How to Pass the Certified Kubernetes Security Specialist Exam – Cheat sheet and Study Guide

This article is based on my experience studying for and passing the Certified Kubernetes Security Specialist exam. I passed the exam on my first attempt in Sep 2021.

I passed the Certified Kubernetes Application Developer exam back in Feb 2020, followed by Certified Kubernetes Administrator in March 2020.

The Certified Kubernetes Security Specialist or CKS exam was released around November, 2020, but I didn’t have a chance to take that exam before Sep 2021.

As a bit of background information, I have been working with Kubernetes for the past 3 years almost on a day-to-day basis and that experience was an added advantage in helping me pass the CKS.

In this article, I’ll share some resources that should help you study for and pass the exam, along with a helpful cheatsheet you can use while preparing. I’ll also share some advice that should help you along the way.

What is Kubernetes?

Kubernetes is the most evolved and feature-rich Container Orchestration system out there, and it keeps getting better.

It has an enormous community to support, and it’s always building new features and resolving issues. Kubernetes is certainly evolving at a breakneck pace, and it becomes a challenge to keep up with its pace of development. This makes it the best bet for a container orchestration solution.

Table of Contents:

Resources for the CKS Exam

The following are a few awesome resources available on passing the CKS exam:

  1. Certified Kubernetes Security Specialist by Killer.sh
  2. Certified Kubernetes Security Specialist (CKS) by KodeKloud
  3. Walid Shaari has gathered some indispensable materials for the CKS exam
  4. Abdennour’s References for CKS Exam Objectives
  5. Ibrahim Jelliti’s collection of resources to prepare for the Certified Kubernetes Security Specialist (CKSS) exam
  6. Let’s Learn CKS Scenarios by Saiyam Pathak

The courses for KodeKloud and Killer.sh provide mock exam simulators which are very helpful in preparing for the exam, and provide a pretty good idea of what the exam looks like. I strongly suggest enrolling in one or both courses.

Purchasing the exam from Linux Foundation provides you with 2 free attempts to exam simulator from killer.sh that way if you are well versed with the contents of the curriculum you can skip the courses and directly go for the exam simulator provided with the exam.

The exam costs $375 but there are offers and deals available, and if you look for them you might be able to get a better price. The duration of the exam is 2 hours and is valid for 2 years, unlike the CKA and CKAD which are valid for 3 years.


The CKS is a performance-based exam where you are provided with an exam simulator in which you have to work out the problems. You are allowed to open only one tab apart from the exam tab.

Since this exam requires you to write a lot of commands, I figured early on that I’d have to rely on aliases to reduce the number of keystrokes to save time.

I used the vi editor during the exam, here I will share some useful tips for this editor.

vi defaults for ~/.vimrc:

vi ~/.vimrc
:set number
:set et
:set sw=2 ts=2 sts=2
^: Start of word in line
0: Start of line
$: End of line
w: End of word
GG: End of file

kubectl defaults for ~/.bashrc:

vi ~/.bashrc
alias k='kubectl'
alias kg='k get'
alias kd='k describe'
alias kl='k logs'
alias ke='k explain'
alias kr='k replace'
alias kc='k create'
alias kgp='k get po'
alias kgn='k get no'
alias kge='k get ev'
alias kex='k exec -it'
alias kgc='k config get-contexts'
alias ksn='k config set-context --current --namespace'
alias kuc='k config use-context'
alias krun='k run'
export do='--dry-run=client -oyaml'
export force='--grace-period=0 --force'

source <(kubectl completion bash)
source <(kubectl completion bash | sed 's/kubectl/k/g' )
complete -F __start_kubectl k

alias krp='k run test --image=busybox --restart=Never'
alias kuc='k config use-context'


The kubectl get command provides short catchy names for accessing resources and like pvc for persistentstorageclaim, these can help save a lot of keystrokes and valuable time during the exam.

  • po for pods
  • rs for replicasets
  • deploy for deployments
  • svc for services
  • ns for namespace
  • netpol for networkpolicy
  • pv for persistentstorage
  • pvc for persistentstorageclaim
  • sa for serviceaccounts

Kubernetes Cheat Sheet

kubectl run command

The kubectl run command provides a flag --restart which allows for the creation of different kinds of Kubernetes objects from a Deployment to CronJob. The below snippet shows the different options available for the --restart flag.

k run:
--restart=Always                             #Creates a deployment
--restart=Never                              #Creates a Pod
--restart=OnFailure                          #Creates a Job
--restart=OnFailure --schedule="*/1 * * * *" #Creates a CronJob

How to generate yaml spec from an existing Pod

Sometimes it is easier to generate a spec from an existing Pod and make changes to it than create a new one from scratch. The kubectl get pod command provides us with the required flags to output the pod spec in the format we want.

kgp <pod-name> -o wide

# Generating YAML Pod spec
kgp <pod-name> -o yaml
kgp <pod-name> -o yaml > <pod-name>.yaml

# Get a pod's YAML spec without cluster specific information
kgp my-pod -o yaml --export > <pod-name>.yaml

kubectl pod commands

The kubectl run command provides a lot of options like specifying requests and limits a Pod is supposed to use or the commands a container should run once created.

