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Jan Schulte for Outshift By Cisco

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CNAPP and Kubernetes Securing Your Cloud-Native Setup

Kubernetes is the de facto container orchestration platform for cloud-native applications. But when you consider the complexity and layers of abstraction involved with Kubernetes environments, it’s not surprising how vulnerable your applications can be to various security threats. In a recent security report, Red Hat revealed that 93% of respondents encountered at least one security incident in their Kubernetes environments.

Dev and DevOps teams are under a lot of pressure to make sure that their workloads, data, and applications are protected. If the resources aren’t there, then the task of ensuring application security falls in the lap of software experts who may not be security experts. The dev team effectively becomes the security team.

What’s a robust security solution that integrates seamlessly with a Kubernetes setup? The answer is the CNAPP.

A cloud-native application protection platform (CNAPP) provides a unified view of security across your cloud-native stack—and that includes Kubernetes. In this post, we’ll explore how CNAPPs help you harden your cloud-native security posture, especially within the context of a Kubernetes environment.

Let’s start by considering some of the biggest threats to your application.

Security Threats and Vulnerabilities in Kubernetes

Many developers are unaware that Kubernetes, deployed right out of the box, is insecure. For example, the default behavior of Kubernetes allows pods to receive network traffic from any source and send traffic to any destination. That’s a huge security risk! On top of this, you have visibility challenges because Kubernetes has so many moving parts. And when you deploy your Kubernetes environments to the cloud, you introduce even more security risks.

It’s a lot to consider, so let’s highlight some of the key factors that make your apps vulnerable.


A Kubernetes environment with a flawed configuration will expose clusters or grant attackers unauthorized access. Examples of such misconfigurations include overly permissive role-based access control (RBAC) policies, exposed API servers, or unsecured etcd datastores. A misconfigured Kubernetes API server could also allow attackers to execute arbitrary code on the cluster.

Container image vulnerabilities

Vulnerable container images can lead to data breaches or could compromise your entire application stack, potentially allowing attackers to take control of Kubernetes workloads. Developers without a “security first” mindset often take container images for granted, without questioning their integrity or security.

Supply-chain attacks

Your cloud-native applications undoubtedly depend on third-party software components. What happens if these dependencies contain compromised code? For example, software running in your application may have malware that exfiltrates data or hijacks resources within your cluster to perform crytocurrency mining. By compromising the dependencies in your applications, hackers can potentially access your Kubernetes clusters. This supply-chain attack lets them introduce further threats to your Kubernetes environments, often undetected.

Malware infections

Targeted malware attacks on Kubernetes workloads can lead to data breaches, inoperable systems, or other security incidents. Whether it’s the exfiltration of data from Kubernetes workloads or the launching denial-of-service (DoS) attacks, cyber attackers have good reason to probe every nook and cranny of your setup for weaknesses.

To seal up any gaps and strengthen your Kubernetes security, CNAPPs come to the forefront.

How CNAPPs Enhance Kubernetes Security

CNAPPs play an indispensable role in safeguarding your Kubernetes environment. They help you take a proactive stance against potential security challenges while reducing the noise that often comes with monitoring for security.

A CNAPP is a bundle of several security tools into a single centralized and unified platform. Panoptica, for example, integrates over a dozen key tools as part of its platform. We’ll highlight several of these tools briefly, but then focus specifically on two important features: attack path analysis and CI/CD integration.

  • Configuration validation: Incorporates Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) and Kubernetes Security Posture Management (KSPM) to analyze configuration files—in cloud environments and Kubernetes clusters—for security misconfigurations.

  • Container image scanning: Scans container images to detect any known vulnerabilities or malware, thereby preventing the deployment of insecure container images into your Kubernetes environments.

  • Runtime monitoring: Monitors containers and network activities for abnormal behaviors—such as unauthorized outbound traffic or unusually high resource usage—to detect and remediate anomalies. Integrates Cloud Detection and Response (CDR) with SIEM solutions to help you identify and respond to cloud security incidents in real time.

