K8s Auth Client Certificate


  • Akeyless Gateway with network access to the Kubernetes (K8s) cluster.

  • K8s v1.21 and higher.



To set K8s Authentication method, make sure you have Access Permissions on your Gateway to manage the K8s Auth.

Notice: K8s Client certificate authentication is not supported by EKS.

Client Certificate Authentication

Client certificate-based authentication using a dedicated K8s user, instead of the bearer token flow, enables receiving notifications in advance of certificate expiration. This approach also follows K8s best practices for auth strategies since no token is being exchanged as part of the flow directly with your cluster.

K8s Client Creation

Create a client key using a Certificate Signing Request (CSR):

export USER_NAME="AkeylessK8sAuth";
export GROUP="AkeylessAuth";
export GATEWAY_URL="https://<Your_Akeyless_GW_URL:8000>";
K8S_CSR=$(akeyless generate-csr -n /k8s/Clustername/csr/$USER_NAME --generate-key --alg RSA2048 --common-name $USER_NAME --gateway-url $GATEWAY_URL --org $GROUP --json --jq-expression ".data"| base64 | tr -d "\n")
USER_KEY=$(akeyless export-classic-key -n /k8s/Clustername/csr/$USER_NAME --jq-expression ".key" | base64)

Make sure to set the relevant user_name and group according to your convention.

Issue a client certificate from your K8s cluster:

cat <<EOF | kubectl apply -f -
apiVersion: certificates.k8s.io/v1
kind: CertificateSigningRequest
  name: ${USER_NAME}
  - system:authenticated
  request: ${K8S_CSR}
  signerName: kubernetes.io/kube-apiserver-client
  - client auth

Approve the issued certificate, and upload it into Akeyless for future notifications about expiration:

kubectl certificate approve $USER_NAME
USER_CERT=$(kubectl get csr $USER_NAME -o jsonpath='{.status.certificate}')  
akeyless create-certificate --name /k8s/Clustername/certificates/$USER_NAME --certificate-data $USER_CERT --key-data $USER_KEY --expiration-event-in 30

K8s Role Binding

Create the Cluster Role Binding named role-tokenreview-binding for the user to review tokens:

cat <<EOF | kubectl apply -f -
apiVersion: rbac.authorization.k8s.io/v1
kind: ClusterRoleBinding
  name: role-tokenreview-binding
  namespace: default
  apiGroup: rbac.authorization.k8s.io
  kind: ClusterRole
  name: system:auth-delegator
- kind: User
  name: ${USER_NAME}
  namespace: default

Extract K8s Cluster CA Certificate

To extract the K8s cluster CA cert. used to talk to the K8s API, run the following command:

CA_CERT=$(kubectl config view --raw --minify --flatten  \
    --output 'jsonpath={.clusters[].cluster.certificate-authority-data}')
CA_CERT=$(openssl s_client -host <Rancher Server> -port 443 2>&1  | sed -n -e '/-----BEGIN CERTIFICATE-----/,/-----END CERTIFICATE-----/ p' | base64)

Create K8s Auth Method

  1. Use the Akeyless CLI to create the K8s auth method which will restrict access to two different pods, mypod1 and mypod2, in the namespace my-namespace-a. The result will output an Access ID and private key that you will need later for the K8s auth configuration in your Gateway:
akeyless create-auth-method-k8s -n my-k8s-auth-method --bound-pod-names mypod1 \
    --bound-pod-names mypod2 --bound-namespaces my-namespace-a --json

Upon successful creation, the response:

  "access_id": "p-abcdefg1234",
  "prv_key": "LS0tLS1CRUdJTiBSUlNDUUxt.....QVRFIEtFWS0tLS0tCg=="



Save the returned Access ID & private key for next steps inside environment variables $PRV_KEY and $ACCESS_ID.

Create K8s Gateway Auth Config Using Certificates

To discover your K8s service account issuer run the following command:



The K8s Issuer parameter is no longer used by default, as the issuer validation is done by the API server, if you still wish to work with local issuer validation open a new tab to run this command as it starts a server. Then, go back to your original tab to extract the issuer.

