Kubernetes Audit Logs in Parseable through Vector

Kubernetes Audit Logs in Parseable through Vector

Analyze the cluster activities and fix misconfigurations by enabling auditing in Kubernetes and store them in Parseable with Vector log agent.

7 July 2023
Audit Logs
audit policy
audit events
log agent

Kubernetes has become the standard container orchestration tool for microservice-based deployments and managing large business applications. As Kubernetes has so many features, using and managing it can be difficult, especially keeping track of activities in the cluster. The main goal of this hands-on lab is to make available Kubernetes Audit Logs and store them in the Parseable, log storage backend to enable tracking of all cluster-wide activities.

While working with the Kubernetes cluster, If we face any issue and want to know where it has happened, when it started, or who did it, we will check the Kubernetes audit logs. By default, the Kubernetes cluster itself doesn't enable the audit logs. It has to be enabled by creating an audit policy and mentioning it in an api-server configuration file. We will demonstrate how Parseable stores audit logs through vector agents and extracts appropriate logs. Let’s first, have a quick look at audit and event logs.

What Are Audit and Event Logs in Kubernetes?

Audit means recorded documentation of a sequence of actions occurring in the Kubernetes cluster. The Kubernetes cluster audits the following activities:

  • The activity initiated by the user
  • The application generated events that use Kubernetes API
  • Kubelet activity
  • Scheduler activity
  • The events generated by the control plane etc.

How Auditing Works in Kubernetes?

The life cycle of an audit record starts inside the kube-APIserver component. Each request generates an audit event at each stage of execution, which is eventually pre-processed with a specific policy and written to a backend. The audit policy instructs what type of data should be recorded and these records are stored in the backends. Please refer to our hands-on lab on auditing to get a detailed understanding.

Figure 1: Working of Auditing in Kubernetes
Figure 1: Working of Auditing in Kubernetes

Audit Policy

Audit Policy defines a set of rules, which specifies which event should be recorded and what data should be included in audit logs. When any event occurs it matches with the set of rules defined in the policy. 

Now, Let’s enable auditing in Kubernetes.

Auditing in Kubernetes with Vector and Parseable

We'll implement Audit logs in Kubernetes, store them in a local file system, and configure Vector, a lightweight, ultra-fast tool to send logs to the Parseable server.  At last, we will verify audit logs in Parseable UI with secret.

Here is the high-level architecture that shows what we would achieve from this hands-on Lab.

Figure 2: Workflow of storing Kubernetes audit logs in Parseable through Vector
Figure 2: Workflow of storing Kubernetes audit logs in Parseable through Vector

Please click on the LAB-SETUP button to get the Kubernetes cluster ready within a few seconds. We will perform the following tasks to understand how Parseable helps us in Kubernetes auditing.

  • Enable auditing in the Kubernetes cluster and store it locally.
  • Send Audit Logs in Parseable through Vector.
  • Audit Kubernetes Secrets access with Parseable.

Implementation of Kubernetes Audit Log

First, we will enable audit logs in Kubernetes and store them in the local filesystem.

  • Run the bash script k8s-audit-config.sh attached to the Lab-Setup to enable audit logs in Kubernetes. You can refer to our hands-on lab on Kubernetes Auditing for more details.
bash k8s-audit-config.sh
  • Wait for some time for the Kube-API server pod to get started.
kubectl get nodes
  • We will get audit logs in /var/log/audit/audit.log file.

Extract Audit Logs in Parseable

In this section, we will get audit logs in Parseble via Vector agent and confirm their presence in Parseable UI.

Parseable Installation

Parseable is a lightweight, high-speed, logging, and observability platform for cloud-native applications. Please refer to our previous hands-on lab on Parseable for more details. For this lab, we'll automate the steps via a script. 

  • Run the bash script parseable-installation.sh attached to the Lab-Setup to install the Parseable quickly,
bash parseable-installation.sh
  • Wait for some time for the Parseable pod to get started.
kubectl get pods -n parseable

Now, our application is ready and exposed on app-port-31000.To access it, please click on the Lab URLs section on the top right of this page. You can use admin as a username and password to log in. 

We'll now use Vector logging agent, which will configure Kubernetes audit logs as its data source, and sink it to the Parseable server. Please refer to our hands-on lab to understand how Vector works.

Install and Configure Vector Agent

We’ll install Vector via Helm. We’ll use values-vector.yaml file attached in the lab-setup that has the configuration details for the vector source and sink.

It will provide us with a fast and efficient way to push logs to Parseable over HTTP.

helm repo add vector https://helm.vector.dev
helm install vector vector/vector --namespace vector --create-namespace --values values-vector.yaml
kubectl get pods -n vector

Vector is now ready to collect logs from the audit.log file in the auditdemo log stream. The vector log stream is created through request headers mentioned in values-vector.yaml file.

  • Vector accesses the /var/log/audit/audit.log file to fetch the logs.

Now, we can observe Audit logs more clearly with a log stream auditdemo in Parseable UI. Let's use it more with Kubernetes secrets.

Auditing Kubernetes Secrets with Parseable

Developers have security concerns about deploying secrets in Kubernetes as they are only encoded, not encrypted by default. And due to this they have to be very careful regarding who should have access to secrets.

