Kubernetes Security Posture Management (KSPM) is the practice of monitoring, assessing, and ensuring the security and compliance of Kubernetes environments, especially in the face of the increasing complexity and scale of Kubernetes deployments.
Containers are the spine of the Kubernetes ecosystem. Hence, container security is critical to strong KSPM. Researchers with the Shadowserver Foundation have discovered more than 380,000 open Kubernetes API servers exposed on the Internet. That represents 84% of all global Kubernetes API instances observable online.
The entire Kubernetes infrastructure—APIs, control planes, clusters and containers—benefit from a strong security posture. Consider the below overview of how each component will be configured if KSPM is implemented:
APIs will be configured with bearer tokens that ensure RBAC implementation, securing the transport layer. Node authorization also becomes enforced to authorize API requests from kubelets and only grant read access when all signals are green.
Nodes: NodeRestriction will be implemented to prevent unauthorized kubelet modifications to nodes and pods. NodeRestriction enables kubelets to ONLY modify node and pod API objects with the same credentials as theirs. In cases of attack, NodeRestriction can also restrict workload assignment from the scheduler to compromised nodes to prevent the spread of malware.
Due to the centrality of the control plane, it is a principal area of vulnerability in the Kubernetes environment. Its components (i.e., the kube-scheduler, kube-apiserver, kube-controller-manager and etcd) are foundational to the smooth running of the K8s ecosystem. For example, unauthorized access to the etcd—which stores the state of K8S clusters and manages configuration and metadata—equals total control of the entire cluster. Therefore, a strong security posture means restricting node access to the etcd, encrypting data at rest in the etcd, and ensuring secure API server requests to it.
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Kubernetes is a cloud of its own and can be complex to apprehend, requiring continuous monitoring to ensure visibility into clusters and their configurations, networks, and identities. KSPM helps deconstruct the complexities associated with protecting the K8s infrastructure against three common risks in the table below.
|Misconfiguration risks||Kubernetes is a complex ecosystem with several components. So, it's easy to misconfigure one or more parts of the ecosystem. For example, you could expose the APIs to the internet without your knowledge and this is a backdoor that attackers could exploit.|
|Vulnerability risks||The container image and Host OS can only be accessed by local users. Users (with rightly given root access) can modify several writable components of the Kubernetes cluster and kernel memory via these two. If attackers gain access to the container image and Host OS, they can inject malware, predisposing the organizations’ applications to corruption or total deletion.|
|Access control and identity management risks||Kubernetes environments involve various roles and users, including developers, operators, and administrators. Without proper access controls and identity management, unauthorized users can gain access to resources, compromising the integrity and security of the cluster. A poorly configured RBAC and a weak or misconfigured authentication mechanism can grant users more privileges than necessary, exposing the Kubernetes API and control plane.|
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KSPM is not a stand-alone solution, it functions as part of a CNAPP platform to enable full visibility and context into the entire container environment and the underlying cloud. KSPM employs a series of cluster monitoring and assessment steps. Here are the key steps involved:
Visibility: The first step in KSPM is to get a complete view of the Kubernetes cluster and its components to gain a real-time understanding of the state of the cluster and its several dependencies.
Continuous monitoring: This step involves gathering information about applications' Kubernetes security posture by automatically scanning the Kubernetes ecosystem and collecting data (e.g. unimplemented or misconfigured access policies, vulnerable container and cluster components, etc.).
Risk identification and assessment: KSPM tools then analyze the collected data to look for potential security risks, misconfigurations, and vulnerabilities within the Kubernetes infrastructure by comparing configurations against security best practices.
Rules-based analysis: Next, KSPM uses a set of built-in rules to evaluate the collected data. These rules cover various areas, including access management (via RBAC and other authentication mechanisms), network segmentation (used to control inbound and outbound pod-to-pod traffic in the cluster), container security (used to isolate nodes, verify container images, and secure runtimes), and compliance standards like CIS Kubernetes benchmarks. KSPM tools apply these rules to identify deviations or violations from the recommended best practices.
Alerts and notifications: When the KSPM solution identifies any security risk (e.g. misconfiguration), it alerts the appropriate department. For instance, if sensitive data is contained in the exposed container writable layer, the DevOps team is alerted to quickly move the data into tamper-proof databases.
Visualization and reporting: KSPM provides visualization and reporting tools, including dashboards for end-to-end visibility into Kubernetes and visual representations of cluster components, security metrics, and compliance status. Depending on the industry, organizations must comply with benchmarks guiding the security of pockets (such as Kubernetes clusters) in which data is saved and transmitted. Examples of such benchmarks and frameworks include the CIS benchmark, NIST benchmark, the HIPAA framework, and the PCI-DSS framework.
Remediation and recommendations: If any security risks or misconfigurations are found, the KSPM solution will have actionable recommendations for remediation. These may include suggesting changes to RBAC policies, network configurations, or container security controls. Automated remediation will swiftly resolve certain issues or guide developers on necessary rectification protocols.
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Kubernetes Security Posture Management and Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) are two distinct but equally important concepts in cloud security. KSPM may be considered an aspect of CSPM since Kubernetes is often deployed in the cloud. However, whether KSPM is considered an aspect of CSPM or not, organizations that use Kubernetes for container management need KSPM solutions to secure their Kubernetes infrastructure.
