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Container Scanning Tools

Looking to make the most of containerization while minimizing risk? Container scanning solutions are a critical line of defense that help ensure the safe and secure deployment of applications.

5 minutes read

What is container scanning?

Container scanning is the process of examining container images to identify potential vulnerabilities and to assess compliance with relevant standards. By probing into the layers of an image, container scanners seek out any known weaknesses, like outdated libraries, exposed secrets, and non-compliant configurations that could make your container a target for threat actors. 

Sometimes containers’ vulnerabilities and misconfigurations are easy to overlook because their isolated nature can create a false sense of security. But though containers can bring risks that are difficult to spot, containerization is an important process. Containers allow developers to package and deploy applications seamlessly across various environments, maximizing efficiency. 

Looking to make the most of containerization while minimizing risk? That's where container scanning tools come into play. Serving as sentries at the gate of your deployment pipeline, these powerful tools are integral to identifying vulnerabilities within your container images before they become liabilities in production. Container scanning solutions are a critical line of defense that help ensure the safe and secure deployment of applications.

This article delves deep into the complex terrain of container scanners, arming you with the knowledge to select the right tools for your arsenal. We'll examine the leading container scanning tools and look at their strengths and weaknesses to help you make informed decisions for secure software deployment. Remember: Containerization is a domain where threats evolve rapidly, necessitating a robust scanning solution to keep pace with potential security risks.

Evaluating container scanning tools

In DevOps and continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD), container scanners are the vigilant guards that never sleep. They integrate seamlessly into your CI/CD pipeline, automating security checks to ensure no container reaches production with exploitable flaws. Automation has huge benefits: It not only streamlines the development process but also injects a level of security assurance that manual reviews could never match.

Let’s jump right in. Here are the five benchmarks for container scanning you should consider when implementing a container scanning solution:

Capability Description
1. Performance and efficiencyThe ideal tool should perform scans quickly, minimizing the time from development to deployment. Performance is not just speed—it's the ability to maintain accuracy under the hood, scanning numerous container images without a dip in quality.
2. Integration with existing systemsA container scanner must be a team player, fitting into your CI/CD pipeline like a glove, including compatibility with container orchestration platforms like Kubernetes and Docker and alignment with infrastructure as code (IaC) tools.
3. Accuracy in vulnerability detectionIt goes without saying that accuracy is paramount. The best container scanning tools can distinguish between actual threats and noise. An optimal solution should have a low false-positive rate, ensuring developers don't waste time chasing ghosts instead of genuine security issues.
4. User interface and ease of useUsability is where the rubber meets the road. A tool may have a wide range of features, but it can’t be effective if it lacks user-friendliness. Industry-leading scanning tools have a clear and intuitive interface, allowing both security professionals and developers to navigate and utilize its features with minimal friction.
5. Support and community involvementFinally, the strength of a tool often lies in its support system and community involvement. A tool backed by a responsive support team and an active community is less likely to leave you in the lurch when you encounter an issue. These resources can be a goldmine for troubleshooting, best practices, and staying abreast of the latest security developments.

By applying these criteria, we can gauge the merits of each container scanning tool on the market. This approach isn't merely about selecting a tool; it's about identifying the ideal tool that fits the specific requirements and workflow of your organization.

An in-depth analysis of premier container scanning tools

Let’s analyze the top four tools on the market against the benchmarks described above:

Clair: A vulnerability static analyzer for containers

Clair is an open-source project that stands out for its static analysis of vulnerabilities in container images. Designed to index and detect security vulnerabilities in your containers automatically, Clair integrates smoothly with various registries and CI/CD systems. It supports a wide range of image formats and is extensible with its API-driven architecture.

Clair's strengths lie in its comprehensive vulnerability database and seamless integration with the Quay container registry. However, users may find its setup and configuration more complex than other tools, and it may require additional tooling for a complete CI/CD integration. That’s why Clair is ideal for teams who are already invested in the Quay ecosystem or those who prefer an open-source tool that they can customize to meet their specific needs.

Figure 1: Clair result page (Source: Red Hat)

Trivy: A simple and comprehensive scanner

Trivy is known for its simplicity and comprehensive coverage of vulnerabilities. It scans for vulnerabilities within OS packages (like Alpine Linux and RHEL) and application dependencies (think Bundler, Composer, npm, and Yarn).

