Kubernetes Network Security

6 Ways to Improve Kubernetes Network Security

What Is Kubernetes Network Security?

Kubernetes network security refers to the set of measures and best practices used to secure the network communications within a Kubernetes cluster. Kubernetes is an open-source container orchestration platform used to manage and deploy containerized applications. Network security is a critical aspect of any Kubernetes deployment, as it ensures that data transmitted within the cluster is protected against unauthorized access, interception, or modification.

This is part of a series of articles about Kubernetes security.

In this article:

Why Is Kubernetes Network Security Important?

Kubernetes network security is important because it helps to protect the sensitive data and critical applications that run in a Kubernetes cluster. Securing the network communication helps to prevent unauthorized access, data breaches, tampering, and other malicious activities that could compromise the cluster and its workloads.

Additionally, Kubernetes network security helps to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the applications and data in the cluster, meeting regulatory requirements and industry standards.

Furthermore, implementing network security measures in a Kubernetes cluster can help to improve its overall security posture, enabling organizations to confidently deploy and run critical applications in production environments.

6 Ways to Improve Kubernetes Network Security

1. Add Network Security Policies

Network security policies are rules that specify the allowed communication between pods in a cluster. They help to control access to the network and prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data. There are two ways to implement network security policies in a Kubernetes cluster:

  • Kubernetes network policy APIs: Kubernetes provides built-in network policy APIs that allow organizations to define and enforce network security policies. These APIs enable organizations to specify which pods can communicate with each other, based on various criteria such as namespace, label, and IP address.
  • Third-party network policy providers: There are also third-party network policy providers, such as Calico and Cilium, that provide additional security features and integration with Kubernetes. These providers allow organizations to enforce network security policies, control network traffic, and monitor network activity. Learn more in our guide to Kubernetes network policies.

2. CNI Plugins

Container Network Interface (CNI) plugins provide network connectivity to containers in a cluster, and choosing a plugin with strong security features is important for ensuring the security of the network.

CNI plugins provide various security features, such as:

  • Network segmentation: CNI plugins can segment the network into smaller, isolated segments, which helps to reduce the attack surface and limit the spread of malware.
  • Encryption: CNI plugins can encrypt sensitive data that flows through the network, helping to prevent unauthorized access and ensure data privacy.
  • Network monitoring: Some CNI plugins provide network monitoring capabilities, which allow organizations to monitor network activity and detect potential security threats.

3. Service Mesh

Service meshes use a sidecar proxy for each service instance, which acts as an intermediary between the service and the network. This approach provides several benefits for network security, including:

  • Authentication: Service meshes can enforce mutual TLS (Transport Layer Security) authentication between service instances, ensuring that only trusted services can communicate with each other.
  • Authorization: Service meshes can enforce fine-grained access control policies between service instances, allowing administrators to specify which services can communicate with each other and what kind of communication is allowed.
  • Traffic management: Service meshes can route traffic between service instances based on policies and rules, allowing administrators to control the flow of traffic between services and enforce network security policies.

Related content: Read our guide to Kubernetes service mesh

4. Prioritize VPC Design

Virtual private cloud (VPC) design involves dividing the network into smaller, isolated segments, which helps to reduce the attack surface and limit the spread of malware.

Here are some best practices for prioritizing VPC design:

  • Access control: Implement access control mechanisms, such as security groups and network ACLs, to control access to the network and prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data.
  • Regular security audits: Regularly audit the network to ensure that it is secure and that security best practices are being followed. This can be achieved by using security auditing tools and conducting regular security assessments.

5. Use RBAC

Role-based access control (RBAC) is a security feature in Kubernetes that allows administrators to control access to resources in the cluster based on roles. RBAC can help to secure the Kubernetes network by allowing administrators to define and enforce fine-grained access policies for different users and components in the cluster. This ensures that only authorized entities are allowed to perform specific actions, such as accessing network resources or modifying network configurations.

For example, RBAC can be used to restrict access to sensitive resources, such as the Kubernetes API server, to only a select group of users, or to grant specific permissions to nodes, pods, or services. This helps to prevent unauthorized access, data breaches, and other malicious activities, and reduces the risk of accidental misconfiguration or data loss. Additionally, RBAC can help to simplify and automate the management of network security policies, making it easier to enforce security best practices and comply with regulatory requirements.

6. Enforce Zero Trust

Zero trust is a security approach that assumes that all network traffic is untrusted and needs to be verified and authenticated before it is allowed to access the network. This approach can be used to enhance the security of a Kubernetes network by implementing the following measures:

  • Microsegmentation: Divide the network into smaller, more secure segments and control access to each segment.
  • Limit network exposure: Limit the exposure of the Kubernetes API server and etcd database to only trusted IP addresses and networks. Additionally, use network segmentation to isolate the control plane from worker nodes and user workloads.
  • Use image signing and scanning: Ensure that all images used in the cluster are signed and scanned for vulnerabilities and malicious content. This helps to prevent the deployment of compromised or malicious images that could harm the cluster.
  • Implement multi-factor authentication (MFA): Require MFA for access to the Kubernetes API server and etcd database. This reduces the risk of account compromise and helps to prevent unauthorized access to the cluster.

Learn more in our detailed guide to zero trust

Kubernetes Security and Observability with Calico

Tigera’s commercial solutions provide Kubernetes security and observability for multi-cluster, multi-cloud, and hybrid-cloud deployments. Both Calico Enterprise and Calico Cloud provide the following features for security and observability:


  • Security policy preview, staging, and recommendation – Easily make self-service security policy changes to a cluster without the risk of overriding an existing policy. Calico can auto-generate a recommended policy based on ingress and egress traffic between existing services, and can deploy your policies in a “staged” mode before the policy rule is enforced.
  • Compliance reporting and alerts – Continuously monitor and enforce compliance controls, easily create custom reports for audit.
  • Intrusion detection & prevention (IDS/IPS) – Detect and mitigate Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) using machine learning and a rule-based engine that enables active monitoring.
  • Microsegmentation across Host/VMs/Containers – Deploy a scalable, unified microsegmentation model for hosts, VMs, containers, pods, and services that works across all your environments.
  • Data-in-transit encryption – Protect sensitive data and meet compliance requirements with high-performance encryption for data-in-transit.


  • Dynamic Service Graph – Get a detailed runtime visualization of your Kubernetes environment to easily understand microservice behavior and interaction.
  • Application Layer Observability – Gain visibility into service-to-service communication within your Kubernetes environment, without the operational complexity and performance overhead of service mesh.
  • Dynamic Packet Capture – Generate pcap files on nodes associated with pods targeted for packet capture, to debug microservices and application interaction.
  • DNS Dashboard – Quickly confirm or eliminate DNS as the root cause for microservice and application connectivity issues in Kubernetes.
  • Flow visualizer – Get a 360-degree view of a namespace or workload, including analytics around how security policies are being evaluated in real time and a volumetric representation of flows.

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