Forwarding the K8s API:

kubectl proxy --api-prefix=/k8s-api

Extract the issuer:

K8S_ISSUER=$(curl -s http://localhost:8001/k8s-api/.well-known/openid-configuration | jq -r .issuer)

Or extract the issuer directly from your pod token:

K8S_ISSUER=$(jq -R 'split(".") | .[1] | @base64d | fromjson |.iss' <<< $(cat /var/run/secrets/kubernetes.io/serviceaccount/token) -r)

Use the Akeyless CLI to create the K8s auth config using the Client Certificate.

akeyless gateway-create-k8s-auth-config 
--name k8s-conf \
--gateway-url https://<Your_Akeyless_GW_URL:8000> \
--access-id $ACCESS_ID \
--signing-key $PRV_KEY \
--k8s-auth-type certificate \
--k8s-host https://<Your_K8s_Cluster_IP:8443> \
--k8s-client-certificate $USER_CERT \
--k8s-client-key $USER_KEY \
--k8s-ca-cert $CA_CERT \
--k8s-issuer $K8S_ISSUER


  • name: The config name (will be used during the authentication process).

  • gateway-url: Akeyless Gateway Configuration Manager URL (port 8000).

  • access-id: The Access ID of the K8s auth method that was created.

  • signing-key: The private key (base64 encoded) associated with the public key defined in the K8s auth
    (The private key that was created when the K8s auth method was created previously).

  • k8s-auth-type: K8S auth type, use certificate.

  • k8s-host: The URL of your K8s Cluster.

  • k8s-client-certificate: The client's certificate in PEM format and base64 encoding.

  • k8s-client-key: The client's private key in PEM format and base64 encoding.

  • k8s-ca-cert: The certificate to validate the K8s cluster.

  • k8s-issuer: Optional ,the Kubernetes JWT issuer name (default is kubernetes/serviceaccount).

Upon successful creation, the response:

K8S Auth config k8s-conf successfully created. ID=[UqeOAkg4UDo...bpv52Iq]

Authenticate from a pod in your K8s cluster

  1. Create a namespace with a name that the auth method access is restricted to:
kubectl create namespace my-namespace-a
  1. In this namespace, create a pod with a name that the auth method access is restricted to:
kubectl run mypod1 --image=nginx -n my-namespace-a
  1. Start an interactive shell session on the pod and perform the following commands in the pod :
kubectl exec --stdin=true --namespace my-namespace-a  --tty=true mypod1 -- /bin/sh
  1. Install Akeyless CLI inside your pod:
curl -o akeyless https://akeyless-cli.s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/cli/latest/production/cli-linux-amd64
chmod +x akeyless
  1. Authenticate via your K8s auth method :
./akeyless auth --access-id $ACCESS_ID \
    --access-type k8s \
    --gateway-url https://<Your_Akeyless_GW_URL:8000> \
    --k8s-auth-config-name k8s-conf


  • access-id: The Access Id of the Kubernetes auth method that was created.

  • access-type: The Auth Method access type, i.e. k8s.

  • gateway-url: Akeyless Gateway Configuration Manager URL (port 8000).

  • k8s-auth-config-name: The K8s auth config name in your Gateway.

Upon successful authentication, the response will be:

Authentication succeeded.
Token: t-bb7b...3564a7c9



Delete the private key and Access ID which you stored as an environment variables $PRV_KEY and $ACCESS_ID

Available claims for K8s Auth

The following list of claims can be configured within Akeyless Role-based Access Control (RBAC) to control and segregate the relevant policy for K8s.

"pod_name"  # available only when "token request projection" is enabled on your K8s cluster
"pod_uid"   # available only when "token request projection" is enabled on your K8s cluster

Each claim can be enforced as part of your role association to enforce the right policy for your items.

Enable token request projection on Minikube

To enable token request projection on a managed K8s cluster you can follow this guide.

To get this to work with Minikube you can start your cluster with the following configuration.

minikube start \
    --vm-driver=none \
    --extra-config=apiserver.service-account-signing-key-file=/var/lib/minikube/certs/sa.key \
    --extra-config=apiserver.service-account-key-file=/var/lib/minikube/certs/sa.pub \
    --extra-config=apiserver.service-account-issuer=api \
    --extra-config=apiserver.service-account-api-audiences=api,spire-server \
    --extra-config=apiserver.authorization-mode=Node,RBAC \



This example uses api as the ServiceAccount issuer name, for your ServiceAccounts API audience.