Trivy is incredibly easy to use and requires no pre-configuration, making it accessible for rapid deployments. It's also known for its high accuracy and detailed vulnerability reports. Additionally, Trivy has a reputation for having one of the most updated vulnerability databases. 

On the other hand, Trivy's simplicity might be a double-edged sword for teams seeking deep customization or advanced policy management features. Trivy is best for teams looking for a straightforward, plug-and-play solution with reliable, up-to-date vulnerability information.

Figure 2: Trivy scan results (Source: Trivy docs)

Grype: A vulnerability scanner for container images and filesystems

Grype is a scanner for detecting vulnerabilities in container images and filesystems. Developed by Anchore, it's designed to be easy to use and to integrate seamlessly into developers’ workflows. Grype combines the ease of a user-friendly command-line interface (available as either a standalone binary or a Docker container) with the ability to precisely match vulnerabilities across multiple Linux distributions. 

Grype shines when it comes to ease of use and integration into existing development workflows. However, it may not have the enterprise-level features or the breadth of language support that some larger organizations require. The bottom line? Grype suits developers and small to medium-sized teams looking for a simple yet powerful scanner that can be directly embedded into their dev workflow.

Figure 3: Grype scanning in action (Source: GitHub)

Falco: An open-source, cloud native runtime security project

Falco is not a container scanner in the traditional sense but rather a cloud native runtime security project that provides security monitoring and detects anomalous activity in your applications. Falco excels at runtime security and identifying irregular patterns, using system call capture to provide context-rich security alerts.

Falco is highly configurable and capable of alerting on custom-defined suspicious behavior, offering a high degree of flexibility. However, as a runtime security tool, it is not a complete solution for static scanning and may need to be complemented with other tools for pre-deployment scanning. Therefore, Falco is best for teams that need runtime security monitoring and are looking to boost their existing static container scanning with dynamic behavioral analysis.

Figure 4: Example reporting in Falcosidekick UI (Source: Falco Blog)


Each tool we’ve looked at serves a unique purpose in enhancing the DevOps workflow—like Clair's thorough vulnerability analysis, Trivy's simplicity and comprehensive coverage, or Grype's user-friendly approach. The primary takeaway is that your specific security needs and your CI/CD pipeline should dictate your choice of container scanner. Robust security capabilities and smooth integration bolster your development process and give you peace of mind that vulnerabilities and misconfigurations will be swiftly detected. Remember to also look at a tool’s accuracy, user interface, and support structure when finalizing your choice.

A well-chosen container scanning tool is an investment in your software's security and, consequently, in maintaining the trust of your users.

That’s where Wiz comes in. Our unified platform integrates container scanning with broader cloud security measures, enabling comprehensive control and collaboration among security, development, and DevOps teams for efficient cloud development. Wiz offers a command center for comprehensive cloud security control and specializes in areas such as:

  • Container & Kubernetes security: Ensure the secure and risk-free development of containerized applications with Wiz.

  • Cloud workload protection platform (CWPP): Wiz unifies workload protection, from prevention to real-time detection and response.

  • Infrastructure as code (IaC) scanning: Our platform seamlessly integrates with development workflows to manage and secure IaC and detect secrets, vulnerabilities, and misconfigurations.

  • Compliance assurance: Automate compliance with industry standards like PCI, GDPR, HIPAA, and custom frameworks.

  • Cloud security posture management (CSPM): Leverage Wiz to continuously detect and remediate misconfigurations across hybrid clouds.

  • Cloud detection and response (CDR): Monitor cloud workloads for suspicious activities and proactive threat detection.

  • Data security posture management (DSPM): To prevent data breaches, Wiz monitors sensitive data and secrets exposure.

  • Cloud native application protection platform (CNAPP): Our unified platform for prevention, detection, and response, reduces risk and enhances business agility.

  • Cloud infrastructure entitlement management (CIEM): Wiz’s all-in-one tool analyzes cloud entitlements and automates the implementation of least-privilege policies to mitigate IAM risks.

  • Vulnerability management: Wiz identifies vulnerabilities across cloud environments without agents or external scans.

This robust suite of features makes Wiz an ideal choice for organizations aiming to enhance their security posture with container scanning while maintaining the agility of their DevOps processes. See what Wiz can do for you: Schedule a demo today!

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