Client TLS/SSL connections

Certificates

See Certificates for more details on how CloudNativePG supports TLS certificates.

The CloudNativePG operator was designed to work with TLS/SSL for both encryption in transit and authentication on the server and client sides. Clusters created using the CNPG operator come with a certification authority (CA) to create and sign TLS client certificates. Using the cnpg plugin for kubectl, you can issue a new TLS client certificate for authenticating a user instead of using passwords.

These instructions for authenticating using TLS/SSL certificates assume you installed a cluster using the cluster-example-pg-hba.yaml manifest. According to the convention-over-configuration paradigm, that file creates an app database that's owned by a user called app. (You can change this convention by way of the initdb configuration in the bootstrap section.)

Issuing a new certificate

About CNPG plugin for kubectl

See the Certificates in the CloudNativePG plugin content for details on how to use the plugin for kubectl.

You can create a certificate for the app user in the cluster-example PostgreSQL cluster as follows:

kubectl cnpg certificate cluster-app \
  --cnpg-cluster cluster-example \
  --cnpg-user app

You can now verify the certificate:

kubectl get secret cluster-app \
  -o jsonpath="{.data['tls\.crt']}" \
  | base64 -d | openssl x509 -text -noout \
  | head -n 11

Output:


Certificate:
  Data:
    Version: 3 (0x2)
    Serial Number:
      5d:e1:72:8a:39:9f:ce:51:19:9d:21:ff:1e:4b:24:5d
    Signature Algorithm: ecdsa-with-SHA256
    Issuer: OU = default, CN = cluster-example
    Validity
      Not Before: Mar 22 10:22:14 2021 GMT
      Not After : Mar 22 10:22:14 2022 GMT
    Subject: CN = app

As you can see, TLS client certificates by default are created with 90 days of validity, and with a simple CN that corresponds to the username in PostgreSQL. You can specify the validity and threshold values using the EXPIRE_CHECK_THRESHOLD and CERTIFICATE_DURATION parameters. This is necessary to leverage the cert authentication method for hostssl entries in pg_hba.conf.

Testing the connection via a TLS certificate

Next, test this client certificate by configuring a demo client application that connects to your CloudNativePG cluster.

The following manifest, called cert-test.yaml, creates a demo pod with a test application in the same namespace where your database cluster is running:

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  name: cert-test
spec:
  replicas: 1
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      app: webtest
  template:
    metadata:
      labels:
        app: webtest
    spec:
      containers:
        - image: ghcr.io/cloudnative-pg/webtest:1.6.0
          name: cert-test
          volumeMounts:
            - name: secret-volume-root-ca
              mountPath: /etc/secrets/ca
            - name: secret-volume-app
              mountPath: /etc/secrets/app
          ports:
            - containerPort: 8080
          env:
            - name: DATABASE_URL
              value: >
                sslkey=/etc/secrets/app/tls.key
                sslcert=/etc/secrets/app/tls.crt
                sslrootcert=/etc/secrets/ca/ca.crt
                host=cluster-example-rw.default.svc
                dbname=app
                user=app
                sslmode=verify-full
            - name: SQL_QUERY
              value: SELECT 1
          readinessProbe:
            httpGet:
              port: 8080
              path: /tx
      volumes:
        - name: secret-volume-root-ca
          secret:
            secretName: cluster-example-ca
            defaultMode: 0600
        - name: secret-volume-app
          secret:
            secretName: cluster-app
            defaultMode: 0600

This pod mounts secrets managed by the CloudNativePG operator, including:

  • sslcert – The TLS client public certificate.
  • sslkey – The TLS client certificate private key.
  • sslrootcert – The TLS CA certificate that signed the certificate on the server to use to verify the identity of the instances.

They're used to create the default resources that psql (and other libpq-based applications, like pgbench) requires to establish a TLS-encrypted connection to the Postgres database.

By default, psql searches for certificates in the ~/.postgresql directory of the current user, but you can use the sslkey, sslcert, and sslrootcert options to point libpq to the actual location of the cryptographic material. The content of these files is gathered from the secrets that were previously created by using the cnpg plugin for kubectl.

Deploy the application:

kubectl create -f cert-test.yaml

Then use the created pod as the PostgreSQL client to validate the SSL connection and authentication using the TLS certificates you just created.

A readiness probe was configured to ensure that the application is ready when the database server can be reached.

You can verify that the connection works. To do so, execute an interactive bash inside the pod's container to run psql using the necessary options. The PostgreSQL server is exposed through the read-write Kubernetes service. Point the psql command to connect to this service:

kubectl exec -it cert-test -- bash -c "psql
'sslkey=/etc/secrets/app/tls.key sslcert=/etc/secrets/app/tls.crt
sslrootcert=/etc/secrets/ca/ca.crt host=cluster-example-rw.default.svc dbname=app
user=app sslmode=verify-full' -c 'select version();'"

Output:

                                        version
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
------------------
PostgreSQL 16.2 on x86_64-pc-linux-gnu, compiled by gcc (GCC) 8.3.1 20191121 (Red Hat
8.3.1-5), 64-bit
(1 row)

About TLS protocol versions

By default, the operator sets both ssl_min_protocol_version and ssl_max_protocol_version to TLSv1.3.

Important

In PostgreSQL 11, these two GUCs don't exist. Hence, in these specific versions these values aren't set, and the default values are used.

This assumes that the PostgreSQL operand images include an OpenSSL library that supports the TLSv1.3 version. If not, or if your client applications need a lower version number, you need to manually configure it in the PostgreSQL configuration as any other Postgres GUC.