To demonstrate this issue, we are going to create a secret. We'll create two Service Accounts and by mistake, we will give the secret read/write access via RBAC Policy to both service accounts instead of one. We'll create two pods using a custom service account and read the secret from the pods using a custom service account. Also, we will set alerts for unauthorized secret access to one of the service accounts through Parseable.

Create a Secret

we'll encode our secret data like username and password.

echo -n cloudyuga | base64 
echo -n cloudyuga@123 | base64 

Using the above encoded data, create a configuration file to create a secret. (secret.yaml is attached to the lab-setup)

  • Create a secret from secret.yaml manifest.
kubectl apply -f secret.yaml
  • List the secret.
kubectl get secrets

Custom Service Accounts

Now let's create Service Accounts to assign a role via RBAC policies.

  • Create a custom service accounts
kubectl create sa cloudyuga-test
kubectl create sa test-demo
kubectl get sa

We are required to assign a role to the cloudyuga-test service account to manage secrets but by mistake, we will give access to the other service account test-demo as well. And on this basis, we will create an alert.

Set RBAC Policies to the Service Accounts

By mistake, we will be giving access to manage secrets to both Service Accounts. The following role.yaml manifest is attached to lab-env.

  • Create a role and set RBAC Policy by applying the role.yaml configuration file.
kubectl apply -f role.yaml
  • Assign the above role to both Service Accounts which we created in the previous sub-section using the following yaml manifest. (role-binding.yaml is attached to the lab-setup)
  • Apply role-binding.yaml manifest to the Service Accounts.
kubectl apply -f role-binding.yaml

We already misconfigured the RBAC Policy for test-demo Service Account. Now, what would be our next step?

Yes! we will try to read secrets from both accounts. For that, We'll create pods using both custom Service Accounts.

Pods Creation with Custom Service Account

  • Create a pod using cloudyuga-test service account.
kubectl apply -f pod-cloudyuga-test.yaml
  • To list the pods
kubectl get pods

Next, we'll try to retrieve secrets from the pods.

Exec into pod

  • Now, exec into the app-pod of the cloudyuga-test service account and try to access secrets through curl
kubectl exec -it app-pod -- sh
  • Apply the following commands to access the secrets through curl from the pod.

We got all the details of secrets through curl.

Figure 3: Partial Output of curl from pods
Figure 3: Partial Output of curl from pods
  • Let's decode the secret
echo <encoded-secret-data> | base64 -d
Figure 4: Read a secret
Figure 4: Read a secret

Here we can read the username or password which are stored as a secret.

Now, create an alert with Parseable to get notified when an unauthorized service account accesses the secret which can be resolved by fixing the misconfigured RBAC policy. 

Generate an Alert in Parseable

Parseable allows us to generate an alert when secrets are read by an unauthorized service account.

  • Use the following JSON code to set an alert from the Parseable UI. Click console->config->alert. Click Submit button.

Here, a cloudyuga-test service account is allowed to access the secret. If a secret is accessed by another Service Account it will generate an alert. Setup the target endpoint by going through https://webhook.site and copying your unique URL, for example, https://webhook.site/e10f820d-3b24-462d-92e7-cfde3a54e05d. Paste it in place of <webhook.site_custom_endpoint>

Next, we will try to access secrets from test-demo Service Account and check with the unique URL for alerts.

Trigger an Alert When Unauthorised SA Access the Secrets

  • Create another pod using test-demo service account.
kubectl apply -f pod-test-demo.yaml
kubectl get pods

Now, exec into the pod with the test-demo service account as we have done previously. 

kubectl exec -it test-pod -- sh
  • Apply the following commands to access the secrets through curl from the pod,

Hey!! We accessed secrets through an unauthorized service account. How to know? To get detailed information about the issue, we need to check audit logs!!!

so, let's verify how the above parseable setup can trigger an alert.

  • Browse the URL again :  https://webhook.site
Figure 5: Get an alert message
Figure 5: Get an alert message

We can see an alert message "unauthorised access triggered in auditdemo" as shown in the above figure. We can also check the audit logs in Parseable UI. Through this, the cluster admin can find out the unauthorized activities in the cluster and fix them without taking much time.


We have seen how audit logs are enabled in Kubernetes and forwarded to Parseable servers via Vector agent. Using Parseable we can generate alerts for unauthorised access of secrets through service accounts.


[1] https://kubernetes.io/docs/tasks/debug/debug-cluster/audit/ 

[2] https://cloudyuga.guru/hands_on_lab/auditing 

[3] https://youtu.be/yLHwVV-LYSk CNCF- webinar Kubernetes Audit Log-For Security

[4] https://cloudyuga.guru/hands_on_lab/vector-parseable

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About the Authors

Pratiksha Patel

Pratiksha Patel

Intern at CloudYuga

Pratiksha is a former Assistant Professor, Enthusiastic learner of Cloud and DevOps. She is currently working as Intern at CloudYuga.

Oshi Gupta

Oshi Gupta

DevOps Engineer & Technical Writer, CloudYuga

Oshi Gupta works as a DevOps Engineer and Technical Writer at CloudYuga Technologies. She is a CKA certified and has been selected for LFX mentorship in Spring 2022 for CNCF Kyverno. She loves writing blogs and is keen to learn about various cloud-native technologies. Besides this, she loves cooking, badminton, traveling, and yoga.