Containers for the Under-Privileged


Security continues to be a nagging concern inhibiting broader adoption of containers in the enterprise.  One of the main reasons for the concern is the need to run container managers (Docker, LXC or what have you) with superuser privileges.  So far the industry has not been able to figure out a way to create containers without requiring root privileges.  As a result, running an application as a container stretches the privilege footprint of the application.  That is, an application that could be run entirely as a regular user, now suddenly requires intervention from the root user.

Several container-security solutions have come up that attempt to address the issue through a complex setup of defenses via external firewalls and detection mechanisms.  However, making containers truly secure requires addressing the very root cause of the problem.  If containers can be created and run without requiring additional privilege, running containerized applications won’t expose the enterprises to higher security risk.

Following his original work on containers, our CTO, Dr. Dinesh Subhraveti has been working on two important related problems with respect to containers — security and networking.  He addresses both of them with his new innovation, AppSwitch.  When integrated with AppSwitch, a standard container manager would no longer require root privileges to create containers.  Privilege required to run a container would then be the same as the privilege required to run the application it hosts.  Furthermore, the same underlying technology also offers a number of other key features leveraged by our AppVizor and AppPorter platforms.

Listen to Dinesh speak about AppSwitch and how it can make containers fundamentally more secure at Linuxpiter #4.  Check out the conference website for more details.