k8s authentication

By | May 8, 2018

For a full overview on Authentication, refer to the official Kubernetes docs on Authentication and Authorization

For users, ideally you use an Identity provider for Kubernetes (OpenID Connect).

If you are on GKE / ACS you integrate with respective Identity and Access Management frameworks

If you self-host kubernetes (which is the case when you use kops), you may use coreos/dex to integrate with LDAP / OAuth2 identity providers – a good reference is this detailed 2 part SSO for Kubernetes article.

for Dex there are a few open source cli clients as follows:

If you are looking for a quick and easy (not most secure and easy to manage in the long run) way to get started, you may abuse serviceaccounts – with 2 options for specialised Policies to control access. (see below)

NOTE since 1.6 Role Based Access Control is strongly recommended! this answer does not cover RBAC setup

EDIT: Great guide by Bitnami on User setup with RBAC is also available.

Steps to enable service account access are (depending on if your cluster configuration includes RBAC or ABAC policies, these accounts may have full Admin rights!):

EDITHere is a bash script to automate Service Account creation – see below steps

  1. Create service account for user Alice
    kubectl create sa alice
  2. Get related secret
    secret=$(kubectl get sa alice -o json | jq -r .secrets[].name)
  3. Get ca.crt from secret (using OSX base64 with -D flag for decode)
    kubectl get secret $secret -o json | jq -r '.data["ca.crt"]' | base64 -D > ca.crt
  4. Get service account token from secret
    user_token=$(kubectl get secret $secret -o json | jq -r '.data["token"]' | base64 -D)
  5. Get information from your kubectl config (current-context, server..)
    # get current context
    c=`kubectl config current-context`
    # get cluster name of context
    name=`kubectl config get-contexts $c | awk '{print $3}' | tail -n 1`
    # get endpoint of current context 
    endpoint=`kubectl config view -o jsonpath="{.clusters[?(@.name == \"$name\")].cluster.server}"`
  6. On a fresh machine, follow these steps (given the ca.cert and $endpoint information retrieved above:
    1. Install kubectl
      brew install kubectl
    2. Set cluster (run in directory where ca.crt is stored)
      kubectl config set-cluster cluster-staging \
        --embed-certs=true \
        --server=$endpoint \
    3. Set user credentials
      kubectl config set-credentials alice-staging --token=$user_token
    4. Define the combination of alice user with the staging cluster
      kubectl config set-context alice-staging \
        --cluster=cluster-staging \
        --user=alice-staging \
    5. Switch current-context to alice-staging for the user
      kubectl config use-context alice-staging

To control user access with policies (using ABAC), you need to create a policy file (for example):

  "apiVersion": "abac.authorization.kubernetes.io/v1beta1",
  "kind": "Policy",
  "spec": {
    "user": "system:serviceaccount:default:alice",
    "namespace": "default",
    "resource": "*",
    "readonly": true

Provision this policy.json on every master node and add --authorization-mode=ABAC --authorization-policy-file=/path/to/policy.json flags to API servers

This would allow Alice (through her service account) read only rights to all resources in default namespace only.

reference -> https://stackoverflow.com/questions/42170380/how-to-add-users-to-kubernetes-kubectl

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