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Securing Your Kubernetes Cluster: The Importance of cert-manager and Trusted Certificates

Securing Your Kubernetes Cluster: The Importance of cert-manager and Trusted Certificates

According to Gartner, by 2025 45% of organizations worldwide will have experienced attacks on their software supply chains, and in this dynamic landscape of containerized applications, Kubernetes has emerged as the standard for container orchestration.

With the rise of microservices’ architecture, Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) plays a critical role in developing trust and ensuring secure communication, authentication and authorization within a Kubernetes cluster. 

In this blog, we explore the significance of securing Kubernetes clusters and managing SSL / TLS certificates effectively, and how cert-manager facilitates in providing that layer of protection needed. 

Why SSL / TLS Certificates Matter in Kubernetes, in Particular Trusted TLS Certificates

We know that TLS certificates are key to security, but trusted certificates issued by a Certificate Authority (CA) offer advantages over self-signed certificates in terms of security, usability and trust. 

  • Enhanced Security – Thorough validation processes by a CA ensure the identity and legitimacy of the certificate holder. Self-signed certificates do not go through this validation process, exposing them to threats & vulnerabilities in a production environment. 
  • Chain of Trust - Trusted certificates are issued by CAs that are included in web browsers and operating systems' root certificate stores. These CAs are widely recognized and trusted by browsers and systems globally.
  • Certificate Lifecyle Management – Trusted certificates often come with automatic renewal and revocation methods. This is especially advantageous in fast paced Kubernetes environments where software is being developed at high speed and scale. 

The Role of cert-manager in Managing Certificate Lifecycles in Kubernetes

Securing Kubernetes is crucial to maintaining a safe environment and one vital aspect of security is managing certificates effectively. Certificates are crucial to establishing trust between different components within a cluster and ensuring secure communication. 

Cert-manager, Kubernetes native certificate management controller helps automate the issuance, renewal, and revocation of SSL / TLS certificates for Kubernetes workloads. Cert-manager has issuers from different Certificate Authorities that help developers to get Trusted SSL / TLS certificates for securing Kubernetes Workloads as per their need. This mitigates the risk of manual certificate lifecycle management, which is error-prone, especially in dynamic environments where containers are constantly being deployed and scaled.

PKI Certificates Use Cases for Kubernetes and cert-manager

Here are some common SSL / TLS certificate use cases addressed by cert-manager:

  1. Securing Kubernetes Ingress – cert-manager automatically provisions SSL / TLS certificates for services exposed through Ingress resources, ensuring encrypted communication between clients and the web application.
  2. Certificate Based Authentication – cert-manager can provision trusted client certificates for applications or users accessing Kubernetes services, enabling mutual SSL / TLS authentication.
  3. Securing Nodes and Kube APIs – Nodes and Kube APIs require trusted SSL / TLS to authenticate and encrypt communication to secure communication within the cluster and maintain integrity of the cluster. 
  4. Securing Servers – Both internal and external servers require trusted certificates to secure data transmission for both inbound and outbound connections, protecting from man-in-the-middle-attacks. Trusted certificates are paramount to protect against harm in production environments especially. 
  5. Isolation and Multi-Tenancy – When multiple tenants are working in a shared environment it runs the risk of any compromised clusters affecting one another. Trusted TLS ensures the security of multi-tenant deployments.
  6. Compliance Requirements – Cluster security ensures organisations meet compliance standards and cert-manager automates certificate management to preventing data breaches and outages. 

How GlobalSign can Help

GlobalSign’s Atlas Issuer for Kubernetes cert-manager enables developers to secure their Kubernetes clusters with trusted TLS certificates through a seamless plugin. By leveraging cert-managers capabilities, GlobalSign’s Atlas Issuer streamlines the process of generating and deploying trusted TLS certificates for your Kubernetes environments. 

Find out more about our Atlas Issuer for cert-manager

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