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The definitive guide to compliance with cloud-managed Kubernetes

The definitive guide to compliance with cloud-managed Kubernetes

Jun 15, 2023

Henry Hernández
Sr. Solutions Architect

Kubernetes has become a vital component in cloud-native infrastructure, enabling organizations to deploy and manage containerized applications at scale. However, compliance is crucial to modern infrastructure, especially for businesses that handle sensitive data. Organizations that adopt Kubernetes must thus also be sure to maintain the security of their infrastructure, as well as address compliance requirements to meet regulatory standards.

This article will provide an overview of compliance requirements for Kubernetes, discuss how organizations can achieve compliance certification using various Kubernetes distributions, and compare the compliance status of those distributions. It will also offer up best practices and review the importance of monitoring and remediation. 

Comparing the compliance status of different Kubernetes distributions

Kubernetes distributions provided by cloud providers such as Google, Amazon, and Microsoft have become increasingly popular. They all offer different tools and strategies to help organizations achieve compliance. This section will review popular Kubernetes distributions and compare their compliance status.

Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE)

Google Cloud has a strong focus on security and compliance, and GKE provides a range of built-in security features to facilitate compliance. For example, GKE supports role-based access control (RBAC), enabling organizations to limit access to Kubernetes resources based on user roles and permissions. 

GKE also includes Kubernetes network policies. These allow organizations to define network traffic rules for their clusters to help secure communication between pods and services. Additionally, GKE integrates with Google’s Cloud Security Command Center, which provides a centralized view of security and compliance risks across all Google Cloud services.

Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS)

As part of the AWS shared responsibility model, securing the underlying infrastructure of EKS is AWS’ responsibility, while customers are responsible for securing the workloads running on EKS. To help customers achieve compliance, EKS provides a range of security features and tools; these include AWS IAM for identity and access management, AWS Key Management Service (KMS) for data encryption, and AWS CloudTrail for audit logging. 

EKS also provides integration with third-party compliance automation tools such as Sysdig and Aqua Security, which can help organizations automate compliance monitoring and reporting.

Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS)

Like EKS, AKS has a shared responsibility model. Microsoft Azure is responsible for securing the underlying infrastructure of the service, while customers take on the responsibility of securing the workloads running on AKS. 

To help customers achieve compliance, AKS provides various security features such as Azure Active Directory (AD) for identity and access management, Azure Disk Encryption for data encryption, and Azure Monitor for audit logging. AKS also provides integration with third-party compliance automation tools such as Aqua Security and Sysdig.

A comprehensive set of tools, services, and certifications of the distributions is summarized in the following table.

Compliance CategoryGoogle Kubernetes Engine (GKE)Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS)Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS)
CertificationsSOC 1, SOC 2, SOC 3, PCI DSS, HIPAA, ISO 27001SOC 1, SOC 2, SOC 3, PCI DSS, HIPAA, ISO 27001SOC 1, SOC 2, SOC 3, PCI DSS, HIPAA, ISO 27001
Security controlsKubernetes security features, Binary Authorization, Config ConnectorAWS security features, AWS IAM roles for Kubernetes, Amazon EKS best practicesAzure Security Center, Azure Policies, Azure AD for Kubernetes
Compliance automationGoogle Cloud Asset Inventory, Google Cloud Security Command CenterAWS Config, AWS CloudTrail, AWS CloudWatch EventsAzure Security Center, Azure Policies, Azure Security and Compliance Blueprint
Monitoring and loggingGoogle Cloud operations, Cloud audit logsAmazon CloudWatch, AWS CloudTrail, AWS CloudTrail InsightsAzure Monitor, Azure Log Analytics
Certificate managementGoogle Certificate Manager, Let’s EncryptAWS Certificate ManagerAzure Key Vault
EncryptionGoogle Cloud KMS, Google Cloud HSMAWS KMS, AWS CloudHSMAzure Key Vault, Azure Disk Encryption
Identity and access managementGoogle Cloud IAM, Google Cloud Identity-Aware ProxyAWS IAM, AWS KMS, AWS CognitoAzure Active Directory, Azure Kubernetes Service managed identities
Table 1: Compliance comparison of Kubernetes providers 

GKE, EKS, and AKS provide a range of security features and tools to help organizations achieve compliance. However, it is important to note that the organization is ultimately responsible for ensuring that their workloads and applications are fully compliant with industry-specific regulations. 

