Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Container Security in a GitOps Environment

GitOps is a methodology that uses Git (or other version control systems) to store all aspects of a project’s infrastructure, such as infrastructure as code (IaC), application code, and configuration files. Organizations using Kubernetes for container orchestration often use GitOps. 

GitOps uses Git as a single source of truth. As a result, only changes in Git can trigger builds and deployments. Pushing a Git commit to source control triggers a change that updates the application or cloud infrastructure. 

How Does GitOps Benefit CI/CD?

GitOps is an operations model that helps teams to implement new changes, like deployments within a cloud infrastructure. It enables initiating changes to application environments through pull requests to a Git repository that contains Kubernetes files. 

How GitOps and CI/CD work together

Since many organizations already use Git as a version control system as part of their CI/CD pipeline, GitOps facilitates greater collaboration. Teams can accurately distribute workloads by using GitOps as a single source control system. 

Git workflows employ automatic infrastructure updates to handle continuous delivery (CD), ensuring code can be pushed from repositories to your CI/CD pipelines for change initiation. It enables rolling out new releases within GitOps workflows by using Git pull requests to reconcile the current state with the declared state. 

You can manually approve and merge changes before they are automatically applied to the deployed infrastructure. Once changes are merged, the process applies to the system’s cloud infrastructure. 

You can compare the desired state in the repository to the current state in your deployed infrastructure and reconcile the differences. GitOps also enables you to continually use standard workflow practices for initiating integration and delivery daily.

How GitOps benefits CI/CD

Here are common advantages of using GitOps for CI/CD:

  • A common unified interface—GitOps serves as a single source of truth for all development environments, reducing the scope of potential errors.
  • Pull requests as change agents—teams can use GitOps to push code from a work in progress during any phase, including development, staging, and production, to a target environment. A team member can manually review changes ready to be pushed to ensure the code meets compliance and security standards. Once all stakeholders approve the code, you can push it to the desired environment.
  • Preventing configuration drifts—GitOps eliminates the need to push CI/CD pipelines manually, automating this process to guarantee a full match between your CI/CD and the development environment.
  • Documenting automatic updates—out-of-date documentation can introduce a source of errors and slow down the onboarding of new team members. GitOps automatically updates documentation to eliminate these issues.Modern apps can expand and evolve faster thanks to substantial automation. These benefits provide container security problems.
  • Easy duplication—in some cases, you might need to initiate duplication for development in different regions or environments. GitOps can facilitate the duplication and provisioning process to eliminate potential errors.
  • Version control—GitOps provides full control on roll-forwards and roll-backs, ensuring you can roll back to the latest clean version to achieve rapid recovery. It also helps investigate a flawed version in isolation, providing service continuity and accelerating recovery to prevent loss of business.
  • Hardened credentials security—GitOps shared read-only credentials between tools across the entire pipeline to harden security.

How Can GitOps Improve Container Security?

Cloud native applications rely on automation for almost the entire development and release process. They typically implement a CI/CD pipeline that runs multiple builds daily, resulting in heavy, reliable workloads.

This extensive automation has enabled modern applications to scale more efficiently and innovate quickly. However, these advantages also come with challenges for container security. A traditional security model does not provide the mechanisms needed to secure applications and infrastructure as code. It also cannot support cloud native monitoring and visibility.

Securing infrastructure

Infrastructure is integral to a modern application, defining services and containers. Thus, infrastructure security must be an integral part of application security. Security tools, threat information, and insights should be available across the SDLC. 

The security process should include functions like automated source code scanning, container image security scans, and other infrastructure tests. Shifting security left (i.e., implementing security tasks early in the SDLC) can help you handle security misconfiguration risks.

Managing security misconfigurations

Misconfiguration issues are widespread in cloud environments and affect containerized applications. Attackers often exploit vulnerabilities to try to access containers. Once in, an attacker could move laterally across the container environment to compromise other containers or steal sensitive data. 

Attackers can infect containers using malicious code packaged into a container image, allowing them to infect other users that download the image.

You can prevent attacks that exploit misconfigurations in Kubernetes by applying a policy that prevents pods from communicating with each other. This policy is not a default, so attackers could compromise one pod and talk to other pods to access your organization’s data.

It is not always feasible to detect possible misconfigurations manually. Therefore, it is best to embed security into the DevOps process by creating automated policies to manage configurations. You should implement best practices to detect misconfiguration. 

How GitOps helps

The GitOps model helps promote security by making the environment easier to manage. Developers can execute code without direct access to Kubernetes clusters or other infrastructure. GitOps automates the CD to apply these advantages in the cloud.

With GitOps, a developer can propose changes for the senior security experts and DevOps engineering team to review. Once the changes pass the automated checks, the developer can merge them into the main branch. 

GitOps also works for policy-as-code implementations, enabling an automated security process. Teams can use policies to define the guardrails for their infrastructure, including access control rules, limits, and operations management. GitOps provides instant feedback, allowing developers to see their code’s security level before deploying it to the cloud.

GitOps is an effective technique to shift security further left when properly implemented. It helps teams catch code quality issues and security misconfigurations early in development. In this way, it can make a dramatic impact on the security of development environments everywhere.

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