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Enhancing Container Security in the CI/CD Pipeline with Amazon Inspector

Barath Arivazhagan, Cloud Solutions Architect, OpsGuru
Enhancing Container Security in the CI/CD Pipeline with Amazon Inspector

In the dynamic world of cloud computing, strong security measures are essential at every stage of the software development lifecycle. 

Organizations are increasingly exposed to sophisticated cybersecurity threats, so ‘shifting left” is not just a best practice; it is a strategic objective. It aligns with the need for agile and secure software development. Ensuring security is a continuous integrated process rather than something that happens moments before the software is promoted to production. As professionals, we must implement tools and practices that support this shift, ensuring security exists consistently across the environment. 

The recent integration of Amazon Inspector with CI/CD tools like Jenkins and TeamCity marks a new standard in cloud security. The integration goes beyond a technical milestone; it signifies a strategic shift in how we approach the security function during the development process, especially with containerized environments. 

Amazon Inspector has the ability to scan container images. Giving developers the ability to identify and address software vulnerabilities within their pipelines. We are seeing more organizations rely on containerized workflows for efficiency and scalability. 

Deploying Amazon Inspector moves the security function from a peripheral concern to a core element of the development workflow. Developers can now respond to security issues quickly and decisively, reinforcing the security of the entire software delivery pipeline. In short, Amazon Inspector closes the gap between the development and security teams.

Container Image Scanning in CI/CD Pipelines

By integrating container image scanning into the CI/CD workflow, development teams can automatically analyze images for vulnerabilities before deployment. This proactive approach allows for the identification of potential security risks early in the development lifecycle. Additionally, establishing policies to prevent deploying images with critical vulnerabilities ensures that only secure container images make their way into production, contributing to a more resilient and secure CI/CD pipeline.

The high-level workflow is as follows:

  • Developers contribute code changes by checking them into the Git repository.
  • Jenkins, configured with webhooks, is automatically triggered in response to code check-ins.
  • The pipeline's checkout stage retrieves the latest version of the source code from the designated repository.
  • In the subsequent build stage of the pipeline, a container image is built based on the build definition.
  • The Amazon Inspector Scan stage meticulously examines the container image for potential vulnerabilities.
  • If the vulnerability scan identifies any issues exceeding the defined threshold settings or if specific criteria are not met, an issue is raised. This, in turn, causes the build to fail and triggers an immediate email notification to alert developers.
  • Without any identified issues during the vulnerability scan, the container image proceeds to the final step. The validated and secure container image is seamlessly pushed to the Amazon Elastic Container Registry (ECR), making it available for deployment and further stages of the CI/CD pipeline.

The automated nature of Inspector's assessments streamlines the security review process, allowing developers to seamlessly integrate security into their CI/CD pipelines. This proactive approach not only enhances the overall security posture of applications but also fosters a culture of security awareness and continuous improvement within the development team. Ultimately, Amazon Inspector's findings empower developers to deliver secure and resilient software, meeting both regulatory requirements and the highest standards of security best practices. 

Furthermore, the Security Team plays a pivotal role by establishing threshold limits for the scans, ensuring that all container images must successfully meet these predefined criteria to progress to the next phase of the deployment pipeline. By defining these threshold limits, the Security Team sets stringent standards contributing to a robust security posture.

Amazon Inspector Vs ECR Image Scanning Integrating Security Feedback During the Build Process

The “shift-left” movement in software development and IT security is more than a passing fad; it is a welcomed evolution in the response capabilities for increasingly complex and more frequent security threats. In our experience, we have witnessed a significant shift in how security is baked into the software development lifecycle. Historically, security was often a final step - a gate that software had to pass through before making it into production. This approach no longer makes sense in the current, fast-paced, agile development environments where speed and continuous development are key.

Amazon Inspector’s integration into the CI/CD pipeline clearly represents this “shift left” philosophy by embedding security checks directly into the development process. Amazon Inspector enables developers to identify and rectify security vulnerabilities at the earliest possible stage. This proactive approach is essential for several reasons.

Reducing the overall cost of security

Issues which are identified and mitigated early in the dev cycle are exponentially cheaper and easier to fix than those discovered later in the process or worse, after the product has shipped. 

Enhancing the quality of the software

Integrating security controls from the onset ensures that the final product is not just functional but also secure by design. 

Fostering a culture of security

“Security is everyone’s business”. When developers are engaged with security from the beginning, it becomes second nature to them, not an afterthought.

Amazon Inspector Pricing: A Real-World Scenario

Imagine a software development team at a mid-sized tech company, working on a critical application. This team operates on a fast-paced schedule, aiming for weekly releases to roll out new features and updates. Their development pipeline is moving quickly, with multiple builds and deploys happening. Let’s take a closer look at how Amazon Inspector’s pricing model fits into this dynamic environment.

The DevOps team uses Amazon Inspector integrated with their CI/CD tools to scan container images for vulnerabilities. Given the frequency of their release cycle, they have a high number of builds – let’s say, on average, they perform 1000 builds in a month. Each build includes a container image that needs to be scanned for security vulnerabilities to ensure the integrity and security of their application.

Here's where Amazon Inspector's pricing model shines. AWS charges $0.03 per image scanned using their CI/CD solution. Let's break down the cost for this team:

  • Cost per image scanned: $0.03
  • Number of images scanned per job: 1 (as each build involves one container image)
  • Number of jobs per month: 1000 (aligned with their weekly release schedule)
  • The total cost for image scanning for a month would be:
  • Total cost=$0.03×1×1000=$30

This pricing model is particularly advantageous for the team. The on-demand pricing allows them to align their security expenses with actual usage, which is crucial given the variable nature of their workload. They pay only for what they use, ensuring that their security costs are always proportional to their development activity.

Selecting Amazon Inspector to manage your container image scanning requirements not only provides a budget-friendly solution but also improves your automated security controls. Ensuring compliance with industry best practices. This example showcases how Amazon Inspector’s pricing and features align perfectly with the demands of a dynamic “developer-first” environment.

Expanding on its suite of security services, Amazon Inspector stands out as a versatile security assessment tool, going beyond just EC2 instances. Inspector adeptly identifies vulnerabilities across a wide range of AWS infrastructure elements, including EC2 instances, applications, Lambda functions, and notably, container images. 

Consider the story of a dynamic software development team that uses Amazon Inspector within their CI/CD pipeline. They execute 1000 monthly builds, each requiring container image scans for security vulnerabilities. Amazon Inspector's cost-effective pricing model, charging just $0.03 per image scan, translates to a mere $30 per month for this high volume of activity, demonstrating its value in a real-world application scenario.

For teams like this and security-minded developers, Amazon Inspector is a tool that offers comprehensive and cost-effective security assessments. This approach ensures a holistic and unified security strategy, vital for maintaining the integrity and resilience of diverse AWS workloads. 

Amazon Inspector’s scalability, coupled with its on-demand pricing, makes it an ideal choice for organizations of various sizes and types, from fast-paced startups to established enterprises, aligning their security strategy with business requirements and developer workflows.

 If you would like to learn more and how OpsGuru can assist you, get in touch with us.

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