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How to secure containers from cyber threats

The threat of cyber attacks

Securing any sort of technology is an arduous undertaking, especially in a world of cyber threats. SAP reports more than 80% of all cyberattacks are intended to impact specific software applications instead of the network. Among the most popular application technologies on the scene today are containers, which enable users to run an application and its dependencies in an isolated environment. And while containers are driving evolution in the management of network applications, which, although self-contained, are still vulnerable.

Host operating system (OS)

The host OS that supports containers is one of the most important layers within the stack that needs to be secured. If a hacker gains access to the host OS, the intruder can potentially control the entire network. The good news is the host OS is one of the easiest parts of the stack to secure. Most OS’s do not differ significantly from those used by administrators to support various workloads. In most instances, the host OS is a Linux distribution, meaning the methods used to secure a Linux kernel are sufficient to secure containers.

High level isolation

Applications cannot run a large monolithic code in the cloud and be secure. Containers address this problem by breaking down monolithic code into bite size chunks of code, and running them as a collection of microservices. Since the containers run as a collection of microservices across the infrastructure, users can keep tabs on the devices. If one container is infected, the high level of isolation thwarts the infection from spreading. Users can shut down the container if it is discovered to be infected. The infected application can still function; although, it may not retain some of its features.

Default security

Container developers for Docker have made security an intrinsic feature of the OS, rather than an independent tool that has to be installed and configured. The manual configuration of various security tools makes the system more complex, increasing overhead and the risk of misconfiguration in return. Docker abides by a secure by default method to shield security features in the Docker Engine. In addition to providing a secure, isolated environment, Docker containers are set to a default configuration to ensure applications are secure from neighboring applications.

Registry

An essential feature that distinguishes containers from conventional environments is registries, which provide a centralized way to store, manage and deploy application images. Since a registry plays a literal, central role in isolating the container and their dependencies, it is imperative to secure them from outside intruders. Users can prevent intruders from gaining a foothold on the registry by locking down the server. This can be achieved with secure access policies, and running an image scanner capable of discerning abnormalities inside container images.

Container daemon

One way intruders can gain control over a container environment is through a container daemon, a process responsible for creating and maintaining containers. A container daemon runs on a Linux. Users ought to make sure no unauthorized users have access to the container daemon. Docker even encourages users to create a server dedicated to supporting the container daemon, alongside a set of administration tools, to keep the threat of intrusion down to a minimum.

ABOUT AUTHOR

Nathan Cranford
Nathan Cranford
Nathan Cranford joined RCR Wireless News as a Technology Writer in 2017. Prior to his current position, he served as a content producer for GateHouse Media, and as a freelance science and tech reporter. His work has been published by a myriad of news outlets, including COEUS Magazine, dailyRx News, The Oklahoma Daily, Texas Writers Journal and VETTA Magazine. Nathan earned a bachelor’s from the University of Oklahoma in 2013. He lives in Austin, Texas.

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