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Kubernetes Vulnerability Scanning

Kubernetes vulnerability scanning is the systematic process of inspecting a Kubernetes cluster (including its container images and configurations) to detect security misconfigurations or vulnerabilities that could compromise the security posture of the cluster.

6 min read

Kubernetes vulnerability scanning is the systematic process of inspecting a Kubernetes cluster (including its container images and configurations) to detect security misconfigurations or vulnerabilities that could compromise the security posture of the cluster.

Kubernetes brings huge benefits, and it’s revolutionized how applications are deployed and managed in cloud computing. However, there are tradeoffs. The first is the complexity of Kubernetes, which makes it easy to misconfigure the system.

And due to its dynamic and distributed nature, Kubernetes often requires highly skilled individuals to ensure the platform's security. Security vulnerabilities, which can range from simple misconfigurations to unpatched software, can easily infiltrate clusters. This poses a significant threat to the containers, clusters, and applications running on the Kubernetes platform.

This blog post takes an in-depth look at the complexity of Kubernetes vulnerability scanning. Read on to learn how to leverage vulnerability scanning to safeguard your containerized applications against the ever-evolving landscape of security threats. 

The importance of Kubernetes vulnerability scanning

By embracing regular scanning practices, organizations can:

  • Prevent data breaches and security incidents: Regular scanning across the full supply chain, not just in production, reduces the window of opportunity for attackers to exploit weaknesses. By detecting and addressing security vulnerabilities promptly at every stage, organizations can prevent potential data breaches and security incidents that could lead to significant financial losses. This comprehensive approach ensures vulnerabilities are identified and mitigated before they can impact the organization's security posture.

  • Comply with regulatory standards: Many industries are governed by strict regulatory standards that mandate regular security assessments and vulnerability scanning. Organizations can ensure compliance with these regulations and avoid fines and legal repercussions by integrating Kubernetes vulnerability scanning into their workflows.

  • Enhance trust and reliability for users and customers: A robust security posture, bolstered by regular vulnerability scanning, signals to users and customers that an organization is committed to protecting their data. This trust is priceless, fostering a sense of reliability and confidence in the services you provide.

Common vulnerabilities in Kubernetes

Navigating the Kubernetes ecosystem requires a thorough understanding of its security landscape. Recognizing these common security pitfalls is the first step towards fortifying your clusters against potential threats:

  • Misconfigurations: Misconfigurations of Kubernetes clusters can open the door to unauthorized access and exploitation. Simple oversights in security settings, such as overly permissive access controls or unchanged default configurations, can have dire consequences.

  • Inadequate access controls: Properly configuring access controls is crucial for securing a Kubernetes environment. Failure to implement role-based access control (RBAC) policies or to restrict access to Kubernetes APIs can lead to unauthorized access and potential data breaches.

  • Unpatched software: Kubernetes environments often consist of numerous components, including the Kubernetes control plane, container runtimes, and applications running within containers. Neglecting to apply security patches promptly leaves these components vulnerable to exploitation.

  • Container vulnerabilities: Containers, the building blocks of Kubernetes, can harbor hidden vulnerabilities within their images. Without regular scanning and updating of container images, attackers can exploit these vulnerabilities to compromise the container and potentially the entire cluster.

The Kubernetes vulnerability scanning process

Integrating vulnerability scanning into every stage of the Kubernetes development life cycle guarantees that security is a constant focus, not just a secondary consideration—from the initial development phase all the way through to deployment.

Before development: Static analysis

Before any code is deployed, use static analysis tools to examine the source code for potential security vulnerabilities or misconfigurations. Detecting issues early enables developers to resolve them before they become embedded in the application once it's deployed.

During deployment: CI/CD pipelines and admission controllers

Integrate vulnerability scanning into CI/CD pipelines to ensure that every build is automatically scanned for vulnerabilities. This continuous scanning approach aligns with the DevSecOps philosophy of integrating security into the development process, enabling immediate feedback and remediation.

In addition to implementing automatic scanning, configure Kubernetes admission controllers to enforce security policies and prevent the deployment of non-compliant resources. For example, block the deployment of container images that fail vulnerability scans, making sure that only secure, compliant containers are deployed.

Pro tip

Admission controllers are a great way to keep an eye on whatever is getting deployed on your Kubernetes clusters. They can intercept every configuration that you apply on a cluster, as well as modify or verify them. This capability is great for many use cases.

One very interesting controller is the validating admission policy controller. It offers a declarative way of creating a policy using the Common Expression Languag

Learn more

Post-deployment: Runtime scanning and monitoring

Even after deployment, continuous scanning of running containers and the Kubernetes cluster is essential. Runtime scanning tools monitor for new vulnerabilities and changes in the security posture and provide real-time visibility into the security health of the cluster.

