Distribute Credentials Securely Using Secrets

This page shows how to securely inject sensitive data, such as passwords and encryption keys, into Pods.

Before you begin

You need to have a Kubernetes cluster, and the kubectl command-line tool must be configured to communicate with your cluster. If you do not already have a cluster, you can create one by using Minikube, or you can use one of these Kubernetes playgrounds:

Convert your secret data to a base-64 representation

Suppose you want to have two pieces of secret data: a username my-app and a password 39528$vdg7Jb. First, use a base64 encoding tool to convert your username and password to a base64 representation. Here's an example using the commonly available base64 program:

echo -n 'my-app' | base64
echo -n '39528$vdg7Jb' | base64

The output shows that the base-64 representation of your username is bXktYXBw, and the base-64 representation of your password is Mzk1MjgkdmRnN0pi.

Caution: Use a local tool trusted by your OS to decrease the security risks of external tools.

Create a Secret

Here is a configuration file you can use to create a Secret that holds your username and password:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Secret
metadata:
  name: test-secret
data:
  username: bXktYXBw
  password: Mzk1MjgkdmRnN0pi
  1. Create the Secret

    kubectl apply -f https://k8s.io/examples/pods/inject/secret.yaml
    
  2. View information about the Secret:

    kubectl get secret test-secret
    

    Output:

    NAME          TYPE      DATA      AGE
    test-secret   Opaque    2         1m
    
  3. View more detailed information about the Secret:

    kubectl describe secret test-secret
    

    Output:

    Name:       test-secret
    Namespace:  default
    Labels:     <none>
    Annotations:    <none>
    
    Type:   Opaque
    
    Data
    ====
    password:   13 bytes
    username:   7 bytes
    

Create a Secret directly with kubectl

If you want to skip the Base64 encoding step, you can create the same Secret using the kubectl create secret command. For example:

kubectl create secret generic test-secret --from-literal='username=my-app' --from-literal='password=39528$vdg7Jb'

This is more convenient. The detailed approach shown earlier runs through each step explicitly to demonstrate what is happening.

Create a Pod that has access to the secret data through a Volume

Here is a configuration file you can use to create a Pod:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
metadata:
  name: secret-test-pod
spec:
  containers:
    - name: test-container
      image: nginx
      volumeMounts:
        # name must match the volume name below
        - name: secret-volume
          mountPath: /etc/secret-volume
  # The secret data is exposed to Containers in the Pod through a Volume.
  volumes:
    - name: secret-volume
      secret:
        secretName: test-secret
  1. Create the Pod:

    kubectl apply -f https://k8s.io/examples/pods/inject/secret-pod.yaml
    
  2. Verify that your Pod is running:

    kubectl get pod secret-test-pod
    

    Output:

    NAME              READY     STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
    secret-test-pod   1/1       Running   0          42m
    
  3. Get a shell into the Container that is running in your Pod:

    kubectl exec -i -t secret-test-pod -- /bin/bash
    
  4. The secret data is exposed to the Container through a Volume mounted under /etc/secret-volume.

    In your shell, list the files in the /etc/secret-volume directory:

    # Run this in the shell inside the container
    ls /etc/secret-volume
    

    The output shows two files, one for each piece of secret data:

    password username
    
  5. In your shell, display the contents of the username and password files:

    # Run this in the shell inside the container
    echo "$( cat /etc/secret-volume/username )"
    echo "$( cat /etc/secret-volume/password )"
    

    The output is your username and password:

    my-app
    39528$vdg7Jb
    

Define container environment variables using Secret data

Define a container environment variable with data from a single Secret

  • Define an environment variable as a key-value pair in a Secret:

    kubectl create secret generic backend-user --from-literal=backend-username='backend-admin'
    
  • Assign the backend-username value defined in the Secret to the SECRET_USERNAME environment variable in the Pod specification.

    apiVersion: v1
    kind: Pod
    metadata:
      name: env-single-secret
    spec:
      containers:
      - name: envars-test-container
        image: nginx
        env:
        - name: SECRET_USERNAME
          valueFrom:
            secretKeyRef:
              name: backend-user
              key: backend-username
    
  • Create the Pod:

    kubectl create -f https://k8s.io/examples/pods/inject/pod-single-secret-env-variable.yaml
    
  • In your shell, display the content of SECRET_USERNAME container environment variable

    kubectl exec -i -t env-single-secret -- /bin/sh -c 'echo $SECRET_USERNAME'
    

    The output is

    backend-admin
    

Define container environment variables with data from multiple Secrets

  • As with the previous example, create the Secrets first.

    kubectl create secret generic backend-user --from-literal=backend-username='backend-admin'
    kubectl create secret generic db-user --from-literal=db-username='db-admin'
    
  • Define the environment variables in the Pod specification.

    apiVersion: v1
    kind: Pod
    metadata:
      name: envvars-multiple-secrets
    spec:
      containers:
      - name: envars-test-container
        image: nginx
        env:
        - name: BACKEND_USERNAME
          valueFrom:
            secretKeyRef:
              name: backend-user
              key: backend-username
        - name: DB_USERNAME
          valueFrom:
            secretKeyRef:
              name: db-user
              key: db-username
    
  • Create the Pod:

    kubectl create -f https://k8s.io/examples/pods/inject/pod-multiple-secret-env-variable.yaml
    
  • In your shell, display the container environment variables

    kubectl exec -i -t envvars-multiple-secrets -- /bin/sh -c 'env | grep _USERNAME'
    

    The output is

    DB_USERNAME=db-admin
    BACKEND_USERNAME=backend-admin
    

Configure all key-value pairs in a Secret as container environment variables

Note: This functionality is available in Kubernetes v1.6 and later.
  • Create a Secret containing multiple key-value pairs

    kubectl create secret generic test-secret --from-literal=username='my-app' --from-literal=password='39528$vdg7Jb'
    
  • Use envFrom to define all of the Secret's data as container environment variables. The key from the Secret becomes the environment variable name in the Pod.

    apiVersion: v1
    kind: Pod
    metadata:
      name: envfrom-secret
    spec:
      containers:
      - name: envars-test-container
        image: nginx
        envFrom:
        - secretRef:
            name: test-secret
    
  • Create the Pod:

    kubectl create -f https://k8s.io/examples/pods/inject/pod-secret-envFrom.yaml
    
  • In your shell, display username and password container environment variables

    kubectl exec -i -t envfrom-secret -- /bin/sh -c 'echo "username: $username\npassword: $password\n"'
    

    The output is

    username: my-app
    password: 39528$vdg7Jb
    

References

What's next

Last modified August 05, 2020 at 3:17 AM PST: Replace special quote characters with normal ones. (c6a96128c)