# Output YAML for a nginx pod running a echo command
krun nginx --image=nginx --restart=Never --dry-run -o yaml -- /bin/sh -c 'echo Hello World!'
# Output YAML for a busybox pod running a sleep command
krun busybox --image=busybox:1.28 --restart=Never --dry-run -o yaml -- /bin/sh -c 'while true; do echo sleep; sleep 10; done'
# Run a pod with set requests and limits
krun nginx --image=nginx --restart=Never --requests='cpu=100m,memory=512Mi' --limits='cpu=300m,memory=1Gi'
# Delete Pod without delay
k delete po busybox --grace-period=0 --force

How to Print logs and export them

Logs are the fundamental source of information when it comes to debugging an application. The kubectl logs command provides the functionality to check the logs of a given Pod. The below commands can be used to check the logs of a given Pod.

kubectl logs deploy/<podname>
kubectl logs deployment/<podname>
#Follow logs
kubectl logs deploy/<podname> --tail 1 --follow

Apart from just looking at logs, we can also export logs to a file for further debugging of sharing the same with anyone.

kubectl logs <podname> --namespace <ns> > /path/to/file.format

How to create configmaps and secrets

The kubectl create command provides us with the capability to create ConfigMaps and Secrets from the command line, we can also use the YAML file to create the same resources and by using kubectl apply -f <filename> we can apply the commands.

kc cm my-cm --from-literal=APP_ENV=dev
kc cm my-cm --from-file=test.txt
kc cm my-cm --from-env-file=config.env

kc secret generic my-secret --from-literal=APP_SECRET=sdcdcsdcsdcsdc
kc secret generic my-secret --from-file=secret.txt
kc secret generic my-secret --from-env-file=secret.env

Helpful commands for debugging

Debugging is a very important skill while facing issues and errors both in our day jobs while solving problems in the CKS exam.

Apart from the ability to output logs from a container the kubectl exec commands allow us to log in to a running container and debug issues. While inside the container we can also use utilities like nc and nslookup to diagnose networking-related issues.

# Run busybox container
k run busybox --image=busybox:1.28 --rm --restart=Never -it sh
# Connect to a specific container in a Pod
k exec -it busybox -c busybox2 -- /bin/sh
# adding limits and requests in command
kubectl run nginx --image=nginx --restart=Never --requests='cpu=100m,memory=256Mi' --limits='cpu=200m,memory=512Mi'
# Create a Pod with a service
kubectl run nginx --image=nginx --restart=Never --port=80 --expose
# Check port
nc -z -v -w 2 <service-name> <port-name>
# NSLookup
nslookup <service-name>
nslookup 10-32-0-10.default.pod

Rolling updates and Rollouts

The kubectl rollout command provides the ability to check for the status of updates and if required roll back to a previous version.

k set image deploy/nginx nginx=nginx:1.17.0 --record
k rollout status deploy/nginx
k rollout history deploy/nginx
# Rollback to previous version
k rollout undo deploy/nginx
# Rollback to revision number
k rollout undo deploy/nginx --to-revision=2
k rollout pause deploy/nginx
k rollout resume deploy/nginx
k rollout restart deploy/nginx
kubectl run nginx-deploy --image=nginx:1.16 --replias=1 --record

Scale and Autoscale command

The kubectl scale command provides the functionality to scale up or scale down Pods in a given deployment.

Using the kubectl autoscale command we can define the minimum number of Pods that should be running for a given deployment and the maximum numbers of Pods the deployment can scale to along with the scaling criteria like CPU percentage.

k scale deploy/nginx --replicas=6
k autoscale deploy/nginx --min=3 --max=9 --cpu-percent=80

Network Policy

In a Kubernetes cluster, all pods can communicate with all pods by default, which can be a security issue in some implementations.

To get around this issue, Kubernetes introduced Network Policies to allow or deny traffic to and from pods based on pod labels which are part of the pod spec.

The below example denies both the Ingress and Egress traffic for pods running in all namespaces.

apiVersion: networking.k8s.io/v1
kind: NetworkPolicy
  name: example
  namespace: default
  podSelector: {}
  - Egress
  - Ingress

The below example denies both the Ingress and Egress traffic for Pods running in all namespaces. But allows access to DNS resolution services running on port 53.

apiVersion: networking.k8s.io/v1
kind: NetworkPolicy
  name: deny
  namespace: default
  podSelector: {}
  - Egress
  - Ingress
  - to:
      - port: 53
        protocol: TCP
      - port: 53
        protocol: UDP

The below example denies Egress access to the metadata server running on IP address in AWS EC2 Instances.

