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Tetragon 1.0 Promises a New Era of Kubernetes Security and Observability

The eBPF-based security observability and runtime enforcement platform has grown up and sped up.
Nov 15th, 2023 6:51am by
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A year and a half ago, Isovalent, a company that incorporates networking, security, Kubernetes, and eBPF into its programs, open sourced Tetragon. Now, this popular and useful eBPF-based security observability and runtime enforcement platform has reached its 1.0 milestone.

Tetragon 1.0 marks a significant milestone in Kubernetes security and observability. A primary focus for the 1.0 release has been on performance enhancement. Tetragon aims for minimal performance overhead while providing comprehensive security observability intelligence. This balance is critical for maintaining system efficiency without compromising security insights.

Tetragon, for those of you who don’t know it, is a Kubernetes-native tool that leverages eBPF for deep observability with minimal performance impact. It tracks a wide range of activities, including process execution, privilege escalations, and network activity. Its in-kernel runtime policies, enforced using eBPF, offer robust security postures against unauthorized actions and time-of-check time-of-use (TOCTOU) race condition attacks.

Although Tetragon’s heart, eBPF, is a Linux program, Tetragon is aware of Kubernetes and runs natively in Kubernetes as a DaemonSet. All security observability events are automatically enriched with Kubernetes metadata, such as pod names, labels, namespace information, and container SHAs. Observability and enforcement policies can be applied in a fine-grained manner to only apply to certain Kubernetes workloads.

Isovalent debuted version 1 of this tool at KubeCon+CloudNativeCon 2023, held last week in Chicago.

By using eBPF as the core mechanism for observing and filtering events in the kernel, Tetragon is highly efficient and has a minute footprint. By limiting the data transferred to userland to only relevant events, Tetragon reduces overhead, removes noise, and eliminates race conditions and unnecessary delay when taking enforcement action.

To use it for observability is simplicity itself. You just select policies from the policy library to immediately get a data-rich view of what’s happening inside your Linux machines and Kubernetes clusters.

Tetragon also stands out because it operates transparently with other programs. For example, it requires no changes to existing code. It also integrates seamlessly with other tools like Prometheus, Grafana, Splunk, and Elasticsearch for enhanced insights and proactive security measures.

As Jason Cetina, GitHub staff security engineer, said in a statement, “Tetragon provides our security teams with rich data that connects important network, process, and Kubernetes metadata into a single event record. Getting this combined view of activity allows us to answer questions about network activity on our clusters down to the node, namespace, pod, and container level. Even more, it was quick to set up and has minimal overhead, which is critical at our scale.”

With this release, Tetragon is a lot faster. Its performance benchmarks demonstrate its efficiency in various scenarios, including process execution tracking and scalable file monitoring, according to Isovalent.  This would make it ideal for auditing kubectl exec usage, correlating network and runtime telemetry, and implementing file integrity monitoring at scale. Its ability to monitor network connections for lateral movement is crucial for detecting network attacks quickly.

As Tetragon continues to evolve, it appears set to remain a powerful and efficient tool for Kubernetes security by offering a unique combination of deep observability and minimal performance impact.

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