A modern web application is bundled with tons of open-source dependencies. Developers are usually unaware of the number of open-source packages that's running under their package's hood. If you've ever wondered why your node_modules were so large, well that's why!
Contrary to popular belief, open-source components and dependencies are not more secure than their proprietary counterparts. Sure, there's a fleet of developers who volunteer to maintain certain repositories and that's great! However, the mere fact that lots of people use something doesn't make it more secure.
Add to this the issues around obsolete and abandoned packages. They're still popular amongst developers, but no longer maintained by anyone. In certain other cases, the developers are at fault by not prioritizing security updates. It becomes clear that protecting an organization's applications on a daily basis has now become a crucial necessity for survival in the market.
As you might already know, layered security is imperative and crucial. No one layer or program can withstand the numerous attacks from the unknowns of the dark web. Therefore, once organizations follow some of these best practices, they should be empowered to implement a robust strategy for a secure environment around their business-critical applications.
Package Your Components in a Container
The first stage in securing your applications is to ensure that they are sheltered within a Docker-like container. The inbuilt security of a container, along with its default configurations render a much stronger security posture. Applications that reside within settings such as this automatically inherit the same security guidelines. Furthermore, you can limit the damage your open source dependencies and APIs can do by running your app inside a container.
To make matters simpler, containers can be understood to be a protective shield of sorts. They isolate an application from the host computer as well as other containers. This helps to inhibit any vulnerabilities as well as any malicious use of the software.
By default, containers lean to the configurations specified in security profiles combined with security-related policies that help isolate the processes of an application from both the operating system as well as the host. The container's default security controls ensure that your application runs in a secure environment at all times.
Containers are also capable of acting as gatekeepers for your applications. They use role-based access controls at a granular level and employ read-only environments to inhibit unauthorized access by resources or people. As can be imagined, containers go by the principle of least privilege. This forms a critical part of the zero-trust model of security that drives cybersecurity worldwide. Once within a container, the attack surface area of your application is significantly reduced.
Prioritize Patch Management
The best way to ensure that you are in the know of whether or not your applications are safe and secure is to employ a check on the application(s) you execute. Docker's container platforms scan your container for any vulnerable databases. These scans provide users with added insight and visibility with regards the security status of your applications during each stage of production.
Also, as images are scanned and cleaned, users can rapidly and automatically promote valid containers onward to the next phase of development and finally towards production.
Automating this process makes sure that all vulnerabilities are identified in the early stages of the process itself and patches are employed on a continuous basis as and when any vulnerabilities are noticed.
According to WhiteSource's open source vulnerability management report, one of the good reasons why security fails is because companies fail to address security issues and take way longer than they should to apply security patches. Apart from that, there is absence of standard practices and developer-focused tools that result in waste of resources.
Container platforms enable quick and secure patching opportunities and would allow users to squash any breaches of security that may arise, thereby complying to regulations without having to hinder the process of development.
Stay Abreast of New Standards
Standards bodies like the NIST or the National Institute of Standards and Technology assist companies in addressing security challenges and adhere to industry regulations based on accepted standard guidelines that help to maintain robust security practices.
Standards such as these help organizations get an understanding of the best way to identify gaps between globally accepted standards the security-related status of their applications.
A strategy around containerization helps organizations to close these gaps and assists them to clear the differences between your applications and globally accepted security guidelines related to your organizations.
Containerization strategies assist you in closing the gaps between the security guidelines and your applications. This assists in making use of your container format efficiently and ensuring that you are in full control of your applications at all times.
Costs associated with compliance enforcement can be reduced by ensuring that your application resides in a container that is in line with a swath of commonly recognized standards like the NIST 800-53 and NIST's new Open Security Controls Assessment Language (OSCAL) standard.
Use Security Tools to Check Your Codes
A vast number of Open Source and commercial tools have been developed over the past few years that help in solving the problem of locating vulnerabilities in Open Source components. Each of these tools or services attempt to solve this problem a little differently from the other–
- NPM Audit – Formerly known as NSP (Node Security Project), npm audit is available inbuilt with the latest version of npm. NPM Audit checks for vulnerabilities in the node module packages. Audit also generates a report and suggests guidelines for fixing the security issues.
- Gemnasium – Gemnasium supports Ruby, NPM, PHP, Python, and Bower.
- Bundler-audit – Bundler-audit is an open source command line tool. This checks for dependencies focused on Ruby Bundler
- SRC: CLR – Source Clear comes with a load of plugins to several IDEs, deployment systems, and source repositories as well as a command-line interface.
Stick with a Multi-layer Security Approach
Some third-party vendors within the container ecosystem offer third-party plugins and integrations that facilitate additional layers of security, capabilities, and features for containers. These integrations of ecosystems can easily be a part of our existing strategy around security by way of extending these security policies to applications as these integrations assist in complying with required procedures.
Ex- integration specifically for enforcement of runtime security policies can help inhibit unwanted container behavior and allow container-firewalling to help mitigate inter-container attacks. It can also be used to confirm the validity of an image container and ensure its compliance with the best practices of the company in question.
The Docker system contains security vendors where each vendor can provide strategic defensive layers to prevent malicious attacks that might be forthcoming.
Container Platforms Can Also Help Advance Security
Container platforms allow users to secure their applications, develop them in a safe environment and check and verify their integrity at every stage of the development process. By making use of the advantages of the container platform and its inherent integrated security features, users can accelerate time to market by identifying and patching vulnerabilities as they are unearthed without hindering the development process in any way.
Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP, Oracle, Zend, CheckPoint and Ixia, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership.