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What is KSPM?: A Comprehensive Guide 101

Kubernetes Security Posture Management is enhancing visibility into entire clusters and managing the security of Kubernetes environments. It automates security processes and compliance across K8s clusters, reveals security flaws, and appropriately responds to cyber attacks. Almost all organizations have a 100% adoption rate in the cloud-native community regarding KSPM. Kubernetes addresses misconfigurations, minimizes attack surfaces, […]

Mansi B.

Written by Mansi B.

September 22, 2023 | 9 min read

Kubernetes Security Posture Management is enhancing visibility into entire clusters and managing the security of Kubernetes environments. It automates security processes and compliance across K8s clusters, reveals security flaws, and appropriately responds to cyber attacks.

Almost all organizations have a 100% adoption rate in the cloud-native community regarding KSPM. Kubernetes addresses misconfigurations, minimizes attack surfaces, and eliminates the chances of data access compromises that can result from human errors. This blog will provide a complete walkthrough of Kubernetes Security Posture Management and how organizations predict, prevent, and remediate threats in today’s constantly changing technology landscape.

“Cloud-native security isn’t about where you operate, it’s about how you operate. And it applies to Kubernetes.”

Joe Beda, principal VMware engineer and Kubernetes co-creator

Table Of Contents:

  1. What is Kubernetes Security?
  2. What is KSPM (Kubernetes Security Posture Management)?
  3. How is KSPM different from CSPM?
  4. Why is KSPM Important?
  5. How Does KSPM Work?
  6. What are the Components of KSPM?
  7. What are the KSPM Best Practices?
  8. What are the KSPM Challenges?
  9. What are the Use Cases of KSPM?
  10. What are the Tools for KSPM?
  11. Conclusion

What is Kubernetes Security?

Kubernetes security refers to a collection of procedures and processes that enable security automation across Kubernetes environments. It incorporates using Kubernetes Security Posture Management tools and leverages their capabilities to remediate various cyber threats. Cloud-based Kubernetes security revolves around the following four pillars – observability, monitoring, tracing, and logging. 

It helps businesses identify and classify threats. Kubernetes security verifies the efficacy of security controls and develops settings that are secure by default. Its goal is to prevent data breach oversights, implement corrective action, and perform many other security functions.

What is KSPM?

Kubernetes Security Posture Management (KSPM) is critical to Kubernetes container security and ensures compliance across K8s clusters. It is similar to Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) and deals with the automation of various security processes. KSPM scans for Kubernetes misconfigurations, detects vulnerabilities, and assesses and categorizes threats. 

It integrates with CI/CD pipelines throughout the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC). DevSecOps can enforce shift-left security by using Kubernetes Security Posture Management.

KSPM Features

Kubernetes Security Posture Management (KSPM) is designed to keep clusters in multi-cloud environments secure. It offers the following features:

  1. Real-time Visibility – KSPM provides real-time visibility into RBAC controls and security policies. It detects and responds to potential security risks, ensuring all APIs are properly configured.
  2. Continuous Compliance – Compliance violations can result in serious data breaches, and one of KSPM’s primary goals is to ensure continuous compliance. Most modern KSPM solutions provide comprehensive compliance reports and recommendations as well.
  1. Rule Designing – KSPM solutions allow organizations to design and implement custom rules. They verify pod security policies for all namespaces in K8s environments and provide built-in security authentication and authorization checks.
  1. Configuration Management – It’s common for KSPM solutions to feature configuration management. Among Kubernetes Security Posture Management features, the ability to integrate with third-party tools and remediate misconfigurations across clusters is especially important.

How is KSPM different from CSPM?

CSPM and KSPM are crucial for building a solid security foundation in modern cloud environments. KSPM focuses on securing Kubernetes containers and clusters, while CSPM assesses and secures the entire cloud infrastructure.

KSPM delivers robust analytics and context-based risk prioritization and uncovers hidden vulnerabilities in Kubernetes environments. It streamlines the threat remediation process, detects misconfigurations, and addresses common security challenges before they become significant issues. KSPM ensures continuous compliance and keeps policy rules up-to-date. It’s important to note that CSPM manages other types of risks in cloud-native environments. CSPM continuously monitors cloud iAM policies and cloud networking configurations instead.

Why is KSPM Important?

The importance of KSPM can be:

  • Catches Human Errors and Oversights

KSPM tools can double-check security configurations used to govern Kubernetes resources. Baseline configurations are not secure by default, and there are chances of human oversights. KSPM finds and fixes these issues, thus effectively stopping data breaches.

  • Cluster Management

Kubernetes environments scale up with organizations, and as the technology evolves, configurations that were once secure in previous versions may be subject to threats. For example, the developers of Kubernetes version 1.25 announced that pod security policy enforcement would be discontinued. A KSPM tool can alert users to see which features get deprecated and how to mitigate emerging security gaps. A KSPM tool would suggest replacing pod security policies with Kubernetes security contexts or custom admissions controllers.

