Use Defender for Containers to scan your Azure Container Registry images for vulnerabilities

This article explains how to use Defender for Containers to scan the container images stored in your Azure Resource Manager-based Azure Container Registry, as part of the protections provided within Microsoft Defender for Cloud.

To enable scanning of vulnerabilities in containers, you have to enable Defender for Containers. When the scanner, powered by Qualys, reports vulnerabilities, Defender for Cloud presents the findings and related information as recommendations. In addition, the findings include related information such as remediation steps, relevant CVEs, CVSS scores, and more. You can view the identified vulnerabilities for one or more subscriptions, or for a specific registry.

Defender for Cloud filters and classifies findings from the scanner. Images without vulnerabilities are marked as healthy and Defender for Cloud doesn't send notifications about healthy images to keep you from getting unwanted informational alerts.

The triggers for an image scan are:

  • On push - Whenever an image is pushed to your registry, Defender for Containers automatically scans that image. To trigger the scan of an image, push it to your repository.

  • Recently pulled - Since new vulnerabilities are discovered every day, Microsoft Defender for Containers also scans, on a weekly basis, any image that has been pulled within the last 30 days. There's no extra charge for these rescans because you're billed once per image.

  • On import - Azure Container Registry has import tools to bring images to your registry from an existing registry. Microsoft Defender for Containers scans any supported images you import. Learn more in Import container images to a container registry.

  • Continuous scan- This trigger has two modes:

    • A continuous scan based on an image pull. This scan is performed every seven days after an image was pulled, and only for 30 days after the image was pulled. This mode doesn't require the security profile, or extension.

    • Continuous scan for running images. This scan is performed every seven days for as long as the image runs. This mode runs instead of the above mode when the Defender profile, or extension is running on the cluster.

When a scan is triggered, findings are available as Defender for Cloud recommendations from 2 minutes up to 15 minutes after the scan is complete.


Before you can scan your ACR images:

  • Enable Defender for Containers for your subscription. Defender for Containers is now ready to scan images in your registries.


    This feature is charged per image.

  • If you want to find vulnerabilities in images stored in other container registries, you can import the images into ACR and scan them.

    Use the ACR tools to bring images to your registry from Docker Hub or Microsoft Container Registry. When the import completes, the imported images are scanned by the built-in vulnerability assessment solution.

    Learn more in Import container images to a container registry

    You can also scan images in Amazon AWS Elastic Container Registry directly from the Azure portal.

For a list of the types of images and container registries supported by Microsoft Defender for Containers, see Availability.

View and remediate findings

  1. To view the findings, open the Recommendations page. If issues were found, you'll see the recommendation Container registry images should have vulnerability findings resolved.

    Screenshot showing the recommendation line.

  2. Select the recommendation.

    The recommendation details page opens with additional information. This information includes the list of registries with vulnerable images ("Affected resources") and the remediation steps.

  3. Select a specific registry to see the repositories in it that have vulnerable repositories.

    Screenshot showing where to select a specific registry.

    The registry details page opens with the list of affected repositories.

  4. Select a specific repository to see the repositories in it that have vulnerable images.

    Screenshot showing select specific image to see vulnerabilities.

    The repository details page opens. It lists the vulnerable images together with an assessment of the severity of the findings.

  5. Select a specific image to see the vulnerabilities.

    Select images.

    The list of findings for the selected image opens.

    Screenshot showing list of findings for the selected image.

  6. To learn more about a finding, select the finding.

    The findings details pane opens.

    Screenshot showing details about a specific finding.

    This pane includes a detailed description of the issue and links to external resources to help mitigate the threats.

  7. Follow the steps in the remediation section of this pane.

  8. When you've taken the steps required to remediate the security issue, replace the image in your registry:

    1. Push the updated image to trigger a scan.

    2. Check the recommendations page for the recommendation Container registry images should have vulnerability findings resolved.

      If the recommendation still appears and the image you've handled still appears in the list of vulnerable images, check the remediation steps again.

