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K8S Security


  • we define who can access.
  • For machines, we can create Service Accounts
  • K8s does not create/manage user accounts but it does for service accounts


  • Using RBAC

Various Authorization methods are


Allows all calls


Deny all calls


Attribute-based access control (ABAC) defines an access control paradigm whereby access rights are granted to users through the use of policies which combine attributes together.


Role-based access control (RBAC) is a method of regulating access to computer or network resources based on the roles of individual users within your organization. The RBAC API declares four kinds of Kubernetes object:

  • Role
  • ClusterRole
  • RoleBinding
  • ClusterRoleBinding

Role is Namespaced but not ClusterRole

A Role always sets permissions within a particular namespace; when you create a Role, you have to specify the namespace it belongs in.

ClusterRole, by contrast, is a non-namespaced resource. The resources have different names (Role and ClusterRole) because a Kubernetes object always has to be either namespaced or not namespaced; it can't be both.


Role in the default namespace that can be used to grant read access to pods
kind: Role
  namespace: default
  name: pod-reader
- apiGroups: [""] # "" indicates the core API group
  resources: ["pods"]
  verbs: ["get", "watch", "list"]


allows 'amar' to read pods in the default namespace.
# This role binding allows "amar" to read pods in the "default" namespace.
# You need to already have a Role named "pod-reader" in that namespace.
kind: RoleBinding
  name: read-pods
  namespace: default
# You can specify more than one "subject"
- kind: User
  name: amar # "name" is case-sensitive
  # "roleRef" specifies the binding to a Role / ClusterRole
  kind: Role #this must be Role or ClusterRole
  name: pod-reader # this must match the name of the Role or ClusterRole you wish to bind to



Node Authorizer

The requests from kubelet are handled by Node Authorizer. Node authorization is a special-purpose authorization mode that specifically authorizes API requests made by kubelets.


They are used for access within the cluster


Used to manage it externally using Open Policy Agent for example

TLS certificates

An SSL/TLS certificate is a digital object that allows systems to verify the identity & subsequently establish an encrypted network connection to another system using the Secure Sockets Layer/Transport Layer Security (SSL/TLS) protocol. Certificates are used within a cryptographic system known as a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI).

PKI provides a way for one party to establish the identity of another party using certificates if they both trust a third-party - known as a certificate authority.

The format for public and private keys are shown below:

Here are the various kinds of certs involved - client certificate - Server certificate - Root certificate (CA)

Various keys used by server in K8s are

Put it all together

View/Approve CSR's

# View CSR's using
k get csr

# See more details for CSR
k get csr <amar-dhillon> -o yaml

# Approve the CSR using
k certificate approve <certificate-name>

# Deny CSR using
kubectl certificate deny <certificate-name>

# Delete CSR using
kubectl  delete csr <certificate-name>
Delete CSR
controlplane ~ ➜  k delete csr agent-smith "agent-smith" deleted

View Certificates in K8s

run the below command

cat /etc/kubernetes/manifests/kube-apiserver.yaml
# look for the below `--tls-cert-file` line

Below is the example to see cert file used by Kube API Server

controlplane ~ ➜  cat /etc/kubernetes/manifests/kube-apiserver.yaml | grep -i tls
    - --tls-cert-file=/etc/kubernetes/pki/apiserver.crt
    - --tls-private-key-file=/etc/kubernetes/pki/apiserver.key
Identify the Certificate file used to authenticate kube-apiserver as a client to ETCD Server.
controlplane ~ ➜  cat /etc/kubernetes/manifests/kube-apiserver.yaml | grep -i etcd
    - --etcd-cafile=/etc/kubernetes/pki/etcd/ca.crt
    - --etcd-certfile=/etc/kubernetes/pki/apiserver-etcd-client.crt
    - --etcd-keyfile=/etc/kubernetes/pki/apiserver-etcd-client.key
    - --etcd-servers=
Identify the key used to authenticate kubeapi-server to the kubelet server.
# Look for the certs in the api-server file
controlplane ~ ➜  cat /etc/kubernetes/manifests/kube-apiserver.yaml | grep -i kubelet
    - --kubelet-client-certificate=/etc/kubernetes/pki/apiserver-kubelet-client.crt
    - --kubelet-client-key=/etc/kubernetes/pki/apiserver-kubelet-client.key
    - --kubelet-preferred-address-types=InternalIP,ExternalIP,Hostname
Identify the ETCD Server Certificate used to host ETCD server.
# Look for the certs in the etcd `cert-file`
controlplane ~ ➜  cat /etc/kubernetes/manifests/etcd.yaml | grep cert
    - --cert-file=/etc/kubernetes/pki/etcd/server.crt
    - --client-cert-auth=true
    - --peer-cert-file=/etc/kubernetes/pki/etcd/peer.crt
    - --peer-client-cert-auth=true
      name: etcd-certs
    name: etcd-certs