  • Isolating compromised workloads: Uses a Cloud Workload Protection Platform (CWPP) to quickly isolate any compromised workloads, prioritizing threats based on risk scores, such as those from the MITRE ATT&CK framework.

  • Managing cloud permissions: Uses Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management (CIEM) to manage cloud permissions and prevent unauthorized access to your Kubernetes workloads. For example, a CNAPP can block an unauthorized employee from changing resource configurations, thus preventing privilege escalation.

Attack Path Analysis

In addition to these tools, Panoptica provides attack path analysis. By looking at the entire context of your cloud-native application, Panoptica can identify the potential paths that an attacker may take to exploit your systems. When it comes to “thinking like an attacker,” attack path analysis is critical for helping you understand where your vulnerabilities are and the level of risk they pose.

Attack path analysis begins with context-related questions about your components, asking about potential exposures and vulnerabilities. The CNAPP uses these answers to compose graphs, helping to map out visuals of how an attacker might exploit a weakness to burrow through your network. With clear visualizations, CNAPP users can see attack paths and context, giving them the information they need to address risks and put in place proper security measures.

Attack Path Analysis

CNAPPs also integrate External Attack Surface Management (EASM) to determine the risks from external-facing components of your application. By identifying exposed APIs and services and coupling this information with Kubernetes environment scans, Panoptica can provide you with a clear picture of how your systems are at risk.

Panoptica prioritizes attack paths based on the likelihood and impact of an exploit. Then, it provides you with recommendations on mitigating the risks associated with each attack path.

Vulnerability Overview Graph

CI/CD Integration

The earlier you can detect security threats to your application, the less expensive (in time, resources, and even financial costs) it will be to address them. Ideally, your cybersecurity tech stack would have robust features to detect and deal with vulnerabilities as your application is being built, long before those vulnerabilities can make their way to production. To make this possible, CNAPPs like Panoptica offer tight integration with your CI/CD pipeline.

Your CI/CD pipeline can be configured to perform automated checks upon the opening of a pull request. These checks may include:

  • Scan configuration files for security misconfigurations in cloud environments or Kubernetes clusters.

  • Scan Infrastructure as Code (IaC) artifacts for security issues.

  • Scan container images for vulnerabilities.

  • Use software bill of materials (SBOMs) to cross-check dependencies against common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs) databases.

  • Perform static application software analysis (SAST) to review application source code for security vulnerabilities or insecure coding practices.

  • Scan code and configurations for leaked credentials or improper secrets management practices.

Panoptica lets you easily connect your CNAPP to your application repositories, whether they’re hosted on GitHub or GitLab. As Panoptica scans your IaC artifacts, it presents a security risk score based on its security findings.

CI/CD Security

Automating these security checks as part of your CI/CD pipeline ensures that they are performed whenever code is checked in. Failed security checks will halt your pipeline or alert you to take action—before code is released to production.

Regain Confidence in your Kubernetes Security

Doing DevSecOps might not be what you signed up for. If you’re not a security expert, but you need to make sure your Kubernetes setup is secure, then you need to depend on tools like CNAPPs.

When you use a CNAPP like Panoptica to secure your cloud-native application and environment, you’ll gain security confidence through robust tools for container image scanning, Kubernetes configuration analysis, runtime monitoring, and more. You’ll also work within a user-friendly interface that cuts out the noise and prevents alert fatigue. On top of this, Panoptica’s attack path analysis will map out how your application is most exposed and vulnerable, prioritizing the security risks that you need to address with clear and actionable guidance.

CNAPPs are a powerful tool for securing Kubernetes environments. They offer visibility into security risks, security task automation, and security policy enforcement. Enterprises will continue to face new and increasing cybersecurity threats within Kubernetes environments, so it's imperative to address potential threats with a holistic CNAPP solution, like Panoptica.

Level up your DevSecOps game by securing your Kubernetes environments with Panoptica. Sign up for a trial today.

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