Container Security in DevOps: The Role of SSL/TLS Certificates

Container Security in DevOps: The Role of SSL/TLS Certificates

The use of containers in DevOps is on the rise. Gartner’s report predicts that by 2027, 90% of organizations globally will be running containerized applications in their production pipelines.

Containers have fundamentally transformed the way applications are developed, deployed, and managed across the development and operations pipelines. They are highly exchangeable and compatible to collaborate across development and operation lifecycles.

Similar to other software, containers aren't immune to vulnerabilities. Containers face serious security risks. It is no surprise that global container security market projections highlight immense growth at a rate of 28% from 2023 to 2033. However, DevOps teams can ensure container safety with SSL/TLS certificates. In this blog, you’ll get to know what are container security risks and how DevOps can address the vulnerabilities by using SSL certificates.

What are Containers?

Containers are a standard unit of software. It packages a code along with its associated configurations, libraries, and dependencies. While containerization and DevOps increase productivity and flexibility, they also deliver unique security challenges. This OS-level virtualization ensures that applications run seamlessly and consistently across varied computing environments, be it on a local machine, a developer's computer, or a cloud server.

The Benefits of Containers in DevOps

Containers concord with DevOps teams seamlessly. Their efficient integration, deployment applicability, and automation testing across an organization streamline DevOps practices. Result? DevOps teams get more time for quality experimentation and futuristic innovations.

Other benefits of containers are like this:

  • Brings much-needed agility and flexible integration with existing technology.
  • Easy to run in any production environment and device: Mac, Windows, Cloud, and Linux
  • Easy and fast deployment and development with scalability.
  • Zero dependence on the system configuration.
  • Shares the OS kernel, eliminating the need for a separate OS per app.

Containers Fundamentals: Docker and Kubernetes

Docker set the gold standard for container portability. It's known for its robust isolation features and stands out as a top container platform, complemented by Linux and CRI-O. Docker and Kubernetes further amplify the significance of containers in the DevOps paradigm.

Docker provides a platform to create, deploy, and run applications in containers. It ensures that the application behaves the same regardless of where the container is run.

On the contrary, Kubernetes is an open-source container orchestration platform. It handles the management of application containers across host clusters, including their deployment, scaling, and operations. Together, they provide a synergy that speeds up the development, rollout, and growth of business apps. The main difference between Docker and Kubernetes is that the latter controls entire clusters of containers, guaranteeing their availability, fault tolerance, and scalability.

Efficient Management with Multiple Container Orchestration

To develop an application, more than one container is required. Load balancing and microservice necessitate the use of several containers. Here, container clusters come into the picture. Container orchestration platforms like Kubernetes and Docker Swarm manage these clusters of containers.

For instance, Kubernetes container orchestrations allow DevOps to run multiple containers and practices in various application cycles. Container orchestration manages operational complexity through rough automated deployment, management, scaling, and networking. The construction of the microservices makes use of orchestrators that are compatible with all of the languages and frameworks to make administration easier.

Similarly, Docker Swarm simplifies and streamlines the process of creating and managing a cluster of Docker nodes. In the Swarm orchestration, there is one manager node that manages and orchestrates worker nodes that run the Docker containers. They have built-in load balancing, which ensures smooth and optimal distribution of workloads across all nodes in a cluster.

Container Security Risks

Developers optimize containerized applications using open-source software. This exposes infrastructure to numerous security risks. As containers evolve as obvious security targets, companies can use SSL/TLS certificates. SSL/TLS certificates are one of the ways that can safeguard container safety. They encrypt communication between containers and authenticate the identity of containers.

After all, this bolstered container pipeline's safety can keep the containers reliable and fully trusted. A robust container development security can stop anything malicious from entering the container.

Deep Dive: Technical Aspects of Container Security

In the dynamic domain of container security, more than mere surface-level measures are required. Delving deeper, vulnerabilities in container images—like unpatched software or hard-coded credentials—pose substantial threats, such as container breakouts or DDoS attacks.

