Container security

Secure your container environment on GCP, GKE, or Anthos.


Containerization allows development teams to move fast, deploy software efficiently, and operate at an unprecedented scale. As enterprises create more containerized workloads, security must be integrated at each stage of the build-and-deploy life cycle. Learn how to secure any container environment you run on GCP—whether that's Google Kubernetes Engine or Anthos—in three critical areas.

Infrastructure security

Infrastructure security means that your container management platform provides the right security features. Kubernetes includes security features to protect your identities, secrets, and network, and Google Kubernetes Engine uses native GCP functionality—like Cloud IAM, Cloud Audit Logging, and Virtual Private Clouds—and GKE-specific features like application layer secrets encryption and workload identity to bring the best of Google security to your workloads.

Software supply chain

Securing the software supply chain means that container images are safe to deploy. This is how you make sure your container images are vulnerability free and that the images you build aren't modified before they're deployed.

Runtime security

Runtime security allows you to identify a container acting maliciously in production and take action to protect your workload.

Running containers allows you to adopt a fundamentally different security model

Simpler patch management and immutability

Simpler patch management and immutability

Containers are meant to be immutable, so you deploy a new image in order to make changes. You can simplify patch management by rebuilding your images regularly, so the patch is picked up the next time a container is deployed. Get the full picture of your environment with regular image security reviews.

Smaller surface of attack

Smaller surface of attack

Containers are meant to run on a much smaller host OS than for a VM, as more is packaged into the application directly. This minimal host OS reduces the potential surface of attack for your workload.

Resource and workload isolation

Resource and workload isolation

Containers provide an easy way to isolate resources, such as storage volumes, to certain processes using cgroups and namespaces. With technologies like GKE Sandbox, you can logically isolate workloads in a sub-VM sandbox, separate from other applications.

Infrastructure security

Container infrastructure security is about ensuring that your developers have the tools they need to securely build containerized services. These capabilities are typically built into the container orchestrator, like Kubernetes. If you use Google Kubernetes Engine, this functionality is surfaced natively, in addition to other features of Google Cloud.

Identity and authorization

On Google Kubernetes Engine, use Cloud IAM to manage access to your projects and role-based access control (RBAC) to manage access to your clusters and namespaces.

Audit logging

In Kubernetes, API audit logs are automatically captured. On Google Kubernetes Engine, Cloud Audit Logs records API audit logs automatically for you.


On Google Kubernetes Engine, create a network policy to manage pod-to-pod communications in your cluster. Use private clusters for private IPs and include Google Kubernetes Engine resources in a shared VPC.


Google Kubernetes Engine features many compliance certifications, including ISO 27001, ISO 27017, ISO 27108, HIPAA, and PCI-DSS.

Minimal host OS

Google Kubernetes Engine uses Container-Optimized OS (COS) by default, an OS purpose-built and optimized for running containers. COS is maintained by Google in open source.

Automatically upgraded components

On GKE, masters are automatically patched to the latest Kubernetes version, and you can use node auto-upgrade to keep your security up to date by automatically applying the latest patches for your nodes.

Customer-managed encryption keys

Users in regulated industries may need to be in control of the keys used to encrypt data stored in GKE. With customer-managed encryption keys, you can pick a key from Cloud KMS to protect your GKE persistent disk.

Application layer secrets encryption

By default, Kubernetes secrets are stored in plaintext. GKE encrypts these secrets on disk and monitors this data for insider access. But that alone might not be enough to protect those secrets from a malicious application in your environment. Application layer secrets encryption protects secrets with envelope encryption, with a key you manage in Cloud KMS.

Workload Identity

Your containerized application probably needs to connect to other services, like a database, to fulfill its duties. To do so, your application first needs to authenticate to them. Workload Identity uses a Google-managed service account to share credentials for authentication, following the principles of least privilege for application authentication.

Managed SSL certs

In GKE, HTTPS load balancers need to be associated with an SSL certificate. You can obtain, manage, and renew these certificates yourself, or have Google automatically obtain, manage and renew those certificates for you—saving you the burden of renewing (or forgetting to renew) them yourself.

Software supply chain

Software supply chain is about knowing exactly what's being deployed in your environment: that you control your applications, from code to image to deployment. These capabilities are typically built into your CI/CD pipeline, your container registry — such as Google Container Registry, and as an admission check before you deploy containers into production.

Secure and managed base images

Google Container Registry provides both a Debian and Ubuntu base image, maintained by Google with regular patching and testing. These Google-managed images have been remediated with the most recently available patches from upstream, so you can easily keep your images up to date without having to pull from an unknown repository or maintain the images yourself.

Vulnerability scanning

Google Container Registry provides vulnerability scanning to scan your images and packages for known vulnerabilities from the CVE database.

Deployment policies

On Google Kubernetes Engine, use Binary Authorization to limit what you deploy into your environment based on an image's attestations. You can require images to meet requirements defined by you in the form of attestations, or signatures, before being deployed. Requirements might include scanning the image for vulnerabilities or verification by the QA team.

Regular builds

Containers can be rebuilt and redeployed regularly, so you can benefit from the latest patches that are gradually rolled out to your environment.

Runtime security

Container runtime security is about ensuring that your security response team can detect and respond to security threats to containers running in your environment. These capabilities are typically built into your security operations tooling.


Google Kubernetes Engine is integrated with Cloud Logging for easy log analysis. You can also write security events to Cloud Security Command Center (Cloud SCC).

Anomalous activity detection

Leverage our partners to monitor for attacks and view results in Security Command Center, including: Aqua Security, Capsule8, StackRox, and Sysdig Secure.

Enforce security policies

PodSecurityPolicy is a feature of open source Kubernetes and helps you create guardrails for your containers by setting constraints on how your pods can run—for example, enforcing constraints like AppArmor and seccomp.


Prevent one malicious container from affecting another one. GKE Sandbox uses a userspace kernel to intercept and handle syscalls, adding defense-in-depth to your containers without changing how developers interact with their applications. GKE Sandbox is based on gVisor, an open source project created at Google.


Explore more information specific to container security.

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