NSA spies ample opportunities to harden Kubernetes

You can trust them, they probably know all the weak spots. Ahem.


If Kubernetes is so complicated that even Google is automating its setup, then it's worth paying attention when U.S. spy giant, the National Security Agency (NSA) points to strengthening it.

Kubernetes, as the NSA points out, provides "several flexibility and security benefits compared to traditional, monolithic software platforms." Unfortunately, that flexibility comes with a lot of moving pieces with their own cybersecurity considerations. 

The NSA and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) recently updated their Kubernetes Hardening Guidance [PDF] which, while designed for government agencies, is still a great set of recommendations for independent organizations.

The Reg takes the US government's insider threat training course

READ MORE

The document points to three common sources of compromise in Kubernetes: Supply chain risks coming from acquired infrastructure or container builds, malicious threat actors attempting to breach security, and insider threats both active and passive. 

The NSA and CISA make a lot of recommendations (separated into five categories) and provide extensive documentation on enacting them, along with policy samples. "Kubernetes clusters can be complex to secure and are often abused in compromises that exploit their misconfigurations," the document says.

Consider this a preemptive warning to close these holes before someone else finds them.

Hardening Kubernetes Pods

Pods are the smallest deployable Kubernetes units, and consist of one or more containers with shared resources and specifications.

"Pods are often a cyber actor's initial execution environment upon exploiting a container," the NSA says, so make hardening these a priority, and advising users:

  • Use containers that can run apps without root permissions
  • When possible, use immutable file systems
  • Scan container images for vulnerabilities and misconfigurations
  • Enforce a minimum level of security that includes preventing privileged containers, denying use of features often used in breakout attacks, rejecting any containers that execute as root and using security services that harden apps against exploitation.

Hardening a network that hosts Kubernetes

"By default, Kubernetes resources are not isolated and do not prevent lateral movement or escalation if a cluster is compromised," the NSA says in the doc. With that in mind, be sure to:

  • Use role-based access control and a firewall to lock down access to control plane nodes
  • Put control plane components and nodes on a separate network
  • Limit access to Kubernetes etcd server
  • Require control plane components to use authenticated TLS certificates
  • Encrypt etcd at rest, and use a different TLS cert for communicating
  • Establish network policies that isolate resources
  • Have an explicit deny network policy in place
  • Don't store credentials and sensitive info in config files. Instead, put it in Kubernetes Secrets, and then be sure to encrypt it. 

Ensuring safe logins

There are only a few recommendations here: Disable anonymous logins, require strong authentication, and create role-based policies that are unique for different roles. 

Properly logging and detecting threats

Logging is essential for catching suspicious activity, as in determining the best way to analyze those logs. The NSA suggests the following, starting with enabling logging in the first place: 

  • Make sure logs are persistent to ensure availability in the case of a hardware failure
  • Configure logging throughout the entire Kubernetes environment, including APIs, cluster metrics, Pod seccomp and others
  • Aggregate logs to a location external to the Kubernetes cluster
  • Find a monitoring and alerting system suitable for your use case, and use it.

Properly patching

There's no need to guess what comes here: Apply patches promptly, regularly scan for vulnerabilities and perform penetration tests, and be sure to uninstall or delete unused components so they don't become a black box waiting for takeover. ®


Other stories you might like

  • Despite 'key' partnership with AWS, Meta taps up Microsoft Azure for AI work
    Someone got Zuck'd

    Meta’s AI business unit set up shop in Microsoft Azure this week and announced a strategic partnership it says will advance PyTorch development on the public cloud.

    The deal [PDF] will see Mark Zuckerberg’s umbrella company deploy machine-learning workloads on thousands of Nvidia GPUs running in Azure. While a win for Microsoft, the partnership calls in to question just how strong Meta’s commitment to Amazon Web Services (AWS) really is.

    Back in those long-gone days of December, Meta named AWS as its “key long-term strategic cloud provider." As part of that, Meta promised that if it bought any companies that used AWS, it would continue to support their use of Amazon's cloud, rather than force them off into its own private datacenters. The pact also included a vow to expand Meta’s consumption of Amazon’s cloud-based compute, storage, database, and security services.

    Continue reading
  • Atos pushes out HPC cloud services based on Nimbix tech
    Moore's Law got you down? Throw everything at the problem! Quantum, AI, cloud...

    IT services biz Atos has introduced a suite of cloud-based high-performance computing (HPC) services, based around technology gained from its purchase of cloud provider Nimbix last year.

    The Nimbix Supercomputing Suite is described by Atos as a set of flexible and secure HPC solutions available as a service. It includes access to HPC, AI, and quantum computing resources, according to the services company.

    In addition to the existing Nimbix HPC products, the updated portfolio includes a new federated supercomputing-as-a-service platform and a dedicated bare-metal service based on Atos BullSequana supercomputer hardware.

