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Low cost CVE scanning with Trivy

Need a cost-effective and easy mechanism to detect CVEs in container images? This article has the answers.


In a world of microservices, a production grade enterprise application comprises of hundreds of docker images. Organisations and their customers have a high focus on the security of applications and one of the key requirements is to keep the count of Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs) to a minimum. Many organisations have strict policies that prevent a vulnerable image to be deployed on production environments. Furthermore, docker images are often made up of layers. So a CVE in one of the base layers will propagate to all images built using the particular base layer.

CVEs are a moving target. New CVEs are identified and detected by vulnerability scanners each day. This calls for a process that scans and fixes these vulnerabilities.

Docker images are immutable. It means that the only way to fix a Docker image is to build a new patch containing the fix. The last thing you want is to release a new build only to realize it contains a bunch of CRITICAL CVEs and is a NO-GO for production.

There are a number of CVE scanners available, however in this article we will use Trivy from Aqua which is a free and open-source vulnerability scanner for images.

v0.49 is the latest version at the time of writing this article.


Installing CVE is trivial. Follow the steps for your platform of choice.

Using the CLI

If installed using a package manager or as a binary, trivy is available through a command line tool.

Use the following command to verify the installation:

trivy version

To demonstrate the command used for scanning, let's use the python:3.4-alpine image:

trivy image python:3.4-alpine

The command results in an output that reports the CVEs in the image, along with the ID, severity, description and a fixed version (if available).

python:3.4-alpine (alpine 3.9.2)
Total: 37 (UNKNOWN: 0, LOW: 4, MEDIUM: 16, HIGH: 13, CRITICAL: 4)  

To capture the output in a file:

trivy image python:3.4-alpine > report.txt

Generally, CRITICAL and HIGH severity CVEs are considered as blockers for a release. So you may want the output to be filtered on CRITICAL and HIGH CVEs only.

For that, use the -s option

trivy image -s CRITICAL,HIGH python:3.4-alpine

Run as a Docker Image

An alternative way, is to run trivy as a docker container.

Note: For scanning container images with trivy, mount docker.sock from the host into the trivy container.

docker run -v /var/run/docker.sock:/var/run/docker.sock -v $HOME/Library/Caches:/root/.cache/ aquasec/trivy:0.49.1 image python:3.4-alpine


Using trivy is an easy and cost-effective way of scanning images for CVEs. Integrating it in CI/CD pipelines is recommended.



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