SecurityBrief New Zealand logo
New Zealand's leading source of cybersecurity and cyber-attack news
Story image

The age of containerisation and its impact on security

Fri 30 Jun 2017
FYI, this story is more than a year old

A defining characteristic of software development and deployment is its constant evolution. Virtual machines (VMs) first appeared in the 1960s, and developers soon scaled it to commercial levels. Customers saw VMs as an ideal solution to enable easier server consolidation and drive disaster recovery and IT optimization. Since 2010, server virtualisation has become the norm rather than the exception. This model was supported by traditional “waterfall” software release methodologies, along with operations and software development working in different silos.

But these traditional models are changing, fueled by demand for increased productivity, accelerated innovation and faster go-to-market release of digital products and services. This has forced a rethink of how application development and deployment takes place. Rather than having software development and operations separated, the two are now being integrated into a single unified function - DevOps.

DevOps brings with it the concepts of continuous integration (CI) and continuous development (CD), which means that small incremental changes to applications are being made all the time. This is a stark contrast to the traditional waterfall development methodology.

The trend towards DevOps is also forcing a rethink of how software is deployed. Rather than the legacy virtualisation model used for years, a more efficient model has emerged. This technology, called containerisation, allows for more efficient use of hardware resources by facilitating the sharing of a single operating system instance with multiple segregated applications.

Benefits of container technologies

Container technologies have been revolutionary in their ability to enable fast application deployment and migration to the cloud. They not only reduce the required resources for deployment, but they can be brought online or quickly deleted in a matter of seconds. Containers also allow applications and processes to be consistently deployed across multiple clouds, which facilitates faster, more confident enterprise adoption of cloud services.

Containers are lightweight and portable, with everything needed at runtime, including all code and supporting libraries. In fact, containerisation takes IT automation to a whole new level when combined with orchestration technologies, such as Kubernetes, which facilitates totally elastic computing models.

We are now seeing the evolution of software defined infrastructures (SDI) where services can be provisioned and automatically deployed across large compute infrastructures. Applications developed using containerisation is an important part of this technology.

Unlike VMs, containers share operating systems and use only the resources they need to run the application they’re hosting, resulting in greater efficiency. Hundreds of containers can run on just one server, saving valuable data center budget.

Not surprisingly, the remarkable benefits of DevOps deployment methods, a technology that is still in its infancy, have led to an incredible rate of adoption.

In a 2016 global survey, 53 percent of companies with at least 100 employees had either deployed or were in the process of evaluating containers. And once an organisation invests in containers, their use expands rapidly. In its report, Docker Containers Will Impact Enterprise Storage Infrastructure, Gartner predicts that by 2022, more than 20 percent of enterprise primary storage capacity will be deployed to support container workloads, up from less than one percent today.

But containerisation comes with growing pains. As with any new technology development, industry excitement often overshadows security until organisations recognise the need to address the new set of risks.

Security implications of containers

As traditional VMs typically exist for weeks, security issues are more likely to be caught during a weekly or monthly scan and patch cycle. But containers can exist for just minutes, and the periodic scanning approach simply doesn’t work. Beyond this, containers cannot be scanned using traditional vulnerability assessment tools, since the services that these tools require are not present in container images. This means, new methods of vulnerability assessment must be embraced.

DevOps teams are often focused on speed rather than security. Some platforms, such as Docker, allow users to pull pre-built images from public repositories. While efficient, this can expose networks to unknown threats and vulnerabilities.

It is the very advantages of containers that make them such a security risk.

  • Containerisation allows the dynamic and elastic deployment of software, but this means the attack surface is constantly evolving.
  • A key strength of containers is their ability to be spun up or down almost instantly. But with an average lifespan of just a few hours or days, how can security teams effectively assess risk?
  • Their short lifespan and ability to be instantly deleted or replaced, key benefits when only concerned with speed of deployment, can cause a lack of visibility.

A major concern is that enterprise adoption and deployment of DevOps and containers is outpacing the approach used to secure them.

Tenable’s 2017 Global Cybersecurity Assurance Report Card, found that security teams’ confidence in their organisations’ ability to mitigate risk in these categories is worryingly low, with containerisation platforms (52 percent) and DevOps environments (57 percent) each receiving a failing grade.

Integrating security into the DevOps innovation cycle

Organisations continue to struggle with container security because traditional security approaches, first designed for physical servers and then for VMs, cannot cope with today's dynamic IT environment.

Server or device-centric-security simply doesn’t work in the new app-centric enterprise, which means organisations must rethink their approach to cybersecurity. Vulnerability scanning needs to be integrated into the DevOps innovation cycle. Each container must be scanned as it’s built, before it’s put into production and while it’s in production. Doing so will ensure that vulnerability and malware detection occurs throughout the lifecycle of every container.

