Kubernetes Compliance: An In-Depth Guide to Governance

Gigi Kenneth
Minute Read

Understanding Kubernetes compliance and governance is of great importance, as it impacts the security and strength of your Kubernetes environment.

Developers need to prioritize these security measures and understand these existing standards and policies to prevent unauthorized access, protect user data, and reduce risks of security breaches.

In this post, we'll go over what Kubernetes governance and compliance are, look at a few important compliance standards, explore different types of logs that could help with compliance, and identify security measures that can help make the Kubernetes environment at your organization more secure.

Let's begin with some definitions.

What Is Kubernetes Governance?

Kubernetes governance refers to policies and processes that involve defining how Kubernetes environments and clusters are managed. This is important for ensuring clusters are stable and secure.

It's also important to ensure development efforts meet the organization's needs, including maintainers, users, etc., who are involved in the development and management of the Kubernetes project.

Hence, enforcing these standards ensures businesses reduce risk and avoid potential security breaches.

What Is Kubernetes Compliance?

Kubernetes compliance concerns the ability of a cluster to observe relevant industry and regulatory standards.

It could involve implementing strategies that enforce the security and privacy of Kubernetes environments and ensure that user data and applications within organizations are protected.

Compliance Standards

Compliance standards are crucial for organizations and developers to understand and implement.

Here are a few of the important compliance standards available:

1. PCI Compliance

The Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) developed PCI or PCI DSS (the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard), which is a security standard.

This standard aims to ensure that sensitive cardholder data is protected throughout a payment and to avoid security breaches that could compromise cardholder information confidentiality.

It's necessary for companies that handle credit card transactions to achieve PCI compliance.

Is Kubernetes PCI Compliant?

Kubernetes can be PCI compliant by implementing necessary technical controls and policies such as data encryption at rest and in transit, as well as ensuring restricted access to sensitive data.

2. NIST Compliance

The US government's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is an agency that provides cybersecurity guidelines and best practices.

For organizations that deal with sensitive information, it's important for them to be NIST compliant.

Is Kubernetes NIST Compliant?

It's possible to achieve compliance by implementing technical controls and policies such as preventing access to sensitive data and implementing encryption and access controls.


In the European Union, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) seeks to protect the privacy and personal data of individuals residing there.

This applies to all organizations and platforms that process or store the personal data of European citizens regardless of location in the world.

Is Kubernetes GDPR Compliant?

Organizations can achieve compliance by deploying Kubernetes in a GDPR-compliant manner by implementing the necessary technical measures.

Such measures include encryption, managing access controls, monitoring and auditing Kubernetes activities, implementing data retention policies, conducting regular GDPR audits, and ensuring the compliance of container images and applications.


The Health Insurance and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a US-based federal law that protects health information by setting privacy and security standards held by health care providers, health plans, etc.

Organizations that use Kubernetes to deploy and manage applications that process electronic protected health information (ePHI) must comply with the HIPAA Security Rule.

Is Kubernetes HIPAA Complaint?

You can take several steps to ensure HIPAA compliance. This includes encryption, managing access controls, conducting risk assessments to identify potential risks to the confidentiality and integrity of ePHI, logging and auditing to track and analyze system activity, implementing data backup and disaster recovery plans, and ensuring compliance of container images and applications.

5. Other Compliance Standards

Some other compliance standards that may be relevant to Kubernetes users include SOC 2 (Systems and Organization Controls 2), ISO 27001, NIST cybersecurity frameworks, and other regulations that may be similar to GDPR in other regions such as the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) in Canada and the Act on the Protection of Personal Information (APPI) in Japan.

Logs That Can Help with Compliance

Here are some logs that can help with compliance:

1. Audit Logs

You can use audit logs to record all user activity and system events within a Kubernetes environment. These logs are essential when investigating security events, tracking changes within the system, and ensuring regulatory requirements are met.

2. Application Logs

These are used to record events generated by applications running within the Kubernetes environment.

In addition, they come in handy when identifying errors, troubleshooting issues, and monitoring application performance.

3. System Logs

These are used to record events related to the operating system and infrastructure components in the Kubernetes environment such as network traffic, disk usage, and system errors.

Further, they're helpful when identifying and diagnosing issues with the underlying infrastructure and ensuring that everything is performing as expected.

4. Container Logs

Container logs are used to record events generated by individual containers running in the Kubernetes environment.

Therefore, these logs are helpful when identifying issues with specific containers, tracking resource usage, and monitoring application performance.

You can learn more about Kubernetes logging here.

Is Kubernetes a Security Risk?

If not properly configured, managed, secured, and maintained, Kubernetes may pose a security risk.

But with the right security measures put into place, Kubernetes can serve as a secure and reliable platform for container orchestration.

In the next section, we'll review some of these security measures.

To enhance Kubernetes security, here are some practices to follow:

1. Strong Authentication

Configuring RBAC (role-based access control) and authentication mechanisms is essential for securing Kubernetes clusters.

With this, you can grant permissions to specific users and groups, ensuring that only authorized personnel can access and modify Kubernetes resources. Also, TLS certificates can be used to secure and encrypt communication between components.

While RBAC comes built into Kubernetes, its implementation can be tricky and confusing. Learn about Kubernetes RBAC: Basics and Advanced Patterns

2. Network Policies

Network policies can help define rules for traffic flow within a cluster.

Also, they prevent unauthorized access by allowing you to specify which pods can communicate with each other and which protocols and ports are allowed. Thus, this reduces the attack surface and improves the overall security of your Kubernetes environment.

3. Encryption

Kubernetes secrets often contain sensitive information such as login credentials and API keys.

When these secrets are encrypted, you can ensure that attackers who want to compromise the Kubernetes environment cannot easily access this information.

You can do this by enabling encryption for data when it's at rest and in transit. Likewise, by using TLS for communication between components and encrypting Kubernetes secrets, your environment's security will significantly improve.

4. Resource Limits and Quotas

By settling resource limits and quotas, you can prevent a DoS (denial-of-service) attack while ensuring your clusters aren't overloaded with requests that could impact performance.

These limits can control the maximum amount of CPU and memory a container can use.

Furthermore, quotas can help you prevent malicious or poorly designed applications from consuming too many resources.


Kubernetes compliance and governance are important to understand and stay up to date with. That's because they're an integral part of maintaining the security and integrity of your Kubernetes environment.

Although Kubernetes may come with some inherent security and compliance risks, these risks can be mitigated by following best practices and working with trusted partners like Loft to manage and scale your Kubernetes infrastructure.

This post was written by Gift “Gigi” Kenneth. Gift is a machine learning engineer with a background in biochemistry. She has gained experience from building projects, startups, working on research, and contributing to open source. She’s passionate about technology, especially artificial intelligence, its applications in a variety of domains, and how it will impact the future of work. She loves writing, reading books, and learning new things.

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