This may require additional measures beyond those provided by the Kubernetes distributions; these may include implementing security policies, conducting regular security audits, and establishing incident response plans. The following section will discuss best practices for achieving compliance with Kubernetes, regardless of the distribution used.

By Security standards, at DevOps pace.

Actionable, contextual,
Kubernetes-native security

Achieving compliance with different Kubernetes distributions: best practices

Attaining a state of compliance with Kubernetes requires a combination of best practices and the use of appropriate tools and strategies, which we discuss in this section.

Regular security assessments, vulnerability scans, and misconfigurations

Organizations should regularly perform security assessments and vulnerability scans to identify potential security risks, vulnerabilities, and misconfigurations in their Kubernetes clusters.

Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) and audit logging

Implementing role-based access control and audit logging is critical to controlling access to Kubernetes resources and tracking changes to Kubernetes clusters.

Adhering to industry-specific regulations

Different industries have different regulatory requirements that must be met for compliance purposes. Organizations should understand the specific regulations that apply to their industry and ensure that their Kubernetes clusters meet these requirements.

Encrypting data in transit and at rest

Encryption of data at rest and in transit is essential for protecting sensitive data; organizations should implement encryption for all data transmitted over their Kubernetes clusters.

Establishing a robust incident response plan

Organizations should establish a robust incident response plan that outlines the steps to be taken in the event of a security incident. This plan should include procedures for identifying, containing, and responding to security incidents.

Different Kubernetes distributions provide various tools and strategies to help organizations implement these best practices. However, Kubernetes is a dynamic environment where applications, infrastructure, and configurations change constantly. Therefore, it is critical you have continuous monitoring and automated remediation to achieve compliance with Kubernetes.

Continuous scanning, monitoring, and remediation for Kubernetes compliance

Implementing security controls in Kubernetes is not a one-time task but an ongoing process requiring continuous scanning, monitoring, and remediation. Continuous scanning helps organizations identify security risks and vulnerabilities in their Kubernetes clusters, while automated remediation can help to address these risks quickly and efficiently.

Organizations can implement several security controls in Kubernetes, such as: 

  • Network segmentation: Divides a network into smaller subnetworks, which can help isolate and contain security incidents 
  • Runtime protection: Monitors and controls the behavior of running applications to prevent unauthorized access or data exfiltration 
  • Threat detection: Monitors the network for signs of malicious activity or abnormal behavior

However, implementing these security controls manually can be time-consuming and error-prone. This is one of the main reasons organizations adopt compliance automation tools to help manage their Kubernetes clusters and ensure they are meeting compliance requirements. These tools continuously monitor Kubernetes clusters to detect misconfigurations, vulnerabilities, and security incidents in real time. They can then provide automated remediation and generate compliance reports to demonstrate compliance with regulatory requirements.

In the next section, we will discuss ARMO Platform, an open-source-based Kubernetes security tool that provides advanced security features to help organizations achieve compliance with Kubernetes.

ARMO Platform 

ARMO Platform is the enterprise solution based on Kubescape – A ​​multi-cloud Kubernetes and CI/CD security single pane of glass, which is totally cloud agnostic.

ARMO Platform offers a comprehensive set of advanced security features to help organizations monitor and secure their Kubernetes clusters:

  • Risk analysis
  • Security compliance
  • Misconfiguration scanning and assisted remediation
  • Vulnerability scanning
  • Role-based access control (RBAC) visualization

ARMO Platform supports multiple compliance frameworks out of the box, with the largest library of controls currently available (over 200). You can create your own frameworks based on these or even create your own controls.

Achieving compliance with Kubernetes is an ongoing process that requires continuous monitoring, remediation, and automation. Organizations can achieve compliance while using different Kubernetes distributions via tools and best practices. However, they need to understand the compliance status of each distribution and how it may affect their organization. To see how ARMO can help your organization achieve compliance with Kubernetes, try it out for free today!

Actionable, contextual, end-to-end
{Kubernetes-native security}

From code to cluster, helm to node, we’ve got your Kubernetes covered:

Cut the CVE noise by significantly reducing CVE-related work by over 90%

Automatic Kubernetes compliance for CIS, NSA, Mitre, SOC2, PCI, and more

Manage Kubernetes role-based-access control (RBAC) visually


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