Kubernetes and Security – An Overview
Kubernetes (K8S) is an open-source container orchestration tool that can automatically scale, distribute, and handle faults on containers. Originally created by Google and donated to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, Kubernetes is widely used in production environments to handle Docker containers (although it supports other containers tools such as rkt) in a fault-tolerant manner. Security should be a top priority for any production system and must be even stricter when securing clusters since they involve more moving parts that need to cooperate with one another. Securing a simple system involves maintaining good practices and updated dependencies, but to secure an environment, whether clustered or not, the operator needs to evaluate the communications, images, operational system, and hardware issues. Data breaches, Denial of Service attacks, stolen sensitive information or simply downtime, can all be avoided with solid security policies.
The Usual Suspects
As an open-source system for automating the deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications, Kubernetes impacts many runtime security functions. As with any open source project, issues are rapidly discovered but any user must keep their software updated to avoid opportunistic attacks. Clusters are a group of servers working together as a single system. As such, they are complex, need to be constantly updated and monitored and, as with any distributed system, can be more prone to failure. In addition to the typical security issues that involve any computer software, such as bad programming and out-of-date dependencies, clusters have their own specific security pitfalls. For example, a bad network configuration can expose the entire computing system to an unauthorized user; a single node with an outdated operating system can lead to a breach of all your machines; a system subjected to a DoS attack could lead to one or more machines being rendered unusable.
The Defensive Line
Kubernetes is the world’s most popular container orchestration tool and is here to stay. In 2017, it rose to dominance because of features, community, offerings in the cloud, and recognition by its competitors like Docker and DC/OS. Still, in the Kubernetes environment, there are threats that may result in compromises and undesirable scenarios, including an elevation of privileges, exfiltration of sensitive data, a compromise of operations, or a breach of compliance policies. This is why we use clusters, a cluster can be used for different environments and different purposes: it can have services for several production products and even for a variety of purposes: testing, staging, production, and so on. It is important to separate these into different namespaces, so you can control access to the resources the service has access to. Namespaces create a network layer with resources within the same space.
Production environments should always be in a separate cluster with strict access permissions. Nevertheless, for other environments, it is possible to create roles for each namespace so only your QA team can access the testing environment.
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