Shubham Sharma
April 10, 2023

Container Supply Chain Security: What is it, how to mitigate risk, and best practices

What are Containers?

Containers are a virtualization technique that enables developers to bundle an application and its dependencies into a single, isolated unit. This unit can be run consistently on any system, making it easier to deploy and manage applications in different environments.

Containers provide an isolated environment for applications to run, separate from the host system and other containers. This isolation helps ensure that applications are not impacted by changes to the host system or other containers running on the same system.

This makes containers a highly efficient and flexible way to deploy applications, as they can be easily moved between different systems and environments without the need to modify the application or its dependencies.

Containers are also lightweight compared to traditional virtual machines, as they do not require an entire operating system installed on each instance. Instead, containers share the host system's kernel and libraries, making them much more efficient in resource usage.

What does supply-chain security mean for containers?

In the context of containers, the supply chain refers to the entire process of creating and deploying containers, from the development of the application to the delivery of the final product. 

This process includes the creation of the application, the packaging of the application into a container, and the deployment of the container into production environments. 

Threats to the supply chain can come from various sources, including malicious actors who seek to insert malware, unauthorized containers, or the accidental introduction of security vulnerabilities due to mistakes made during the development process.

How to mitigate risks to the container supply-chain?

One of the main concerns in supply-chain security is the risk of compromising the base image used to build containers. Base images are the foundation of containers and contain all the necessary components and dependencies to run an application. 

If a base image is compromised, it can result in the deployment of malicious containers that could harm the systems or data of the organizations that use them. To mitigate this risk, organizations can implement several measures to ensure the security of their containers. One such measure is the use of verified base images from trusted sources. 

It can involve using base images thoroughly tested and validated by the provider and known to be free from security vulnerabilities, which helps to reduce the risk of malicious code introduced into the supply chain.

What is Software Bill of Materials (SBoM)?

Software Bill of Materials, or SBoM, is a comprehensive list of all the components that make up a software application, including their versions and source information. The purpose of the SBoM is to provide a detailed record of all the software components used in the development of an application, including any third-party dependencies. 

This information is essential for ensuring the security and stability of an application, as it allows organizations to monitor and manage the risk associated with the components used in their software.

The SBoM is typically generated as part of the software development process and maintained throughout the application's lifecycle. As a result, it’s used for various purposes, including tracking the security vulnerabilities of software components, ensuring compliance with legal and regulatory requirements, and facilitating the management of software updates and upgrades.

In the context of containers, the SBoM can be particularly useful for ensuring the security of the supply chain. By having a complete record of all the components used in the development of a container, organizations can better understand the risk associated with the features they use and take measures to mitigate these risks.

Supply-chain security best practices for containers

A vital aspect of supply-chain security is regularly updating base images and the applications packaged within them. It helps to ensure that known security vulnerabilities are patched and that the applications remain up-to-date and secure.

In addition to these measures, organizations can implement security controls within their containers. It includes application-level security features such as firewalls and intrusion detection systems, and runtime security measures such as access controls and encryption. These measures help to protect the containers and the applications they contain from potential attacks and can provide an additional layer of security to the supply chain.

It’s also essential to have processes to detect and respond to security incidents, should they occur. This involves implementing monitoring systems to detect potential security issues and having a response plan to deal with identified incidents. It helps to ensure that security incidents can be identified and dealt with, reducing the risk of harm to the organization.

To summarize, container supply-chain security is crucial for deploying applications in modern organizations. You need to take the following steps to ensure the safety of base images:

  • Regularly updating applications
  • Implementing security controls
  • Having processes in place to detect and respond to security incidents

With these measures, organizations can reduce the risk of harm from malicious activities and ensure the security of their containers and the data they contain. As containers gain popularity, it becomes increasingly essential for organizations to take steps to secure their supply chain and protect their valuable assets.

Supply chain security services for your business

we45 offers a host of security services to make supply chain security a reality at your organization. We customize solutions to fit your business needs, and offer a comprehensive view of your software security posture.

In addition, we help you mitigate all manner of supply chain threats at any scale and tech stack. Reach out to us so we can help you secure your container supply chain.