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Exploring container security: Using Cloud Security Command Center (and five partner tools) to detect and manage an attack

May 3, 2018
Maya Kaczorowski

Security & Privacy Product Manager

Andy Chang

Group Product Manager, Google Cloud Security, Security & Privacy

Editor’s note: This is the sixth in a series of blog posts on container security at Google.

If you suspect that a container has been compromised, what do you do? In today’s blog post on container security, we’re focusing in on container runtime security—how to detect, respond to, and mitigate suspected threats for containers running in production. There’s no one way to respond to an attack, but there are best practices that you can follow, and in the event of a compromise, we want to make it easy for you to do the right thing.

Today, we’re excited to announce that you’ll soon be able to manage security alerts for your clusters in Cloud Security Command Center (Cloud SCC), a central place on Google Cloud Platform (GCP) to unify, analyze and view security data across your organization. Further, even though we just announced Cloud SCC a few weeks ago, already five container security companies have integrated their tools with Cloud SCC to help you better secure the containers you’re running on Google Kubernetes Engine.

With your Kubernetes Engine assets in Cloud SCC, you can view security alerts for your Kubernetes Engine clusters in a single pane of glass, and choose how to best take action. You’ll be able to view, organize and index your Kubernetes Engine cluster assets within each project and across all the projects that your organization is working on. In addition, you’ll be able to associate your container security findings to either specific clusters, container images and/or VM instances as appropriate.

Until then, let’s take a deeper look at runtime security in the context of containers and Kubernetes Engine.

Responding to bad behavior in your containers

Security operations typically includes several steps. For example, NIST’s well known framework includes steps to identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover. In containers, this translates to detecting abnormal behavior, remediating a potential threat, performing forensics after an incident, and enforcing runtime policies in isolated environments such as the new gVisor sandboxed container environment.

But first, how do you detect that a container is acting maliciously? Typically, this requires creating a baseline of what normal behaviour looks like, and using rules or machine learning to detect variation from that baseline. There are many ways to create that initial behavioral baseline (i.e., how a container should act), for example, using kprobes, tracepoints, and eBPF kernel inspection. Deviation from this baseline then triggers an alert or action.

If you do find a container that appears to be acting badly, there are several actions you might want to take, in increasing order of severity:

  • Just send an alert. This notifies your security response team that something unusual had been detected. For example, if security monitoring is relatively new in your environment, you might be worried about having too many false positives. Cloud SCC lets you unify container security signals with other security signals across your organization. With Cloud SCC, you can: see the live monitored state of container security issues in the dashboard; access the details either in the UI or via the API; and set up customer-defined filters to generate Cloud Pub/Sub topics that can then trigger email, SMS, or bugs in Jira.
  • Isolate a container. This moves the container to a new network, or otherwise restricts its network connectivity. For example, you might want to do this if you think one container is being used to perform a denial of service attack on other services.
  • Pause a container, e.g., `gcloud compute instances stop`. This suspends all running processes in the container. For example, if you detect suspected cryptomining, you might want to limit resource use and make a backup prior to further investigation.
  • Restart a container, e.g., `docker restart` or `kubectl delete pod`. This kills and restarts a running container, and resets the current state of the application. For example, if you suspect an attacker has created a foothold in your container, this might be a first step to counter their efforts, but this won’t stop an attacker from replicating an attack—just temporarily remove them.
  • Kill a container, i.e., `docker kill`. This kills a running container, halting all running processes (and less gracefully than `docker stop`). This is typically a last resort for a suspected malicious container.

