The accelerated digital transformation of organizations has led to an unprecedented growth in the adoption of Kubernetes. The ease of use and simple processes required to deploy Kubernetes are just some of its many advantages. However, new cloud native environments are causing security challenges for all organizations—creating complexities and blind spots. Following a perimeterless Zero Trust approach to Kubernetes security—supported by robust machine identity management—is essential for securing your Kubernetes environment.
What are the security challenges?
According to a recent survey, 86% of organizations are using cloud-native technologies—including microservices, containers and Kubernetes—to accelerate innovation and achieve more successful business outcomes. However, the dynamic nature of today’s hybrid, multi-cloud ecosystems amplifies complexity. 61% of CIOs say their IT environment changes every minute or less, while nearly a third (32%) say their environment changes at least once every second. 63% of CIOs say the complexity of their cloud environment has surpassed human ability to manage.
Because of the ephemeral nature of Kubernetes, security teams don’t have a comprehensive visibility across all their Kubernetes deployments. This makes it virtually impossible to secure these cloud native environments at the speed that developers are working. Visibility is also affected by the exponential increase in the number of containers.
All these machines—microservices, containers or virtual machines—need to be identified to be effectively managed. Hence, machine identities are also growing in number. That’s particularly significant because these digital identities are required to ensure that communications between Kubernetes containers are secured and encrypted to keep data safe.
To make matters worse, machine identities need to be issued and managed for all containers, even if their lifespan is only a few seconds. This creates further challenges, as machine identities need to be managed at the speed and scale required for DevOps teams to function effectively and efficiently.
Complexity, volume and transience challenge the management of Kubernetes digital identities, creating orphaned or forgotten machine identities that become the source of certificate outages and security risks.
What are the most common mistakes affecting Kubernetes security?
The volume and velocity of Kubernetes has led security teams to overly rely on the default settings. Kubernetes offers rich configuration options, but default settings are usually the least secure. In keeping with DevOps principles, Kubernetes is designed to speed application development, not to isolate its components. Another configuration risk relates to how secrets such as cryptographic keys are stored and accessed, a discipline called secrets management. IT security teams must ensure that secrets are not being loaded as other environment variables but are instead mounted into read-only volumes in the containers.
Speaking about secrets management, misconfiguration and mismanagement of machine identities is another pain point. Given that the lifespan of these identities is shortened to just a year and that they are crucial for protecting data in transit between applications, misconfigured certificates are creating opportunities for the adversaries to compromise their weaknesses and launch attacks. These attacks could cause critical workloads to fail, sensitive information to be lost, and entire networks to be hijacked.
Finally, many businesses are failing to control their own security in the cloud. The shared responsibility model of cloud security gives organizations the flexibility to control security and scale it to meet evolving business needs. To be most effective, security should be built from the very beginning of the cloud journey and containerization of operations. With the growing demand for digital services, developers are constantly focused on just building and innovating to speed the time to market. To prevent potential security issues, developers need to better align with security teams on their Kubernetes deployments. This cooperation is critical to ensure that cloud native environments remain protected and monitored for any security issues.
How Zero Trust can help secure your Kubernetes
As DevOps and cloud native developement continue to grow, we need to consider the security and integrity of these fast-moving environments. Specifically, when it comes to containers such as Kubernetes, businesses are increasingly challenged to secure use cases that leverage this technology. This includes ensuring strong identities for the management of containers.
Until now, the process of incorporating trusted certificates into DevOps environments has been slow and complicated. As a result, organizations adopting cloud services and containers have increasingly had to choose between agility and security. Developers spend valuable time either creating security infrastructure or waiting for certificates, both of which delay innovation.
With machine identities becoming crucial for protecting Kubernetes, the only viable approach to defending your containers is through Zero Trust. A Zero Trust approach assumes that every application or microservice needs to be verified and authenticated all the time. For this to work within cloud native environments, trust must be enforced at the workload level with machine identities having a fundamental role.
With so many instances and so many enterprise workloads, it’s going to be impossible to manually manage all those machine identities—let alone verifying every single application and user within the system. This is particularly true when some containers are spun up and down within seconds. Automation will be key for managing these identities, with a Zero Trust approach that can keep up with modern development and the scale needed for mass enterprise applications.
Investment in full life cycle certificate management tools, such as the ones provided by Venafi, especially in multiple-certificate-based enterprise use cases such as containers is no longer a “nice-to-have” rather a “must-have.”
Venafi TLS Protect for Kubernetes, offers machine identity management and comprehensive protection for cloud native platforms. Built for fast-paced Kubernetes and OpenShift environments, this product meets the need for high-level automation and best-practice security for the wildly successful opensource solution, cert-manager. Visit then TLS Protect for Kubernetes to learn more about how you can achieve the observability, consistency and control you need to secure your Kubernetes cloud native environments.
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