Recognising the critical importance of vulnerability scanning, Gartner expects that “by 2018, 60 percent of enterprises will mandate container vulnerability scanning, up from less than 30 percent in 2016.” [Gartner source: “Security Considerations and Best Practices for Securing Containers” by Neil MacDonald published Nov. 10, 2016].

Introducing security into the DevOps process at the same speed as DevOps itself is starting to gain momentum as organisations transition into DevSecOps. DevOps teams are having a larger say in networking and infrastructure security tools, and as containers have grown in popularity, so too have the tools available to help secure them.

As more enterprises migrate their existing and customer-facing apps into container environments, it will become critical that organisations recognise and address the need for a new security approach, ensuring that security is integrated into the DevOps process from the very beginning. This is the only way for organisations to get the operational benefits of containers, while also reducing their level of exposure and risk. 

Article by Dick Bussiere, APAC technical director, Tenable Network Security.

Related stories
Top stories
Story image
Cybersecurity
What every CISO must answer to enable a best-in-class security operations program
It has been widely reported recently that South Australian government employees have been the victims of a cyberattack.
Story image
Identity and Access Management
The post-pandemic workforce requires secure IAM capabilities
HID Global discusses what identity and access management means for organisations in today's convoluted digital world.
Story image
BYOD / Bring Your Own Device
How zero trust can lead the battle against ransomware
SecOps teams champion a zero trust strategy to support the fight against the escalating risk of cybercrime and help monitor threat actors across a network.
Story image
Microsoft
Elevation of Privilege the top 2021 Microsoft vulnerability
BeyondTrust has released its 2022 Microsoft Vulnerabilities Report, finding that Elevation of Privilege is the top vulnerability category for the second consecutive year.
Story image
Ransomware
Alarming surge in Conti Ransomware Group activity - report
A new report has identified a 7.6 per cent increase in the number of vulnerabilities tied to ransomware in Q1 2022.
Story image
Data Protection
Barracuda launches new capabilities for API Protection
"Every business needs this type of critical protection against API vulnerabilities and automated bot attacks," Barracuda says.
Story image
Customer experience
Gartner recognises Okta for abilities in Access Management
Okta has announced it has been recognised as a Customers' Choice for the fourth time in a row in the Gartner Peer Insights "Voice of the Customer" report.
Story image
Remote Working
Successful digital transformation in the hybrid work era is about embracing shifting goalposts
As organisations embraced remote working, many discovered they lacked the infrastructure needed to support history’s first global load test of remote work capabilities.
Story image
Qualys
Qualys updates Cloud Platform solution with rapid remediation
The new update is designed to enable organisations to fix asset misconfigurations, patch OS and third-party applications, and deploy custom software.
Story image
Ransomware
Employees on the frontline of cyber defense - report
In the first quarter of 2022, employees found themselves more than ever at the frontline of cyber defense, according to a new report from Kroll. 
Story image
Cybersecurity
More than 40% of banks worried about cloud security - report
Publicis Sapient's new report finds security and the lack of cloud skills and internal understanding of business benefits are big obstacles for banks moving to the cloud.
Story image
Data Protection
Information management capabilities to meet privacy requirements
Organisations with customers or operations across more than one country face a spate of new and proposed privacy and data protection laws.
Story image
Sift
Sift shares crucial advice for preventing serious ATO breaches
Are you or your business struggling with Account Takeover Fraud (ATO)? One of the latest ebooks from Sift can provide readers with the tools and expertise to help launch them into the new era of account security.
Story image
Migration
Let’s clear the cloud visibility haze with app awareness
Increasingly, organisations are heading for the cloud, initiating new born-in-the-cloud architectures and migrating existing applications via ‘lift and shift’ or refactoring.
Story image
ChildFund
ChildFund launches new campaign to protect children online
ChildFund says WEB Safe & Wise aims to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse online while also empowering them to become digitally savvy. 
Story image
Apricorn
Data backup plans inadequate, data still at risk - study
The Apricorn 2022 Global IT Security Survey revealed that while the majority organisations have data backup plans in place, data for many are at risk.
Story image
Employment
Tech job moves - Forcepoint, Malwarebytes, SolarWinds & VMware
We round up all job appointments from May 13-20, 2022, in one place to keep you updated with the latest from across the tech industries.
Story image
Microsoft
Global cybersecurity insurance market worth $11.5b this year
Future Market Insights finds the cybersecurity insurance market is expected to reach USD$11.5 billion in 2022, growing to $61.2 billion in 10 years.
Story image
Cloud Security
Aqua Security createa unified scanner for cloud native security
“By integrating more cloud native scanning targets into Trivy, such as Kubernetes, we are simplifying cloud native security."
Story image
