Container Images: Architecture and Security Best Practices


Over the past few years, containers have become an essential and popular component in software development applications. From packaging to deployment applications, you now see containers everywhere. A container image lies at the heart of a container and serves as a self-contained package that holds your application, its dependencies, and the runtime environment within itself. In this article, we’ll discuss the architecture and some container security best practices that will help you make your deployment processes efficient and seamless.

Understanding Container Image Architecture

A container image is the core component of a containerized architecture. It’s a static file with executable code, and the code can form a container on a computing system. Speaking of its architecture, a container image has layers added to the parent or base image. Each of these layers represents a specific element in the application. You can reuse these layers in different projects, and the number of layers you use is up to you. The main idea behind this layering is to improve storage efficiency and image generation speed.

Container Image Security Best Practices

Efficiency aside, container images are also vital for container security. In other words, any container created from a container image will inherit all of its properties and features, including any misconfigurations, viruses and vulnerabilities, and malware. Here are the top three container image security best practices that you should follow to ensure that the container images you use are secure and verified:

1. Use Minimalistic Images

Nowadays, container images often come with a fully installed operating system distribution as their base image. That can be useful if your system has one. However, if you don’t need general system libraries, avoiding container images like these is a better idea. Instead, it’s only good practice to include the necessary files, libraries, and dependencies. That will reduce the malware attack surface and make your deployment process much faster than before. Thus, the more straightforward and minimalistic the container image, the better.

2. Verify Images

Before you start using a container image, verify that the image is from the owner or publisher and is the same image you plan to use. You can use image scanning tools to identify any sign of attackers on your container image or determine whether it’s real or fake. With these tools, you can save your container and overall system from vulnerabilities before working with a container image.

3. Add a Health Check

Once you’ve chosen a minimalistic container image and verified it, adding a health check to ensure all container features are operational after everything’s running is essential. Decide a command that you will use to determine the health of your system and container: it can be a simple HTTP request, a database query, or any other command to ensure your application can function correctly. You should then add a ‘HEALTHCHECK’ command to the Docker file used to build your image to periodically check if your Docker file and container image are working well and keep you from running into more extensive problems in the long run.


Containers and container images are everything in software development these days. They’re the backbone of most IT infrastructure these days. The architecture of a container image consists of several layers alongside system libraries, system tools, and other platform settings. And you can safeguard your entire system from potential attacks and security breaches by choosing minimalist images, verifying them, and running regular health checks. Hence, constantly update yourself on container image security best practices.