  • Validate Third-Party Configurations

Kubernetes ecosystems pull container images from public Docker Hub registries and apply deployment files on GitHub. KSPM tools scan third-party resources, detect critical security issues, and recommend security teams with effective threat mitigation strategies. 

  • Enforce Kubernetes Compliance

KSPM tools can evaluate configurations and use policy engines to identify risks associated with a lack of regulatory compliance. Users can write custom policies and access Kubernetes in ways that store data while adhering to industry compliance standards like the GDPR, ISO 27001, HIPAA, etc.

How Does KSPM Work?

KSPM works in the following ways:

  1. Scans Configurations

Kubernetes Security Posture Management automatically detects misconfigurations in Kubernetes environments. It assesses configurations, validates predefined rules, and continuously monitors for real-time risks. KSPM helps remediate issues with RBAC (Role-Based Access Control) policies and keeps enterprises protected by implementing the principle of least privilege.

  1. Detects, Assesses Threats, and Sends Alerts

Kubernetes Security Posture Management categorizes threats, assigns priority levels based on risk order, and alerts users. Users are automatically notified of changes or drift in configurations, too.

  1. Sets Security Baselines

All enterprises must define security policies and enforce them. Kubernetes Security Posture Management scans Kubernetes infrastructure for deviations from policy changes. It detects policy violations, enables automatic logging and auditing, and provides baseline templates.

KSPM enables complete visibility and context into Kubernetes environments and allows users to acquire a real-time understanding of cluster states and their several dependencies. It leverages rule-based analysis and incorporates network segmentation, role-based control access, authentication and authorization, container image security verification, and runtime security. 

What are the Components of KSPM?

  • Policy Engine – The KSPM policy engine enforces security rules and policies, ensuring that networks are safe. It also defines access controls and manages permissions.
  • Scanner – The Kubernetes security scanner analyzes clusters and workloads for security threats. It identifies and detects vulnerabilities, including reporting deviations from assigned security policies.
  • Compliance Dashboard – The dashboard gives a centralized overview of an organization’s Kubernetes security posture. It reveals areas of weaknesses, shares security insights, and generates data visualizations of Kubernetes clusters and workloads.
  • Alerts & Notifications – KSPM alerts and notifications are automatically sent to users whenever new policy violations are detected. These are sent via email, SMS, or a centralized management console.

What are the KSPM Best Practices?

Here are the Kubernetes Security Posture Management best practices for organizations:

  • Auditing cluster configurations and performing compliance checks
  • Conducting regular vulnerability assessments and penetration testing
  • Patching security flaws and running daily updates
  • Providing security awareness training to employees and incorporating the best cyber hygiene practices within organizations 
  • Using Role-Based Access Control in KSPM for Identity Access Management
  • Following a policy of zero trust architecture and implementing the principle of least privilege access across all Kubernetes accounts
  • Categorizing risks identified by KSPM scans, prioritizing them, and handling the most critical vulnerabilities first.
  • Optimizing Kubernetes resources, placing restrictions, and ensuring the efficient utilization of said resources.
  • Keeping KSPM rules and policies up to date
  • Unifying security across the entire cloud-native stack throughout the full container management lifecycle, orchestration, and service mesh layer
  • They automatically remediate vulnerabilities at the source code layer and check for code formatting cleanups.
  • They are ensuring code-to-container security at runtime and providing end-to-end visibility.
  • Managing multiple disparate security tools and processes and centralizing Kubernetes security management

Not all KSPM best practices are the same, and it’s essential to set up a security strategy that improves overall Kubernetes security posture. Security teams can evaluate the KSPM score, giving visibility to their security architecture. Effective Kubernetes security posture management is ongoing, and some controls will fail or pass security tests. 

What are the KSPM Challenges?

Below are the top Kubernetes Security Posture Management challenges experienced by organizations worldwide:

  • CVEs will continue to wreak havoc across the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) process, and attacks will increase in sophistication as malicious actors leverage Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning technologies.
  • As the cloud threat landscape transforms into complexity, organizations will have more difficulty maintaining visibility and control over Kubernetes clusters. There will be a need for better management tools, and credential theft will remain a significant concern.
  • Zero trust security architecture adoption will slow down, and there will be increasing instances of unauthorized access, Kubernetes misuse, and insider threats. Attackers are expected to find new ways of exploiting Kubernetes vulnerabilities, attack data governance practices, and bypass traditional Kubernetes environment scans and threat monitoring techniques.
  • There are ethical concerns surrounding automated defensive remediation. Quarantining hosts, deleting files, killing Kubernetes processes, or taking actions for specific events will require manual reviews. Cyber security policy management regarding Kubernetes environments may also change depending on how KSPM solutions and threats evolve.

