What Is Container Security: A Complete Guide

What Is Container Security

Why is Container Security?

Organizations must assess the attack surface of their systems to determine if there are any vulnerabilities. Security threats and opportunities to tamper with organizations increase. Container Security is an essential part of a complete security assessment. Container Security is the use of security tools and policies to protect containerized applications from possible risk. Container Security manages all risks in the environment.

This includes the supply chain software, infrastructure, CI/CD pipeline, and container running time. It also covers lifecycle management applications that are run on containers. To provide context awareness, integrate your container security strategies with the container orchestration when implementing container network security solutions.

Why is Container Security important?

Containers offer security benefits, such as increased application isolation. However, they can also increase an organization’s risk landscape. Containers are becoming a more attractive target for malicious actors due to their increased adoption in production environments. This also increases system workloads. One compromised or vulnerable container could be a point of entry to an organization’s wider environment.

As attackers have more access points, the potential threats increase. Malware embedded in container images is one of the biggest threats to container security. Docker discovered five malicious container images that contained code that secretly mined cryptocurrency from 120,000 users’ computers in August 2021. A separate Docker file was pulled 1.5 million times in a similar attack. This shows how fast this type of threat spreads.

Container security is vital due to the rise in east-west traffic through the data center and cloud, as well as the limited security controls that monitor this source of network traffic. Traditional network security solutions are not designed to protect against lateral attacks. To reduce security risks for your organization, it is important to develop specific strategies to secure containers.

Also read: 5 Steps for Migrating Virtual Machines to Containers

What are the benefits of Container Security?

Container security has become a primary concern as container usage is becoming more popular. It is a good thing that container security awareness is increasing. As many stakeholders recognize its importance and beginning to invest in it through different platforms Processes, and training programs.

Container security covers all aspects of protecting containerized apps and their infrastructure. This focus has many benefits. Container security is rapidly becoming a force multiplier and catalyst for IT security improvement. Continuous security monitoring in development, testing, and production environments (also known DevSecOps) can help organizations increase security overall. For example, automated scanning could be implemented earlier in your CI/CD pipeline.

How do you secure a container?

Container security can be seen as a holistic area, but in practice, it is primarily focused on the container. The Application Container Security Guide was published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It summarizes several basic approaches to securing containers. These are the three most important points from NIST’s report.

  • Use a container: Specific operating system. NIST recommends that you use container-specific OSes to reduce the attack surface.
  • Segment containers according to purpose and risk profile: Container platforms do a great job isolating containers from both the OS and themselves. NIST points out that containers can be grouped by their “purpose”, sensitivity, and threat position and run on different host OSes to achieve greater depth of defense. This is a general IT security principle that limits the blast radius for an attack or incident, which means that the effects of a breach can be contained in a narrow area.
  • Container-specific vulnerability management tools and runtime security tools are recommended: Containers are often overlooked by traditional vulnerability scanning and management tools. This can result in inaccurate reporting about container images and configuration settings. Container deployments and operations are also dependent on security at runtime. Intrusion-prevention systems, which are perimeter-oriented tools, often didn’t consider containers and don’t provide adequate protection.

NIST recommends that you use a hardware-based root trust such as the Trusted Platform Modul (TPM), which is compatible with containers and cloud-native programming. This strategy provides additional security and confidence. You should also reinforce security in your organization by incorporating it into your culture, processes, and culture (such as DevOps/DevSecOps). Monitoring for attacks and protecting your organization is an important part of DevOps.

What are the essentials of Container Security?


Many clouds, orchestration, and container platforms offer strong security controls and capabilities. To be fully optimized, they need to be properly set up and maintained over time. This configuration involves critical settings and hardening areas like access/privilege and isolation, as well as networking.


Security needs like anomaly detection and vulnerability scanning can be nearly impossible to accomplish manually due to the distributed and dynamic nature of containerized applications. Automation is a key component of many container security tools, much like container orchestration which automates a lot of the operational overhead of running containers at scale.

Container security solutions

Some teams will create new security tools and support that are specific to containerized environments. These tools can be focused on different aspects within the cloud-native ecosystem such as container runtime security and CI tools. Kubernetes, and other open-source technologies that are similar to it, will automate as many manual processes as possible and help you detect and fix issues faster.

Cloud and Network Security

Network security and container security are often discussed together since containers use networks for communication. Cloud security goes beyond containers and servers. It also includes networks, containers, and apps. All of these are interconnected and depend on each other to ensure that they remain secure. Every organization must make cloud security a top priority.

Also read: CIEM: The Cornerstone of Sustainable Cloud Security

What are the common Container Security mistakes to avoid?

NoForgetting basic security hygiene

Containers are a relatively new technology, that requires modern security measures. However, this doesn’t mean you should abandon certain security principles. It is important to keep your systems up-to-date, whether it’s an operating system, container runtimes, or any other tool.

Failure to properly configure and harden your tool and  environments

Good container and orchestration tools, just like many cloud platforms, come with substantial security capabilities. To unlock their benefits, you need to configure them for your specific environments. The default settings won’t work. To minimize the risk of privilege escalation attacks, you can grant a container only certain capabilities and privileges.

Unable to monitor, log and test

If teams start running containers in production they could lose visibility into their applications and environments. This is a serious risk that many teams don’t recognize. It is especially relevant to highly distributed systems that span multiple cloud environments as well as on-premises infrastructure. It is essential to ensure that there are adequate monitoring, testing, and logging in place. This will help minimize unknown vulnerabilities and other blind spots.

Not securing every phase of the CI/CD pipe

Another problem in your container security strategy could be ignoring other parts of your software delivery chain. This is avoided by good teams that adopt a “shift left” philosophy. They prioritize security in the software supply chain as soon as possible and apply tools and policies throughout.

Written by
Barrett S

Barrett S is Sr. content manager of The Tech Trend. He is interested in the ways in which tech innovations can and will affect daily life. He loved to read books, magazines and music.

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