Kubernetes Security Posture Management (KSPM) Explained

Cody Queen - June 27, 2024

<strong>Kubernetes Security Posture Management (KSPM)</strong> Explained
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What is KSPM?

Kubernetes continues to lead the charge as the de facto orchestrator behind cloud-native applications. It is a staple in modern IT ecosystems. Naturally, this widespread adoption makes it a target, highlighting the importance of robust security.

Kubernetes security posture management (KSPM) is a framework used to fortify Kubernetes environments to defend against common risks and vulnerabilities, and ensure compliance.

In this post, we’ll look at some of these common Kubernetes risks, and learn why more and more modern enterprises look to adopt KSPM to help protect their environment.

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Common risks and vulnerabilities in Kubernetes

Although Kubernetes is a robust framework, it is still susceptible to security risks that can jeopardize the integrity of your applications and data.

One significant risk in Kubernetes stems from the default out-of-the-box settings, which can often be insecure if not properly adjusted during initial setup. New adopters of Kubernetes may be unaware that many default settings can leave exploitable security gaps. And if your organization has specific security or compliance requirements, the Kubernetes default settings likely won’t align with those requirements.

Additionally misconfigurations are a common entry point for security breaches. Simple errors in settings can expose sensitive operations and data to unauthorized access. Misconfigurations can come about through oversight or human error, making thorough reviews and adjustments essential.

Network exposure and service vulnerabilities also present significant risks. Kubernetes environments inherently rely on interconnected services, and inadequate network policies can leave the door open for internal or external threats. One vulnerability can lead to cascading failures across your network, so every link in the chain must be strong and secure.

The issue of potential cascading failures is compounded by broad permissions, which are often granted within clusters out of carelessness or for expediency. When permissions in Kubernetes are not tightly controlled, you open a path for attackers to escalate privileges easily.

If a security breach does occur, then insufficient logging and monitoring will obscure your visibility. This will hamper any efforts toward incident detection and response. If you are not logging events comprehensively and monitoring your environment regularly, tracking unauthorized access or detecting anomalous behaviors will be challenging and slow.

Exposed secrets — such as inadequately stored API keys and passwords — risk being easily accessed by threat actors. Attackers often target these secrets to gain access to other critical infrastructure components.

With so many possible vulnerabilities, maintaining the security of your Kubernetes environments can seem daunting. This is why many organizations turn to a strategic approach to securing Kubernetes — one that includes both preventative measures and rapid response capabilities. That approach is KSPM.

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Understanding KSPM

KSPM is a framework that continuously monitors your Kubernetes clusters to enforce security best practices, safeguarding the environment from potential threats and vulnerabilities. Ultimately, KSPM aims to provide you with comprehensive visibility into the security state of your Kubernetes resources.

The key functions and capabilities of KSPM are:

  • Real-time monitoring and compliance checks: KSPM tools actively monitor your Kubernetes environment, continually checking configurations and resource states against security policies to ensure compliance. This ongoing surveillance helps identify misconfigurations or deviations from security standards in real time.
  • Automated policy enforcement and anomaly detection: KSPM solutions automate the enforcement of security policies. They detect anomalies and potentially malicious activities within your clusters. KSPM solutions will send an alert when they detect an issue, and they will take predefined actions to mitigate risks.
  • Integration with existing security tools: KSPM is not a stand-alone solution. Instead, it’s designed to integrate seamlessly with your existing security infrastructure — such as security information and event management (SIEM) systems or a cloud-native application protection platform (CNAPP) — as part of a larger cybersecurity strategy.

How is KSPM different from CSPM?

Security engineers may be familiar with cloud security posture management (CSPM) tools but unclear about how KSPM and CSPM differ. CSPM tools focus broadly on risk management across various cloud environments, and KSPM is specifically tailored to address the unique operational and security challenges of managing containerized applications and services within Kubernetes.

KSPM provides specialized policy frameworks and controls designed for the dynamic and scalable nature of Kubernetes. This is different from the more generalized approach of CSPM, which doesn’t necessarily cater to the intricate details of container orchestration.

How is KSPM different from traditional security measures?

Traditional security measures often rely on perimeter-based defenses. They’re not well suited to the dynamic nature of containerized environments and ephemeral resources. KSPM, on the other hand, focuses on security within the cluster rather than just defending its perimeter.

This shift from perimeter-based security to configuration and posture management addresses the complexities of modern cloud-native environments. In today’s environments, applications and services are continuously deployed and updated. Security measures must be adaptive and responsive, making KSPM an effective solution in this context.

What are the benefits of KSPM?

KSPM offers many benefits, making it indispensable for organizations working with cloud-native environments and Kubernetes. Key benefits include:

  • Enhanced security and compliance: KSPM ensures that all Kubernetes configurations align with industry standards and security best practices, helping to prevent common vulnerabilities that could lead to security breaches.
  • Improved visibility and control: By providing detailed insights into the configuration and security posture of Kubernetes resources, KSPM gives security teams a clear understanding of their environments. With improved visibility, security teams can proactively manage security risks and respond to issues before they escalate into serious threats.
  • Smaller attack surface and quicker threat response: KSPM tools help minimize the attack surface by continuously monitoring and fine-tuning the security settings of your Kubernetes environments. In the event of an anomaly or breach, KSPM solutions can quickly identify and isolate the affected areas, significantly reducing the time it takes to respond and mitigate the impact of attacks.

Learn More

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CrowdStrike Falcon Cloud Security ensures Kubernetes security

In this post, we’ve highlighted the essential role of KSPM in safeguarding your Kubernetes environments. KSPM addresses common and critical vulnerabilities with continuous monitoring, compliance checks, and automated policy enforcement. Overall, KSPM gives your security team significantly improved operational visibility.

The overarching benefits of KSPM include a fortified security posture, better control over your Kubernetes environment, and a substantial reduction in cyber risk.

CrowdStrike Falcon® Cloud Security, a best-in-class CNAPP used by modern enterprises, integrates KSPM and CSPM within its all-in-one platform. It also leverages tools like Kubernetes admission controllers to enhance security. Falcon Cloud Security uses CSPM capabilities to aggregate Kubernetes data across all stages of the software development life cycle, delivering a complete overview of your Kubernetes risks.

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Cody Queen is a Senior Product Marketing Manager for Cloud Security at CrowdStrike.