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What is Container Scanning? – Detailed Guide

The deployment of applications in containers has seen steady growth thanks to its virtues of mobility and compatibility. However, containerized application development involves images that are often prone to threats. 

These vulnerabilities allow cyber attackers to gain access to the containers, the application in them, or even the main system. Threats like these call for powerful vulnerability-scanning tools for containers. 

So, what is container scanning? 

It is an analysis carried out by a set of automated tools that helps in determining whether an image in a container contains exploitable vulnerabilities. The tool compares the content of the containers with its database of known vulnerabilities and then notifies the security team when an anomaly is detected. 

We will discuss container scanning in detail in this guide and will also point out how CloudDefense.AI can help you achieve complete protection from container vulnerabilities. 

Let’s dive right in!

What is Container Scanning?

Container scanning, or container security scanning, focuses on scanning images in a container to spot any vulnerabilities. Images are templates that are used to create new containers. A vulnerability in any of these images can allow cyber attackers to gain access to the application container and steal sensitive data. 

Automated scanning tools that are used for containers help to monitor and scan them to find any vulnerable images continuously. This helps to make sure that none of the vulnerable images are used to create new containers. Considering container scanners for image security also contributes to improving the DevSecOps environment in some ways. 

Importance of Container Scanning

With the risk of containers being exploited increasing, it has become very important to include container scanning tools in organizations. Container scanning not only helps to identify vulnerabilities in a container image but also comes with many other benefits that make it ideal for a DevSecOps approach. 

Container scanning allows you to carry out compliance checks by vetting the application being developed to ensure it is adhering to industry security standards and regulations. Other than that, you can also detect misconfigurations through this tool. This is a huge plus, as misconfigurations often lead to potential vulnerabilities that can be exploited. 

Types of Container Security Scanning

Container security scanning technologies overlook a range of techniques to safeguard containerized applications. These technologies address various aspects of container security, and here’s a breakdown of their types:

  • Network Configuration Assessment: These tools focus on evaluating the network settings of Docker containers to detect and rectify potential configuration vulnerabilities.

  • Access Control: These technologies help manage container identities and access by enforcing role-based permissions, ensuring secure resource interaction.

  • Customized Security Policies: Tools for creating and enforcing tailor-made security policies for containers, aligning security measures with your organization’s unique requirements.

  • Open-Source Solutions: These freely available tools offer flexible and cost-effective container security options compatible with a variety of open-source technologies.

How Does Container Scanning Work? 

How Does Container Scanning Work?

Container scanning operates in three major steps that allow it to counter threats effectively. Firstly, the base images of a container are analyzed. Base images that are used to build a container often have software libraries and packages pre-loaded in them. These packages can cause runtime errors and open up potential vulnerabilities. 

Once the base images have been scanned, it is important to analyze third-party resources that are being used for your application. Third-party resources often come with vulnerabilities that can prove to be critical for you if you do not detect them on time. With runtime container scanning, all vulnerabilities are detected in real time. 

Lastly, container scanning helps to assess your application’s source code. This helps to make sure that there are no misconfigurations and other security issues that can become a potential threat in the future. 

Best Practices for Container Image Scanning

Just like any other technology, there are a few best practices that can help you improve the efficiency of container image scanning. 

Using Minimal Images:

Reducing base images helps in contracting the attack surface for a cyber attacker. It is advisable only to use light images. The lighter an image is, the lesser the probability of it containing a vulnerability that can be exploited. 

Scan Parent Images Thoroughly:

Docker images are created by building over a base image. Therefore, if the base image contains a vulnerability, all the other images built over it will be prone to attacks as well. It is necessary to ensure that the parent image doesn’t contain any known vulnerabilities by scanning it a few times. 

Infuse Container Image Scanning In The CI/CD Pipeline:

Continuous scanning of images is very important before building a container. The best and most efficient way to do this is by embedding the scanning process in the CI/CD pipeline. Implementing all the processes through a CI/CD pipeline helps in identifying vulnerabilities early on; this mitigates any chances of the vulnerabilities reaching the production environment. 

Scanning For Vulnerabilities In Third-party Resources:

Just as much as it is important to scan local libraries and frameworks, you also need to prioritize scanning third-party resources. 

Automating The Container Scanning Process:

To achieve a complete DevSecOps development environment, you must automate all container scanning processes. Other than that, consider enforcing policies that require all images and third-party resources to undergo screening. This helps in creating a healthy habit for your system security.  

