infoTECH Feature

March 20, 2023

Container Security Challenges in 2023

What Is Container Security?

Container security is the practice of securing the various components of a containerized application to ensure that the application and the infrastructure it runs on are protected against unauthorized access, malicious attacks, and other security threats.

Container security involves a range of measures, including securing the host operating system, the container runtime, the container image, and the application itself. Some of the key aspects of container security include:

  • Image scanning: Scanning container images for known vulnerabilities and malware before deployment.
  • Access control: Ensuring that only authorized users have access to the containers and their data.
  • Network security: Securing container network traffic with firewalls, virtual private networks (VPNs), and other measures.
  • Container isolation: Ensuring that each container is isolated from other containers and from the host operating system.
  • Host security: Securing the host operating system that runs the container runtime, including patching and hardening the system against security threats.
  • Compliance: Ensuring that containers comply with relevant security standards, such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Container security is essential for protecting the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of containerized applications and their data. It requires a combination of security tools, best practices, and ongoing monitoring to ensure that the containers and their underlying infrastructure are secure at all times.

Container Security Challenges and How to Deal With Them

Isolation Flaws

Isolation flaws are security weaknesses that can occur when containers are not properly isolated from each other or from the host operating system. In a containerized environment, multiple containers may run on the same host, and each container may have access to shared resources, such as the network, the file system, or the process table.

If one container is compromised, it may be able to access or modify the resources of other containers, or even of the host itself. This can result in the leakage of sensitive information, the spread of malware, or the unauthorized access to system resources.

There are several types of isolation flaws that can occur in a containerized environment, including:

  • Shared kernel vulnerabilities: Since containers share the same host kernel, a vulnerability in the kernel can allow an attacker to gain access to resources that are outside of the container.
  • Network vulnerabilities: Containers on the same network can communicate with each other by default, which can allow an attacker to intercept or modify network traffic between containers.
  • Volume vulnerabilities: Containers may share volumes or mount points with other containers, which can allow an attacker to access sensitive information stored in those volumes.
  • Process vulnerabilities: If a container process is compromised, it may be able to manipulate other processes running on the same host, including those in other containers.

To address isolation flaws, it's important to implement strict isolation policies that limit the access of each container to other containers and the host. This can include using container-level firewalls, network segmentation, and runtime security measures that monitor for malicious behavior.

In addition, container orchestration platforms like Docker or Kubernetes can provide other layers of isolation, such as namespace isolation and resource limits, to further enhance container security.

Insecure Images

Container images are a fundamental building block of container-based applications and contain all the necessary components to run an application, including the application code, dependencies, libraries, and system tools. Insecure images contain vulnerabilities, configuration errors, or malicious code that can compromise the security of a containerized application or the entire infrastructure it runs on.

Insecure images can be introduced into an environment in various ways, such as using outdated or unpatched base images, including unnecessary software or components in images, or downloading images from untrusted sources. Insecure images can expose the application and the infrastructure to various security risks, such as unauthorized access, data breaches, Denial of Service (DoS) attacks, or malware infections.

To mitigate the risks associated with insecure images, it's important to implement a set of security practices, including:

  • Image scanning and vulnerability management: Regularly scan container images for vulnerabilities and other security issues using image scanning tools, and promptly remediate any identified issues.
  • Image signing and verification: Use digital signatures to verify the authenticity and integrity of container images before deployment.
  • Image hygiene: Remove unnecessary components and software from container images, and ensure that images are kept up-to-date with the latest security patches.
  • Image repositories: Use trusted image repositories and implement access control policies to limit access to images and ensure that only authorized users can upload, modify or deploy images.
  • Image auditing and reporting: Use image auditing and reporting tools to monitor image deployments, and to track and report on image usage and security issues.

Unrestricted Communication Among Containers

This issue occurs when containers are allowed to communicate with each other on the same network without any restrictions. While this may be desirable for some containerized applications that require inter-container communication, it can also introduce security risks and vulnerabilities if not properly managed.

Unrestricted communication among containers can increase the risk of unauthorized access, data exfiltration, and lateral movement. For example, if one container is compromised, an attacker may be able to use that container to access and compromise other containers on the same network. This can result in the leakage of sensitive information or the spread of malware throughout the containerized environment.

To mitigate this risk, it's important to implement network segmentation and restrict communication between containers to only what is necessary. This can be achieved by:

  • Using network policies: Implement network policies that allow only authorized traffic between containers and deny all other traffic. Network policies can be defined using tools like Kubernetes NetworkPolicy or Docker Networking.
  • Segmenting the network: Segment the network into smaller, isolated subnets to limit the scope of communication between containers.
  • Using encryption mechanisms: Use VPNs or other encryption mechanisms to secure container network traffic and prevent eavesdropping or interception by attackers.
  • Implementing access control: Enforce access control policies that limit access to containers and their data to only authorized users.

Ensuring API Security

API security refers to the measures taken to protect the application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow different software applications to communicate with each other.

API security is challenging for container security for a few reasons:

  • API exposure: Containers are typically designed to run specific processes or applications, which often require access to APIs or web services. These APIs can be a potential attack surface if they are not secured properly.
  • Complexity: Containers are often deployed in complex and dynamic environments, with multiple containers running on the same host and communicating with each other via APIs. This can make it difficult to manage and secure APIs effectively.
  • Scale: Containers can be scaled up or down quickly to meet changes in demand. As the number of containers grows, the number of APIs and the complexity of their interactions also increase, making it more difficult to maintain security.

