Building secure Docker images

Posted on | 508 words | ~3mins

A lot was written about Docker security and how to run Docker in a secure way. But there are not many articles describing how to write Docker images, which are secure and easy to maitain. According to this article over 30% of the official Docker images published to Docker Hub contain some security vuleabilities.

Here is my list of rules to follow when I’m building Docker images:

  • Do not run as “root” - almost every image published on Docker hub does not set the USER instruction, which means they expect to be run as the root user. Where Docker provides some level of isolation, it is never bad idea to add yet another barrier for the malicious process to escape from the Docker container. For example in OpenShift the default rule is set to disallow running containers as “root” and instead the container is started using random user ID. You can create non-privileged user in Dockerfile and use USER foo instruction at the end. Then make writeable only those directories you know the process running in the container is going to write to.

  • Use nss_wrapper if necessary - if the process that run inside container really need to have UID to user name mapping, you can use nss_wrapper to provide it.

  • Do not update the base image - this is not that much security related, but you should learn to trust the base image provider. It is really his job to keep the base image content up-to-date for you. That also include all security fixes, testing, verifications, etc.. If you do update the software in your image yourself, you might, by accident pull some insecure/untested bits (it happens…). If the base Docker image provider does not update the base image frequently, maybe it is time to move to another base image.

  • Avoid curl|bash - this is always a bad idea. You really don’t have a control over the shell script that you pull from the internet.

  • The :latest is not a version - you should version your image properly. Use Docker tags to do so.

  • It is better to freeze dependencies - instead of always pulling the “latest” versions of Ruby gems, Python modules, NPM modules, etc. it is better to explicitly lock the versions your application is using when building the image. Also it is sometimes better to vendor them in same repository where you have your Dockerfile (how often is down?). Following this rule means you will be able to consistently rebuild the image without ending up with different versions.

  • Verify content you download - gnupg is your friend in case you using ADD from a HTTP(S) location. Make sure what you downloaded is really what you expected.

  • Do not rely on squashing - scary right? You add a secret password file in one layer, use it in another layer and remove it in third layer. Now you squash the final image to minimize the size of layers and the secret password file is back. Always verify that before you pushing content to Docker hub.