Version 1.10

Authorization policy overview

Unlike a monolithic application that might be running in one place, globally-distributed microservices apps make calls across network boundaries. This means more points of entry into your applications, and more opportunities for malicious attacks. And because Kubernetes pods have transient IPs, traditional IP-based firewall rules aren't adequate to secure access between workloads. In a microservices architecture, a new approach to security is needed. Building on security features such as Kubernetes service accounts and Istio security policies, Anthos Service Mesh provides even more capabilities to help you secure your applications.

This page gives application operators an overview of the AuthorizationPolicy custom resource (CR). Authorization policies let you enable access control on workloads at the application (L7) and transport (L3/4) layers. You configure authorization policies to specify permissions—what is this service or user allowed to do?

Authorization policies

Requests between services in your mesh (and between end-users and services) are allowed by default. You use the AuthorizationPolicy CR to define granular policies for your workloads. After you apply the authorization policies, Anthos Service Mesh distributes them to the sidecar proxies. As requests come into a workload, the sidecar proxy checks the authorization policies to determine if the request should be allowed or denied.

Policy scope

You can apply a policy to the entire service mesh, to a namespace, or to an individual workload.

  • To apply a mesh-wide policy, specify the root namespace, istio-system, in the metadata:namespace field:

    apiVersion: "security.istio.io/v1beta1"
    kind: "AuthorizationPolicy"
    metadata:
      name: "mesh-wide"
      namespace: istio-system
    spec:
    ...
    
  • To apply a policy to a namespace, specify the namespace in the metadata:namespace field:

    apiVersion: "security.istio.io/v1beta1"
    kind: "AuthorizationPolicy"
    metadata:
      name: "currencyservice"
      namespace: currencyservice
    spec:
    ...
    
  • To restrict a policy to a specific workload, include a selector field.

    apiVersion: "security.istio.io/v1beta1"
    kind: "AuthorizationPolicy"
    metadata:
      name: "frontend"
      namespace: demo
    spec:
      selector:
        matchLabels:
          app: frontend
       ...
    

Basic structure

An authorization policy includes the policy scope, an action, and a list of rules:

  • As described in the previous section, the policy scope can be the entire mesh, a namespace, or a specific workload. If you include it, the selector field specifies the target of the policy.

  • The action field specifies whether to ALLOW or DENY the request. If you don't specify an action, by default, the action is set to ALLOW. For clarity, we recommend that you always specify the action. (Authorization policies also support AUDIT and CUSTOM actions.)

  • The rules specify when to trigger the action.

    • The from field in the rules specifies the sources of the request.

    • The to field in the rules specifies the operations of the request.

    • The when field specifies additional conditions needed to apply the rule.

In the following example:

  • The policy is applied to requests to the frontend service in the demo namespace.

  • Requests are allowed when "hello:world" is in the request header; otherwise, requests are denied.

apiVersion: "security.istio.io/v1beta1"
kind: "AuthorizationPolicy"
metadata:
  name: "hello-world"
  namespace: demo
spec:
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      app: frontend
  action: ALLOW
  rules:
  - when:
    - key: request.headers[hello]
      values: ["world"]

Access control on request operation

You can control access to specific request operations such as HTTP methods or TCP ports by adding a to section under rules. In the following example, only the GET and POST HTTP methods are allowed to the currencyservice in the demo namespace.

apiVersion: security.istio.io/v1beta1
kind: AuthorizationPolicy
metadata:
 name: currencyservice
 namespace: demo
spec:
 selector:
   matchLabels:
     app: currencyservice
 action: ALLOW
 rules:
 - to:
   - operation:
       methods: ["GET", "POST"]

Access control on authenticated identity

In the previous examples, the policies allow requests from unauthenticated workloads. If you have STRICT mutual TLS (mTLS) enabled, you can restrict access based on the identity of the workload or namespace that the request is from in the source section.

  • Use the principals or notPrincipal field to control access at the workload level.

  • Use the namespaces or notNamespaces field to control access at the namespace level.

All of the above fields require that you have STRICT mTLS enabled. If you are unable to set STRICT mTLS, see Reject plaintext requests for an alternative solution.

Identified workload

In the following example, requests to the currencyservice are allowed only from the frontend service. Requests to the currencyservice from other workloads are denied.

apiVersion: "security.istio.io/v1beta1"
kind: "AuthorizationPolicy"
metadata:
  name: "currencyservice"
  namespace: demo
spec:
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      app: currencyservice
  action: ALLOW
  rules:
  - from:
    - source:
        principals: ["example-project-1234.svc.id.goog/ns/demo/sa/frontend-sa"]

To specify a service account, the principals for Anthos Service Mesh certificate authority (Mesh CA) must be in the following format:

principals: ["PROJECT_ID.svc.id.goog/ns/NAMESPACE/sa/SERVICE_ACCOUNT_NAME"]

PROJECT_ID.svc.id.googis the trust domain for Mesh CA. If you are using Istio CA (previously known as Citadel), the default trust domain is cluster.local.

Identified namespace

The following example shows a policy that denies requests if the source is not the foo namespace:

apiVersion: security.istio.io/v1beta1
kind: AuthorizationPolicy
metadata:
 name: httpbin-deny
 namespace: foo
spec:
 selector:
   matchLabels:
     app: httpbin
     version: v1
 action: DENY
 rules:
 - from:
   - source:
       notNamespaces: ["foo"]

Value matching

Most fields in authorization policies support all the following matching schemas:

  • Exact match: exact string match.
  • Wildcard match using the "*" wildcard character:
    • Prefix match: a string with an ending "*". For example, "test.abc.*" matches "test.abc.com" or "test.abc.com.cn".
    • Suffix match: a string with a starting "*". For example, "*.abc.com" matches "eng.abc.com" or "test.eng.abc.com".
  • Presence match: To specify that a field must be present and not empty, use the fieldname: ["*"] format. This is different from leaving a field unspecified, which means match anything, including empty.