ETCD can have its own CA. So this may be a different CA certificate than the one used by kube-api server.

Identify the ETCD Server CA Root Certificate used to serve ETCD Server.
# Cert file is shown below as `peer-trusted-ca-file` property
controlplane ~ ➜  cat /etc/kubernetes/manifests/etcd.yaml | grep ca
    - --peer-trusted-ca-file=/etc/kubernetes/pki/etcd/ca.crt
    - --trusted-ca-file=/etc/kubernetes/pki/etcd/ca.crt
  priorityClassName: system-node-critical
check for issuer of certificate
# check for issuer in this command
 openssl x509 -in /etc/kubernetes/pki/apiserver.crt -text
Which of the below alternate names is not configured on the Kube API Server Certificate?
# Look at Alternative Names.
openssl x509 -in /etc/kubernetes/pki/apiserver.crt -text
What is the Common Name (CN) configured on the ETCD Server certificate?
# check for Subject CN here
openssl x509 -in /etc/kubernetes/pki/etcd/server.crt --text
How long, from the issued date, is the Kube-API Server Certificate valid for?
# Check expiry date in this file 
openssl x509 -in /etc/kubernetes/pki/apiserver.crt  --text

Check Kube API Server logs

Run crictl ps -a command to identify the kube-api server container. Run crictl logs container-id command to view the logs.


A Kubeconfig is a YAML file with all the Kubernetes cluster details, certificates, and secret token to authenticate the cluster. You might get this config file directly from the cluster administrator or from a cloud platform if you are using managed Kubernetes cluster.

Default location for kubeconfig is
See current context
kubectl config --kubeconfig=/root/my-kube-config current-context

update context

kubectl config --kubeconfig=/root/my-kube-config use-context research

# if using the default context file, then
kubectl config use-context <amar-dev-cluster>

Using the Kubeconfig File With Kubectl

You can pass the Kubeconfig file with the Kubectl command to override the current context and KUBECONFIG env variable.

kubectl get nodes --kubeconfig=$HOME/.kube/dev_cluster_config

Network Policy

  • By default all pods can talk to one another.
  • NetworkPolicies are an application-centric construct which allow you to specify how a pod is allowed to communicate with various network "entities"
  • The entities that a Pod can communicate with are identified through a combination of the following 3 identifiers:
  • Other pods that are allowed (exception: a pod cannot block access to itself)
  • Namespaces that are allowed
  • IP blocks (exception: traffic to and from the node where a Pod is running is always allowed, regardless of the IP address of the Pod or the node)

How to grant access?

When defining a pod- or namespace- based NetworkPolicy, you use a selector to specify what traffic is allowed to and from the Pod(s) that match the selector. Meanwhile, when IP based NetworkPolicies are created, we define policies based on IP blocks (CIDR ranges).

A sample Network policy is shown below

kind: NetworkPolicy
  name: internal-policy
  namespace: default
      name: internal
    - Egress
    - to:
        - podSelector:
              name: payroll
        - protocol: TCP
          port: 8080
    - to:
        - podSelector:
              name: mysql
        - protocol: TCP
          port: 3306