The Future of the Container Security for SMBs

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As more and more small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) shift data and workloads to the cloud, they will likely rely on containers to play an increasingly important role in ensuring that they can efficiently move resources to and from cloud services.

Containers are standalone software packages that bundle all of an application’s code and dependencies to ensure that the application performs reliably, regardless of its computing environment. They make it easier for applications to move from one environment to another

For instance, they can be used to move applications from a developer’s system to a software test environment; from a test environment into production; or from a physical server in a data center to a virtual machine in a private or public cloud.

Solutions such as Kubernetes can help companies maintain containers. Kubernetes is an open source container-orchestration platform designed to automate the deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. Many organizations have found that deploying containers and Kubernetes in combination can enable the secure movement of workloads in multi-cloud or hybrid cloud environments.

What is container security?

Container security technology ensures that anything within the containers is protected, something that’s vital for any organizations using them to move to and from the cloud.

Not surprisingly there is growing demand for these solutions. Verified Market Research estimates that the container security market size was valued at $710 million in 2020 and is projected to reach $5.86 billion by 2028, rising at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 30% during the forecast period.

An increase in cyber-attacks and vulnerabilities as well as digital transformation efforts are driving growth of the market, the report said. The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud services will positively impact the growth of the market, it said. “Container security should be continuous and integrated,” the study noted.

Another report, by Allied Market Research, predicts that the global container and Kubernetes security market will reach $8.24 billion by 2030. The study said in addition to an increase in vulnerabilities and attacks, the rise in popularity of microservices and surge in adoption of hybrid cloud technology applications is driving growth of the container and Kubernetes security market.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a positive impact on the demand for cloud-based technologies for cyber security, the report said. Demand for such services increased in part due to the rise in adoption of work-from-home programs.

Container vulnerabilities

Containers have their own set of vulnerabilities, and SMBs need to make sure these are addressed.

“Containers introduce new security challenges that can’t be addressed with traditional tooling,” according to a July 2021 report by Forrester Research. “Commonly accepted security tools like vulnerability scanners, network forensics, and endpoint detection and response are too heavyweight for a container environment.”

Overstuffed container images are difficult to secure, the report said. Container image repositories contain images that are too large, and as a result insecure. Because of time pressures and convenience, developers tend to cram too many tools, libraries, and agents into container images, it said, and these images take a long time to deploy and consume high levels of resources. They are also difficult to perform vulnerability scanning and configuration management on.

In addition, “container sprawl” introduces runtime complexity, Forrester said. Security professionals are challenged by the logistics of managing different orchestration platforms, container types, and runtime environments, often with tools that that only support limited types of containers and runtime environments.

Furthermore, gaps in controls make it hard to ensure image integrity and authenticity, Forrester said. “Just as organizations face container sprawl, they also face container image sprawl,” the report noted.

Best practices for implementing container security

It is strongly recommended that steps are taken to enhance container security for SMBs. It is recommended that one should deploy dedicated tools that effectively scan, deploy, and monitor container images and instances. These products should be designed specifically for containers, using advanced prevention, detection, and response technologies built to protect against container attack techniques, tactics and procedures.

Build container security infrastructure

“Container security starts with having a solid technology foundation for containers,” the Forrester report said. “Your firm can only safely realize the benefits of containerization if it pays attention to appropriate technical container security measures.”

Set container security policies

Companies also need to adopt container security policies. Most of the organizations surveyed for the Forrester report said they have security policies in place for the use of containers.

Businesses should adopt strict change control policies for images, the firm said. “Scanned and verified ‘golden images’ are the bedrock of your container security. Start with a single image registry with version control that is an integral part of your firm’s software development lifecycle process.”

Zero trust policies

Companies should apply zero trust security principles to their container deployments, Forrester said. The administrative access credentials to the container orchestration platform should be managed just like any other privileged account, it said.

Employ role-based access control for the rights for container orchestration system administrators, and minimize “privilege sprawl,” the firm said.

Templates for container security

In addition, companies should use templates to simplify policy and ensure consistency in container security. “Create container templates that encapsulate basic security baselines, such as secure network and kernel configurations, or regulatory specific baselines,” the firm said.

Container security training

Finally, provide the necessary training. “Many security pros find themselves jumping into containers and Kubernetes without understanding how it works and how it’s different,” the report said. “Address the necessary mindset shift head-on with regular training and reinforce the point that this is a significant change.”

Looking forward

While container security for SMBs may seem quite advanced at this time, it is rapidly becoming a necessity to ensure secure cloud workloads. Now part of the standard architecture for cloud-native businesses, Gartner predicts that, by 2025, 85 percent of organizations will run containers in production, up from less than 30 percent in 2020. By employing these best practices, SMBs position themselves to be best suited to handle a secure container workload for their business now or in the future.

Learn more about how container security workloads are changing the future of cybersecurity.