There are a few exceptions. For example, the following fields only support exact match:

  • The key field under the when section
  • The ipBlocks under the source section
  • The ports field under the to section

The following example policy allows access at paths with the /test/* prefix or the */info suffix:

apiVersion: security.istio.io/v1beta1
kind: AuthorizationPolicy
metadata:
  name: tester
  namespace: default
spec:
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      app: products
  action: ALLOW
  rules:
  - to:
    - operation:
        paths: ["/test/*", "*/info"]

Exclusion matching

To match negative conditions like notValues in the when field, notIpBlocks in the source field, notPorts in the to field, Anthos Service Mesh supports exclusion matching. The following example requires a valid request principals, which is derived from JWT authentication, if the request path is not /healthz. Thus, the policy excludes requests to the /healthz path from the JWT authentication:

apiVersion: security.istio.io/v1beta1
kind: AuthorizationPolicy
metadata:
  name: disable-jwt-for-healthz
  namespace: default
spec:
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      app: products
  action: ALLOW
  rules:
  - to:
    - operation:
        notPaths: ["/healthz"]
    from:
    - source:
        requestPrincipals: ["*"]

Reject plaintext requests

In Anthos Service Mesh 1.5 and later, auto mTLS is enabled by default. With auto mTLS, a client sidecar proxy automatically detects if the server has a sidecar. The client sidecar sends mTLS to workloads with sidecars and sends plaintext to workloads without sidecars. For the best security, we recommend that you enable STRICT mTLS.

If you are unable to enable mTLS with STRICT mode for a workload or namespace, the alternative solution is to create an authorization policy to explicitly allow traffic with non-empty namespaces or non-empty principals or reject traffic with empty namespaces or principals. Because the namespaces and principals can only be extracted with a mTLS request, these policies effectively reject any plaintext traffic.

The following policy denies the request if the principal in the request is empty (which is the case for plaintext requests). The policy allows requests if the principal is non-empty. The ["*"] means a non-empty match, and using with notPrincipals means matching on empty principal.

apiVersion: security.istio.io/v1beta1
kind: AuthorizationPolicy
metadata:
  name: require-mtls
  namespace: NAMESPACE
spec:
  action: DENY
  rules:
  - from:
    - source:
        notPrincipals: ["*"]

Authorization policy precedence

You can configure separate ALLOW and DENY authorization policies, but you need to understand the policy precedence and default behavior to make sure that the policies do what you want. The following diagram describes the policy precedence.

authorization policy precedence

The example policies in the following sections illustrate some of the default behavior and the situations where you might find them useful.

Allow nothing

The following example shows an ALLOW policy that doesn't match anything. By default, if there are no other ALLOW policies, requests are always denied.

apiVersion: security.istio.io/v1beta1
kind: AuthorizationPolicy
metadata:
  name: allow-nothing
spec:
  action: ALLOW

It is a good security practice to start with the allow-nothing policy and incrementally add more ALLOW policies to open more access to a workload.

Deny all access

The following example shows a DENY policy that matches everything. Because DENY policies are evaluated before ALLOW policies, all requests are denied even if there is an ALLOW policy that matches the request.

apiVersion: security.istio.io/v1beta1
kind: AuthorizationPolicy
metadata:
  name: deny-all
spec:
  action: DENY
  rules:
  - {}

A deny-all policy is useful if you want to temporarily disable all access to a workload.

Allow all access

The following example shows an ALLOW policy that matches everything, and allows full access to a workload. The allow-all policy makes other ALLOW policies useless because it always allows the request.

apiVersion: security.istio.io/v1beta1
kind: AuthorizationPolicy
metadata:
  name: allow-all
spec:
  action: ALLOW
  rules:
  - {}

An allow-all policy is useful if you want to temporarily expose full access to a workload. Note requests could still be denied if there are any DENY policies since they are evaluated before ALLOW policies.

Best practices

  1. Create a Kubernetes service account for each service, and specify the service account in the Deployment. For example:

    apiVersion: v1
    kind: ServiceAccount
    metadata:
      name: frontend-sa
      namespace: demo
    ---
    apiVersion: apps/v1
    kind: Deployment
    metadata:
      name: frontend
      namespace:demo
    spec:
      selector:
        matchLabels:
          app: frontend
      template:
        metadata:
          labels:
            app: frontend
        spec:
          serviceAccountName: frontend-sa
        ...
    
  2. Start with an allow-nothing policy and incrementally add more ALLOW policies to open more access to workloads.

  3. If you are using JWTs for your service:

    1. Create a DENY policy to block unauthenticated requests, for example:

      apiVersion: security.istio.io/v1beta1
      kind: AuthorizationPolicy
      metadata:
        name: requireJWT
        namespace: admin
      spec:
        action: DENY
        rules:
        -  from:
          - source:
              notRequestPrincipals: ["*"]
      
    2. Apply an allow-nothing policy.

    3. Define ALLOW policies for each workload. For examples, see JWT Token.

What's next

Learn more about Anthos Service Mesh security features:

Learn more about authorization policies from the Istio documentation: