Docker misconfigurations can exfiltrate sensitive data and cause a breach of trust among users. A misconfiguration occurs when an unauthorized user is granted root access to the Docker kernel and host. Docker misconfigurations can let attackers become a part of the Docker group, gain root access, and elevate privileges. It can mount unverified Docker images, hijack other accounts, and cause various security issues.

How to avoid it: Use Docker auditing tools to secure containers and address misconfiguration issues. Many Docker scanning platforms like PingSafe can apply the best configuration practices and fix poor configurations across multi-cloud environments. 

How PingSafe Solves Docker Security Issues?

PingSafe offers the following features to enhance Docker security:

  • A Cloud-Native Application Protection Platform (CNAPP) that scans, monitors, and remediates Docker security threats in real time. It comes with Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM), Kubernetes Security Posture Management (KSPM), and advanced Cloud Workload Protection Platform (CWPP) tools. PingSafe defends cloud infrastructure from hackers and features a Cloud Detection and Response (CDR) tool that empowers organizations.
  • Its Offensive Security Engine provides complete cloud protection and equips organizations with attackers’ intelligence. PingSafe can analyze evolving attack patterns, evaluate supply chain risks, and ensure zero false positives. It can initiate attack simulations on infrastructure assets and assess a security strategy’s effectiveness.
  • PingSafe enforces shift-left security and conducts agentless vulnerability scanning for all Docker containers. It scans Docker images, checks for malicious code, and eliminates critical vulnerabilities.
  • PingSafe enables the real-time scanning of secrets. It can detect issues with secrets for more than 80+ types and pull requests with hardcoded secrets. The platform can provide multi-tenancy support, CI/CD integration support, and identify cloud resources and assets with known CVEs. 
  • PingSafe has an intelligent threat watch dashboard and performs agentless VM snapshot scanning. The platform can conduct zero-day vulnerability assessments, monitor IaC scripts, generate SBOM from code, and produce graph-based visualizations for Kubernetes and ECS clusters.
  • The platform enables end-to-end continuous compliance monitoring for up to 20+ industry regulations. PingSafe supports using standards like PCI-DSS, NIST, ISO 27001, CIS Benchmark, etc.
  • PingSafe can prevent data leaks, ensure flawless migration between services from on-premise to cloud environments, and protect customers from attackers. It enhances IaC security and supports various templates like CloudFormation, TerraForm, Helm, etc. The platform can fix Docker misconfigurations and secure cloud VMs, containers, and serverless functions.

Conclusion

Docker Security is complex, and there are no easy ways to remediate all Docker security issues. Organizations must use various tools and strategies to address common Docker security issues and enhance their security posture. It is essential to view security holistically and consider multiple aspects of data handling and management so that no backdoors are open in the organization.