One of the biggest paradigm shifts in the world of software development was the idea of containerised applications. Every component or microservice is hosted separately, making it way easier to build on top of and modify, and if one component fails, it won’t result in everything else going down like a house of cards.
But that creates a new problem: actually managing all those hundreds of microservices. If you had to manually monitor, troubleshoot, and fix every single thing that went wrong with your containers, it almost wouldn’t be worth the effort. But thankfully, smart people invented a solution for that, too: Kubernetes.
The rise of Kubernetes
The word ‘Kubernetes’ is Greek for ‘helmsman’ or ‘pilot’. Which isn’t a coincidence, because that’s exactly what it does. If your application was a ship, the containers making it function are the crew members. Kubernetes acts as the captain of the ship — it’s responsible for managing all of the crew members and keep an eye on what they’re doing, restarting ones that crashed, managing data, and so on.
Basically, Kubernetes will manage all the hundreds of tiny parts of your app smoothly so you can focus on the big picture stuff. That’s why it’s called a container orchestration platform.
Today, Kubernetes is one of the most sought-after skills in product engineering.
Today, Kubernetes is one of the most sought-after skills in product engineering because it allows applications to scale up massively without sacrificing stability, speed, or security. As a result, professionals with skills in Kubernetes security are also in high demand. In fact, organisations around the world expect production projects using Kubernetes to rise by 61% over the next two years.
That’s why we wrote this blog: to help you understand how you can learn Kubernetes, what you can expect in a career in Kubernetes security, and the best courses you can take to build skill fast.
Kubernetes vs. Docker
When it comes to containers, there’s two names you’re likely to hear most often: Kubernetes and Docker. This can be confusing, because Kubernetes and Docker are used for totally different things. As explained above, Kubernetes is a container orchestration platform, which handles how containers are run, and manages resources in a containerised environment.
Docker, on the other hand, is a platform that lets you to build, package, and distribute containers wherever a user is using them. If we go back to the ship analogy, where Kubernetes is the captain of the ship, Docker is the ship itself. Kubernetes ‘sits on top’ of Docker in order to steer the ship in the right direction.
Kubernetes is a container orchestration platform, which handles how containers are run and use resources.
A better comparison would be between Kubernetes and Docker Swarm, which is also a container orchestration tool. But while both perform similar functions, Kubernetes is by far the most popular choice among developers, mainly because it’s more flexible, powerful, and efficient than Docker Swarm, which emphasises ease of use.
The only downside to this is that that as your application gets more complex, so does working with Kubernetes. It also requires additional tools, services, etc. to fully manage access, identity, governance and security.
What is Kubernetes security?
Kubernetes security is best understood as the process of identifying risks to an application at different phases in the container lifecycle. A good way to categorise them is with the 4C’s of cloud native security: Cloud, Cluster, Container, and Code.
Starting with Cloud, this is the base on which your application is built and run. Whether you’re looking to secure your own data center or host your app on a cloud provider, you need to ensure you’re complying with your cloud provider’s security best practices.
On the Cluster side of things, it’s a lot more about properly configuring components like the Kubernetes API, and the security of applications part of that cluster.
With Containers, you’re looking at making sure you don’t grant unnecessary access or privilege to users, and scanning containers to make sure there are no vulnerabilities at build time.
Finally, we have Code. This is common to applications of all kinds, and requires you to ensure you’re not exposing unused ports, scanning and testing regularly, and taking proper security measures so you prevent security vulnerabilities in a production environment.
Who should learn Kubernetes security?
Kubernetes security is one of those things that is essential to know for someone who’s working on or deploying applications to Kubernetes. But to get more specific, here’s some roles where learning Kubernetes security is pretty much essential:
- DevOps engineers
If your job is to build your engineering team’s DevOps practices and you’re deploying containerised applications, you need to learn Kubernetes security. It becomes essential during production, build time, and runtime. Part of a DevOps engineer’s role is to ensure secure practices at every stage of development, making Kubernetes security a key skill to have.
A developer’s job isn’t just to write code, it’s to write secure code. As mentioned above, Code is one of the 4C’s of cloud native security. Understanding Kubernetes—and better yet, best practices for security—can be the difference between an app that’s structurally sound and one that’s full of basic misconfigurations and vulnerabilities.
- Application security engineers
This one should be fairly obvious, but an AppSec engineer needs Kubernetes training to be able to work with cloud native and containerised applications. From understanding secrets management and access control, to container-specific vulnerabilities, security engineers can benefit greatly from learning Kubernetes security.
How to get certified in Kubernetes security
Two of the most prominent and widely recognised certifications for Kubernetes security are the Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA) and the Certified Kubernetes Specialist (CKS) certifications. They’re both offered by the Linux Foundation, the organisation currently maintaining Kubernetes.
If you’re looking to get certified in Kubernetes security, the CKA is the first exam you’ll need to pass, after which you can take the CKS exam. If you’re just getting into Kubernetes security, you’ll want to take the CKA exam. Here are the main subjects they test you on:
- Workloads & Scheduling
- Cluster Architecture, Installation & Configuration
- Services & Networking
Getting certified as a Kubernetes administrator is a great first step to preparing yourself (and your resumé) for a job in Kubernetes security.
The best courses to take in Kubernetes security
Learning Kubernetes security isn’t exactly easy, given how complex and multi-layered the Kubernetes platform is. But that’s all the more reason to start training today.
AppSecEngineer has a whole Learning Path, complete with 5 full-fledged courses dedicated to Kubernetes security. We cover everything there is to know about Kubernetes security, including Admission Control, secrets management, network security, service mesh, and so much more.
And the best part? It’s completely hands-on. That means every single lesson is accompanied by a lab or cyber-range, letting you practice everything you learn. It’s the most efficient and effective way to train in Kubernetes security, and it also helps build your skill level and experience while you learn. There’s just nothing else like it.
Give it a go with our free trial and see if it works for you. Tons of world-class KubeSec content awaits, and we can’t wait to see you there!