Kubernetes allows developers to containerize applications and follows the 4 C’s of cloud-native security: cloud, cluster, container, and code. Cloud is defined as the underlying structure that is the foundation of Kubernetes security. Securing the Kubernetes cluster involves configuring Kubernetes API components and securing all cloud-native applications surrounding it, including microservices.
The industry has many container design practices, but the best practices secure Kubernetes environments and enforce security policies. Kubernetes is open-source and popular for automating cloud application deployment, management, and scaling.
When building a defense-in-depth strategy, it is essential to address the most significant barriers and protect both the worker and master nodes. Master nodes in Kubernetes security are responsible for handling CPU and memory usage, storage, and networking resources. The worker node executes application code in clusters and sends reports to the master node.
This blog will give readers an overview of Kubernetes Security Best Practices, including common pitfalls to avoid for best results.
Table of Contents:
- What is Kubernetes Security?
- Kubernetes Security Best Practices
- How can PingSafe help Kubernetes Security?
What is Kubernetes Security?
Kubernetes provides many options for deployment: on-premises, bare metal, public clouds, custom builds, and Kubernetes-managed services. The platform offers high customization portability levels, making migrating workloads between installations easier.
Kubernetes containers can be designed to fit various scenarios, but so much customization also introduces multiple attack surface vectors. Poor configuration management and hidden vulnerabilities are emerging challenges in Kubernetes security. Security teams don’t harden underlying hosts, fail to implement patch management, and must implement sufficient firewalling.
Kubernetes Security Best Practices aim to address these issues and fix and remediate threats. It is dynamic and designed to adapt to changing runtime environments. Applications and API links for Kubernetes applications and services are in a state of constant flux, and that is another crucial aspect to consider.
Kubernetes Security Best Practices
Applying Kubernetes security best practices starts by establishing proper controls and understanding how malicious actors could breach or take advantage of applications across the host or entire cluster.
Kubernetes security best practices are essential for several reasons- they address broken container images, prevent malicious code from being injected into containers, and detect compromised or rogue users. It is a proactive approach and a part of the software development lifecycle (SDLC). Kubernetes code is constantly tested to ensure vulnerabilities do not reach live Kubernetes environments.
Developers can get many insights by monitoring applications and using Kubernetes security controls, tools, and policies. Here are the top Kubernetes security best practices for enterprises:
1. Turn On Kubernetes Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)
In most organizations, Kubernetes Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) is turned on by default for version 1.6 and higher. Turning off the legacy Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC) before doing this is essential.
RBAC enables namespace-specific permissions over cluster-wide permissions and only restricts access to authorized users. Avoid granting cluster administrator privileges on networks.
2. Use API Server Third-Party Authentication
Implementing third-party authentication and security features for Kubernetes API servers (for example, GitHub) is recommended. It provides multi-layered security, and all users on the API server level are protected by enabling multi-factor authentication. It is also recommended to use OAuth 2.0 connectors like Dex for enhancing API security.
3. Manage Secrets as Secrets
Secrets comprise sensitive information like tokens, passwords, SSH keys, and Kubernetes secrets supporting rest encryption. When Kubernetes pods initialize, they load artifacts like tokens, passwords, and keys and access other secrets.
Secret resources on the cloud provide direct access to etcd backups and let users view sensitive content. Communication between API servers and users should be encrypted using SSL/TLS. It is essential to be mindful of third-party integrations that request access to Kubernetes secrets in clusters, review access, and RBAC permissions.
4. Remediate Container Security Risks
One of the top Kubernetes security best practices is remediating container security risks. Applications are packaged as container images using Docker technology and are executed at runtime. They are pulled from the container registry, and security must be built into principle when designing source code and libraries for these container images.
Scanning container images for signs of vulnerabilities and securing them in the CI/CD pipeline is recommended. It is ideal for automating vulnerability scanning of third-party libraries and leveraging hardened slim OS images to run applications with the minor level of OS privileges necessary.
Another essential tip is regularly applying security updates on container images and redeploying them where needed. It’s also important to use private Docker registries and the proper access-control tools and policies to manage these container images. All Kubernetes container images should also be appropriately signed, verified, and sourced from trusted publishers.