What are the Use Cases of KSPM?

  1. Organizations can continuously use Kubernetes Security Posture Management to improve the security of Kubernetes environments.
  2. KSPM tools are used to generate a KSPM score. It tells organizations about the status of their current security posture. The higher the number, the better the Kubernetes configurations are
  3. KSPM provides context-based K8s risk remediation and analysis. It quickly assesses the compliance of K8s clusters
    and aligns it with the best industry regulations and practices
  4. Kubernetes Security Posture Management offers comprehensive runtime protection and ensures trust and data integrity throughout the Kubernetes application development lifecycle.
  5. KSPM offers container-level visibility with graph-based views of cluster data visualizations. It prevents zero-day attacks by ensuring in-line mitigation enforcement. Kubernetes Security Posture Management also provides Kubernetes container application management and network firewalling services.
  6. It restricts access to secrets, whitelists data access, and applies the least permissive security controls for enhanced data protection. Organizations can effectively defend against DDoS attacks, ransomware, malware, crypto miners, and other cyber threats.

What are the Tools for KSPM?

There are many Kubernetes Security Posture Management tools available in the market, and the top ones are

#1 PingSafe 

What is KSPM? - PingSafe Logo | PingSafe

PingSafe offers a comprehensive Cloud-Native Application Protection Platform (CNAPP) and a variety of Kubernetes Security Posture Management (KSPM) features to detect, defend, and decimate container vulnerabilities and cluster misconfigurations. It can strengthen an organization’s Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) and remediate cloud misconfigurations before deployment. Regarding container security, it can generate SBOM for each container image and detect misconfigurations across ECS and Kubernetes clusters. PingSafe monitors embedded secrets in host VMs and container images and supports CI/CD integration. It scans and monitors both server-based and serverless containers and orchestration modules. 

It streamlines regular updates, identifies Kubernetes assets and resources with known CVEs, and has a threat-watch dashboard that helps conduct zero-day vulnerability assessments. PingSafe can also detect Kubernetes credentials leakages in real-time, safeguard IAM key service accounts, and implement encryption in transit and at rest. Its event analyzer capabilities enable customers to query, search, and filter events as needed for investigations.

Features

  • Performs real-time scanning of secrets and detects more than 800+ secret types across BitBucket, GitHub, and GitLab
  • Proactively detects misconfigurations across CloudFormation, Terraform, and other IaC templates by leveraging Infrastructure as Code (IaC) security.
  • Enforces Shift-left security and empowers real-time cloud threat discovery, investigation, and remediation using its Cloud Detection and Response (CDR) tool 
  • Simulates all forms of attacks on cloud resources, identifies exploits, and ensures zero false positives by using its Offensive Security Engine
  • Conducts agentless vulnerability assessments to secure Kubernetes workloads 
  • Ensures compliance with over 20+ industry standards and regulations such as PCI-DSS, NIST, CIS Benchmark, and many more.

#2 Istio

Istio is popular for its Kubernetes network traffic management services and monitors Kubernetes workloads for detecting various vulnerabilities. It is one of the best KSPM tools in the industry, highly scalable, flexible, and resilient. Istio offers a service mesh platform that enables faster and more secure deployments. It provides several benefits, like autonomous API communications, call management and flawless third-party integrations.

Features

  • Excellent Kubernetes traffic control and management workflows
  • Dynamic load balancing
  • Citadel, Envoy API, and Galley
  • HTTP/TCP/TLS/gRPC traffic encryption
  • Policy enforcement
  • Cloud-native application security

#3 Project Calico

Project Calico is an open-source Kubernetes Security Posture Management project with an active user community. It has developed to be one of the most widely adopted solutions for container networking and security and powers more than 8 million nodes daily across 166 countries.

Features

  • Different data plane choices – eBPF, Windows, and standard Linux
  • Granular access controls
  • Full Kubernetes network policy support
  • Enhanced interoperability and cluster management at scale

#4 Illuminatio

Illuminatio is a command-line Kubernetes Security Posture Management tool that automatically tests network policies across Kubernetes clusters and environments. It can execute and test various use cases, create dummy pods, and fetch namespaces via the docker python library or crictl. It is also easily installable with pip and available as a PyPi Package.

Features

  • CRI compliant
  • Docker runtime support
  • Automated network policy validation

Conclusion

As adopting public, private, and hybrid clouds becomes mainstream, organizations will use custom security automation tools to check for vulnerabilities in security architecture. Kubernetes security posture management lays the foundation for every organization, and companies benefit from centralized security management, updates, and analytics. KSPM ensures that all deployments remain compliant with the latest security rules and that no policy violations occur. Kubernetes Security Posture Management makes organizations agile, reduces time to market, and leaves no gaps in cloud-native security.