Levels of Access Control through Keycloak Part 3a: Integration with Kubernetes

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This is an extension of part 3 of a 4-part series on Keycloak. For part 1, click here, for part 2, click here, and for part 3 click here.

There is a bunch of open-source software that provides out of the box integration with OpenID Connect providers such as Keycloak. Additionally, some of them provide the ability to bring in groups/roles from the tokens which are then used for limiting access of users. One such widely used tool is Kubernetes. This guide details the integration of Kubernetes with Keycloak for authentication and access control. We can utilize Kubernetes support for OpenID Connect Tokens with oidc-groups-prefix to integrate with Keycloak.

Keycloak Configuration

At the end of Keycloak, we need to create a new client for Kubernetes. To do so, log-in to the Keycloak Administration Console, click on Clients in the navigation, and click on Create:

Let’s name our client apiserver after the name of the actual service that handles all the authentication. This client needs to be confidential with only Standard Flow enabled. For Valid Redirect URLs, use http://localhost:8000* and http://localhost:18000*

Click on Save to create this new client. Once the client is saved, click on Credentials, copy the value of Secret and save it somewhere. We're going to use it later on.

Click on Mappers and then Create to initiate the view for a new mapper definition.

For the new mapper, the Mapper Type needs to be User Client Role. Once you select this type, the view changes. The Client ID should be apiserver i.e. the name of the client we created. Since it's multivalued, we need to set Multivalued to ON. The Token Claim Name is the name of the property in the token payload against which the roles are added. I've set it to client_roles. Kubenetes utilizes ID Tokens so we need to add these claims to the ID Token by setting Add to ID Token to ON:

Click on Save. Note that due to a bug in Keycloak, I haven't configured the Claim JSON Type. If I set it to something, the roles don't appear in the token.

Now navigate back to the configuration view for apiserver client and click on Roles. In here we can define the roles that are specific to this client. Click on Add Role to create a new role. Let's name our new role cluster-admin akin to the cluster-admin ClusterRole defined in Kubernetes. We'd also be mapping it to the same role.

Let’s also assign it to our admin user that we created in one of the previous guides. To do so, click on Users in the navigation, search for the admin user, click on its ID to open its configuration view. Now Click on Role Mappings. In the Client Roles list box, select apiserver. In the Available Roles list that appears after selecting apiserver, click on cluster-admin role that we just created and then assign it to admin user by clicking on Add selected:

Creation of ClusterRoleBinding

Inside Kubernetes, you need to create a ClusterRoleBinding object as follows:

apiVersion: rbac.authorization.k8s.io/v1
kind: ClusterRoleBinding
name: oidc-cluster-admin
apiGroup: rbac.authorization.k8s.io
kind: ClusterRole
name: cluster-admin
- apiGroup: rbac.authorization.k8s.io
kind: Group
name: oidc:cluster-admin

Here, we’re using the cluster-admin role coming from Keycloak inside the token as a Kubernetes Group and we're assigning it the cluster-admin ClusterRole.

If you have kubectl installed, you can save this to a file called oidc-cluster-admin.yaml and do:

kubectl apply -f oidc-cluster-admin.yaml

Apiserver Configuration

Kubernetes is not a single service or an app. It’s a bunch of services that are run together. These services communicate with each other to achieve the features of Kubernetes. Normally, these services are classified as part of either the control plane of Kubernetes or worker nodes, where the worker nodes host the actual workloads while the control plane manages these worker nodes. One such service that is part of the control plane is kube-apiserver. Whenever a user tries to interact with a Kubernetes, they do so by communicating with kube-apiserver over a REST API. So naturally, this is the component that handles authentication and access control. To allow this integration, we'd need to do some configuration changes to this component.

For this, we need to locate the kube-apiserver process which is usually run inside a container and figure out how it's being run. Usually, kube-apiserver container is deployed as a static pod or a systemd service. For example, kubespray usually deploys it as a static pod by creating a manifest in /etc/kubernetes/manifests by the name of kube-apiserver.yaml.

These configuration changes are done to the command-line parameters of the kube-apiserver executable. Specifically, we need to add/update the following parameters:

  • --oidc-client-id: Set it to apiserver
  • --oidc-groups-claim: Set it to client_roles or whatever value you set against the Token Claim Name when you configured the mapper
  • --oidc-issuer-url: This can be figured out from the token payload. It's the value of the iss claim. For our locally running Keycloak, this should be http://localhost:8080/auth/realms/system
  • --oidc-username-claim: The claim against which the username of the logged-in user is given. In one of the previous guides, we figured out that it's given against preferred_username
  • --oidc-username-prefix: Optional, but good practice so that the usernames that come from Keycloak do not conflate with the existing users. Set it to oidc:
  • --oidc-groups-prefix: Again, optional, but good practice for the same reasons. Set it to oidc:

Once these parameters are configured, restart the kube-apiserver container.

NOTE: There’s a slight gotcha here. Your locally running Keycloak won’t be accessible to the components of a Kubernetes cluster running somewhere else if you specify the value of --oidc-issuer-url to something containing localhost. You have to provide a URL with the IP address of your machine instead of localhost.

Kubectl configuration

kubectl is the CLI tool to administer a Kubernetes cluster. You need to have kubectl installed for this. Inherently, it does not support OpenID Connect Token Authentication, but there's a plugin called kubelogin that we can use to add its support so go ahead and install this plugin too.

Once the plugin is installed do the following steps:

  1. Configure new credentials through kubectl using kubelogin plugin:
kubectl config set-credentials oidc --exec-api-version=client.authentication.k8s.io/v1beta1 \
--exec-command=kubectl \
--exec-arg=oidc-login \
--exec-arg=get-token \
--exec-arg=--oidc-issuer-url=<PUT ISSUER URL HERE> \
--exec-arg=--oidc-client-id=apiserver \
--exec-arg=--oidc-client-secret=<PUT CLIENT SECRET HERE>

The value of --oidc-issuer-url need to be the value against the iss claim in the token but with the IP address of your machine as specified before, while the value of --oidc-client-secret needs to be the Secret we saved before when we were creating the client in Keycloak.

  1. Create a new cluster through the following command:
kubectl config set-cluster my-kubernetes --server https://<PUT KUBERNETES CLUSTER HOSTNAME OR IP HERE>:6443 --certificate-authority=/path/to/ca.crt/file

The value of --server needs to be a hostname or IP address on which kube-apiserver is bound and listening for requests. Usually, it's the IP address of one of the nodes in the control plane. The value of --certificate-authority is the path to the CA certificate that this Kubernetes cluster is using to secure its communication. if you don't have this certificate, you can specify --insecure-skip-tls-verify=true instead of a --certificate-authority parameter but that's not recommended since it exposes your communication to interception.

  1. Create a new context through the following command:
kubectl config set-context my-cluster-context --cluster=my-kubernetes --user=oidc
  1. Set it to the current context:
kubectl config use-context my-cluster-context

And that’s it. Our configuration changes are done.


Run any kubectl command:

kubectl cluster-info

This is going to open a login page on Keycloak. Use the admin credentials to log-in. Previously, we assigned this user the cluster-admin client role which we then mapped to cluster-admin ClusterRole through a ClusterRoleBinding so admin should have full access to the cluster.

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