5. Security Auditing, Monitoring, and Logging
It is recommended to save audit logs and store them in secure repositories for further analysis. Another critical step is cluster-based logging to record container activity in central logging subsystems. Auditing, logging, and security monitoring can prevent oversights and address overlooked issues. Kubernetes auditing ensures continuous compliance, too, and automatically detects anomalous or malicious behaviors across sensitive resources.
6. Don’t Forget the Kubernetes Security Best Practices Checklist
The Kubernetes security best practices checklist–
For the best authentication, users are suggested to use IDP servers for primary authentication. Cluster administrators are advised not to use service account tokens for authentication and use only centralized certificate management services. All user accounts must be personalized, and the names of these accounts must reflect accordingly and highlight the access rights of these accounts.
Regarding authorization practices, each cluster should use a role-based access model and be configured to use Role-Based Access Controls (RBACs). All developers should have access to production environments and not require the manual approval of security teams. User impersonation of other accounts must be forbidden, along with no anonymous authentication. RBAC rights must be audited regularly, and cluster administrators must interact with Kubernetes infrastructure services and cluster APIs via privileged access management systems.
c. Secrets and Cluster Configuration Security
Secrets can be hidden in sourced code and are recommended to be stored in third-party storage solutions. Users should use a policy engine and implement TLS encryption between all cluster components for cluster configuration security. Cluster configuration management should comply with CIS benchmark, PSP requirements, and other industry regulations.
d. Audit and Logging
All Kubernetes clusters must log operations within secrets, including cases of unauthorized access. Log instances of changing access rights, application deployments, parameter changes, system settings, and configuration edits of entire clusters across the OS level are essential. Audit logging systems must be located outside Kubernetes cluster environments, and it’s critical to enhance infrastructure observability and visibility of components.
It is recommended to use third-party security monitoring tools for scanning cluster nodes and keeping track of them.
How can PingSafe help Kubernetes Security?
PingSafe provides a comprehensive Cloud-Native Application Protection Platform (CNAPP) with built-in Kubernetes Security Posture Management (KSPM) solutions. It detects, defends, and decimates container vulnerabilities and fixes cluster misconfigurations.
PingSafe can scan and monitor serverless and server-based containers and orchestration modules like Kubernetes container images, Docker images, EKS, Fargate, and AKS modules. It detects container configuration defects and cross-analyzes with known standards like PCI-DSS, NIST, and CIS to ensure continuous compliance.
PingSafe can also detect vulnerabilities in container image hosts for ECS and Kubernetes environments and generates graph-based visualizations of ECS/Kubernetes clusters. It can generate SBOM code for each container image across connected clusters and features CI/CD integration support.
CNAPP can help organizations implement Kubernetes security best practices and enhance Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) for enterprises. It empowers real-time cloud threat discovery, investigation, and risk mitigation and can perform real-time scanning of multiple secrets of over 800+ types across GitHub, Gitlab, and BitBucket. The platform can perform agentless vulnerability management to secure cloud workloads and comes with an Offensive Security Engine that simulates all forms of attacks on cloud resources. It can identify potential exploits, detect false positives, and analyze threats from the attackers’ perspective for effective remediation and mitigation. PingSafe supports Infrastructure as Code (IaC) security using several IaC templates like Terraform, CloudFormation, etc. It enforces shift-left security measures and proactively detects and investigates AWS CloudTrail, Kubernetes, and GCP Audit Logs. It has an event analyzer capability enables customers to query, search, and filter events as needed for investigations.
In addition, it allows customers to write custom security policies and enforce them for adequate protection. PingSafe includes all popular compliances like PCI/DSS, HIPAA, CIS, SOC 2, and ISO and can export compliance reports, too. It supports integrations with major platforms like Jira, Slack, PagerDuty, OpsGenie, and all SIEM integrations via custom webhooks.
For Kubernetes security management, PingSafe can enable Role-Based Access Control, Single-Sign Off (SSO) capabilities, and multi-tenancy support. Overall, it is a complete security suite for enterprises wanting to secure all endpoints, Kubernetes APIs, and clusters, and those serious about building a solid foundation in organizational cloud and container security.
These tips above will help organizations implement the Best Practices for Kubernetes Security. Some enterprises may find combining Kubernetes Security Posture Management (KSPM) tools yields the best results. Experimenting and finding the right balance of what works best is crucial. However, for those new to Kubernetes security and with minimal technical experience, PingSafe’s beginner-friendly CNAPP platform is one of the best solutions, as it covers all bases.