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Service security use cases

This document describes common Traffic Director security use cases. Use this information to help you determine which security model best suits your needs. This document also provides a high-level overview of what you need to configure for each use case.

For an overview of service security, see Traffic Director service security.

Enabling mutual TLS for services in the mesh

In a service mesh, you can enable mutual TLS (mTLS) so that both the client and the server in a communication must prove their identities and encrypt communications.

Mutual TLS (mTLS) authentication in a service mesh.
Mutual TLS (mTLS) authentication in a service mesh (click to enlarge)

The following section omits discussion of the global forwarding rule, target HTTPS proxy, and URL map. These Compute Engine API resources are required to create your mesh, but you don't need to update them to enable mTLS.

The preceding pattern can be achieved by configuring the following Compute Engine API resources. This diagram uses sidecar proxies, but configuring a proxyless gRPC application with mTLS uses the same resources.

Compute Engine API resources for mTLS within a mesh.
Compute Engine API resources for mTLS within a mesh (click to enlarge)

To create this model, do the following:

  1. Create a client transport layer security (TLS) policy.
  2. Create a server TLS policy.
  3. Update the securitySettings field in your existing global backend services to reference the new client TLS policy.
  4. Create an endpoint policy:

    1. Reference the server TLS policy in the server_tls_policy field.
    2. Define an EndpointMatcher to select the Traffic Director clients that should enforce authentication on inbound traffic.

      Selecting Traffic Director clients is based on labels specified in the Traffic Director client's bootstrap configuration. These labels can be supplied manually or populated automatically based on labels supplied to your Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) deployments.

      In the preceding diagram, the labels "mesh-service":"true" are configured on the endpoint policy and the Traffic Director clients. You can choose labels that suit your deployment.

    3. Optionally, define a TrafficPortSelector that applies the policies only when inbound requests are made to the specified port on the data plane entity.

The following diagram shows the Compute Engine resources that you configure for mTLS, regardless of whether you use Envoy or a proxyless gRPC application.

Compute Engine API resources for mTLS within a mesh.
Compute Engine API resources for mTLS within a mesh (click to enlarge)

The following diagram shows traffic flow and lists the Compute Engine API resources that you configure to enable mTLS. The local sidecar proxy that sits alongside Service B's GKE Pod is the endpoint in the communication.

Compute Engine API resources and traffic flow for mTLS within a mesh.
Compute Engine API resources and traffic flow for mTLS within a mesh (click to enlarge)

The endpoint policy does the following:

  1. Selects a set of endpoints by using an endpoint matcher and, optionally, ports on those endpoints.

    1. The endpoint matcher lets you specify rules that determine whether a Traffic Director client receives the configuration. These rules are based on the xDS metadata that the data plane entity provides to the control plane—in this case, Traffic Director.

      You can add labels to the Traffic Director client as follows:

      • You can manually specify this metadata in your Traffic Director client's bootstrap file.
      • Alternatively, the metadata can be automatically populated when you use GKE by adding the key-value pairs to the env section of the demo_server.yaml or demo_client.yaml files. These values are provided in the Envoy setup guide and proxyless gRPC setup guide.

        For example, with Envoy only, you can prefix the key with the ISTIO_META_ prefix. Proxy environment variable names that start with ISTIO_META_ are included in the generated bootstrap and sent to the xDS server.

        - name: ISTIO_META_app
          value: 'review'
        - name: ISTIO_META_version
          value: 'canary'
        
    2. If you specify a port, the policies referenced in the endpoint policy are only enforced on inbound requests that specify the same port. If you don't specify a port, the policies are enforced on inbound requests that specify a port that is also in the TRAFFICDIRECTOR_INBOUND_BACKEND_PORTS field, which is provided to the Traffic Director client in its bootstrap information.

  2. References client TLS, server TLS, and authorization policies that configure the endpoints to which requests resolve.

Configuring incompatible TLS modes might result in a disruption of communications. For example, setting OPEN on the global backend service or leaving the client TLS policy field empty, and setting MTLS as the value of the server TLS policy on the endpoint policy, results in failed communication attempts. This is because endpoints that are configured to only accept mTLS reject attempts to establish unauthenticated communication channels.

Note the distinction between a client TLS policy and a server TLS policy attached to a global backend service and endpoint policy, respectively:

  • The client TLS policy is applied to the global backend service. It tells the Envoy proxy or proxyless client which TLS mode, identity, and peer validation approach to use when addressing the service.
  • The server TLS policy is attached to the endpoint policy. It tells the server which TLS mode, identity, and peer validation approach to use for incoming connections.

Enabling TLS for an ingress gateway

After you set up mTLS for in-mesh communications, you might want to secure traffic that is entering your mesh, known as ingress traffic. Traffic Director can configure your data plane to require ingress traffic to use TLS-encrypted communications channels.

To achieve this goal, choose one of the following architecture options:

  • Services in the mesh terminate TLS for traffic from a load balancer. In this model, each service in the mesh is configured as a backend in the load balancer's configuration—specifically, in the load balancer's URL map.
  • An ingress gateway terminates TLS for traffic from a load balancer before forwarding traffic to services in the mesh. In this model, a dedicated service in the mesh, the ingress gateway, is configured as a backend in the load balancer's configuration—specifically, in the load balancer's URL map.

Both options are explained in this section.

