Container service accounts

When a pod makes a request to the API server, the pod authenticates as a Service account. You can inspect which service account a pod is using by querying the API server. kubectl get pods/<pod_name> -o yaml | yq .spec.serviceAccountName.

If a service account is not set in the manifest, Kubernetes automatically sets it which can be accessed from inside the pod at one of the following locations:


A manifest can opt out of mounting a service account by specifying in either the Pod or ServiceAccount manifest but the Pod spec takes precedence:

# ServiceAccount manifest disabling automounting
# Manifest from:
apiVersion: v1
kind: ServiceAccount
  name: build-robot
automountServiceAccountToken: false

# Pod manifest disabling automounting
# Manifest from:
apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
  name: my-pod
  serviceAccountName: build-robot
  automountServiceAccountToken: false

Service accounts are namespace specific and can be listed with kubectl get serviceaccount -n <namespace>

By default, the service account granted to pods in the kube-system namespace grants full access to all resources. Service account permissions can be can be verified with the following kubectl command. The below command runs kubectl auth can-i --list using the service account tokens/certificates/namespace mounted in the Pod's default locations. You may need to change the location of --token,--certificate-authhority, and -n if the secret is in a non-standard location.

# Run kubectl and grab the service account tokens/certificate/namespace
# from their default locations. You may need to alter this if they're in
# non standard locations
./kubectl auth can-i --list \
--token=$(cat /run/secrets/ \
--certificate-authority=/run/secrets/ \
-n $(cat /run/secrets/

The following RBAC shows that this ServiceAccount in the kube-system namespace has full access to all resources and verbs.

In contrast, the default ServiceAccount in a namespace that is not kube-system does not have any useful RBAC permissions.

This ServiceAccount has get,list, and watch permissions for the pod resource.

Find RBAC associated with service accounts

Sometimes it's useful to find the RBAC assocaited with a ServiceAccount. Run the following command replacing REPLACEME with the name of the service account you wish to view the RBAC verbs for.

# Remember to replace REPLACEME
kubectl get rolebinding,clusterrolebinding \
--all-namespaces -o \
jsonpath='{range .items[?(@.subjects[0].name=="REPLACEME")]}[{.roleRef.kind},{}]{end}'

The output will show the Role that is applied binded to this service account. The RBAC associated with that rule can be queried with kubectl describe <name>

Alternatively you can run kubectl get rolebindings,clusterrolebindings --all-namespaces -o wide | grep <ServiceAccountName> but the output is very large.

ServiceAccount API Tokens

Additionally an API token can be created for a service account that can be used to authenticate.


Pull requests needed ❤️