Kubelet Authentication & Authorization

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Kubelet Authentication

From the docss:

By default, requests to the kubelet's HTTPS endpoint that are not rejected by other configured authentication methods are treated as anonymous requests, and given a username of system:anonymous and a group of system:unauthenticated.

The 3 authentication methods are:

  • Anonymous (default): Use set setting the param --anonymous-auth=true or the config:

"authentication": {
    "anonymous": {
      "enabled": true
  • Webhook: This will enable the kubectl API bearer tokens as authorization (any valid token will be valid). Allow it with:

    • ensure the authentication.k8s.io/v1beta1 API group is enabled in the API server

    • start the kubelet with the --authentication-token-webhook and --kubeconfig flags or use the following setting:

"authentication": {
    "webhook": {
      "cacheTTL": "2m0s",
      "enabled": true

The kubelet calls the TokenReview API on the configured API server to determine user information from bearer tokens

  • X509 client certificates: Allow to authenticate via X509 client certs

    • start the kubelet with the --client-ca-file flag, providing a CA bundle to verify client certificates with. Or with the config:

"authentication": {
    "x509": {
      "clientCAFile": "/etc/kubernetes/pki/ca.crt"

Kubelet Authorization

Any request that is successfully authenticated (including an anonymous request) is then authorized. The default authorization mode is AlwaysAllow, which allows all requests.

However, the other possible value is webhook (which is what you will be mostly finding out there). This mode will check the permissions of the authenticated user to allow or disallow an action.

Note that even if the anonymous authentication is enabled the anonymous access might not have any permissions to perform any action.

The authorization via webhook can be configured using the param --authorization-mode=Webhook or via the config file with:

"authorization": {
    "mode": "Webhook",
    "webhook": {
      "cacheAuthorizedTTL": "5m0s",
      "cacheUnauthorizedTTL": "30s"

The kubelet calls the SubjectAccessReview API on the configured API server to determine whether each request is authorized.

The kubelet authorizes API requests using the same request attributes approach as the apiserver:

  • Action

HTTP verbrequest verb




get (for individual resources), list (for collections, including full object content), watch (for watching an individual resource or collection of resources)






delete (for individual resources), deletecollection (for collections)

  • The resource talking to the Kubelet api is always nodes and subresource is determined from the incoming request's path:

Kubelet APIresourcesubresource













all others



For example, the following request tried to access the pods info of kubelet without permission:

curl -k --header "Authorization: Bearer ${TOKEN}" ''
Forbidden (user=system:node:ip-172-31-28-172.ec2.internal, verb=get, resource=nodes, subresource=proxy)
  • We got a Forbidden, so the request passed the Authentication check. If not, we would have got just an Unauthorised message.

  • We can see the username (in this case from the token)

  • Check how the resource was nodes and the subresource proxy (which makes sense with the previous information)


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