Cloud-native security hinges on open source

Technologies like Kubernetes and K3S are synonymous with the success of cloud native computing and the power of open source. It is no accident they have steamrolled the competition. As enterprises look to secure cloud-native environments, open source is the critical piece in the puzzle.

cloud-native security

The law of the instrument is a well-known cognitive bias. The saying “when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail” is a metaphor for approaching different problems from the same, narrow perspective: a particular expertise or skillset is applied indiscriminately to every situation.

When it comes to cloud-native security, it is prudent to consider that the security solutions you have in place today may not be a suitable solution. The power of open source is key – you need a different kind of hammer.

Cloud-native deployments need unique security

The prevalence of cyber threats – and their potential consequences for compliance, financial loss, reputation, and user privacy – make it an imperative for organizations to prioritize software security.

Cloud-native computing introduces unique security needs due to its architecture and distributed, dynamic nature.

Dynamic infrastructure enables services and components to be created, scaled and destroyed based on demand, but this necessitates security measures that can adapt and be applied consistently across rapidly changing instances.

Communication in a microservices architecture increases the attack surface and securing containerized environments requires measures like image integrity verification, secure container runtime configurations, and regular patching to address vulnerabilities.

What’s more, orchestration platforms like Kubernetes carry additional security considerations, such as securing a cluster’s network and API endpoints, which aren’t as visible to traditional security tools.

As most cloud environments support multi-tenancy, strong isolation mechanisms are needed to prevent one tenant from accessing another’s resources. Lastly, with deployments growing in scale and complexity, manual security management becomes impractical and security automation – from threat detection to compliance management – is essential.

How to achieve cloud-native security

To address these unique security needs, organizations need to follow best practices: implement strong access controls, encrypt data at rest and in transit, regularly patch software, and conduct regular security assessments.

Fostering a security-aware culture among developers and operations teams goes a long way, but what are the critical areas that require coverage?

Vulnerability management

From pipeline to production, open-source components have been developed to scan the container lifecycle accurately and continuously for vulnerabilities – from Build to Ship to Run. As with all components, scalable image vulnerability analysis is key and it may involve scanning thousands or hundreds of thousands of images.

By implementing robust supply chain security measures, organizations can minimize the risk of disruptions, safeguard the reliability and integrity of their assets and intellectual property, and maintain the trust of customers and stakeholders.

As DevOps teams integrate their toolchain to enable automated deployment of container-based applications, security has always slowed the modern cloud-native pipeline. While automated vulnerability scanning is standard practice, creating security policies to protect application workloads in production has largely been a manual process.

The use of Kubernetes custom resources to capture and declare an application security policy early in the pipeline can solve this problem.


Amid increasingly stringent regulatory standards and severe penalties for privacy and data exposure, compliance is top of mind for all businesses.

Compliance in container environments is a challenge requiring special consideration. The good news is that security controls for container-based deployments enable organizations to protect sensitive data, demonstrate compliance efforts to regulators. A defense-in-depth plan that includes end-to-end vulnerability management, configuration auditing through CIS benchmarks and container DLP protection provides a level of visibility and peace of mind not possible with traditional tools.

Container segmentation

Containers are often deployed as microservices that are dynamically deployed and scaled across a Kubernetes cluster. These microservices may be deployed across a shared network and servers (or VMs or hosts), and such diverse and distributed environments necessitate a virtual wall to keep personal and private information securely isolated across a network.

This is exactly what container segmentation accomplishes, even though the scale and distributed nature tend to create complex policy creation and enforcement.

Run-time security

While containers are running, active protection is needed to detect and prevent malicious activity occurring inside. Process and file system monitoring can identify and block unauthorized container activity and connections without disrupting normal container sessions.

Additional tools, such as confidential computing, should be considered.

Network visibility

Deep network visibility is the most critical part of run-time container security. The traditional perimeter-based approach – firewalls heading off attacks before they reach the workload – are not sufficient in cloud-native environments given the dynamic and rapid nature of container deployments.

Cloud-native tools address the traditional short coming, inspecting container network traffic to stop attacks before they reach the application or workload and preventing data breaches by exploited applications which send data out over the network. In short, proper network controls limit the blast radius of an attack.

Why open source is the right hammer

Open source is the key to the success of cloud native security for a few crucial reasons.

Securing this ecosystem requires leveraging skills from across the globe and open sourcing software development. As I mentioned earlier, shared standards and best practices are especially important in cloud native computing, and open source facilitates the collaboration amongst developers, architects, and users.

The open-source model also brings strength in numbers. The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) hosts many of the security components discussed earlier and brings to bear 175,000 contributors from 850 members in 189 countries. A single entity cannot compete with these numbers and the varied perspectives from diverse geographies and interests.

Diverse innovation sits at the heart of open source development, providing a platform for developers to both experiment and improve upon existing code as well as contribute to a growing body of knowledge. Cloud-native computing needs this innovation to harness new, better ways of building and deploying applications in the cloud. Given how applications are frequently deployed across multiple environments in cloud-native computing, open source’s promotion of interoperability is crucial.

As you look at the security needs for your shop, consider that not everything is a nail waiting for the same hammer. Open solution alternatives – and the flexibility, collaboration, interoperability, and innovation they bring – can broaden horizons, develop diverse skills, and leverage different approaches to build cloud-native security success.

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