Overview of Microsoft Defender for Containers

Microsoft Defender for Containers is the cloud-native solution to improve, monitor, and maintain the security of your clusters, containers, and their applications.

Defender for Containers assists you with the three core aspects of container security:

  • Environment hardening - Defender for Containers protects your Kubernetes clusters whether they're running on Azure Kubernetes Service, Kubernetes on-premises/IaaS, or Amazon EKS. Defender for Containers continuously assesses clusters to provide visibility into misconfigurations and guidelines to help mitigate identified threats.

  • Vulnerability assessment - Vulnerability assessment and management tools for images stored in Azure Container Registry and Elastic Container Registry

  • Run-time threat protection for nodes and clusters - Threat protection for clusters and nodes generates security alerts for suspicious activities.

You can learn more by watching this video from the Defender for Cloud in the Field video series: Microsoft Defender for Containers.

Microsoft Defender for Containers plan availability

Aspect Details
Release state: General availability (GA)
Certain features are in preview, for a full list see the availability section.
Feature availability Refer to the availability section for additional information on feature release state and availability.
Pricing: Microsoft Defender for Containers is billed as shown on the pricing page
Required roles and permissions: • To deploy the required components, see the permissions for each of the components
Security admin can dismiss alerts
Security reader can view vulnerability assessment findings
See also Roles for remediation and Azure Container Registry roles and permissions
Clouds: Azure:
Commercial clouds
National clouds (Azure Government, Azure China 21Vianet) (Except for preview features))

Connected AWS accounts (Preview)
Connected GCP projects (Preview)
On-prem/IaaS supported via Arc enabled Kubernetes (Preview).

For more information about, see the availability section.


Continuous monitoring of your Kubernetes clusters - wherever they're hosted

Defender for Cloud continuously assesses the configurations of your clusters and compares them with the initiatives applied to your subscriptions. When it finds misconfigurations, Defender for Cloud generates security recommendations that are available on Defender for Cloud's Recommendations page. The recommendations let you investigate and remediate issues.

You can use the resource filter to review the outstanding recommendations for your container-related resources, whether in asset inventory or the recommendations page:

Screenshot showing you where the resource filter is located.

For details on the recommendations that might appear for this feature, check out the compute section of the recommendations reference table.

Kubernetes data plane hardening

To protect the workloads of your Kubernetes containers with tailored recommendations, you can install the Azure Policy for Kubernetes. Learn more about monitoring components for Defender for Cloud.

With the add-on on your AKS cluster, every request to the Kubernetes API server will be monitored against the predefined set of best practices before being persisted to the cluster. You can then configure it to enforce the best practices and mandate them for future workloads.

For example, you can mandate that privileged containers shouldn't be created, and any future requests to do so will be blocked.

You can learn more about Kubernetes data plane hardening.

Vulnerability assessment

Defender for Containers scans the containers in Azure Container Registry (ACR) and Amazon AWS Elastic Container Registry (ECR) to notify you if there are known vulnerabilities in your images. When the scan completes, Defender for Containers provides details for each vulnerability detected, a security classification for each vulnerability detected, and guidance on how to remediate issues and protect vulnerable attack surfaces.

Learn more about:

Run-time protection for Kubernetes nodes and clusters

Defender for Containers provides real-time threat protection for supported containerized environments and generates alerts for suspicious activities. You can use this information to quickly remediate security issues and improve the security of your containers. Threat protection at the cluster level is provided by the Defender agent and analysis of the Kubernetes audit logs. Examples of events at this level include exposed Kubernetes dashboards, creation of high-privileged roles, and the creation of sensitive mounts.

Defender for Containers also includes host-level threat detection with over 60 Kubernetes-aware analytics, AI, and anomaly detections based on your runtime workload. For a full list of the cluster level alerts, see the reference table of alerts.

Defender for Cloud monitors the attack surface of multicloud Kubernetes deployments based on the MITRE ATT&CK® matrix for Containers, a framework developed by the Center for Threat-Informed Defense in close partnership with Microsoft.

FAQ - Defender for Containers

What are the options to enable the new plan at scale?

You can use the Azure Policy Configure Microsoft Defender for Containers to be enabled, to enable Defender for Containers at scale. You can also see all of the options that are available to enable Microsoft Defender for Containers.

Does Microsoft Defender for Containers support AKS clusters with virtual machines scale sets?


Does Microsoft Defender for Containers support AKS without scale set (default)?

No. Only Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) clusters that use Virtual Machine Scale Sets for the nodes is supported.

Do I need to install the Log Analytics VM extension on my AKS nodes for security protection?

No, AKS is a managed service, and manipulation of the IaaS resources isn't supported. The Log Analytics VM extension isn't needed and may result in extra charges.

Learn More

Learn more about Defender for Containers in the following blogs:

The release state of Defender for Containers is broken down by two dimensions: environment and feature. So, for example:

  • Kubernetes data plane recommendations for AKS clusters are GA
  • Kubernetes data plane recommendations for EKS clusters are preview

To view the status of the full matrix of features and environments, see Microsoft Defender for Containers feature availability.

Next steps

In this overview, you learned about the core elements of container security in Microsoft Defender for Cloud. To enable the plan, see: