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Applying Cybersecurity Protection to Docker Containers

docker containers security

Enterprise applications continue to transition to the public cloud. Today, many organizations adopting DevOps, SecOps, and App DevOps strategies deploy containerized applications as their primary platform.

Thus, it’s essential for anyone interested in entering the software development field to understand the role of docker containers and how to apply cybersecurity controls to them.

In this article, we’ll review the basics of docker containers, how organizations utilize them, their benefits, security considerations, and more.

What is a docker container image?

Docker container images are standalone, lightweight software packages that include all the components necessary for running an application. They include components like tailored Linux operating systems as well as various security and storage stacks. 

How do organizations use docker containers?

Organizations deploy containers to remove vendor-specific dependencies on patches, operation systems, and application updates. These containers give organizations total control over the operation and maintenance of their applications.

Leveraging containers, an organization can separate the operating systems and applications into one image and move the image to any bare-metal system, either on-premise or in the cloud. Utilizing docker containers can also remove the possible risk of early “end-of-life” for any application essential to the organization’s production.

What are the benefits of docker containers?

Developers are growing tired of dealing with OS and app dependencies while building apps. They want faster deployment times, and they also want their apps to run on multiple platforms.

Containerized environments have enabled developers to create more accessible applications to develop, deploy, manage, and maintain.

Container user namespace ecosystems are complex, but there is an opportunity for them to shift security to the right by shifting security from developers to Continuous Innovation and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) pipeline to runtime.

Containers also make developing, testing, and running cloud-native apps more accessible than ever.

For Cloud Native Application (CAN) developers, the most significant benefits of containerization are:

  • Reduced friction while moving application code between development, testing, and production environments
  • Ensured capabilities for addressing vulnerabilities, compliance, runtimes, and network-layer issues
  • Increased productivity

Why is it important to have docker container security?

Like any other application and OS, container technologies have vulnerabilities and security issues.

Hackers continuously scan the various cloud transformation platforms looking for exposed container vulnerabilities within the Linux OS kernels, outdated Python scripts, or end-of-life versions of PHP. Security is essential for protecting organizations and individuals from hackers and the negative impacts of various malicious activities.

How to Protect Docker Containers

Below are some of the ways to secure and protect docker containers.

Kubernetes (K8S)

Kubernetes (K8S) is one of the leading orchestrators that help optimize container deployment. It allows organizations to automate software development, deployments, and management processes.

As Kubernetes spins up the container, security packages could be loaded into the image before deployment. A container firewall would help stop many network-based attacks. Many application-level attacks, including ransomware and crypto-jacking, start with exploits at the network stack layer. Adding layers of security, and enabling micro-segmentation at the network layer, is essential.

DevOps teams, SecOps engineers, and cybersecurity teams within the container infrastructure network stack can enable micro-segmentation per container basis. Most ransomware attacks attempt to move laterally within the same layer of two networks. Micro-segmenting the containers will stop ransomware propagation if the host is not communicating on the approved port and protocol.

To protect an application in Kubernetes, you must also ensure that its containers are adequately secured. You must be able to detect any abnormal activity within them. Using container scanning tools will help determine if the image is secure and if the needed protection layers are enabled.

Application Runtime Application Protection

Application runtime application protection (RASP) helps prevent attacks by detecting suspicious activity before they reach your database. It can also notice when an attack has already been successful.

Intrusion Prevention Solution (IPS)

An intrusion prevention solution (IPS) is a security tool that continually monitors a network for any suspect activity. It also takes steps to prevent that activity through reporting, blocking, and other measures.

When your app is ready for deployment, you’ll want to ensure that all communications between the app and any external systems go through an IPS. To accomplish this, deploy the IPS on every machine where the app runs. Because the IPS only examines incoming data, this won’t affect the overall speed of the app.

Knowledge for Today and in the Future

Containers are a critical and secure means for organizations to deploy new products and solutions without any dependencies on the hardware platform or vendor-provided operating systems.

Anyone interested in pursuing a career in software development can significantly benefit from learning how to deploy and manage secured containers. For those looking to jumpstart a career in this field, obtaining a software development degree can provide the knowledge essential for career development and success.

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