Attackers turning to targeting cloud native environments: Kubernetes in the crosshairs

Published: Friday, 22 April 2022 08:40

Aqua Security has published new research from its threat research team, Nautilus, that demonstrates attackers are finding new ways to target cloud native environments. The research shows that adversaries are adopting more sophisticated techniques leveraging multiple attack components, and shifting attention to Kubernetes and the software supply chain.

The ‘2022 Cloud Native Threat Report: Tracking Software Supply Chain and Kubernetes Attacks and Techniques’ provides insight on trends and key takeaways for practitioners about the cloud native threat landscape.

Research revealed that adversaries are engaging with new tactics, techniques and procedures to specifically target cloud native environments. While cryptominers were the most common malware observed, with increasing frequency, Team Nautilus discovered an increased usage of backdoors, rootkits, and credential stealers - signs that intruders have more than cryptomining in their plans. Backdoors, which permit a threat actor to access a system remotely and are used to establish persistence in the compromised environment, were encountered in 54 percent of attacks (up 9 percent compared with in 2020). Additionally, half of the malicious container images (51 percent) analyzed by researchers contained worms, which allow attackers to increase the scope of their attack with minimal effort (up 10 percent compared with 2020).

Notably, threat actors also broadened their targets to include Kubernetes environments. In 2021, 19 percent of the malicious container images analyzed targeted Kubernetes, including kubelets and API servers, up 9 percent compared with the previous year.

“These findings underscore the reality that cloud native environments now represent a target for attackers, and that the techniques are always evolving,” said Assaf Morag, Threat Intelligence and Data Analyst Lead, Aqua’s Team Nautilus. “The broad attack surface of a Kubernetes cluster is attractive for threat actors, and then once they are in, they are looking for low-hanging fruit.”

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Sitaram Iyer, Global Security Architect at Jetstack:

“As the popularity of Kubernetes has risen, so too has the severity and frequency of attacks on them, as cybercriminals have realised that Kubernetes can be vulnerable. The cybercrime group TeamTNT has been a real exponent of this, having compromised more than 50,000 Kubernetes clusters over the last few years, spreading malware at will, and eventually launching a cryptominer.

“With the pace of innovation in cloud rocketing, so too is the number of machine identities in use for the deployed applications. Many of these applications will be spun up and down in a matter of seconds and are highly ephemeral . However, each application needs to be given an identity, which must be managed throughout its lifecycle. Enterprises are struggling to issue and manage these identities at cloud speed and scale. The result is new security risks due to mismanagement of machine identities"

“Zero trust is vital to protecting organizations against attacks targeting Kubernetes. Its important businesses stop blindly trusting everything within their build environments and instead adopt a stance whereby every component of the build pipeline is proactively challenged.”

“Automated machine identity is crucial to ensuring companies don’t kill the speed of development whilst deploying this zero trust model. Through automation, organisations can ensure the dynamic nature of cloud-native environments remain secure, as manually checking the provenance of every component of a build pipeline would take weeks. Developers need solutions that enable – instead of hinder – speed and security.”