A Security Vulnerability Management Guide

Living in a container-native world is not easy. Containers have a reputation for being a point of entry for security vulnerabilities for many organizations. In 2015, according to a research paper, over 40% of Docker images distributed through Docker Hub had high-risk vulnerabilities; at that time there were more than 95,000 container images hosted on Docker Hub. Today, there are over 3.5 million container images on Docker, and container security is of even greater concern. In a more recent 2020 study by a team of researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology found container image vulnerabilities in certified and popular packages.

This is just one example of one kind of security vulnerability. This article will share an introduction to security vulnerabilities and the role of vulnerability management for containers and other artifacts in a continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline.

What is a Security Vulnerability?

A vulnerability is a weakness or flaw present in software. Security vulnerabilities can be present in application dependencies or operating system (OS) packages. Common vulnerabilities include missing data encryption, buffer overflows, missing authentication for critical functions and insecure interactions between software components.

There are different risks associated with different types of vulnerabilities. With critical or high-risk vulnerabilities, an attacker who exploits your software has the potential to seriously impact your organization. Risks associated with data breaches impact not only an organization, but also its end users and customers.

Vulnerability Management Techniques

Vulnerability assessment practices and tools exist to make detecting vulnerabilities simple, accurate and fast. Some of these practices include:

  • Penetration testing – Penetration testing, or pen testing, allows you to identify security vulnerabilities by attempting to break into your own systems to identify weaknesses.
  • Configuration management – Configuration management involves managing infrastructure configurations and identifying missing patches that leave your software service vulnerable to errors and risks. There are tools that provide infrastructure scanning as-a-service to help detect outdated or misconfigured instances.
  • Container and application Scanning – Allows you to detect vulnerabilities in deployable artifacts and running applications. Some available tools for container scanning include Twistlock, Clair and Trivy.

These practices help build solid, repeatable vulnerability management techniques across your security and delivery teams. One way to scale these security practices is through security automation. Security automation is the use of technology that performs tasks with reduced manual assistance. It ultimately enables users to apply security decisions automatically and secure processes to deliver more robust applications and infrastructure.

Security Practices in Your CI/CD Process

Security automation is a core tenant of DevSecOps. DevSecOps is short for development security and operations, and it describes how organizations deliver and make security decisions and actions within the development life cycle of their valued deliverables.

DevSecOps is a way of continuously integrating security in the software development life cycle. It’s a way of working and thinking so that security is at the forefront of how security teams deliver business value.

One way to enable DevSecOps is through your CI/CD pipeline. Today’s enterprises can use CI/CD to accelerate better software delivery, but with that speed it becomes even more important to enable robust security. Vulnerability scanning improves software security while giving individuals across engineering and product teams accountability for each of the processes these teams own.

Don’t let Security Vulnerabilities Ruin Your DevSecOps

This is a simple, basic introduction to security vulnerabilities and the risks they pose for your organization. There are practices and tools for detecting and reducing security vulnerabilities, and finding ways to incorporate those processes into a CI/CD pipeline is a great way to accelerate your DevSecOps.

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Tiffany Jachja

Tiffany Jachja is a technical evangelist at Harness. She is an advocate for better software delivery, sharing applicable practices, stories, and content around modern technologies. Before joining Harness, Tiffany was a consultant with Red Hat's Consulting practice. There she used her experience to help customers build their software applications living in the cloud.

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