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How Snyk Helps You Keep Up With Container Security Challenges

by Will Munroe

Containers help companies to create scalable cloud-native apps and improve legacy systems. So it comes as no surprise that this technology is growing in popularity, with Gartner predicting that over 70% of global organizations will run containers in production by 2023.

But as with any new tool, containers, too, introduce new security risks. The base image, open-source libraries, packages installed in the image, and other components suffer from vulnerabilities that malicious actors are eager to exploit. That’s why it’s important to monitor threats during the entire software development life cycle (SDLC) using tools such as Snyk.

Discovering vulnerabilities with a security scanner

Snyk is an open-source platform and a dependency scanner that improves developer security. It helps you find known vulnerabilities in containers and Kubernetes workloads throughout the SDLC. This tool tests images as they are created, links them to their Docker files and Kubernetes configurations, and scans images in registries. Also, Snyk can break builds if a severe vulnerability is detected. And it monitors running workloads and tracks trends across teams and organizations.

The software also helps with fixing issues and minimizing risk. It helps you upgrade to the most secure base image or rebuild one when outdated. Furthermore, the scanner allows you to easily trace dependencies to discover tools causing problems as well as to determine vulnerabilities posing the greatest risk.

And its image monitoring feature alerts you via Slack, Jira, or email on newly discovered vulnerabilities. Snyk also detects unsafe settings in newly updated or deployed Kubernetes workloads that could expose your clusters to attacks. Finally, the tool spots security problems in your Kubernetes YAML, JSON, and Helm code early in the lifecycle.

Users benefit from multiple integrations

Snyk features an impressive number of integrations. It works with many Kubernetes platforms, such as Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS), Microsoft Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS), and Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE). Also, it integrates with container registries, including Docker Hub and JFrog Artifactory. And from Amazon Linux and Debian to Ubuntu and CentOS, Snyk works with many container base operating systems.

Its integration with the container engine Docker is a particularly important one. Docker provides the Docker Hub, a repository of images and container configurations from which billions of images are pulled every month. Snyk’s security testing technology is now integrated into the Docker platform and scans images pushed into repositories. The scan results specify the source of the vulnerability, note when it was introduced, and provide suggestions on how to fix it.

Powering the “shift-left” paradigm

Software vulnerability scanners are well-known tools in the security industry. Typically, they have been used to spot vulnerabilities after developers complete their work, while any newly-found issue would require sending the code back to the team.

In today’s “shift-left” paradigm, however, scanning is done during the entire SDLC. The new approach allows developers to find problems early in the process. The goal is to prevent vulnerabilities present in images and Kubernetes configurations from infiltrating operational environments. And there’s no lack of threats to guard against.

Malicious actors have been targeting public software repositories, such as the npm registry, for a long time. Popular Linux distributions leveraged by containers are impacted as well. SUSE, for instance, has over 1,000 vulnerabilities, while Fedora and Ubuntu have around 700. Container images on Docker Hub, even those curated and maintained by Docker, are known for having major vulnerabilities.

Having an automated scanning system to track and identify these weak spots can help developers avoid problems, which is why Snyk plays such an important role.

Following the best container security practices

Container security is an ongoing challenge, but there are many steps you can take to be on top of it. For one, it’s important to secure the code and its dependencies. Snyk can help with these efforts as it detects open-source vulnerabilities and makes fixing code simple.

Also, it’s recommended to always start with a minimal base image from a trusted source. Internal hosting of images is another sound security practice, but if it’s unfeasible, then use only official images from Docker Hub as base images. And as every additional port, process, or daemon adds another potential vulnerability, teams are advised to ensure that the final image has the bare minimum number of packages.

Using static analysis tools, such as Snyk Container, can provide additional protection. And managing your runtime configuration to prevent invalid configurations from compromising production environments is a task that shouldn’t be overlooked, either.

Besides following these best practices and reviewing the guidelines published by the U.S. Department of Commerce, you can also up your container security game with RangeForce training modules.

Snyk is one of the many tools we cover in our CyberSkills Platform. Sign up for a demo to see it in action here.