Kubernetes RBAC

What Is RBAC?

Kubernetes RBAC

In systems security, role-based access control (RBAC), or role-based security, provides the ability to enforce the principle of least privilege in an engineering organization. As an advanced access control, it restricts network access based on individuals’ roles within an organization. For enhanced security, different access levels are granted to different authorized users within a network. RBAC can facilitate mandatory access control (MAC) or discretionary access control (DAC).

Many organizations use RBAC, and more companies are adopting it to securely manage access control.

Kubernetes RBAC

Kubernetes has great syntax for specifying what healthy microservices running in production look like. Its syntax is powerful enough in all the right places to be practical for infrastructure.

Kubernetes RBAC specifies how unique, authorized user or user group permission levels are defined in a Kubernetes cluster. In order to set it up, specific permissions can be assigned in a .yaml file. This restricts access to the defined resources or operations in your cluster by user or user groups.

RBAC and Service Mesh

Service meshes like Aspen Mesh connect all the microservices running in your cluster. They also provide the ability to enable fine-grained access control within an organization. 

As a key security element for Kubernetes clusters and service meshes, RBAC provides important features such as:

  • More consistent access management
  • Providing enforceable least privilege for your organization
  • Enabling an authentication mechanism for users with different roles
  • Restricting user or user group operations
  • Restricting operations performed by processes inside pods
  • Controlling resource visibility
  • Maximizing operational efficiency
  • Reducing HR and administrative work and IT support

Why It Matters

A strong RBAC system is arguably one of the most critical requirements in large engineering organizations. As even the most secure system can be easily circumvented by overprivileged employees, it’s important to use a proven strategy. Setting system access to “deny all” by default restricts users to least privileges necessary to perform their job responsibilities while increasing security. In addition, ensuring proper documentation detailing roles and responsibilities addresses a critical security concern in the enterprise.

How to Get Started with Kubernetes RBAC

A service mesh makes it easier to get to fine-grained RBAC. At Aspen Mesh, we provide Istio Vet, which prevents misconfigurations by refusing to allow them in the first place. In addition, Istio Vet warns you about incorrect or incomplete service mesh configuration. It also provides issues resolution guidance for any issues it finds. Likewise, if you’re using Global Istio configuration resources, Traffic Claim Enforcer provides a great solution.

Try it out by downloading the Aspen Mesh 30-day free trial.