Analyzing a security incident

After an incident, your security forensics team might step in to determine what really happened, and how they can prevent it the next time around. On Kubernetes Engine, you can look at a few different sources of event information:

  • Security event history and monitoring status in Cloud SCC. You can view the summary status of your assets and security findings in the dashboard, configure alerting and notification to a custom Cloud Pub/Sub topic and then query and explore specific events in detail either via the UI or API.
  • Container logs, kubelet logs, Docker logs, and audit logs in Stackdriver. Kubernetes Engine Audit Logging captures certain actions by default, both in the Kubernetes Engine API (e.g., create cluster, remove nodepool) and in the Kubernetes API (e.g., create a pod, update a DaemonSet).
  • Snapshots. You can snapshot a container’s filesystem in docker with `docker export`.

Announcing our container runtime security partners

To give you the best options for container runtime security on Google Cloud Platform, we’re excited to announce five partners who have already integrated with Cloud SCC: Aqua Security, Capsule8, Stackrox, Sysdig Secure, and Twistlock. These technical integrations allow you to use their cutting-edge security tools with your deployments, and view their findings and recommendations directly in Cloud SCC.


Aqua Security

Aqua’s integration with Cloud SCC provides real-time visibility into container security events and policy violations, including:

  • Inventory of vulnerabilities in container images in Google Container Registry, and alerts on new vulnerabilities
  • Container user security violations, such as privilege escalation attempts
  • Attempts to run unapproved images
  • Policy violations of container network, process, and host resource usage

To learn more and get a demo of Aqua’s integration with Google Cloud SCC, visit aquasec.com/gcp



Capsule8 is a real-time, zero-day attack detection platform purpose-built for modern production infrastructures. The Capsule8 integration with Google delivers continuous security across GCP environments to detect and help shut down attacks as they happen. Capsule8 runs entirely in the customer's Google Compute Engine environment and accounts and only requires a lightweight installation-free sensor running on each Compute Engine instance to stream behavioral telemetry to identify and help shut down zero-day attacks in real-time.

For more information on Capsule8’s integration with GCP, please visit: https://capsule8.com/capsule8-for-google-cloud-platform/



StackRox has partnered with Google Cloud to deliver comprehensive security for customers running containerized applications on Kubernetes Engine. StackRox visualizes the container attack surface, exposes malicious activity using machine learning, and stops attacks. Under the partnership, StackRox is working closely with the GCP team to offer an integrated experience for Kubernetes and Kubernetes Engine users as part of Cloud SCC.

For more information on StackRox’s integration with GCP, please visit: https://www.stackrox.com/google-partnership


Sysdig Secure

By bringing together container visibility and a native Kubernetes Engine integration, Sysdig Secure provides the ability to block threats, enforce compliance, and audit activity across an infrastructure through microservices-aware security policies. Security events are enriched with hundreds of container and Kubernetes metadata before being sent to Cloud SCC. This brings the most relevant signals to your attention and correlates Sysdig events with other security information sources so you can have a single point of view and the ability to react accordingly at all levels.

We chose to develop on Google Cloud for its robust, cost-effective platform. Sysdig is the perfect complement because it allows us to effectively secure and monitor our Kubernetes services with a single agent. We're excited to see that Google and Sysdig are deepening their partnership through this product integration.

Ashley Penny, VP of infrastructure, Cota Healthcare

For more information on Sysdig Secure’s integration with GCP, please visit: https://sysdig.com/gke-monitoring/



Twistlock surfaces cloud-native security intel vulnerability findings, compliance posture, runtime anomalies, and firewall logs directly into Cloud SCC. Customers can use Cloud SCC's big data capabilities to analyze and alert at scale, integrating container, serverless, and cloud-native VM security intelligence alongside other apps and workloads connected to Cloud SCC.

Twistlock enables us to pinpoint vulnerabilities, block attacks, and easily enforce compliance across our environment, giving our team the visibility and control needed to run containers at scale.

Anthony Scodary, Co-Founder of Gridspace

For more information on Twistlock’s integration with GCP, please visit: https://twistlock.com/partners/google-cloud-platform

Now you have the tools you need to protect your containers! Safe computing!

And if you’re at KubeCon in Copenhagen, join us at our booth for a demo and discussion around container security.

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