Cloud Computing, Google Cloud (GCP)

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A Guide to Implement Binary Authorization on GCP


Binary Authorization is a security feature offered by GCP that enables organizations to enforce a strong security policy for their container images. Organizations can ensure that only approved container images are deployed in their production environment with binary authorization.

Binary authorization works by verifying that a trusted authority has signed a container image before it can be deployed. This measure helps ensure that unauthorized or malicious container images are not deployed within a production environment, safeguarding against potential security risks.

How Binary Authorization Works?

Binary Authorization enforces rules for container image deployment in production environments. Based on the Open Policy Agent (OPA) framework, policy files define the criteria for allowed container images. Images are checked against these policies, including criteria like image name, registry, digest, and signer identity. Uploaded to GCP, the policies are enforced by the Binary Authorization service, either allowing or rejecting image deployments based on policy compliance.

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Benefits of Binary Authorization

Binary Authorization offers several benefits for organizations looking to secure their cloud environments. Some of the key benefits include:

  1. Ensuring Container Image Security: Binary Authorization guarantees that only approved and signed container images are deployed, minimizing the risk of using unauthorized or malicious images.
  2. Simplifying Compliance: By enforcing a robust security policy for container images, Binary Authorization helps organizations meet compliance requirements of regulations like HIPAA, PCI-DSS, and GDPR.
  3. Enhancing Visibility: Binary Authorization enhances visibility into container images, enabling organizations to identify potential security risks and take necessary mitigation steps proactively.

Container Analysis

Container Analysis is a key feature of Binary Authorization on the Google Cloud Platform, offering vulnerability scanning and metadata management for container images. It enables policy enforcement on container images before deploying them to production environments. Container Analysis automatically scans for vulnerabilities and generates a report when a container image is pushed to a registry. Metadata, including image details and dependencies, is captured for policy enforcement. Binary Authorization leverages Container Analysis to verify image security compliance, preventing deployments that fail verification. Supported image formats include Docker, OCI, and Google Container Registry, while integration with other security tools enhances overall container application security on the platform.

Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: To assign a value to the PROJECT_ID variable, run the command within Cloud Shell.


Step 2: Enable the required API services


Step 3: Setting up a cluster


Step 4: Enable binary authorization for the cluster.  Clusters >> Security>>Binary authorization>> Edit


Tick the check box and click on Save changes


Step 5: Configuring an attestor

To create a container analysis note, prepare a JSON file that includes the required data for the Note. Execute the following command to generate a local JSON file representing your Note.


Step 6: Use the Container Analysis API to submit the Note to your project.


Step 7: Confirm that the note was successfully saved by retrieving it.


Step 8: To utilize your attestor effectively, it is essential to register the note with Binary Authorization.




Step 9: Incorporating a KMS key

Before utilizing this attestor, your authority must generate a cryptographic key pair via Google Cloud Key Management Service (KMS). This key pair will be utilized for signing container images.

To start, add some environment variables to describe the new key:


Create a keyring to hold a set of keys:


Create a new asymmetric signing key pair for the attestor:


Cloud Console by going to Navigation menu > Security > Key Management > Key Rings > Keys


Step 10: Establish the association between the key and your authority using the gcloud binauthz command.


Step 11: Print the list of authorities again:



Step 12: Using the gcloud command, you can create your attestation by providing the necessary details, such as the signing key and the specific container image you wish to approve.


In the context of Container Analysis, executing this will generate a new occurrence and associate it with the note of your attestor. To verify the successful execution, you can list your attestations.


Step 13: Modify the policy to permit any images the attestor verifies.


Step 14: Execute the given command to launch the verified image and confirm the successful execution of the pod by running the following commands:


Step 15: Testing the deployment with a non-verified image


Deployment has not succeeded, as the Binary Authorization admission rule denies it.



Binary Authorization is a security feature provided by Google Cloud Platform that helps to enforce deploy-time security controls to ensure only trusted and verified container images are deployed to production environments. It helps to prevent the deployment of unauthorized or unverified images, thus reducing the risk of security breaches and ensuring compliance with industry regulations. Binary Authorization employs digital signatures and attestations to validate container images’ genuineness and integrity before deployment. By leveraging Binary Authorization, organizations can enforce strict controls on their container deployment pipelines, which helps to increase their overall security posture.

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Drop a query if you have any questions regarding Binary Authorization and I will get back to you quickly.

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1. How do I get started with GCP Binary Authorization?

ANS: – Enable the feature in your GCP Console and create policies that determine which container images are allowed to run in your environment.

2. Can I use GCP Binary Authorization with Kubernetes?

ANS: – Yes, GCP Binary Authorization can be used with Kubernetes clusters deployed on Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE).

3. Can GCP Binary Authorization be used with any container platform?

ANS: – No, Binary Authorization is specifically designed to operate with containers deployed exclusively on the Google Cloud Platform.


Anil Kumar Y A works as a Research Associate at CloudThat. He knows GCP Cloud Services and resources and DevOps tools like Docker, K8s, Ansible, and Terraform, and he is also passionate about improving his skills and learning new tools and technologies.



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