Container Security to bring trust to public sector

Containers play a vital role in the development, deployment, and seamless management of applications. However, just like any other technology, containers also are prone to malicious attacks and breaches. That's why it's important to secure the containers with a robust security model.

When it comes down to container security, customary firewall systems won’t really do the job in the public sector. Instead, the public cloud requires a powerful security model that can detect vulnerabilities in the container images, or in the orchestration or where they are stored, or in the deployment.

Let’s have a look at the significance of container security and how it can bring trust to the public sector:

Need for container security

Open-source container technology has outperformed traditional application development technologies. Today, organizations are transforming digitally at a rapid pace, and federal IT professionals are now changing the security practices for such modern technologies as well. Zero-trust models are one of the best approaches for securing containers; however, it calls for meticulous upfront work.

Container security requires a “shift left” approach where IT developers will integrate security into the software from the beginning to the end of the development process. To do this, developers need to switch from legacy security tools and practices to modern cloud-native security models. These models aim to embed security into the application right from the start of the development pipeline.

Building applications on VMs or Kubernetes requires end-to-end security to avoid data breaches and cyber-attacks. For a container deployment in the public cloud, generally, developers need to break applications into micro-services, which again changes the software design beneath and requires security amendments.

Traditional firewalls define trusted users and restrict unauthorized users. Still, the notion is quite lacking for public clouds where there are a high number of internal (between cluster nodes) and external (between users and systems) connections. In such circumstances, “zero-trust” proves to be a better and effective security model.

Google first employed the Zero-trust model, and it assigned user access control for their cloud resources. Later, Google realized that machine-to-machine connections and microservices break old-school security models, even in container deployments.

Zero-trust model for container security

As the name suggests, zero-trust is a security model that breaks the implicit trust offered by traditional security practices, which implies trust based upon the network location of a device or user’s authentication via a trusted network. Instead, the Zero-trust model employs “explicit trust,” which verifies before accessing any device, service, database, or application.

The Zero-trust model replaces the old-style “trust and verifies” notion with the new “never trust and always verify” axiom. Instead of providing implicit mutual trust, it rather authenticates and verifies access. Further, it provides centralized network control for a system of edge devices along with end-to-end encryption. As a result, it will destroy the decentralization of IT infrastructure and address the security issues of containers in the public cloud.

Organizations can build software upon a transition network security model and employ a zero-trust security model to machine-to-machine connections (between microservices and containers).

Zero-trust security is based upon the following principles:

  • It eradicates traditional mutual trust between containers and instead adopts authenticated user access to container services. Such compulsory authentication mitigates the risk of cyber-attacks, as it weakens hackers’ ability to access compromised systems or containers easily.

  • All servers will define a root of trust within a container through a local certificate cited in a server’s TPM (Trusted Platform Module). These certificates verify and authenticate the system admin’s access and any changes to configuration or codes. Any other changes to code or system updates that the authenticated admin does not execute are hence rejected. Even when these changes do not come from an authenticated code repository, they’re declined.

  • Containers running on a shared operating system are all sandbagged in virtual networks and virtual machines.

  • Code changes and infrastructure changes are all cryptographically hashed via a server’s local certificate and carefully logged to get a permanent record for compliance audits and troubleshooting purposes.

  • Communications between services or within a container are authenticated via the server’s local certificate in TPM to offer end-to-end encryption. However, it does not offer implicit trust to inter-container communications based upon a local IP address.

  • Services such as PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) and IAM (Identity and Access Management) offer centralized management of security policies and elements,