Containers are not inherently secure. Though they have some built-in security features, they require additional tools to ensure protection in development and runtime environments. Container security software and tools automate vulnerability searches and notify developers and IT teams of possible threats in container environments.
- Why is Container Security Needed?
- What are Container Security Tools?
- Top Container Security Tools
- How to Buy a Container Security Tool
Why is Container Security Needed?
Containers provide flexibility and isolation to important applications and workloads. However, with that flexibility and usefulness comes vulnerability as well: containers are largely comprised of open-source software, which leaves the door cracked for attackers who may have access to the source code.
Additionally, the rapid growth of containerization and accelerated application deployments have made it difficult for DevOps and DevSecOps teams to locate all vulnerabilities in source code before they deploy those applications. DevOps teams don’t always have time to parse all source code, and searching manually is both inconvenient and inefficient. According to a 2021 report from Dynatrace, over a quarter of CISOs reported that their application teams didn’t perform vulnerability scans because they slow the code delivery process. Enterprises aren’t prioritizing security over speed for containerized workloads.
Privileged containers are another major risk: they run code as root and have the privileges of a host machine. Because they give attackers backdoor access to an environment, privileged containers should be used sparingly and should be secured as much as possible.
All runtime environments in clouds and data centers need to be secured, and that includes containers.
What are Container Security Tools?
Container security tools scan containers for vulnerabilities in the code, not only during development but also in production. Often, container security is one product or component of a larger security tool; many providers offer cloud security services under which container security falls.
Container security also includes:
- network vulnerability monitoring and detection
- testing source code during/before development
- incident response
Some tools focus more heavily on development, providing security features for developers to use while designing and testing source code. Other tools provide heavy runtime security and threat remediation.
To address the dangers of access, container security includes implementing privilege and access controls.
Top Container Security Tools
The following seven platforms give enterprises ways to test the reliability of their container environments and restrict containers that don’t measure up. Though container security is a new field, these tools include many features for improving code monitoring, runtime environments, and overall safety.
Best solution for DevOps teams that want heavy security prep in development
Geared toward the software supply chain, Anchore Enterprise is a security and compliance solution for businesses that need to improve their development environment’s security. Anchore can run on any container environment and either on premises or in a public cloud. Anchore focuses on static analysis and policy-based compliance for containers: container images pass or fail an inspection.
Anchore is developer-centric, providing assistance to DevOps teams as they work to secure applications in their early stages. Anchore also offers two open-source container security tools: Syft, for generating SBOMs and viewing dependencies with the CLI tool, and Grype, for scanning container images and generating a list of vulnerabilities. Anchore also has a community Slack channel which users can join.
- Support for role-based access control and six different role permissions
- Next-gen vulnerability scanner
- Open-source container tools for SBOMs and container vulnerability scanning
- DevOps integrations for collaboration software, CI/CD, image registries like Red Hat, and container orchestration platforms
- API for runtime compliance checks
- Kubernetes image scanning
Focus on scanning and compliance may not be sufficient for enterprises that need heavy real-time threat response.
Best for enterprises that run exclusively Docker and Kubernetes container environments
Aqua Security, also known as Aqua or AquaSec, is a cloud-native solution that offers container security, Kubernetes security, and serverless security products, among others. Aqua is for Linux and Windows containers and provides both on-premises and cloud deployment options. Using Aqua, businesses can view scans of container images and a rank of their vulnerability severity. They also have access to audit data for Kubernetes runtime environments, which improves compliance.
Aqua Dynamic Threat Analysis (DTA) is a product that analyzes images for behavioral anomalies and locates advanced malware, placing images in a secure sandbox. It can also prevent images from being deployed in a production environment. DTA provides activity data on threats like code injection backdoors and cryptocurrency miners.
- Aqua DTA for behavioral anomaly and advanced threat detection
- Audit data for Kubernetes runtime environments
- Activity blocking for activities that violate policies
- Scans of container images and severity ranking of vulnerabilities
- Secrets management
- Image assurance policies based on vulnerability severity
- Aqua Risk Explorer for locating risks in Kubernetes clusters
- Some customers complained about slow or spotty technical support.
- Aqua runs best on Kubernetes and Docker, so businesses that run other container environments may benefit less from it.
Also Read: Aqua Container Security Review
Best for large enterprises and security teams that have the capacity to implement a large-scale cloud solution
Palo Alto Prisma Cloud, formerly Twistlock, is an integrated security solution for containers and workloads that allows businesses to manage threats to their public cloud workloads. Prisma Cloud supports both AWS and Azure. Five cloud security modules integrate with each other: DevSecOps, Cloud Security Posture Management, Cloud Workload Protection, Cloud Network Security, and Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management. Container security falls under Cloud Workload Protection.
Prisma Cloud is ideal for mid-sized and large enterprises that need high network visibility and security. It provides DevOps and security operations teams with visibility for cloud and container environments. Implementing and using the solution successfully requires sufficient planning and ownership for DevOps and security teams.