    Continue reading
  • In record year for vulnerabilities, Microsoft actually had fewer
    Occasional gaping hole and overprivileged users still blight the Beast of Redmond

    Despite a record number of publicly disclosed security flaws in 2021, Microsoft managed to improve its stats, according to research from BeyondTrust.

    Figures from the National Vulnerability Database (NVD) of the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) show last year broke all records for security vulnerabilities. By December, according to pentester Redscan, 18,439 were recorded. That's an average of more than 50 flaws a day.

    However just 1,212 vulnerabilities were reported in Microsoft products last year, said BeyondTrust, a 5 percent drop on the previous year. In addition, critical vulnerabilities in the software (those with a CVSS score of 9 or more) plunged 47 percent, with the drop in Windows Server specifically down 50 percent. There was bad news for Internet Explorer and Edge vulnerabilities, though: they were up 280 percent on the prior year, with 349 flaws spotted in 2021.

    Continue reading
  • ServiceNow takes aim at procurement pain points
    Purchasing teams are a bit like help desks – always being asked to answer dumb or inappropriate questions

    ServiceNow's efforts to expand into more industries will soon include a Procurement Service Management product.

    This is not a dedicated application – ServiceNow has occasionally flirted with templates for its platform that come very close to being apps. Instead it stays close to the company's core of providing workflows that put the right jobs in the right hands, and make sure they get done. In this case, it will do so by tickling ERP and dedicated procurement applications, using tech ServiceNow acquired along with a company called Gekkobrain in 2021.

    The company believes it can play to its strengths with procurements via a single, centralized buying team.

    Continue reading
  • HPE, Cerebras build AI supercomputer for scientific research
    Wafer madness hits the LRZ in HPE Superdome supercomputer wrapper

    HPE and Cerebras Systems have built a new AI supercomputer in Munich, Germany, pairing a HPE Superdome Flex with the AI accelerator technology from Cerebras for use by the scientific and engineering community.

    The new system, created for the Leibniz Supercomputing Center (LRZ) in Munich, is being deployed to meet the current and expected future compute needs of researchers, including larger deep learning neural network models and the emergence of multi-modal problems that involve multiple data types such as images and speech, according to Laura Schulz, LRZ's head of Strategic Developments and Partnerships.

    "We're seeing an increase in large data volumes coming at us that need more and more processing, and models that are taking months to train, we want to be able to speed that up," Schulz said.

    Continue reading
  • We have bigger targets than beating Oracle, say open source DB pioneers
    Advocates for MySQL and PostgreSQL see broader future for movement they helped create

    MySQL pioneer Peter Zaitsev, an early employee of MySQL AB under the original open source database author Michael "Monty" Widenius, once found it easy to identify the enemy.

    "In the early days of MySQL AB, we were there to get Oracle's ass. Our CEO Mårten Mickos was always telling us how we were going to get out there and replace all those Oracle database installations," Zaitsev told The Register.

    Speaking at Percona Live, the open source database event hosted by the services company Zaitsev founded in 2006 and runs as chief exec, he said that situation had changed since Oracle ended up owning MySQL in 2010. This was as a consequence of its acquisition that year of Sun Microsystems, which had bought MySQL AB just two years earlier.

    Continue reading
  • Beijing needs the ability to 'destroy' Starlink, say Chinese researchers
    Paper authors warn Elon Musk's 2,400 machines could be used offensively

    An egghead at the Beijing Institute of Tracking and Telecommunications, writing in a peer-reviewed domestic journal, has advocated for Chinese military capability to take out Starlink satellites on the grounds of national security.

    According to the South China Morning Post, lead author Ren Yuanzhen and colleagues advocated in Modern Defence Technology not only for China to develop anti-satellite capabilities, but also to have a surveillance system that could monitor and track all satellites in Starlink's constellation.

    "A combination of soft and hard kill methods should be adopted to make some Starlink satellites lose their functions and destroy the constellation's operating system," the Chinese boffins reportedly said, estimating that data transmission speeds of stealth fighter jets and US military drones could increase by a factor of 100 through a Musk machine connection.

    Continue reading
  • How to explain what an API is – and why they matter
    Some of us have used them for decades, some are seeing them for the first time on marketing slides

    Systems Approach Explaining what an API is can be surprisingly difficult.

    It's striking to remember that they have been around for about as long as we've had programming languages, and that while the "API economy" might be a relatively recent term, APIs have been enabling innovation for decades. But how to best describe them to someone for whom application programming interfaces mean little or nothing?

    I like this short video from Martin Casado, embedded below, which starts with the analogy of building cars. In the very early days, car manufacturers were vertically integrated businesses, essentially starting from iron ore and coal to make steel all the way through to producing the parts and then the assembled vehicle. As the business matured and grew in size, car manufacturers were able to buy components built by others, and entire companies could be created around supplying just a single component, such as a spring.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022