Cloud Security

GitLab Container Scanning: An Easy Guide 101

GitLab Container Scanning is an essential tool for maintaining the security and integrity of containerized applications. Being familiar with and employing this technique becomes even more critical as organizations move towards adopting containerization for software deployment. This article will cover GitLab Container Scanning in-depth, its operation, supported container formats, and how best practices and real-life […]

Mahendra D.

Written by Mahendra D.

August 22, 2023 | 8 min read

GitLab Container Scanning is an essential tool for maintaining the security and integrity of containerized applications. Being familiar with and employing this technique becomes even more critical as organizations move towards adopting containerization for software deployment.

This article will cover GitLab Container Scanning in-depth, its operation, supported container formats, and how best practices and real-life examples can help facilitate its setup for projects. With best practices highlighted throughout, this guide offers an understanding of GitLab Container Scanning that ensures secure development processes with smooth workflow.

Table of Contents:

Understanding GitLab Container Scanning

Understanding GitLab Container Scanning is key for those aiming to secure containerized applications using GitLab or seeking to do so using other containerization platforms like Docker. GitLab Container Scanning serves as a security check, checking each component within your software for vulnerabilities that attackers could exploit – acting like an antivirus check on its building blocks!

The inspection involves closely inspecting the software contained within containers to detect any issues or potential risks that might exist within. This step is crucial when developing modern software; containers typically consist of disparate components from multiple sources that must all adhere to security standards to maintain integrity within your application.

GitLab Container Scanning can be invaluable to software development, providing essential protection to containerized software applications. Early identification of vulnerabilities helps maintain secure systems bringing peace of mind to developers and stakeholders alike.

How GitLab Container Scanning Works?

GitLab Container Scanning can automatically identify and resolve vulnerabilities within container images, providing peace of mind that any vulnerabilities within these images have been addressed quickly and reliably. Here’s a breakdown of its workings:

GitLab Container Scanning can easily be integrated with the Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) pipeline, making the scanning process an integral part of each build and push, not simply an isolated event. This ensures security checks become an ongoing part of development rather than something done just once-off.

Utilizing Vulnerability Databases

This tool cross-references components against known vulnerability databases to detect known vulnerabilities within software packages or libraries used within containers. This enables easy identification of known threats that might exist therein.

Generating a Report

GitLab Container Scanning generates a comprehensive report upon completion, outlining any vulnerabilities discovered and their severity categories; and suggesting fixes or mitigation strategies where needed.

Automating Responses

GitLab Container Scanning allows users to set automatic responses based on how it’s configured; these could include creating issues for development teams to address or even stopping CI/CD pipeline if critical vulnerabilities are discovered to make sure no insecure code ever makes its way out into production.

Remediation and Continuous Monitoring

Our Continuous Monitoring Tool helps with ongoing remediation by continually scanning container updates as updates come through, automatically checking for vulnerabilities that might emerge as changes are implemented, and ensuring continued protection against new vulnerabilities that arise over time.

Supported Container Format for GitLab

When we refer to GitLab’s Container Scanning support of certain container formats, we mean looking into their specific structure and arrangement of data within them. Trivy and Grype scanning tools have extensive support across varying Linux distributions so vulnerabilities can be quickly identified across environments.

Open-Source Scanning Tools:

  • Trivy (an Open-Source Vulnerability Scanner for Containers and Operating Systems): Trivy is an established open-source vulnerability scanner specifically tailored for containers and operating systems, offering lightweight but thorough scanning capabilities to identify vulnerabilities across many Linux distributions.
  • Grype: Grype provides accurate vulnerability data on container images. As an analysis tool, Grype supplements Trivy by thoroughly examining security threats with precise yet actionable vulnerability data.