New Relic
New Relic launches vulnerability management platform
New Relic has introduced New Relic Vulnerability Management to help organisations find and address security risks faster and with greater precision.
Darktrace
Threat actors are exploiting weaknesses in interconnected IT/OT ecosystems. Darktrace illuminates your entire business and takes targeted action to stop emerging attacks.
Link image
Story image
Ransomware
CERT NZ releases first Cyber Security Insights for 2022
CERT NZ has released Quarter One: Cyber Security Insights 2022, which offers an overview of reports about cybersecurity incidents affecting New Zealanders.
Story image
Malware
'Alarming' rise in ransomware threats - Verizon report
As criminals look to leverage increasingly sophisticated forms of malware, it is ransomware that continues to prove particularly successful.
Story image
Supply chain
Jetstack promotes better security with supply chain toolkit
The web-based resource is designed to help organisations evaluate and plan the crucial steps they need to establish effective software supply chain security.
Story image
Managed service provider
Barracuda MSP Day 2022 highlights MSP opportunities
Barracuda Networks has released a report showing global services-related MSP revenue is set to increase by more than a third in 2022 compared to 2021.
Story image
Surveillance
i-PRO releases smallest AI-based surveillance camera on the market
The new i-PRO mini network camera is now available, with a pocket-sized form factor and full AI analytics functionality.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Accenture - a collective security approach a driving factor for cyber resilience
With the approaching Davos World Economic Forum upon us, it is even more imperative to discuss the impact of cybersecurity on business operations leading into the future.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity prompts upgrade for 1.3 billion electricity meters
ABI Research finds Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) and cybersecurity concerns are prompting the upgrade of 1.3 billion electricity meters by 2027.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Comcast to use ThreatQuotient for cybersecurity operations
Comcast, the parent company of NBC Universal and SKY Group, has chosen ThreatQ Platform and ThreatQ Investigations to meet their cybersecurity needs.
Booster
Booster Innovation Fund. A fund of Kiwi ingenuity – for Kiwi investors.
Link image
Story image
Cyber attacks
Devastating cyber attacks expected to hit energy sector
Energy executives anticipate life, property, and environment-compromising cyber attacks on the sector within the next two years.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Noname Security partners with Netpoleon to target API issues
Specialist API security firm Noname Security has appointed Netpoleon as its distributor in Australia and New Zealand.
Story image
Training
Infosec unveils role-guided cybersecurity training roadmaps
Infosec Skills Roles maps hands-on training and certifications to the 12 most in-demand cybersecurity roles to maximise training efficiency.
Story image
Malware
New vulnerabilities found in Nuspire’s Q1 2022 Threat Report
“Threat actors are quickly adjusting their tactics and these exploits tend to get industry attention, but the threat posed by older and attacks still persists."
Story image
Phishing
Vishing attacks reach all time high - Agari and PhishLabs
"Hybrid vishing campaigns continue to generate stunning numbers, representing 26.1% of total share in volume so far in 2022."
Story image
Check Point
Check Point and CCTV expert join forces to boost protection
The partnership will involve Check Point Quantum IoT Protect Nano Agent being embedded in Provision-ISR’s CCTV cameras for on-device runtime protection.
Story image
Amazon Web Services / AWS
RedShield leverages AWS to scale cybersecurity services
"Working with AWS gives RedShield the ability to mitigate significant application layer DDoS attacks, helping leaders adopt best practices and security architectures."
Story image
Kubernetes
Sysdig unveils new Kubernetes troubleshooting and cloud innovations
Sysdig has introduced two new innovations that look to help bolster cloud services and simplify Kubernetes troubleshooting.
Story image
Training
Trojan cyber attacks hitting SMBs harder than ever - Kaspersky
In 2022 the number of Trojan-PSW detections increased by almost a quarter compared to the same period in 2021 to reach 4,003,323.
Story image
SaaS
Maintaining secure systems with expectations of flexible work
Most office workers feel they've proved they can work successfully from home, and as much as employers try, things aren't going back to the way they were anytime soon.
Story image
Silver Peak
The path to an adaptive, modern network
Managing and securing the network looks different than it did just two years ago—especially given that most of these networks are made up of multi-generations of infrastructure stitched together over time.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
Gartner reveals top three tech trends for banks this year
Gartner says generative artificial intelligence, autonomic systems and privacy-enhancing computation are gaining traction in banking and investment services.
Story image
SaaS
Rubrik Security Cloud marks 'next frontier' in cybersecurity
"The next frontier in cybersecurity pairs the investments in infrastructure security with data security giving companies security from the point of data."
Story image
Cybersecurity
Asia Pacific plagued by sophisticated bad bots - report
The three most common bot attacks were account takeover, content or price scraping, and scalping to obtain limited-availability items.