Updating Base Images And Monitoring For New Vulnerabilities:

With time, base images can get outdated and open up vulnerabilities. It is important to keep checking for new updates so that the base images are at their most secure version. New vulnerabilities keep showing up in the industry as well. Always ensure that your security team is continuously updating the vulnerability databases with any vulnerability that pops up. 

Challenges in container scanning:

Container scanning can pose various challenges that organizations need to address:

  • Quality of Machine Learning: Modern container scanning tools resort to Machine Language models to leverage their efficiency. However, the effectiveness of these scans is highly dependent on how effective the ML model is. To achieve reliable results, organizations need to train these models with updated data, which again requires a lot of financial involvement. 

  • Scanning Depth and Tool Variability: Not all container scanning tools provide the same level of analysis. Most container scanning tools that are available in the market only scan the images and do not check for misconfiguration or other underlying vulnerabilities. Before selecting a tool, it is important to check whether it is sufficient for the company’s needs. 

  • Dealing with “Noise”: The issue of false positives and false negatives can introduce challenges in container scanning. False positives occur when a scanner incorrectly identifies a vulnerability that isn’t a real threat, potentially causing unnecessary concern and effort. Conversely, false negatives happen when a scanner fails to detect a genuine vulnerability, which can lead to significant security incidents. 

Container Scanning with CloudDefense.AI

CloudDefense.AI provides a cutting-edge one-stop solution for container security scanning. A platform that allows you to scan, secure, and monitor your containers with 100% coverage! Allowing you to effortlessly integrate vulnerability scans, enforce policies, and secure runtime environments for continuous protection and risk mitigation at scale.

Scanning containers with CloudDefense.AI also enables you to overcome some of the challenges that we have mentioned in this article. With Precise vulnerability assessment, CloudDefense.AI’s container scanner identifies vulnerabilities with its up-to-date database; this reduces any chances of false alarms or “noise.”

By implementing shift-left security for containers, CloudDefense.AI helps you to implement vulnerability checks early on in the development phase. Allowing you to integrate containerized application scanning into the CI/CD pipeline. 

Have complete protection from third-party resources with CloudDefense.AI’s capabilities of securing base images and docker files by scanning all their dependencies. On top of that, CloudDefense.AI’s platform is built around a powerful AI model that automatically detects all vulnerabilities for you in run-time, increasing development efficiency and performance. 

Most importantly, it provides you with holistic insight into your system’s vulnerability management. The platform offers crucial insights that empower your security team and strengthen them. Receive extensive security information and prioritize vulnerabilities that require immediate mitigation. CloudDefense.AI is certainly one of the best container scanning tools. 


What is the significance of container scanning?

Containers often have vulnerabilities that threat actors can exploit to steal data or gain access to a system. Companies that develop containerized applications should carry out container scans to ensure a secure development environment. 

Can container scanning tools be integrated into the CI/CD pipeline?

Yes, an automated approach to container scanning can help in integrating the whole process in a CI/CD pipeline. Tools such as CloudDefense.AI’s container scanning tools help in achieving that. Integrating container scanning into the CI/CD pipeline helps in identifying threats early on in the development process.

How often should containers be scanned for security vulnerabilities?

Container images should be scanned daily. Once while they are in the development pipeline, and again when they are in the production environment. Automating container image scans is the best way to address this process. 


As companies move to cloud-based environments, containerized applications have seen an exponential increase. This also gave rise to many vulnerabilities in container images being exploited by threat actors, calling for the inclusion of container scanning tools in all development areas. 

Container scanning not only helps to mitigate any risks involved with containerized applications but also helps in ensuring access controls and network issues that a system may face due to a misconfigured container. However, organizations need to invest in a container scanning tool that is developed around an efficient Machine Learning model and provides comprehensive results. 

CloudDefense.AI’s container and IaC scanning tool is a befitting answer to the threats that organizations face from container vulnerabilities. Allowing you to run all scans from one platform, it not only checks for vulnerabilities in your base images but also allows you to scan for misconfigurations in your containers using its powerful IaC scanning tool. Try it to believe it. Book a free demo with CloudDefense.AI right now. 

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Anshu Bansal
Anshu Bansal
Anshu Bansal, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and venture capitalist, currently co-founds CloudDefense.AI, a cybersecurity solution with a mission to secure your business by rapidly identifying and removing critical risks in Applications and Infrastructure as Code. With a background in Amazon, Microsoft, and VMWare, they contributed to various software and security roles.
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