Beyond scanning, monitoring the behavior of applications and the Kubernetes environment for unusual activity can detect potential security incidents. This includes monitoring for signs of compromised containers and unauthorized access attempts, among other indicators of security issues.

Open-source Kubernetes vulnerability scanners

Open-source Kubernetes vulnerability scanners are designed to automate the identification of security vulnerabilities and misconfigurations within your Kubernetes clusters. The open-source nature of these tools is crucial, as it allows for community-driven improvements and transparency in security practices. By leveraging these tools, developers and security teams can gain insights into their security posture, enabling them to address vulnerabilities before attackers can exploit them.


Clair is focused on container image scanning and examines container images for known vulnerabilities. It integrates with CI/CD pipelines, providing an automated way to ensure container images are free from security vulnerabilities before deployment. Clair stands out for its extensive vulnerability database and its ability to scan layers within container images, providing detailed insights and reports on potential security issues. This level of detail and integration makes Clair an essential tool for maintaining the security integrity of containerized applications.

Figure 1: Clair output in Red Hat Quay (Source: Red Hat)


Trivy is a comprehensive vulnerability scanner that identifies security issues in container images and file systems. It's known for its simplicity and ease of integration into CI/CD pipelines, making it a popular choice for developers.

Figure 2: Trivy vulnerability output (Source: Trivy)


Kubescape is designed to scan Kubernetes clusters against several known security standards and benchmarks, such as the Enduring Security Framework (ESF) and the MITRE ATT&CK framework. It provides detailed reports on compliance and security posture, offering actionable insights for remediation.

Figure 3: Kubescape output (Source: GitHub)


kube-bench is designed to check clusters against the security benchmarks defined by the Center for Internet Security (CIS). It runs various checks to ensure that Kubernetes deployments are configured according to CIS best practices, helping you prevent common misconfigurations that could lead to security breaches.

Figure 4: kube-bench output (Source: GitHub)

When choosing a vulnerability scanner for your Kubernetes environment, consider your specific needs and the scope of its scanning capabilities, from static code analysis to runtime cluster monitoring. Another key element is the scanner's ease of integration with existing CI/CD pipelines and monitoring tools for a seamless development process. You’ll also want to opt for a scanner backed by strong community support and regular updates to stay ahead of evolving security threats. By selecting the right scanner and integrating it effectively, you'll significantly bolster your security posture against the diverse threats of the cloud-native ecosystem.

Introducing Wiz: A comprehensive solution for cloud security

Though Kubernetes and cloud security are complex and always evolving, the right tools make it easy to secure everything you build and run in the cloud. Wiz is a leader in innovation, offering a comprehensive solution with an agentless approach. Wiz simplifies cloud security and compliance across AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, and Kubernetes, making it an indispensable tool for modern cloud environments. Wiz excels at correlating information from Kubernetes, containers, and cloud platforms, ensuring organizations have complete visibility and a thorough understanding of their security posture.

Key features of Wiz

Wiz provides a holistic view of your security posture with:

  • Container and Kubernetes security: Wiz offers specialized security solutions for containers and Kubernetes, enabling organizations to build containerized applications without compromising on security. Our all-in-one platform secures containers, Kubernetes, and cloud environments from build-time to real-time, addressing vulnerabilities at every stage of the development life cycle.

  • Cloud threat detection and response: Wiz provides advanced monitoring and threat detection capabilities, crucial for container security. This feature allows organizations to detect and respond to threats in real time, ensuring continuous security monitoring and rapid response to any potential incidents in their cloud environments. Real-time threat detection is vital to maintaining a robust security posture in dynamic cloud and containerized systems.

  • Vulnerability management: With Wiz, uncovering vulnerabilities across your clouds and workloads becomes effortless. Our tools scan VMs, serverless applications, containers, and appliances for vulnerabilities without the need for external scans or deploying agents.

  • Comprehensive compliance: Wiz ensures that your cloud environments remain compliant with industry standards and regulations, such as PCI, GDPR, HIPAA, and CIS Benchmarks (which are essential for hardening Kubernetes clusters). Our automated compliance capabilities simplify the management of regulatory requirements.

  • Supply chain security: Wiz extends its security capabilities to the entire supply chain, from code to deployment. This ensures a comprehensive security approach, safeguarding not just the operational environments but also the underlying code and processes that contribute to the development and maintenance of applications.

As we’ve seen, securing Kubernetes and cloud environments requires a robust, comprehensive solution. Wiz offers just that, providing the tools and insights needed to secure your cloud infrastructure effectively. Whether you're looking to enhance your security posture, ensure compliance, or streamline your security operations, Wiz provides a platform that meets the complex demands of modern cloud security. Ready to transform your cloud security strategy? Schedule a demo today

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