    3. When you're sure the updated image has been pushed, scanned, and is no longer appearing in the recommendation, delete the “old” vulnerable image from your registry.

Disable specific findings


The Azure Preview Supplemental Terms include additional legal terms that apply to Azure features that are in beta, preview, or otherwise not yet released into general availability.

If you have an organizational need to ignore a finding, rather than remediate it, you can optionally disable it. Disabled findings don't affect your secure score or generate unwanted noise.

When a finding matches the criteria you've defined in your disable rules, it won't appear in the list of findings. Typical scenarios include:

  • Disable findings with severity below medium
  • Disable findings that are non-patchable
  • Disable findings with CVSS score below 6.5
  • Disable findings with specific text in the security check or category (for example, “RedHat”, “CentOS Security Update for sudo”)


To create a rule, you need permissions to edit a policy in Azure Policy.

Learn more in Azure RBAC permissions in Azure Policy.

You can use any of the following criteria:

  • Finding ID
  • Category
  • Security check
  • CVSS v3 scores
  • Severity
  • Patchable status

To create a rule:

  1. From the recommendations detail page for Container registry images should have vulnerability findings resolved, select Disable rule.

  2. Select the relevant scope.

  3. Define your criteria.

  4. Select Apply rule.

    Screenshot showing how to create a disable rule for VA findings on registry.

  5. To view, override, or delete a rule:

    1. Select Disable rule.
    2. From the scope list, subscriptions with active rules show as Rule applied. Modify or delete an existing rule.
    3. To view or delete the rule, select the ellipsis menu ("...").

View vulnerabilities for images running on your AKS clusters

Defender for Cloud gives its customers the ability to prioritize the remediation of vulnerabilities in images that are currently being used within their environment using the Running container images should have vulnerability findings resolved recommendation.

To provide findings for the recommendation, Defender for Cloud collects the inventory of your running containers that are collected by the Defender agent installed on your AKS clusters. Defender for Cloud correlates that inventory with the vulnerability assessment scan of images that are stored in ACR. The recommendation shows your running containers with the vulnerabilities associated with the images that are used by each container and provides vulnerability reports and remediation steps.

Screenshot of recommendations showing your running containers with the vulnerabilities associated with the images used by each container.


How does Defender for Containers scan an image?

Defender for Containers pulls the image from the registry and runs it in an isolated sandbox with the Qualys scanner. The scanner extracts a list of known vulnerabilities.

Defender for Cloud filters and classifies findings from the scanner. When an image is healthy, Defender for Cloud marks it as such. Defender for Cloud generates security recommendations only for images that have issues to be resolved. By only notifying you when there are problems, Defender for Cloud reduces the potential for unwanted informational alerts.

Does Microsoft share any information with Qualys in order to perform image scans?

No, the Qualys scanner is hosted by Microsoft, and no customer data is shared with Qualys.

Can I get the scan results via REST API?

Yes. The results are under Sub-Assessments REST API. Also, you can use Azure Resource Graph (ARG), the Kusto-like API for all of your resources: a query can fetch a specific scan.

Why is Defender for Cloud alerting me to vulnerabilities about an image that isn’t in my registry?

Some images may reuse tags from an image that was already scanned. For example, you may reassign the tag “Latest” every time you add an image to a digest. In such cases, the ‘old’ image does still exist in the registry and may still be pulled by its digest. If the image has security findings and is pulled, it will expose security vulnerabilities.

Does Defender for Containers scan images in Microsoft Container Registry?

Currently, Defender for Containers can scan images in Azure Container Registry (ACR) and AWS Elastic Container Registry (ECR) only. Docker Registry, Microsoft Artifact Registry/Microsoft Container Registry, and Microsoft Azure Red Hat OpenShift (ARO) built-in container image registry are not supported. Images should first be imported to ACR. Learn more about importing container images to an Azure container registry.

Next steps

Learn more about the Defender for Cloud Defender plans.