Plugging in CA certificate and key

This task shows how operators can plug existing certificate and key into Istio CA.

By default, the Istio CA generates self-signed CA certificate and key and uses them to sign the workload certificates. The Istio CA can also use the operator-specified certificate and key to sign workload certificates. This task demonstrates an example to plug certificate and key into the Istio CA.

Before you begin

  • Set up Istio on auth-enabled Kubernetes by following the instructions in the quick start. Note that authentication should be enabled at step 4 in the installation steps.

Plugging in the existing certificate and key

Suppose we want to have Istio CA use the existing certificate ca-cert.pem and key ca-key.pem. Furthermore, the certificate ca-cert.pem is signed by the root certificate root-cert.pem, and we would like to use root-cert.pem as the root certificate for Istio workloads.

In this example, because the Istio CA certificate (ca-cert.pem) is not set as the workloads’ root certificate (root-cert.pem), the workload cannot validate the workload certificates directly from the root certificate. The workload needs a cert-chain.pem file to specify the chain of trust, which should include the certificates of all the intermediate CAs between the workloads and the root CA. In this example, it only contains the Istio CA certificate, so cert-chain.pem is the same as ca-cert.pem. Note that if your ca-cert.pem is the same as root-cert.pem, you can have an empty cert-chain.pem file.

Download the example files:

wget -P /tmp
wget -P /tmp
wget -P /tmp
wget -P /tmp

The following steps enable plugging in the certificate and key into the Istio CA:

  1. Create a secret cacert including all the input files ca-cert.pem, ca-key.pem, root-cert.pem and cert-chain.pem:
    kubectl create secret generic cacerts -n istio-system --from-file=/tmp/ca-cert.pem --from-file=/tmp/ca-key.pem \
    --from-file=/tmp/root-cert.pem --from-file=/tmp/cert-chain.pem
  2. Redeploy the Istio CA, which reads the certificates and key from the secret-mount files:
    kubectl apply -f install/kubernetes/istio-ca-plugin-certs.yaml
  3. To make sure the workloads obtain the new certificates promptly, delete the secrets generated by Istio CA (named as istio.*). In this example, istio.default. The Istio CA will issue new certificates for the workloads.
    kubectl delete secret istio.default

    Note that if you are using different certificate/key file or secret names, you need to change corresponding arguments in istio-ca-plugin-certs.yaml.

Verifying the new certificates

In this section, we verify that the new workload certificates and root certificates are propagated. This requires you have openssl installed on your machine.

  1. Deploy the bookinfo application following the instructions.

  2. Retrieve the mounted certificates.

    Get the pods:

    kubectl get pods

    which produces:

    NAME                                        READY     STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
    details-v1-1520924117-48z17                 2/2       Running   0          6m
    productpage-v1-560495357-jk1lz              2/2       Running   0          6m
    ratings-v1-734492171-rnr5l                  2/2       Running   0          6m
    reviews-v1-874083890-f0qf0                  2/2       Running   0          6m
    reviews-v2-1343845940-b34q5                 2/2       Running   0          6m
    reviews-v3-1813607990-8ch52                 2/2       Running   0          6m

    In the following, we take the pod ratings-v1-734492171-rnr5l as an example, and verify the mounted certificates. Run the following commands to retrieve the certificates mounted on the proxy:

    kubectl exec -it ratings-v1-734492171-rnr5l -c istio-proxy -- /bin/cat /etc/certs/root-cert.pem > /tmp/pod-root-cert.pem

    The file /tmp/pod-root-cert.pem should contain the root certificate specified by the operator.

    kubectl exec -it ratings-v1-734492171-rnr5l -c istio-proxy -- /bin/cat /etc/certs/cert-chain.pem > /tmp/pod-cert-chain.pem

    The file /tmp/pod-cert-chain.pem should contain the workload certificate and the CA certificate.

  3. Verify the root certificate is the same as the one specified by operator:
    openssl x509 -in /tmp/root-cert.pem -text -noout > /tmp/root-cert.crt.txt
    openssl x509 -in /tmp/pod-root-cert.pem -text -noout > /tmp/pod-root-cert.crt.txt
    diff /tmp/root-cert.crt.txt /tmp/pod-root-cert.crt.txt
  4. Verify that the CA certificate is the same as the one specified by operator:
    tail /tmp/pod-cert-chain.pem -n 22 > /tmp/pod-cert-chain-ca.pem
    openssl x509 -in /tmp/ca-cert.pem -text -noout > /tmp/ca-cert.crt.txt
    openssl x509 -in /tmp/pod-cert-chain-ca.pem -text -noout > /tmp/pod-cert-chain-ca.crt.txt
    diff /tmp/ca-cert.crt.txt /tmp/pod-cert-chain-ca.crt.txt

    Expect that the output to be empty.

  5. Verify the certificate chain from the root certificate to the workload certificate:
    head /tmp/pod-cert-chain.pem -n 18 > /tmp/pod-cert-chain-workload.pem
    openssl verify -CAfile <(cat /tmp/ca-cert.pem /tmp/root-cert.pem) /tmp/pod-cert-chain-workload.pem

    Expect the following output:

    /tmp/pod-cert-chain-workload.pem: OK


  • To remove the secret cacerts:

    kubectl delete secret cacerts -n istio-system
  • To remove the Istio components:

    kubectl delete -f install/kubernetes/istio-auth.yaml

Further reading