Skip to content
Kubernetes Security Operations Center; Inside the cluster
KSOCMay 19, 2023 11:51:22 AM8 min read

Kubernetes Security Best Practices


Kubernetes has quickly emerged as the go-to platform for optimizing container orchestration and application deployment. Kubernetes helps organizations automate deployments, rapidly scale efficiently, and improve the reliability of applications.

However, with all this automation comes several potential security pitfalls. Without the proper security best practices, Kubernetes environments can become vulnerable to numerous breaches and exploits. The good news is that it’s possible to protect your clusters and complex operations with a series of established Kubernetes security best practices. For a layered approach to Kubernetes security best practices, see this blog.

Basic Kubernetes Security Guidelines

Crafting a secured Kubernetes system is essential to protecting your applications and data. To achieve this, beyond some essential pre-requisites, various technical and organizational measures must be implemented. This includes adhering to recent security standards, creating a comprehensive Kubernetes security checklist, and enacting ongoing Kubernetes security monitoring.

To ensure the highest level of security for Kubernetes, it is essential to get acquainted with container security standards. Both the Center for Internet Security (CIS) and the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) have published comprehensive container security benchmarks and recommended practices. These documents provide detailed guidance on configuring your Kubernetes environment and protecting it against potential threats. They also act as industry-wide security standards trusted and accepted by many organizations.

These guidelines are the perfect launching point for creating a comprehensive Kubernetes security checklist. This list should incorporate your containerized environment's key elements, such as authentication and authorization, data security measures, and restricting network access restrictions. Furthermore, it should be able to identify any vulnerabilities and prescribe the required measures for addressing them.

Once you have established the necessary security measures, you must continuously monitor and update them. To do this, you should develop a process for Kubernetes security monitoring, including vulnerabilities in the container, misconfigurations in the manifest, and the runtime environment. 

AWS Kubernetes Security Best Practices

With Amazon Web Services (AWS) comes the ability to deploy and manage Kubernetes clusters with Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS). AWS EKS provides a managed Kubernetes experience on the AWS platform, making it easy to quickly deploy and scale applications.

When using EKS, it’s vital to implement the best AWS EKS architecture best practices and the AWS EKS security best practices. This includes Identity and Access Management (IAM) policies, Pod Security Policies (PSPs), Runtime Security Policies (RSPs) that define the security configurations for your applications, network policies, Infrastructure security, and Data encryption.

Regarding IAM policies, you should tightly control who has access to your Kubernetes clusters. This can be done by creating roles and users with limited access and tagging all the resources within your clusters. In addition, you should create network policies that control ingress and egress traffic for your clusters. These EKS monitoring best practices will allow you to restrict access to specific ports, protocols, and IP addresses.

For pod and runtime security policies, you should implement policies that dictate the security settings for your applications. This involves setting user access restrictions and ensuring that all services are running in secure containers with appropriate security settings. Infrastructure security is also important when using EKS.

To secure your resources, you should consider using AWS security groups and network ACLs to limit access to specific ports. Additionally, enabling logging and audit trails will aid you in detecting any suspicious activity.

EKS multi-tenancy best practices are often considered when deploying multiple applications onto the same cluster. This typically involves setting resource limits for each application and ensuring network security between tenants.

Finally, data encryption and secrets management should be implemented for your Kubernetes clusters. This includes using encryption at rest and in transit and configuring Kubernetes secrets to securely store sensitive information. Following these AWS Kubernetes security best practices will make your container environment more secure and protected from potential threats.

Azure Kubernetes Security Best Practices

Azure is another powerful cloud platform for running and deploying Kubernetes clusters. Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) provides an easy and secure way to deploy, manage, and monitor clusters in the Azure cloud. To ensure that your AKS environment is secure and compliant with industry standards, it is critical to follow Azure Kubernetes security best practices.

Microsoft has provided a guide to establishing an Azure AKS security baseline, which provides a set of secure configuration settings for AKS clusters. This baseline includes recommendations on using RBAC (role-based access control) to restrict access to Kubernetes resources. It also includes suggestions on using Kubernetes security features such as Pod Security Policies and Network Policies.