CSPM aims to secure the entire cloud environment, including various services and resources. It involves managing the security of cloud-native infrastructure, such as virtual machines, databases, storage, and networking components. CSPM offers comprehensive visibility into the cloud environment, identifies misconfigurations and vulnerabilities, provides compliance assessments against industry standards, and offers remediation capabilities specific to the cloud services used.
KSPM, on the other hand, focuses on securing the Kubernetes clusters. It offers practices and tools that help detect and address security risks and vulnerabilities within the Kubernetes infrastructure. KSPM provides visibility into RBAC, workloads, nodes, and the Kubernetes API, making it possible to continuously monitor and assess the security posture. Its features include compliance assessments, defining cluster security policies, custom rules, and remediation capabilities specific to Kubernetes deployments.
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While the individual features of a KSPM solution are important, the value is significantly amplified when that solution operates within the broader context of a CNAPP.
CNAPP integrates both runtime and posture management for cloud-native applications. Instead of treating security measures as separate concerns, CNAPP provides a holistic view that encompasses both preventive measures and active threat detection. Within this context, KSPM becomes one of the many interconnected pieces.
Once you’ve determined that a KSPM offering is part of a larger CNAPP solution, you can then consider the specific features. The following are key features to consider when choosing a KSPM solution for effective security management and industry compliance.
Opt for a KSPM solution that provides real-time visibility into RBAC configurations, workloads, nodes, and the Kubernetes API, so you can promptly detect and respond to potential security risks. For instance, the solution must be able to check and ensure that APIs are configured with bearer tokens to enable the implementation of RBAC.
Choose a KSPM solution that offers built-in industry security standards and compliance framework checks, such as CIS benchmarks or GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI-DSS regulations. The solution should also provide comprehensive reports and recommendations. For example, to ensure compliance with regulatory standards on data encryption, the chosen KSPM solution must be able to assess and ensure that TLS is enabled whenever an ingress controller is instantiated.
The ability to define access control, network, and container security policies and tailor them to your specific needs aids the consistency of security policies across your entire Kubernetes infrastructure. You can define policies around preconfigured parameters such as privileges, and system modifications, or edit these parameters to create new need-focused ones.
Look for a solution that offers a wide range of built-in security checks such as authentication and authorization, as well as pod and network security checks, to cover common vulnerabilities and best practices. For example, the KSPM solution must be able to verify and implement appropriate pod security policies for all namespaces in the K8s environment.
Prioritize KSPM solution that reveals security issues and offers actionable recommendations for remediation. Check for automated or guided remediation features that help you streamline the resolution process and minimize potential security risks.
It’s common to integrate Kubernetes with various third-party tools and services. Choose a KSPM solution that can validate YAML files and resources configurations and assess the security of these integrations before they reach cluster or production.
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To make the most of KSPM, follow these best practices:
Use KSPM as part of a more extensive container security architecture to cover the full lifecycle of containers.
Perform regular scans of your Kubernetes environment using KSPM.
Keep your KSPM rules and policies up to date to protect against new threats and have access to the latest security features and enhancements.
Categorize risks identified by KSPM scans to prioritize and handle the most critical vulnerabilities.
Use RBAC in KSPM for access control.
Regularly audit cluster configurations to ensure compliance.
Enable real-time monitoring and alerts in KSPM for proactive threat detection.
Conduct vulnerability assessments using KSPM to identify and patch security flaws.
Provide security awareness training to personnel managing the cluster.
Determining whether a KSPM solution is right for your organization requires a careful evaluation of your specific needs. As mentioned earlier, KSPM should be considered as just one piece of a broader CNAPP tool.
With a CNAPP solution that embeds KSPM, you can achieve:
Holistic Security: By being a part of CNAPP, a Kubernetes security posture management solution can work in synergy with other security tools and mechanisms, providing an integrated security experience.
Context-Aware Security: CNAPPs have the advantage of understanding the broader context of cloud-native operations. This means the security decisions and alerts generated are more contextual and less prone to false positives.
Uniform Policy Enforcement: A CNAPP platform will ensure that the security policies enforced are consistent across the entire cloud-native stack, be it at the container, orchestration, or service mesh layer.
Continuous Security: CNAPPs focus on continuous security, ensuring that as applications evolve and as the environment changes, the security measures adapt in real-time.
End-to-end Visibility: By ensuring your Kubernetes security solution is part of a CNAPP, you get a comprehensive view of your entire application stack, from code to container to runtime.
Ease of Management: A unified platform reduces the complexities associated with managing multiple, disparate security tools. By having Kubernetes security posture as part of CNAPP, you benefit from centralized management, updates, and monitoring.
Kubernetes comes with a lot of small blocks and in each one can be a new security breach. So, we have to step in and use Wiz at a smaller level, to be sure each one of the deployments will still be compliant with the security rules.Mael Louvet, Cloud Expertise Manager, Bouygues Telecom
Wiz can show you firsthand how an integrated KSPM solution can benefit your Kubernetes environment and improve your organization’s overall security posture. Schedule a personalized demo with Wiz today.
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