While SSL/TLS certificates offer encrypted communication channels, their intricate management in container orchestration platforms like Kubernetes, where components are ephemeral, is challenging. Mutual TLS (mTLS) becomes vital, ensuring bidirectional authentication in microservices communication. Yet, SSL/TLS is just one facet of a holistic security approach that encompasses network policies, runtime security, and tools like cert-manager that intertwine SSL/TLS management with container security.

As Service Mesh solutions like Istio emerge, offering out-of-the-box mTLS for containerized environments, it underscores the evolving complexity and necessity of intertwining container operations with robust security layers. Whereas most container development tools already come with basic security features like:

  • Allowing users to run images without any admin rights.
  • Running all containers in a Linux Virtual Machine (VM) as it isolates them from the underlying Mac/ Windows/Linux host.
  • Preventing containers from unauthorized access to host files.
  • Equipped with basic configurations for network proxies, registries, tool updates, host file sharing, and more.

The Role of SSL/TLS Certificates

The "TLS/SSL handshake" is an invisible process that happens almost instantly every time you visit a website. It creates a protective connection between a web server and the browser. Although some container development tools come with basic security functionality, more is needed. The reason is that these tools are not enough only, and that's why DevOps should consider using SSL certificates. Far and away, the best is to choose a cheap SSL certificate as it ensures the security compliance and the identity of both containers and the code within it. Let's delve deep into how it will do:

  • SSL/TLS secures container registries that enhance the confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity of communication channels.
  • It seamlessly encrypts communication between services in a microservices architecture.
  • Successfully mitigate the security risks.
  • Streamline compliance with regulations.
  • Fost trust in the DevOps environment.
  • Encrypt end users' information during transfers.
  • Ensures encryption across container communication.

DevOps teams use SSL/TLS certificates to ensure secure communication protocols. They work by browsers validating the SSL/TLS certificate of any website to start and maintain secure connections with the website server. However, this secure channel ensures the encryption of all communication between your web browser and the website, protecting private data and authenticating organization identity by proving that users are communicating with appropriate website owners.

How does SSL/ TLS Work to Secure Communication?

SSL/TLS (Secure Socket Layer/Transport Layer Security) certificates are a must for web security. It establishes secure communication over the Internet. They show encrypted links between a web server and a browser and ensure that all shared data between DevOps teams and across the containers remain private and secure. Moreover, a secured handshake is initiated by SSL/TLS to establish the techniques of encryption and the keys to be used. Here are some other ways that can enhance container security using SSL certificates:

Key Pair

SSL/TLS relies on public and private keys. As the name suggests, the public key is open, and the private key is confidential. A container encrypted with the public key can only be decrypted with the private key. This private key is shared among selective people only. As a result, the risk of data breach significantly declines.

Certificate Authority

SSL certificate establishes certificate authority for organizations and websites. So when anyone from the DevOps team sends CSR, the certificate verifies the identity prior to allowing access. 

Data Integrity and Authentication

Apart from ensuring data confidentiality through encryption, SSL/TLS certificates also offer data integrity. This saves the container code packages from any adulteration.

Public Trust Infrastructure

Operating systems come with a pre-installed list of trusted Certificate Authorities. If an SSL/TLS certificate is issued by one of these certificate authorities, the operating system will trust it. This system of trust is crucial for the functioning of SSL/TLS on the public internet.

End-to-end Encryption

As data is encrypted on the sender's side and decrypted on the recipient's side, intermediaries (like ISPs or hackers) cannot easily hack and alter the information, ensuring privacy and security. Moreover, this level of protection is especially critical when communicating sensitive information like login credentials or financial information.


Containers bring standardization to DevOps practices by inducing much-required agility and saving microservices that suffer from load time and traffic. As a result, each cog of the DevOps teams performs to their best abilities without compromising on the quality.

However, the need for a secure container has been brought to light by various sources, including image vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, runtime threats, ethical practices, and compliance standards. However, teams may solve this mystery by adding SSL certificates to their container lifecycles.