To begin, you should secure your AKS deployment by setting up role-based access control (RBAC) to restrict access to Kubernetes resources. Accomplishing this is simply creating users and roles with limited access while using tags to identify resources.

The next step is to use Kubernetes security features such as Pod Security Policies and Network Policies to restrict access to specific pods and networks. This allows you to control which services can communicate with each other, as well as to set resource limits for each application.

You should also use the Azure Kubernetes Service security features such as Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Pod Security Policies to ensure that traffic between services is encrypted and secure. Finally, you should enable logging and audit trails to monitor activity on your cluster. This will ensure that you can detect suspicious behavior and act accordingly.

Kubernetes Security Best Practices NIST

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released a Special Publication (SP) NIST 800-190 checklist – Application Container Security Guide to help organizations secure their containerized applications and related infrastructure components.

This insightful NIST container security guide will provide you with a thorough breakdown of how to securely and efficiently deploy and manage containers in an enterprise environment and tactics to ensure the integrity of your software supply chain.

The NIST Secure Software Development Framework (SSDF) has recently been released to give organizations a structured way of creating secure software systems. This framework works with NIST 800-190 container security checklist, offering direction on how to securely construct, deploy, and handle containerized applications.

In response to the recent executive order on supply chain security, NIST released its NIST 800-161 standard. This framework was created with vigilance in mind, describing a secure software supply chain management system that enables organizations to guarantee the integrity of all software components. SP 800-161 provides specific guidance for safely developing and deploying containers, including detailed recommendations on leveraging efficient and secure DevOps processes. KSOC has released the first Kubernetes Bill of Materials (KBOM) standard to help teams incorporate Kubernetes into their efforts around software supply chain security. To contribute, visit our Github repo.

Kubernetes Security Tools

Kubernetes is quickly becoming the platform of choice for many organizations due to its scalability and flexibility. Unfortunately, many organizations are unaware of the unique Kubernetes security vulnerabilities associated with running containerized applications in a Kubernetes environment. Therefore, businesses must make the right choice concerning Kubernetes security tools to guarantee their applications and infrastructure components remain protected.

Kubernetes security testing is necessary to safeguard your company, as it allows you to discover any potential risks and address them before they become an issue. Various tools are available for securing the environment, such as container image scanners, vulnerability scanners, network segmentation tools, and customizable audit logging solutions based on specific organizational needs. Each of these techniques has its advantages, so make sure you evaluate which one best suits your organization's requirements.

KSOC is the first real-time Kubernetes Security Posture Management (KSPM) solution, ensuring you can action remediations because they are viewed in the context of the Kubernetes lifecycle.

Kubernetes Security Issues

Kubernetes does not come configured for security out of the box; it was never meant to serve as a security tool. Since numerous companies depend on containers and Kubernetes for their applications, security remains a burgeoning concern. 

Kubernetes security can be broken down into three general categories: Kubernetes identity and entitlements, Kubernetes data security, Kubernetes network security, and Kubernetes application security. 

To ensure secure operations from the get-go, it's crucial to incorporate authentication strategies such as multi-factor authentication and authorization protocols. Moreover, companies should integrate a comprehensive logging system that tracks changes in their platform to quickly identify any suspicious or malicious behavior. We have already touched on Kubernetes RBAC; it is important to understand the difference between cloud IAM and Kubernetes RBAC when using a managed Kubernetes platform.

In terms of data security, encryption and secure data storage are both crucial components. The use of network segmentation tools will also allow organizations to control access to their applications and infrastructure components. For application security, Kubernetes vulnerability scanning tools can detect outdated or vulnerable images, allowing administrators to replace them with fortified versions. 

Kubernetes Versions and Kubernetes CVEs

Lastly, it is always important to use the most current version of Kubernetes as they typically provide the latest critical security fixes. We recently did an experiment to see if we could understand which Kubernetes CVEs were most likely to be exploited, and the results were interesting (hint: they weren’t the ones with the highest CVSS score!).


Whether you are just getting started with Kubernetes in your organization or just getting started with Kubernetes security, it is helpful to look at the full picture before diving in. Kubernetes security is not easy or simple; but you don’t have to do it alone. Talk to us today or sign up for a demo to see how KSOC can provide an automated gap assessment for you to get started!