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Concepts and background

The following sections give you the concepts and background information about the scans provided by KubeClarity.

1 - Software bill of materials

A software bill of materials (SBOM) is a list of all the components, libraries, and other dependencies that make up a software application, along with information about the versions, licenses, and vulnerabilities associated with each component. They are formal, structured documents detailing the components of a software product and its supply chain relationships.

SBOMs are important because organizations increasingly rely on open source and third-party software components to build and maintain their applications. These components can introduce security vulnerabilities and must be adequately managed and updated. SBOMs help you understand what open source and third-party components are used in your applications, and identify and address any security vulnerabilities.

Under specific scenarios, generating and publishing SBOMs is mandatory for compliance with regulations and industry standards that require organizations to disclose the use of open source and third-party software in their products.

SBOM standards

There are several related standards, for example, CycloneDX, SPDX, SWID.

SPDX (Software Package Data Exchange) is a standard format for communicating a software package’s components, licenses, and copyrights. It is commonly used to document the open source components included in a proprietary software product. SPDX files can be easily read and understood by humans and machines, making it easy to track and manage open source components in a software project. SPDX format is supported by Linux Foundation.

CycloneDX is an open source standard for creating software bill of materials files. It is like SPDX in that it documents the components and licenses associated with a software package, but it is specifically designed for use in software supply chain security. CycloneDX is a more lightweight format compared to SPDX, which is intended to be more detailed. CycloneDX format is supported by OWASP.

SBOM architecture

A typical SBOM architecture can be laid out as a tree-like dependency graph with the following key elements:

  • Component inventory: Information about the components, libraries, and other assets used in the software, including version numbers, licenses, and vulnerabilities.
  • Dependency mapping: A map of relationships between different components and libraries, showing how they depend on each other and how changes to one may impact the other.
  • License management: It should also include information about the licenses of the components and libraries used to ensure that the software complies with legal and ethical obligations.

SBOM generators

There are two typical ways to generate SBOM: during the build process, or after the build and deployment using a Software Composition Analysis tool. Trivy and Syft are two noteworthy open source generators among many other generators, including open source and commercial. Both use CycloneDX format. It is also important to note that not all SBOMs can be generated equally. Each generator may pick up a few language libraries better than the others based on its implementation. It might take multiple runs through a few different types of generators to draw comprehensive insights.

KubeClarity content analyzer integrates with the following SBOM generators:

Multiple SBOMs for accuracy

KubeClarity can run multiple SBOM generators in parallel, and unify their results to generate a more accurate document.

In such cases, KubeClarity compiles a merged SBOM from multiple open source analyzers, and delivers a comprehensive SBOM document report. Although KubeClarity does not generate SBOMs, it integrates with popular generators so that a combined document can provide amplified inputs that can be further analyzed using vulnerability scanners. Leveraging multiple SBOM documents can improve visibility into software dependency posture.

KubeClarity formats the merged SBOM to comply with the input requirements of vulnerability scanners before starting vulnerability scans.

Note: KubeClarity can merge vulnerability scans from various sources like Grype and Trivy to generate a robust vulnerability scan report.

Scan SBOM documents for vulnerabilities

You can feed the generated SBOM documents to vulnerability scanners, which analyze the SBOMs and generate a vulnerability report detailing all known and fixed CVEs of the software components listed by SBOM.

Generate SBOM

For details on generating SBOMs with KubeClarity, see the Getting started and Generate SBOM.

2 - Kubernetes cluster runtime scan

Scanning your runtime Kubernetes clusters is essential to proactively detect and address vulnerabilities in real-time, ensuring the security and integrity of your applications and infrastructure. By continuously monitoring and scanning your clusters, you can mitigate risks, prevent potential attacks, and maintain a strong security posture in the dynamic Kubernetes environment.

Runtime scan features

KubeClarity enhance the runtime scanning experience:

Faster runtime scan

KubeClarity optimizes the scanning process, reducing the time required to detect vulnerabilities. This allows for quicker identification and remediation of potential security risks.

Reduce image TAR pulling

KubeClarity uses an efficient approach that avoids the unnecessary overhead of fetching the complete image tar.

Cache SBOMs

If an image has already been scanned, KubeClarity uses the cached SBOM data, avoiding time-consuming image retrieval and recomputing, improving overall efficiency.

Runtime scan architecture

The following figure illustrates the structure of a runtime scanning architecture. This layout visually represents the components and their interconnections within the runtime scanning system.

KubeClarity Runtime Scan Architecture

Perform runtime scan

For details on performing runtime scans with KubeClarity, see the Getting started and Runtime scan.

3 - Vulnerability scanning

Vulnerability scanning identifies weak spots in software code and dependencies. Vulnerability scanners can identify infrastructure, networks, applications, or website vulnerabilities. These tools scan various target systems for security flaws that attackers could exploit.

The scanners use the information contained in the SBOM to identify vulnerabilities and potential security risks within software applications. Vulnerability scanners use SBOM information to:

  • Identify vulnerable components: Scanners use the SBOM to identify a software application’s components, then cross-reference this information with known vulnerabilities and security issues to identify vulnerable components within the software.
  • Prioritize vulnerabilities: After the vulnerability scanner has identified all vulnerable components within the software application, it uses the SBOM to prioritize the vulnerabilities so you can focus on the most critical vulnerabilities.
  • Identify supply chain risks: SBOMs provide visibility into the software supply chain, enabling vulnerability scanners to identify third-party or security risks. As a result, organizations can mitigate supply chain risks and reduce their overall security exposure.
  • Track changes and updates: Software vulnerability scanners use SBOM information to determine whether software changes have introduced new vulnerabilities or security risks.

The SBOM is a critical tool for vulnerability scanners, providing the information needed to identify, prioritize, and mitigate security risks within software applications. In addition, scanners also rely on other types of inputs, as listed below.

KubeClarity and vulnerability scanning

KubeClarity isn’t a vulnerability scanner but integrates with top opensource vulnerability scanners. It also helps with prioritization and risk management by visualization and filtering. It is often necessary to prioritize CVEs because of the sheer volume of identified CVEs. With KubeClarity’s vulnerability trending dashboard and APIs, you can locate and double-click into a specific CVE in your application or infrastructure.

KubeClarity features a range of flexible and dynamic filters that help map CVEs down to an application->package->Image level. Additionally, it normalizes reports from multiple scanners and calculates missing CVSS (Common Vulnerability Scoring System) scores.

KubeClarity vulnerability scanner integrates with the following scanners:

KubeClarity supports both automatic scans to find common vulnerabilities quickly and efficiently, and manual scans to help verify automated scans, and also to help identify more complex and less common vulnerabilities. In addition to conventional scans, KubeClarity also provides multi-scanner integration.

Multi-scanner architecture

KubeClarity infrastructure enables multiple scanners’ configuration and simultaneous operation. Scanners in KubeClarity are designed to work in parallel.

The following figure shows the multi-scanner architecture for vulnerability scanning: KubeClarity preprocesses the SBOMs so they conform to the specific formatting requirements of the specific scanner. Each scanner may have different types and unique formatting expectations. The scanners analyze the incoming data and generate vulnerability outputs in their native formats.

Multi-scanner architecture

KubeClarity can merge the vulnerability reports of different scanners, to include severity levels, sources, and available fixes. These reports serve as valuable outputs, allowing you to filter and focus on specific areas of vulnerabilities for further investigation and resolution.

Run vulnerability scans

For details on running vulnerability scans with KubeClarity, see the Getting started and Vulnerability scan.