Kubernetes Security Practices: Keeping Your Cluster Safe

Kubernetes security practices

Kubernetes is a popular container orchestration platform (more on what that means later) that is used by a considerable number of organizations to manage their various applications. However, with great power comes great responsibility, and as the platform becomes more widely adopted, the chance of attackers looking for vulnerabilities to exploit increases along with it.

This is why it’s utterly vital to ensure your business follows the best practices when it comes to keeping your various clusters safe from nefarious actors with malintent. If you are new to the world of open-source container orchestration and unaware of the correct procedures for staying secure, this post will outline some of the most viable solutions you can implement to ensure you remain protected.

What Is Kubernetes?

The key to staying secure often first involves fully understanding what sort of program you are dealing with. As mentioned briefly in the introduction, Kubernetes is an open-source container orchestration platform that allows companies to deploy and manage various applications within a “container” (which simply means a location where an application can consume resources and function without relying on other systems).

Initially developed by Google (in its pre-Alphabet days), but is now fully managed by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), which oversees all operations and subsequently sets the security protocols used today. For instance, because it is an open-source platform running on Linux, and Linux has two memory components (kernel and userspace), it requires something called the extended Berkeley Packet Filter (eBPF).

The reason for using eBPF for Kubernetes is to use the kernel without having to change any source code within it. I.e., you need not create new kernel modules for simply executing operations. Despite these built-in safeguards, it is ultimately the user’s responsibility to practice safe and responsible system operation.

How To Keep Your Cluster Safe And Stable

Now you have a basic overview of what Kubernetes is and how it functions, you still need to know what techniques are available to keep your clusters secure. Now, let’s examine some of the most common approaches used by businesses in this regard.

Leverage RBAC And Namespaces For User Access

Perhaps 3the most vital [practice to keep your various clusters safe from outside influence is to implement both role-based access control (RBAC) and namespace user access. RBAC allows you to define different roles and permissions for other groups or users (particularly beneficial for larger organizations). In contrast, namespaces will enable you to partition a single Kubernetes cluster into multiple virtual clusters.

By implementing these security measures, you can ensure that each user or gracious of users only has access to the resources and parts of a cluster they need to ensure smooth operation. Essentially, this compartmentalizes things, guaranteeing an even greater level of security than you might have if you were to let all team members access every part of a cluster.

For example, you could create a namespace for a development team of a particular application and grant them access only to that specific cluster and thus the resources there without worrying they will use up other resources or potentially cause an issue with the entire application.

Similarly, you can create a different namespace for the production environment and restrict access to only a few trusted users. In order to achieve this, you will have to use Kubernetes built-in authorization mechanisms or third-party tools, which will also require careful monitoring and periodic auditing to ensure permissions align with your security protocols.

Track And Audit Your Kubernetes Configuration

In order to carry out the prior step, it is necessary to put in place stringent tracking and auditing procedures. By putting these steps in place, you can identify potential vulnerabilities and nip them in the bud before they become an issue. Fortunately, Kubernetes comes with a range of configurations that allow you to keep track of what’s going on in your containers.

In other words, keep tabs on who has access to what and ensure that only those who are authorized have access to the most sensitive resources. This will not only ensure that you know who is responsible for what if things do go awry but also make it far more manageable when you’re onboarding a new team member. 

Implement Network Policy And Segmentation

Implementing a robust network policy allows you to control how different pods communicate with each other and, more importantly, with external resources. This allows you to see what information they are accessing and whether or not it is conducive to the safety of your entire cluster. For instance, you can define policies limiting access to certain ports or IP addresses or allowing traffic from specific pods.

By setting these rules, you can prevent unauthorized access or data leakage between pods. Regarding segmentation (which involves separating different parts of a cluster from one another), this can dramatically limit the impact of any attack or infliction into a cluster by keeping them separate. This allows you to decontaminate an infected cluster instead of seeing it run rampant through your entire system.

Scan For Known Vulnerabilities (And Act Promptly)

Regular scans for vulnerabilities are generally regarded as good practice regardless of activity. You may need to use a third-party tool, which is usually considered more effective, to participate in this activity. Nevertheless, the idea is to stay on top of your clusters and respond early to any threat that could undermine your entire cluster.

Once you discover a vulnerability, you will need to get on top of it asap, which could mean configuring a patch or simply updating outdated software versions, etc. You can keep your Kubernetes cluster safe from intrusion by scanning it on a regular basis for known vulnerabilities and fixing them as soon as possible if you find any.

Monitor Services And Containers For Unauthorized Access

This final measure is often overlooked in favor of more complex security solutions despite being the easiest to implement and potentially having the most significant impact. It simply involves regularly monitoring the various services and containers that comprise a cluster and checking for any unauthorized intrusions. You can perform this activity at whatever frequency is feasible for your organization, but the more often, the better.

Keeping your Kubernetes cluster safe from malicious outside actors and unsavory insiders is vital to ensure a smooth workflow without interruption. By taking advantage of the suggestions laid forth in this article, you will be able to keep things secure and your sensitive data safe.

Nicole Middleton
Nicole calls herself a typical millennial girl and thrives on her share of social media, celebrity gossip, and all things viral content. She’s a big fan of pop music and plays the guitar as a hobby.