The Kubernetes dashboard


  • Kubernetes resources can also be viewed with a web dashboard

  • That dashboard is usually exposed over HTTPS

    (this requires obtaining a proper TLS certificate)

  • Dashboard users need to authenticate

  • We are going to take a dangerous shortcut

The insecure method

  • We could (and should) use Let's Encrypt ...

  • ... but we don't want to deal with TLS certificates

  • We could (and should) learn how authentication and authorization work ...

  • ... but we will use a guest account with admin access instead

Yes, this will open our cluster to all kinds of shenanigans. Don't do this at home.

Running a very insecure dashboard

  • We are going to deploy that dashboard with one single command

  • This command will create all the necessary resources

    (the dashboard itself, the HTTP wrapper, the admin/guest account)

  • All these resources are defined in a YAML file

  • All we have to do is load that YAML file with with kubectl apply -f


  • Create all the dashboard resources, with the following command:

    kubectl apply -f ~/

Connecting to the dashboard


  • Check which port the dashboard is on:

    kubectl get svc dashboard

You'll want the 3xxxx port.


The dashboard will then ask you which authentication you want to use.

Dashboard authentication

  • We have three authentication options at this point:

    • token (associated with a role that has appropriate permissions)

    • kubeconfig (e.g. using the ~/.kube/config file from node1)

    • "skip" (use the dashboard "service account")

  • Let's use "skip": we're logged in!

By the way, we just added a backdoor to our Kubernetes cluster!

Running the Kubernetes dashboard securely

Security implications of kubectl apply

  • When we do kubectl apply -f <URL>, we create arbitrary resources

  • Resources can be evil; imagine a deployment that ...

    • starts bitcoin miners on the whole cluster
  • hides in a non-default namespace
  • bind-mounts our nodes' filesystem
  • inserts SSH keys in the root account (on the node)
  • encrypts our data and ransoms it
  • ☠️☠️☠️

kubectl apply is the new curl | sh

  • curl | sh is convenient

  • It's safe if you use HTTPS URLs from trusted sources

  • kubectl apply -f is convenient

  • It's safe if you use HTTPS URLs from trusted sources

  • Example: the official setup instructions for most pod networks

  • It introduces new failure modes (like if you try to apply yaml from a link that's no longer valid)