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What are containers?

Over the past few years, a new phenomenon has arrived in the computing world. More and more organizations and companies are now using containers. They represent a departure from virtual machines, which allowed the packaging of applications with operating systems of their own. Containers are similar to virtual machines in that there is a single package, but a container is the creation of a single environment that contains an application, its code, and dependencies (and not a unique operating system), which can be run on any operating system or software.

Major corporations have begun using containers and many other organizations will now look to utilize them. However, it is vital that, like with anything else, containers and their environments remain secure. Security teams must be analyzing potential vulnerabilities and failures and taking steps to secure containers. Since this article is only a brief overview of the security of containerization, we encourage you to reach out to us at CDG for detailed advice and recommendations.

What do you need to know about container security?

Given the unique structure and complexity of containers, there are different container security needs to consider. One of the most important aspects is the involvement of security teams throughout the development and operations stages – i.e. maintaining a DevSecOps model. Organizations should ensure that they encourage and normalize the use of containers and the development of them occurring concurrently with risk mitigation.

Containers have base images that can be open to vulnerabilities. Throughout the entire process, tools should be used to detect any possible vulnerabilities. Depending on the kind of organization using the container, there may be compliance requirements that must be met by ensuring there is no misconfiguration, malware, or potential threats in the images.

An operating system will be hosting the container and teams must ensure that the operating system is secure. Organizations should look into the operating system’s configurations and security layers to analyze whether it is secure and meets the necessary compliance regulations. The most optimal operating system is one that is built to host containers. These systems usually include tools and frameworks that are designed to thwart and prevent potential failures and attacks against containers.

As well, take into consideration the container’s runtime. In order to detect vulnerabilities or shortcomings, the organization’s security team needs to know whether an operation is normal for the container or represents a dangerous departure. It is important to know how a safe container operates and then securing this form. Teams should use tools that can automatically identify operations within a container that do not align with their usual operations or functions. Finding these differences can help prevent attacks.

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