How to Create a User in a Kubernetes Cluster and Grant Access

Hakan Bayraktar
4 min readNov 17, 2023

In this detailed guide, we’ll illustrate the steps required to create a user, generate necessary certificates, and configure access using a kubeconfig file within a Kubernetes cluster.

Step 1: Generating a Key Pair and Certificate Signing Request (CSR)

First, let’s generate a key pair and a Certificate Signing Request (CSR) using OpenSSL:

openssl genrsa -out developer.key 2048
openssl req -new -key developer.key -out developer.csr -subj "/CN=developer"

Now, let’s create create a CSR YAML file named “csr_template.yaml” to submit to Kubernetes:

csr_template.yaml

cat <<EOF > csr_template.yaml
apiVersion: certificates.k8s.io/v1
kind: CertificateSigningRequest
metadata:
name: developer-csr
spec:
request: <Base64_encoded_CSR>
signerName: kubernetes.io/kube-apiserver-client
usages:
- client auth
EOF

Replace <Base64_encoded_CSR> with the Base64-encoded content of the developer.csr file.

Generate the CSR content in Base64 and create the YAML file:

CSR_CONTENT=$(cat developer.csr | base64 | tr -d '\n')
sed "s|<Base64_encoded_CSR>|$CSR_CONTENT|" csr_template.yaml > developer_csr.yaml

Apply the CSR YAML file to Kubernetes:

kubectl create -f developer_csr.yaml

Approve the CSR and retrieve the approved certificate:

kubectl get csr
kubectl certificate approve developer-csr
kubectl get csr developer-csr -o jsonpath='{.status.certificate}' | base64 --decode > developer.crt
kubectl get csr

Step 2: Generate and Configure a kubeconfig File

To access the Kubernetes cluster, it’s essential to generate a configuration file tailored for the ‘developer’ user. This file needs to encompass critical information, including the Kubernetes API access specifics, the Cluster CA certificate, as well as the ‘developer’ user’s certificate and context name. Initially, we’ll generate the kubeconfig file specifically for the ‘developer’ user.

Configure the kubeconfig file:

We need to modify below the command according to our cluster-specific information to Set Cluster Configuration:

kubectl config set-cluster kubernetes — server=https://<Kubernetes_API_server_endpoint>:<port> — certificate-authority=<Base64_encoded_CA_certificate> — embed-certs=true — kubeconfig=developer.kubeconfig

Replace <Kubernetes_API_server_endpoint> with the address of the Kubernetes API server and <port> with the corresponding port number. Also, replace <Base64_encoded_CA_certificate> with the file path of the CA certificate in Base64 encoding.

First, we need to locate the cluster’s Kubernetes API access details and the Cluster CA certificate:

kubectl config view
ls /etc/kubernetes/pki/

I changed the command above according our cluster information.

# Set Cluster Configuration:
kubectl config set-cluster kubernetes --server=https://104.248.28.87:6443 --certificate-authority=/etc/kubernetes/pki/ca.crt --embed-certs=true --kubeconfig=developer.kubeconfig
# Set Credentials for Developer:
kubectl config set-credentials developer --client-certificate=developer.crt --client-key=developer.key --embed-certs=true --kubeconfig=developer.kubeconfig
# Set Developer Context:
kubectl config set-context developer-context --cluster=kubernetes --namespace=default --user=developer --kubeconfig=developer.kubeconfig
# Use Developer Context:
kubectl config use-context developer-context --kubeconfig=developer.kubeconfig

Verify the kubeconfig file’s configuration:

kubectl --kubeconfig=developer.kubeconfig get pods

We logged into the cluster with the ‘Developer’ user and attempted to list the pods in the ‘default’ namespace. However, due to the lack of necessary permissions for the ‘Developer’ user, we couldn’t retrieve the list of pods. Below, you can find how to grant the required permissions to this user.

Step 3: Assign Roles and Bindings for the Developer User

Create and apply roles and role bindings for the developer user:

developer-cluster-role.yaml

cat <<EOF > developer-cluster-role.yaml
apiVersion: rbac.authorization.k8s.io/v1
kind: ClusterRole
metadata:
name: developer-role
rules:
- apiGroups: ["", "extensions", "apps"]
resources: ["*"]
verbs: ["*"]
EOF

developer-role-binding.yaml

cat <<EOF > developer-role-binding.yaml
apiVersion: rbac.authorization.k8s.io/v1
kind: RoleBinding
metadata:
name: developer-binding
namespace: default
subjects:
- kind: User
name: developer
apiGroup: rbac.authorization.k8s.io
roleRef:
kind: ClusterRole
name: developer-role
apiGroup: rbac.authorization.k8s.io
EOF

Apply the roles and role bindings:

kubectl apply -f developer-cluster-role.yaml -f developer-role-binding.yaml

Step 4: Verify developer User Rights

You can run the following commands to check the permissions assigned to the ‘developer’ user for accessing the Kubernetes cluster resources.

kubectl --kubeconfig=developer.kubeconfig get pods
kubectl --kubeconfig=developer.kubeconfig run nginx --image=nginx
kubectl --kubeconfig=developer.kubeconfig get pods

This confirms that the developer user has appropriate access to pods in the default namespace.

kubectl --kubeconfig=developer.kubeconfig get pods -A

We couldn’t retrieve the information about pods across all namespaces. This limitation occurred because the permissions granted to the developer user are only applicable to the ‘default’ namespace.

Note: You can find more information about RBAC Authorization and different user role-related details at his link: https://kubernetes.io/docs/reference/access-authn-authz/rbac/

--

--