Knative Threat Model

This document describes the Knative threat model. When vulnerabilities are reported to the project, we consult this document to determine whether the report describes a potential exploit, and if so to determine the severity of the exploit. As we develop new features, we consult this document to consider their impact on the threat model.

Status: Work in Progress. This document does not yet represent the full threat model envisioned by the knative community, but we have to start somewhere.

Tenancy Model

There are three common tenancy models currently in use in the Kubernetes Ecosystem (See Three Tenancy Models for Kubernetes). Summarising here, in the first, a cluster is fully owned by a single tenant (Cluster-as-a-service). In the second, a cluster is partitioned between multiple tenants with the Namespace forming a security boundary between tenants of the cluster (Namspace-as-a-service). In the third, resources such as nodes and schedulers are shared, but the tenants, are presented with a logical cluster and can perform global operations such as installing CRDs and managing namespaces (Control-plane-as-a-service).

Currently, Knative assumes a single tenant per cluster (Cluster-as-a-service) as its security model.

While it is possible to secure Knative for use in non-single-tenant environments, for example by setting up appropriate NetworkPolicy, using appropriate container isolation techniques, and filtering requests to shared components such as the activator, the project does not currently consider itself to be secure for this use case. We would like eventually to support secure use in Namespace-as-a-service and Control-plane-as-a-service environments out of the box, and are very receptive to contributions that improve support for Namespace-as-a-service clusters, but we do not currently view exploits in these situations as vulnerabilities for the purpose of our disclosure policy.

Trusted and untrusted workloads

Knative is often used to implement platforms which permit developers to submit code or containers, which the platform runs. In some cases only trusted developers can submit code (for example in a private cluster), whereas in others the code may be entirely untrusted (for example when knative is used to implement a multi-tenant FaaS-style system). In either case the resulting applications might be available only to trusted users (again for example in a private cluster), or to untrusted users (a single-tenant cluster providing internet-accessible applications).

We differentiate between attacks on the system that require permission to create a Knative Service or Revision, and attacks that can be performed against knative clusters or workloads even without permissions to directly deploy a workload. In a multi-tenant environment it is possible that all users who can access the environment will also have permission to deploy workloads.

The most significant exploits are those that affect a cluster even without the ability to submit workloads. Another class of attack would involve an administrator with access to Knative being to perform actions that exceed their cluster roles; for now, since we primarily consider single-tenant clusters, while we are keen to fix any bugs in this area, we do not consider cases such as this as an exploit.

Availability, confidentiality, and integrity

We consider the confidentiality of user data and integrity of user workloads the most significant concern. We are also concerned about Denial of Service and Availability attacks (particularly where exploitable without the ability to submit workloads), but are aware that these currently exist both within Knative and the underlying Kubernetes platform. For this reason availability attacks are currently treated as relatively lower priority.

In general, since many availability risks are inherited from the underlying platform, we only - in Knative - consider issues which are significantly higher than the same situation in Kubernetes itself.

Security of the underlying Cluster

Knative relies on the security of the underlying cluster to maintain its security posture. This requires manual work that is the responsibility of upstream SIGs to document. The project cannot be secure if the underlying platform is not secured.

Security of container and network technologies

Similarly to the above paragraph, Knative relies on the security of underlying container and networking technologies for its security. This includes proper configuration of these technologies. For example, it is not secure to run mutually untrusted workloads in a cluster without properly configuring isolation technologies (for example a VM-based container engine such as gVisor or firecracker, or enabling - at least - user namespaces and seccomp if using containerD or crio), and network technologies. The project does not currently provide guidance on this, although we would like to in future.