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Published on 01/24/2024
Last updated on 06/18/2024

Kubernetes and multi-cloud security


When organizations must deploy their distributed application and ensure high availability and fault tolerance, they turn to Kubernetes. Kubernetes is a powerhouse when it comes to container orchestration, shaping the way we deploy, manage, and scale modern applications. It brings efficiency and resilience, ensuring applications can run smoothly on physical or virtual machines and across diverse environments.

Diverse environments include multi-cloud environments, where an organization uses two more cloud services for its computing solutions. The approach is popular because it’s strategic. Businesses gain flexibility and can select the best features from different cloud providers. It's about optimizing resources, tapping into specialized services, and navigating the cloud market smartly. 

But here’s the challenge: How do you properly secure your multi-cloud Kubernetes environments? It’s a complex task, but it’s crucial for maintaining the integrity and performance of your applications. In this article, we’ll look at the intricacies of the challenge, specifically exploring how the cloud-native application protection platforms (CNAPPs) and Kubernetes Security Posture Management (KSPM) contribute to addressing security concerns. 

Understanding Kubernetes in a multi-cloud context 

Kubernetes provides an abstraction to deploy, scale, and manage applications dispersed across multiple cloud environments. Adopting Kubernetes in multi-cloud environments has several advantages, including: 

  • Mitigates vendor lock-in
  • Resource optimization
  • Easy portability
  • Consistency across clouds

However, if your organization wants to harness these benefits, then you should be prepared to face some security challenges.

Anticipating the unique security challenges 

By deploying Kubernetes in multi-cloud environments, you’ll face security challenges that demand a strategic approach to ensuring application integrity and availability.  

Complexity and configuration management 

Kubernetes deployments can be incredibly complex. A misconfiguration, when left unidentified, can open the door to a vulnerability that exposes your organization to a security breach or data compromise. So, configuring and managing your Kubernetes clusters must be done with utmost care. 

You'll need to establish sound processes and use effective tools to address these concerns and integrate configurations across different cloud providers. Effective tools go beyond basic configuration tracking, providing insights into the relationships between different configuration elements and their impact on security postures. In addition, some tools will facilitate automated remediation, empowering organizations to address misconfigurations swiftly—before they become security risks. 

Consistent security policies across clouds 

Maintaining a consistent security posture across diverse cloud providers is challenging. Most cloud providers use security controls and compliance standards specific to their platform, underscoring the need for a comprehensive strategy for policy enforcement.  

Organizations should establish clear guidelines to deal with the security policy differences between cloud providers. At the same time, they can use automation to enforce uniform security policies, reducing the risk of security gaps from one cloud environment to the next. 

Network security and traffic management 

Managing network traffic within and between clouds raises additional security concerns. You’ll need traffic management solutions to ensure that applications communicate securely across distributed architectures. These solutions include encryption and segmentation, which protect data in transit. You’ll likely deploy software-defined networking (SDN) technologies to keep your network configurations adaptable and secure, which is what you’ll need to work within the dynamic nature of multi-cloud ecosystems. 

Identity and access management 

Managing who gets access to what is crucial in a world spread across multiple clouds. Implementing a central strategy for identity and access management (IAM) becomes very important. Your strategy may include identity federation and single sign-on (SSO) solutions.  

Your organizations should also adopt a zero-trust security model to ensure access controls are consistently enforced across clouds. At the same time, you’ll want regular audits and access reviews further to enhance the security of your clusters in multi-cloud setups. These will provide insights into potential security gaps and ensure access privileges align with your organizational policies. 

Data security and compliance 

Navigating data security and compliance across diverse regulatory landscapes presents a considerable challenge. In response, your organization should develop robust data protection strategies that include encryption, access controls, and regular audits. 

Seek out tools that can automate these compliance checks for you. In addition, you’ll need continuous monitoring, encryption key management, and a way to address data residency considerations. All of these contribute to the comprehensive approach needed to address data security concerns in multi-cloud Kubernetes environments.

The role of CNAPPs in addressing these challenges

The CNAPP is a security platform that consolidates and centralizes the security tools you need to provide a unified approach to cloud security. A CNAPP is designed to protect multi-cloud environments, bringing together tools that include:

  • Cloud security posture management (CSPM) for continuous monitoring of applications to detect cloud misconfigurations—even in multi-cloud setups—along with security risks and compliance violations.
  • Cloud workload protection platform (CWPP) to provide runtime protection for all workloads across multiple clouds.
  • Cloud infrastructure entitlement management (CIEM) to manage permissions and access in your cloud environments.
  • Kubernetes Security Posture Management (KSPM) to provide continuous visibility, risk mitigation, and compliance checks for Kubernetes clusters.

Let’s focus specifically on how KSPM addresses the unique security challenges of your cloud-native application deployed in a multi-cloud environment. 

Automated compliance checks

As a platform that unifies solutions to security and compliance concerns, the CNAPP works to detect, prevent, and address compliance violations. For applications built on Kubernetes—whether it’s on-premises, hybrid-cloud, or multi-cloud—KSPM automates the compliance checks and assessments of your Kubernetes clusters. As the CNAPP continuously monitors your cloud-native application, KSPM provides real-time feedback on how you’re doing in adhering to security best practices and regulatory requirements.  Automated compliance helps the auditing process and facilitates a proactive approach to security. When using a CNAPP with KSPM built in, your organization can address potential issues—in your clusters and across all your clouds—before they escalate.

Unified security posture 

The CNAPP offers a holistic view of security across different cloud providers. Meanwhile, KSPM provides a comprehensive overview of the relationships between Kubernetes objects, providing visualizations to let you map these relationships. This level of visibility enables the faster identification of potential risks and equips you to make informed decisions about your security posture. With a unified security posture, you’ll see improved consistency and simplified management of your security policies. 

Configuration validation 

By integrating CSPM and KSPM, the CNAPP ensures that configurations in your cloud environments and Kubernetes clusters align with your security standards.  

KSPM enhances the overall security of multi-cloud Kubernetes deployments by detecting and mitigating issues related to access control and workload misconfigurations. Configuration validation not only mitigates risks associated with misconfigurations but also helps in maintaining a robust security baseline. 

Real-time threat detection and response 

When leveraged with KSPM, the CNAPP empowers organizations with real-time threat detection capabilities. As the KSPM solution continuously monitors your Kubernetes clusters for anomalous behavior and security incidents, it will alert your security team to potential threats, putting into motion a swift response to reduce the impact of a security breach. This proactive posture allows organizations to address security incidents preemptively, before they result in significant damage. 

Strategically addressing security challenges 

Modern technology enterprises have wholeheartedly embraced two key approaches to deploying their cloud-native applications: Kubernetes for high availability and ease of scaling, and multi-cloud environments for flexibility and optimal performance. Together, Kubernetes and multi-cloud can bring huge benefits to businesses. But they also bring complex security challenges. 

The unique security challenges—such as configuration management, consistency of security policy application and enforcement, and data compliance—require a strategic and proactive approach to security. The CNAPP, as an all-in-one platform that brings together the tools you need to enact cloud-native security measures, is the solution to this challenge for multi-cloud. And with KSPM built into your CNAPP, you’ll ensure that your Kubernetes clusters are properly secured as well. 

For more information about Outshift's CNAPP solution, Panoptica, sign up to try it out for free or schedule a one-on-one live demo

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