To deal with these challenges, there are several best practices for securing APIs in container environments:

  • Secure API design: Designing APIs with security in mind is crucial to ensure that they are protected from attacks. This includes implementing secure authentication and authorization mechanisms, validating input and output data, and using HTTPS to encrypt API communications.
  • Secure container configurations: Securing the container configuration itself is important to prevent unauthorized access. This includes limiting the container's network access, securing the container host, and enforcing access controls for container images and deployments.
  • Monitoring and visibility: Monitoring and logging of API interactions is important to detect any anomalies or suspicious activities. This includes monitoring API usage, network traffic, and system logs, as well as implementing tools to detect and respond to potential threats.

Effectively Shifting Left

Shifting left involves integrating security into the software development lifecycle from the beginning, rather than waiting until later stages of development or deployment. The term "shifting left" comes from the idea of moving security activities to the left side of the development timeline, where they can be addressed earlier and more efficiently.

Shifting left is an important aspect of container security because it helps to prevent security issues from being introduced into the application during development. By integrating security into the development process, security vulnerabilities can be identified and remediated earlier, reducing the risk of security breaches or other issues in the production environment.

To effectively shift left, organizations can take a variety of actions, such as:

  • Integrating security into the development process: Incorporate security into the development process from the outset, including integrating security testing and scanning tools into the build pipeline.
  • Enforcing security policies: Enforce security policies throughout the development process, including those related to secure coding practices, vulnerability scanning, and configuration management.
  • Adopting security-focused development methodologies: Use security-focused development methodologies like DevSecOps, which emphasize collaboration between development, operations, and security teams to ensure security is considered throughout the development process.

Managing Ephemeral Containers

Ephemeral containers are temporary containers that are created and destroyed quickly in response to changes in demand or usage. They are a common component of containerized applications and can be used to scale the application quickly, handle bursts of traffic, or perform specific tasks.

Managing ephemeral containers is an important aspect of container security because they can be difficult to manage and secure, given their short lifespan and transient nature. Some key considerations for managing ephemeral containers include:

  • Automating container provisioning: Use automation tools to provision and deploy ephemeral containers quickly and efficiently.
  • Limiting container privileges: Limit the privileges of ephemeral containers and ensure that they only have access to the resources and data they need to perform their intended task.
  • Cleaning up after containers: Ensure that ephemeral containers are cleaned up and deleted after use to prevent them from becoming a security risk.

Addressing Human Error

Addressing human error is an important aspect of container security because human errors can lead to security breaches or other issues in containerized environments. Human error can result from a variety of factors, such as lack of security awareness, misconfigurations, or failure to follow security procedures.

To address human error in container security, organizations can take a variety of actions, such as:

  • Providing security training and awareness: Provide regular security training and awareness programs for developers, operators, and other stakeholders to help them understand security risks and best practices.
  • Implementing security policies and procedures: Establish clear and comprehensive security policies and procedures that are communicated to all stakeholders, and enforce compliance with these policies.
  • Using automation: Use automation tools to reduce the risk of human error, such as automating security testing, scanning, and deployment of container images.
  • Regularly reviewing and updating security policies: Regularly review and update security policies and procedures to ensure they remain effective and up-to-date with the latest security threats and best practices.

Passing Compliance Audits

Containerized applications can be subject to various security standards and regulations, such as HIPAA or PCI (News - Alert) DSS. Compliance audits are designed to assess an organization's compliance with these standards and regulations and ensure that security controls are in place to protect sensitive data and infrastructure.

To pass compliance audits for container security, organizations can take a variety of actions, such as:

  • Identifying relevant standards and regulations: Identify the relevant security standards and regulations that apply to the containerized application, and ensure that the security policies and procedures are aligned with these standards.
  • Implementing security controls: Implement security controls that address the specific requirements of the relevant security standards and regulations, such as access control, data protection, and incident response.
  • Conducting regular security assessments: Conduct regular security assessments and audits to identify and remediate any security issues, and to ensure that the security controls are effective.
  • Using CSPM and KSPM tools: Cloud security posture management (CSPM) and Kubernetes security posture management (KSPM) tools can automate the security management of containerized environments, reducing the risk of misconfigurations or human error. These tools provide continuous security monitoring and alerts, identify misconfigurations or vulnerabilities, provide guidance on how to remediate them, and generate compliance reports for audits.


In 2023, container security continues to be a critical concern for organizations that rely on containerized applications. As the use of containers becomes widespread, more security challenges emerge, such as isolation flaws, insecure images, and unrestricted communication among containers.

To address these challenges, organizations can implement a set of security practices, such as shifting security left, scanning container images, automating security and testing, and leverage tools like CSPM and KSPM that can automate security management and improve compliance with security standards and regulations.

Author Bio: Gilad David Maayan

Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP, Imperva, Samsung (News - Alert) NEXT, NetApp and Check Point, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership. Today he heads Agile SEO, the leading marketing agency in the technology industry.

LinkedIn (News - Alert):


Subscribe to InfoTECH Spotlight eNews

InfoTECH Spotlight eNews delivers the latest news impacting technology in the IT industry each week. Sign up to receive FREE breaking news today!
FREE eNewsletter

infoTECH Whitepapers