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Master-Node communication

Overview

This document catalogs the communication paths between the master (really the apiserver) and the Kubernetes cluster. The intent is to allow users to customize their installation to harden the network configuration such that the cluster can be run on an untrusted network (or on fully public IPs on a cloud provider).

Cluster -> Master

All communication paths from the cluster to the master terminate at the apiserver (none of the other master components are designed to expose remote services). In a typical deployment, the apiserver is configured to listen for remote connections on a secure HTTPS port (443) with one or more forms of client authentication enabled. One or more forms of authorization should be enabled, especially if anonymous requests or service account tokens are allowed.

Nodes should be provisioned with the public root certificate for the cluster such that they can connect securely to the apiserver along with valid client credentials. For example, on a default GCE deployment, the client credentials provided to the kubelet are in the form of a client certificate. See kubelet TLS bootstrapping for automated provisioning of kubelet client certificates.

Pods that wish to connect to the apiserver can do so securely by leveraging a service account so that Kubernetes will automatically inject the public root certificate and a valid bearer token into the pod when it is instantiated. The kubernetes service (in all namespaces) is configured with a virtual IP address that is redirected (via kube-proxy) to the HTTPS endpoint on the apiserver.

The master components communicate with the cluster apiserver over the insecure (not encrypted or authenticated) port. This port is typically only exposed on the localhost interface of the master machine, so that the master components, all running on the same machine, can communicate with the cluster apiserver. Over time, the master components will be migrated to use the secure port with authentication and authorization (see #13598).

As a result, the default operating mode for connections from the cluster (nodes and pods running on the nodes) to the master is secured by default and can run over untrusted and/or public networks.

Master -> Cluster

There are two primary communication paths from the master (apiserver) to the cluster. The first is from the apiserver to the kubelet process which runs on each node in the cluster. The second is from the apiserver to any node, pod, or service through the apiserver’s proxy functionality.

apiserver -> kubelet

The connections from the apiserver to the kubelet are used for fetching logs for pods, attaching (through kubectl) to running pods, and using the kubelet’s port-forwarding functionality. These connections terminate at the kubelet’s HTTPS endpoint.

By default, the apiserver does not verify the kubelet’s serving certificate, which makes the connection subject to man-in-the-middle attacks, and unsafe to run over untrusted and/or public networks.

To verify this connection, use the --kubelet-certificate-authority flag to provide the apiserver with a root certificates bundle to use to verify the kubelet’s serving certificate.

If that is not possible, use SSH tunneling between the apiserver and kubelet if required to avoid connecting over an untrusted or public network.

Finally, Kubelet authentication and/or authorization should be enabled to secure the kubelet API.

apiserver -> nodes, pods, and services

The connections from the apiserver to a node, pod, or service default to plain HTTP connections and are therefore neither authenticated nor encrypted. They can be run over a secure HTTPS connection by prefixing https: to the node, pod, or service name in the API URL, but they will not validate the certificate provided by the HTTPS endpoint nor provide client credentials so while the connection will by encrypted, it will not provide any guarantees of integrity. These connections are not currently safe to run over untrusted and/or public networks.

SSH Tunnels

Google Container Engine uses SSH tunnels to protect the Master -> Cluster communication paths. In this configuration, the apiserver initiates an SSH tunnel to each node in the cluster (connecting to the ssh server listening on port 22) and passes all traffic destined for a kubelet, node, pod, or service through the tunnel. This tunnel ensures that the traffic is not exposed outside of the private GCE network in which the cluster is running.

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