Supported Linux Distributions

Understanding the distinction between container format and distributions is of utmost importance. Containers store data within containers, while distributions refer to different variants of Linux OS that allow GitLab’s Trivy and Grype services to support. GitLab supports an impressive list of distributions; here’s a short rundown:

  • Alma Linux: Scanned using Trivy
  • Alpine Linux: Supported by both Grype and Trivy
  • Amazon Linux: Supported by both Grype and Trivy
  • BusyBox: Scanned by Grype
  • CentOS: Supported by both Grype and Trivy
  • CBL-Mariner: Scanned using Trivy
  • Debian: Supported by both Grype and Trivy
  • Distroless: Supported by both Grype and Trivy
  • Oracle Linux: Supported by both Grype and Trivy
  • Photon OS: Scanned by Trivy
  • Red Hat (RHEL): Supported by both Grype and Trivy
  • Rocky Linux: Scanned using Trivy
  • SUSE: Scanned by Trivy
  • Ubuntu: Supported by both Grype and Trivy

The Significance of Wide Distribution Support

At GitLab Container Scanning, we understand the significance of broad distribution support is growing increasingly crucial as containerized applications gain popularity with developers who often select different Linux distributions based on performance, security, compatibility or personal preference. By supporting multiple distributions simultaneously, GitLab Container Scanning ensures developers can continue maintaining application security regardless of which environment is selected – further solidifying our commitment to offering holistic security for containerized workloads.

How to Set Up GitLab for Container Scanning?

Implementing GitLab for Container Scanning is an efficient process that facilitates automatic vulnerability scanning for your containerized applications. Here’s a general outline of how you can achieve it:

1. Enabling Container Scanning Through an Automatic Merge Request

GitLab 14.9 makes it simple and fast to enable Container Scanning through an automated merge request; here’s how:

  • Navigate to the desired project.
  • Go to Secure > Security Configuration.
  • In the Container Scanning row, select Configure with a merge request.

Once activated, this process will generate an automatic merge request containing any changes needed to enable Container Scanning. Simply review it before merging to complete the configuration of Container Scanning.

2. Configuration via .gitlab-ci.yml File:

Manual configuration of container scanning requires adding the relevant template to your .gitlab-ci.yml file:

include:
  - template: Security/Container-Scanning.gitlab-ci.yml

This template adds a container_scanning job into your CI/CD pipeline that scans Docker images for vulnerabilities and saves its results as a Container Scanning report artifact.

An example of .gitlab-ci.yml file that builds and scans Docker images could look as follows.

include:
  - template: Jobs/Build.gitlab-ci.yml
  - template: Security/Container-Scanning.gitlab-ci.yml
container_scanning:
  variables:
    CS_DEFAULT_BRANCH_IMAGE: $CI_REGISTRY_IMAGE/$CI_DEFAULT_BRANCH:$CI_COMMIT_SHA

3. Customizing Container Scanning Settings

GitLab allows you to tailor how containers are scanned to suit your specific needs, from enhanced output and authentication with the specific registry to providing more granular results.

To enable verbose output, for instance, edit your .gitlab-ci.yml accordingly:

include:
  - template: Security/Container-Scanning.gitlab-ci.yml
variables:
    SECURE_LOG_LEVEL: 'debug'

4. Scanning an Image in a Remote Registry:

You can also scan images located in a registry other than the projects by using the following configuration:

include:
  - template: Security/Container-Scanning.gitlab-ci.yml
container_scanning:
  variables:
    CS_IMAGE: example.com/user/image:tag

Establishing GitLab Container Scanning is an intuitive, user-friendly experience, from automated merge requests to manual configuration. GitLab makes security checks part of developers’ development workflow with its powerful scanning tools, making GitLab an essential element in modern, secure software development.

Best Practices for GitLab Container Scanning

1. Regularly Update Scanning Tools

It is vital that scanning tools like Trivy and Grype remain up-to-date so they can detect new vulnerabilities as soon as they emerge while remaining compatible with any changes made by supported distributions. Regular updates ensure this happens.

2. Integrate Scanning Early in Development

The sooner container scanning becomes part of your development cycle, the sooner vulnerabilities can be identified and remedied. Including GitLab Container Scanning into your continuous integration (CI) pipeline ensures scans will automatically occur with every code push – becoming part of your development workflow and contributing towards faster vulnerability identification and resolution.

3. Tailor Scans To Meet Your Needs

Not every project requires identical scans. Tailoring them according to your project requirements – regarding verbosity levels, targeting certain registries, or setting variables – can make scanning much faster and more efficient. Utilize the customization features within the .gitlab-ci.yml file to fine-tune scans accurately.

4. Revisit and Act on Scanning Reports Regularly

It isn’t enough just to run scans – findings must also be reviewed and addressed promptly. Regular review of Container Scanning report artifacts combined with systematic remediation ensures that vulnerabilities are quickly identified and dealt with accordingly. Integrating remediation workflow into existing development processes may assist in this vital remediation task.