- Auto-remediation tool for misconfigurations
- Real-time scanning and reports
- Hosted management console
- Highly stable solution and quickly-resolved issues
- Policies that identify misconfigurations
- Viewing public cloud workload threats through public cloud environment
- Compute function needs improvement.
- Some customers wanted greater customization capabilities.
Best for large enterprise that want a cloud platform with a container module
Qualys Container Security is one of 21 applications that fall under the Qualys Cloud Platform umbrella. The Cloud Platform is available for the cloud and on-premises container deployments. Qualys’ Container Runtime Security (CRS) feature is an add-on that allows enterprises to monitor container runtime; administrators set policies that govern container behavior, and CRS reveals when those policies have been broken during runtime.
Qualys’ native container sensor rests on docker hosts and monitors container deployments. Users can view metadata for each image and each container, including container host information and the container’s privilege status. They can also view association to other containers on the same parent image.
- Container Runtime Security add-on
- Policies to block images with certain vulnerabilities
- Pre-built dashboards and customizable dashboards
- Automatically generated reports
- Views of image and image registry data
- Qualys Cloud Platform offers CMDB Sync for ServiceNow CMDB integration
- Reviewers cited many false positives.
- Customer support received negative feedback, such as unresponsiveness.
Best for developers working in code repositories
Snyk offers a security solution specifically designed with developers in mind. It searches for license violations in Docker images and provides a vulnerability report for each package in a repository. Snyk supports a variety of programming languages, and customers found it easy to implement. It permits many integrations, including GitHub and GitLab connections for developers to utilize.
Snyk Advisor offers safety and history of third-party dependencies, allowing users to search and compare many open-source projects. It ranks them on a scale from 0 to 100, giving them a Package Health Score.
- Integration with GitHub and GitLab
- Automated OSS scanning
- Many available integrations
- Quick codebase scans
- Integration with CI/CD pipeline and feedback from it
- Good CLI
- Responsive, eager support team
Some users had complaints about integration challenges or inconsistencies.
Best for all-Kubernetes environments and enterprises running other OpenShift products
Red Hat recently acquired container security solution StackRox, which meets security and compliance needs for Kubernetes and Google Kubernetes Engine environments. StackRox now belongs to the OpenShift family. Red Hat also offers a StackRox community for open sourcing and managing Kubernetes cluster security code.
StackRox users have compliance capabilities to identify whether nodes and clusters conform to regulations and to adhere to Docker and Kubernetes CIS benchmarks. StackRox makes it easier to show data to auditors, too. StackRox allows businesses to remediate misconfigurations, including excessive privileges, and to create custom policies for configuring builds and deployments.
- Image blocking for vulnerable container images
- Support for multiple third-party image scanners
- Network segmentation for OpenShift Kubernetes deployments
- Automatically generated YAML files based on traffic behavioral modeling
- Policy templates for audit reports and identifying non-compliant clusters and nodes
- Configuration management, including misconfiguration remediation
- Runtime detection and response on OpenShift platforms
- Risk prioritization using CVE and deployment misconfigurations
Because it’s heavily designed for Kubernetes, StackRox may not be suitable for enterprises that run containers in other environments.
Best solution for customer and technical support
Sysdig is a solution for container, Kubernetes, and cloud security that operates in both cloud and on-premises environments. Sysdig users can automate scans of CI/CD pipelines and registries and block vulnerabilities before production; the vulnerability management solution also scans both containers and hosts, so that users need only one tool to scan both. Sysdig works with Prometheus, an open-source application and Kubernetes monitoring tool.
Sysdig offers continuous Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM), which includes misconfiguration notifications and compliance validation for a number of regulations. It also provides zero trust network security and Kubernetes-native microsegmentation.
- Automated image scanning in CI/CD pipeline of choice
- Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM)
- Prometheus integration
- Slack notifications about Kubernetes pod and node health
- Compliance evaluation for containers, hosts, Kubernetes, and cloud
- Sysdig Monitor, designed for Kubernetes, with pre-built dashboards and alerts
- Good documentation features
Dashboards sometimes load slowly.
How to Buy a Container Security Tool
When searching for container security software, consider the following:
- Some solutions focus more on security in development, while others offer real-time threat remediation. Aside from knowing what your business needs, note that having solid threat response capabilities will give you a greater advantage if an attack such as ransomware breaches your container orchestration platform.
- Highly responsive threat detection solutions create alerts. Look for a container security tool that limits false positives and that provides a number of alerts that your IT and security teams can manage. Too many alerts overwhelm admins, waste time, and increase the likelihood of a breach.
- A security tool needs proper context to avoid throwing the aforementioned false positives. For example, does the tool know if a particular application is actually accessing sensitive company data at the time? Some container security solutions have the capability to identify if a vulnerability within the container is being actively exploited and prioritize it based on that.
Read Next: Top Container Software Solutions