Services in the mesh terminate TLS for traffic from a load balancer

If you want to make your services available to clients outside of Google Cloud, you might use External HTTP(S) Load Balancing. Clients send traffic to the load balancer's global Anycast virtual IP address (VIP), which then forwards that traffic to services in your mesh. This means that there are two connections when an external client needs to reach a service in the mesh.

TLS to a service in the mesh.
TLS to a service in the mesh (click to enlarge)

The same pattern applies when you use Internal HTTP(S) Load Balancing. Traffic from internal clients first reaches the load balancer, which then establishes a connection to the backend.

To secure both connections, do the following:

  1. Secure the connection between the client and the load balancer by using External HTTP(S) Load Balancing.
  2. Configure the load balancer to use the HTTPS or HTTP/2 protocols when it attempts to establish a connection with services in the mesh.
  3. Configure Traffic Director so that your Traffic Director clients terminate HTTPS and present certificates to the client, which, in this case, is the load balancer.

For more information about steps 1 and 2, see Setting up a multi-region, content-based external HTTPS load balancer.

When you set up Traffic Director security, you configure various Compute Engine API resources. These resources are separate from the resources that you configure for the load balancer. In other words, you create two sets of Compute Engine API resources (global forwarding rule, target proxy, URL map, and global backend services) with different load-balancing schemes:

  • One set of resources configures your load balancer, which has the load-balancing scheme INTERNAL_MANAGED.
  • The other set of resources configures Traffic Director, which has the load-balancing scheme INTERNAL_SELF_MANAGED.

In step 3, you configure Traffic Director so that your Traffic Director clients terminate HTTPS and present certificates to clients.

Compute Engine API resources for TLS to service in mesh.
Compute Engine API resources for TLS to service in mesh (click to enlarge)

In this model, you do the following:

  1. Create a server TLS policy: configure terminationTls on transportAuthentication.
  2. Create an endpoint policy:
    1. Reference the server TLS policy in the authentication field.
    2. Define an EndpointMatcher to select the xDS data plane entities that should enforce authentication on inbound traffic.
    3. Optionally, define a TrafficPortSelector that applies the policies only when inbound requests are made to the specified port on the Traffic Director client.

Because External HTTP(S) Load Balancing is already configured to initiate TLS connections to services in your mesh, Traffic Director only needs to configure your Traffic Director clients to terminate TLS connections.

Ingress gateway terminates TLS for traffic from a load balancer before forwarding traffic to services in the mesh

If you only want to expose an ingress gateway to your load balancer, you can use the ingress gateway deployment pattern. In this pattern, the load balancer does not directly address services in your mesh. Instead, a middle proxy sits at the edge of your mesh and routes traffic to services inside the mesh, based on the configuration that it receives from Traffic Director. The middle proxy can be an Envoy proxy that you deployed on virtual machine (VM) instances in a Compute Engine managed instance group.

TLS to an ingress gateway with mTLS within a mesh.
TLS to an ingress gateway with mTLS within a mesh (click to enlarge)

From a security perspective, you configure the ingress gateway to terminate TLS, and then optionally configure connections within your mesh so that they are protected by mTLS. These include connections between the ingress gateway and your in-mesh services, and connections among your in-mesh services.

From a configuration perspective, you do the following:

  1. Configure your service mesh and enable mTLS for communications within the mesh (as explained earlier).
  2. Configure your load balancer to route traffic to the ingress gateway and initiate connections by using the HTTPS protocol (as explained earlier).
  3. Create a set of Compute Engine API resources that represent the ingress gateway and its server TLS policy.

For the third step, configure Traffic Director to terminate HTTPS and present certificates as follows:

  1. Create a global forwarding rule and a target HTTPS proxy to represent the path for ingress traffic into your mesh.

  2. Attach the existing URL map for your mesh to this target HTTPS proxy. The URL map already contains references to your mesh's various global backend services, based on the configuration supplied when you configured the mesh and mTLS.

  3. Create a server TLS policy: configure serverCertificate.

  4. Attach the server TLS policy resource to your target HTTPS proxy.

The ingress gateway pattern is especially useful in large organizations that use Shared VPC. In such a setting, a team might only allow access to its services through an ingress gateway. In the preceding diagram, when you configure the global forwarding rule, you supply a different IP address (in this example, 10.0.0.2) than the one supplied when you configure the mesh (in this example, the mesh address is 10.0.0.1). Clients that communicate through a Traffic Director-configured xDS data plane entity can use this address to access the ingress gateway.

As an example, assume the following:

  • Two service projects (1 and 2), both attached to the same Shared VPC network.
  • Service project 1 contains a service mesh configured by Traffic Director.

    Service project 1 has configured a mesh and an ingress gateway. This ingress gateway is reachable on the 10.0.0.2 address/VIP.

  • Service project 2 contains a service mesh configured by Traffic Director.

    Service project 2 might or might not have its own ingress gateway.

  • Traffic Director configures the Traffic Director clients in each service project. The clients are bootstrapped to use the same network.

Given this configuration, clients in service project 2's mesh can communicate with the ingress gateway in service project 1 by using the 10.0.0.2 VIP. This enables the owners of service project 1 to configure routing, security, and other policies that are specific to traffic entering the mesh. In effect, the owners of service project 1 can tell others that clients in your mesh can reach my services on 10.0.0.2.

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