Remediation Workflow with GitLab Container Scanning

GitLab Container Scanning’s Remediation Workflow encompasses several steps designed to identify container image vulnerabilities and resolve them efficiently and systematically. A typical workflow might look something like this:

  1. Determine Vulnerabilities: GitLab provides the Container Scanning feature and security scanning with Trivy or Grype; once vulnerabilities have been discovered, an extensive report detailing them all will be generated as part of this step.
  2. Analyzing Findings: In this step, an in-depth review of findings from Container Scanning reports must take place to provide details regarding severity, type, and source vulnerabilities that require immediate attention. By prioritizing immediate issues for immediate resolution.
  3. Prioritizing Remediation: Based on this assessment, issues should be prioritized accordingly. High-priority concerns tend to focus on vulnerabilities posing immediate threats to applications, while factors like impact and ease of exploitation could play a part.
  4. Craft a Remediation Plan: After prioritizing vulnerabilities, an effective remediation plan must be devised in order to address each one. This plan includes actions necessary to effectively mitigate each vulnerability – this might involve installing updates, making modifications or modifications, or altering parts of code directly.
  5. Implement Fixes: With a plan in hand, remedial actions should be carried out using GitLab merge requests that modify code, configuration settings, or dependencies affecting affected codebases; collaboration among developers, security teams, and other key players often proves essential in accomplishing this process successfully.
  6. Testing Remediation: Following the application of fixes, it’s critical to perform additional verification checks to make sure they successfully address vulnerabilities without creating new issues. Re-scanning container images or performing additional tests might help verify whether remediation efforts successfully eliminated vulnerabilities and created security holes.
  7. Monitoring and Continuous Improvement: Remediation workflows do not happen overnight; continuous monitoring, scanning, and revision ensure ongoing viability. Adopting an iterative approach ensures its long-term viability.

Real-World Examples and Use Cases

1. Banking

Security in banking applications is of utmost importance. Traditional methods for vulnerability detection often fall short in their timely detection; by adding GitLab Container Scanning into the Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment pipeline for banking apps, real-time inspection and remediation become possible, allowing a much more robust solution that not only strengthens overall security, but fosters trust and compliance throughout an industry.

2. Healthcare

Healthcare systems handle sensitive data that must be protected according to stringent regulatory guidelines, yet manual checks can often become cumbersome and error-prone. By adopting GitLab Container Scanning for vulnerability assessments and as part of continuous compliance reporting processes, healthcare organizations can streamline GitLab Container Scanning to protect themselves against breaches while making the reporting process far less complex than before.

3. Tech Start-Ups

Tech startups often face difficulty balancing rapid development and upholding security standards. GitLab Container Scanning can help companies align both processes; continuous vulnerability scanning of containerized applications allows faster development cycles while protecting security – giving start-ups the agility to innovate while still upholding strong security postures.

How PingSafe Can Help with GitLab Container Scanning?

PingSafe adds an essential security measure to GitLab Container Scanning, specifically tailored for scanning various container types like ECS, AKS and EKS. PingSafe detects configuration defects, embedded secrets and vulnerabilities in container images hosted in clusters or private registries to comply with recognized standards like CIS and PCI.

Service provides unique features such as graph-based visualization of ECS/Kubernetes clusters and the capability of detecting misconfigurations across them, with its practical approach assisting in identifying and mitigating any security vulnerabilities, providing a transparent way of overseeing container environments.

PingSafe makes an invaluable tool in GitLab Container Scanning processes by creating SBOMs across all connected clusters for each container image, supporting continuous integration/continuous delivery environments (CI/CD integration support is also provided), as well as offering secure scanning practices with seamless efficiency. It is the keystone tool of its class for modernized scanning procedures with secure, seamless results!

Conclusion

GitLab Container Scanning has become an invaluable part of the modern development landscape, providing organizations with a straightforward means of quickly and reliably detecting vulnerabilities within containerized applications. By seamlessly integrating into their development pipelines and providing visibility over vulnerabilities early on in development processes, organizations are empowered to build security into their development process, mitigating risks while increasing overall security posture.

GitLab Container Scanning is an integral element in an effective DevSecOps strategy, cultivating an environment of continuous security improvement. This valuable asset ensures security remains at the forefront of innovation, from complying with regulations or protecting customer data to maintaining agile development cycles and meeting diverse security needs across industries or use cases.