days to Istio 1.5

Security Best Practices

This section provides some deployment guidelines to help keep a service mesh secure.

Use namespaces for isolation

If there are multiple service operators (a.k.a. SREs) deploying different services in a medium- or large-size cluster, we recommend creating a separate Kubernetes namespace for each SRE team to isolate their access. For example, you can create a team1-ns namespace for team1, and team2-ns namespace for team2, such that both teams cannot access each other’s services.

Let us consider a three-tier application with three services: photo-frontend, photo-backend, and datastore. The photo SRE team manages the photo-frontend and photo-backend services while the datastore SRE team manages the datastore service. The photo-frontend service can access photo-backend, and the photo-backend service can access datastore. However, the photo-frontend service cannot access datastore.

In this scenario, a cluster administrator creates three namespaces: istio-citadel-ns, photo-ns, and datastore-ns. The administrator has access to all namespaces and each team only has access to its own namespace. The photo SRE team creates two service accounts to run photo-frontend and photo-backend respectively in the photo-ns namespace. The datastore SRE team creates one service account to run the datastore service in the datastore-ns namespace. Moreover, we need to enforce the service access control in Istio Mixer such that photo-frontend cannot access datastore.

In this setup, Kubernetes can isolate the operator privileges on managing the services. Istio manages certificates and keys in all namespaces and enforces different access control rules to the services.

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