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Docker Container Security and Tools

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Containerisation has been gaining popularity over the years, and its adoption rate is also becoming remarkable. Organizations all over the world are shifting to the Docker container system. According to the latest survey by RightScale, eighty-three percent of enterprises are using Docker and planning to adopt it soon. Having said that, security is one of the primary concerns for any organization, and without strong security, it is a very big challenge to protect organizational information from hackers. 

A recent study done by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation shows that 43 percent of users have complained that safety is the biggest obstacle in container adoption. Once container usage starts and moves into the production environment, security becomes a big priority. 

In this article, let’s discuss the significant steps that we need to follow to eliminate the security challenges that are associated with the Docker Container system. 

Docker security is associated with the performance of the host because an organization has to share its Kernel with the hosting company. If the host is unable to give the best performance, it affects the entire system.

The entire Docker process seems to run on Linux, But in reality, they are namespaced processes inside a shared host. Our major priority is to keep the hosting adequately patched and updated timely. At the same time, you should also upgrade the security running inside your container system. 

Table of Content - Docker Container Security and Tools

➤ Know your Docker runtime security

➤ Reliability of Docker Image Source 

➤ Avoid Excess Utilisation of Resources

➤ Stop running Containers on super-privileged mode

Know your Docker runtime security

As you are the one who builds the container images, you should be aware of the information that is being passed on to each layer, and doing this one thing is not sufficient. We should also make sure that whenever the containers are installed by vendors do not allow third-party vendors to download and run at runtime. The static container image must be pre-specified with its functionalities. 

There are some performance installation simplicity tools that automatically enable downloads, later which causes to run other specific languages to run at runtime. We could prevent this kind of unexpected download by merely saying no to stealth downloads at runtime. 

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Reliability of Docker Image Source 

We usually undergo the right amount of research before we install any software into our personal computer, and we choose to download from only trusted parties. And the same thing applies to the container images as well when selecting an image source. 

Docker store is the most trusted place among all, and it hosts containers from trusted parties. Docker images undergo critical testing and will be made available for usage only after the testing is done. Image provenance gives us complete information about each image.

Related Article: Docker Interview Questions and Answers

Avoid Excess Utilisation of Resources

It is more straightforward and convenient to run excess containers than we can do on virtual machines. This could help us in utilizing the maximum resources and minimize the total cost of ownership. It also implies that there are a lot more resources competing for the effective utilization of the host resources. 

To eliminate the issues such as performance impacts and denial of service attacks due to noisy neighbours, all we need to do is control the resource system. Swarm and Kubernetes are the two container orchestration tools that keep control of resource utilization by each container.

The resources consumed by each container are recorded by AppDynamics on the Host. All we can do is create useful thresholds for each container resource utilization with the help of Appdynamics. You will be notified when any docker container crosses its limit. 

Stop running Containers on super-privileged mode

If you follow all the above steps but still run your containers in super-privileged mode, then it is just like wasting all your efforts by gaining nothing. Containers that run in super-privileged mode would break the tenant of a container and its containment. This kind of vulnerable container will lead to a threat to the surface, and it could even lead to the destruction of entire data centers or VPC environments. 

The best feature is that docker does not run itself on super-privileged mode until you grant permission for a specific purpose. You can allow the super-privileged mode where containers require access to protect the resources. 

There is a recent study on containerization security by Forrester research, and it reveals that security is the main barrier in containerization. All over, 96% of the applications have open source software components so the organizations must implement steps to stay away from security breaches. Let's discuss some critical Docker security tools.

Below mentioned are some of the tools which could help us in securing the containerization process. 

Anchore cloud

It is a free service and lets anyone find and analyze container images on public registries like Docker Hub. The user can undergo functions like analysis and deep inspection of images, build data, metadata, and other searchable lists such as files, operating system packages, and software artifacts.  

Anchore cloud presents detailed reports on common exposures, and vulnerabilities and enables a user to look at the things that cause these vulnerabilities. It also creates a favorite list for the frequently used images.

Docker Host, application runtime, and C-level code concerns

Related Article: Learn Docker Security

AquaSec 

AquaSec is a very powerful cloud-native security tool that provides full visibility and a secure environment for running containers without allowing any intrusion in between runtime. It can prevent security attacks at any scale.

AquaSec scans images for security checks and prevents unauthorized images from runtime.  It also creates a secured layer for providing access to containers while accessing the “Secrets” across the environment. 

Blackduck

Blackduck allows the application development team to look into the Open Source, by enabling individuals and teams to identify, develop, manage security, code quality risks inside containers and license complaints, etc. 

Blackduck OpsSite enables Operations teams to scan and monitor the container security in a production environment. OpsSite automatically scans the containers and pick out the vulnerable containers and send them to the review team for analysis purpose.

Cilium

Current Operating systems such as the Linux environment can only look at the security levels like the network layer and transport layers, but cannot look into the microservice layer. The cilium is the open source software that enables transparently secured network connectivity and load balancing. It also manages workloads between application containers and processes. 

Cilium gives a simplified and effective way to enforce Both Application layer and network layer security policies based on container/pod identity.

Docker Bench

Docker bench is a Script-based security tool that checks a various number of common best practices that we need to follow while deploying Docker containers in production. This tool will help users in scanning the  Docker environments and inspects different areas such as at the Host level, Docker daemon, containers running on the docker host, and reviews the Docker security applications. After inspection, Docker Bench identifies the vulnerable areas and suggests the areas where you need to make improvements. 

Clair

Clair tool is built by Core OS and performs statistical analytical functions to detect the vulnerabilities associated with containers. It is majorly utilized in Quay.io, which is a public registry for containers alternative to Docker Hub.

The first thing Clair does is it indexes the container images. With the help of Clair API, developers can query the database for finding vulnerabilities related to container images.

Conclusion

Having best practices in implementing the security concerns would help in preventing the threats and thereby contribute to the overall development of the organization.  Especially, when you run your docker via a third party, it is quite essential to have a secured container system. Security hacks and mitigations are exponentially increasing all over the world, and having the best tools to protect them from stealing our information could result in avoiding huge losses.

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Last updated: 24 September 2022
About Author
Vinod M

Vinod M is a Big data expert writer at Mindmajix and contributes in-depth articles on various Big Data Technologies. He also has experience in writing for Docker, Hadoop, Microservices, Commvault, and few BI tools. You can be in touch with him via LinkedIn and Twitter.