apiVersion: networking.k8s.io/v1
kind: Ingress
  namespace: default
  podSelector: {}
  - Egress
  - to:
      - ipBlock: 

The below example allows Egress access to the metadata server running on IP address in AWS EC2 Instances.

apiVersion: networking.k8s.io/v1
kind: Ingress
  name: cloud-metadata-accessor
  namespace: default
      role: metadata-accessor
  - Egress
  - to:
    - ipBlock:

Static Analysis using Kubesec

Kubesec is a Static Analysis tool for analyzing the YAML files to find issues with the files.

kubesec scan pod.yaml

# Using online kubesec API
curl -sSX POST --data-binary @pod.yaml https://v2.kubesec.io/scan

# Running the API locally
kubesec http 8080 &

kubesec scan pod.yaml -o pod_report.json -o json

Vulnerability scanning using Trivvy

Trivvy is a Vulnerability Scanning tool that scans container images for security issues.

trivy image nginx:1.18.0
trivy image --severity CRITICAL nginx:1.18.0
trivy image --severity CRITICAL, HIGH nginx:1.18.0
trivy image --ignore-unfixed nginx:1.18.0

# Scanning image tarball
docker save nginx:1.18.0 > nginx.tar
trivy image --input archive.tar

# Scan and output results to file
trivy image --output python_alpine.txt python:3.10.0a4-alpine
trivy image --severity HIGH --output /root/python.txt python:3.10.0a4-alpine

# Scan image tarball
trivy image --input alpine.tar --format json --output /root/alpine.json

How to remove unwanted services

The systemctl exposes the capabilities to start, stop, enable, disable and list services running on a Linux Virtual Machine.

List services:

systemctl list-units --type service

Stop Service:

systemctl stop apache2

Disable Service:

systemctl disable apache2

Remove Service:

apt remove apache2

Runtime Classes

Kubernetes introduced the RuntimeClass feature in version v1.12 for selecting the container runtime configuration. The container runtime configuration is used to run a Pod’s underlying containers.

Most Kubernetes clusters use the dockershim as the Runtime class for the running containers but you can use different container Runtimes.

The dockershim has been deprecated in Kubernetes version v1.20, and will be removed in v1.24.

Creating a Runtime Class:

apiversion: node.k8s.io/v1beta1
kind: RuntimeClass
  name: gvisor
handler: runsc

Use a runtime class for any given Pod:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
    run: nginx
  name: nginx
  runtimeClassName: gvisor
  - name: nginx
    image: nginx 

RBAC Commands

In Kubernetes,

Role-based access control (RBAC) commands provide a method of regulating access to Kubernetes resources based on the roles of individual users or service accounts. (Source)

Create a role

kubectl create role developer --resource=pods --verb=create,list,get,update,delete --namespace=development

Create a role binding

kubectl create rolebinding developer-role-binding --role=developer --user=faizan --namespace=development


kubectl auth can-i update pods --namespace=development --as=faizan

Create a cluster role

kubectl create clusterrole pvviewer-role --resource=persistentvolumes --verb=list

Create a Clusterrole Binding association with a service account

kubectl create clusterrolebinding pvviewer-role-binding --clusterrole=pvviewer-role --serviceaccount=default:pvviewer

Cluster Maintenance

You use the kubectl drain command to remove all running workloads (pods) from a given Node.

You use the kubectl cordon command to cordon a node to mark it as schedulable.

Ands you use the kubectl uncordon command to set the node as schedulable, meaning the Controller Manager can schedule new pods to the given node.

Draining a node of all pods

kubectl drain node-1

Drain a node and ignore daemonsets

kubectl drain node01 --ignore-daemonsets

Force Drain

kubectl drain node02 --ignore-daemonsets --force

Mark a node un schedulable, no new pods can be scheduled on this node

kubectl cordon node-1

Mark a node schedulable

kubectl uncordon node-1

CKS Exam Tips

The Kubernetes kubectl get command provides the user with an output flag the -o or --output which helps us in formatting the output in the form of json, yaml, wide or custom-columns.


Outputs the contents of all the pods in the form of a JSON Object:

kubectl get pods -o json

The JSONPath outputs a specific key from the JSON Object

kubectl get pods -o=jsonpath='{@}'
kubectl get pods -o=jsonpath='{.items[0]}'

The .items[*] is used where we have multiple objects for instance multiple containers with a Pod config:

# For list of items use .items[*]
k get pods -o 'jsonpath={.items[*].metadata.labels.version}'
# For single item
k get po busybox -o jsonpath='{.metadata}'
k get po busybox -o jsonpath="{['.metadata.name', '.metadata.namespace']}{'\n'}"

The command returns the internal IP of a Node using JSONPath

kubectl get nodes -o=jsonpath='{.items[*].status.addresses[?(@.type=="InternalIP")].address}'

The command checks for Equality on a specific key:

kubectl get pod api-stag-765797cf-lrd8q -o=jsonpath='{.spec.volumes[?(@.name=="api-data")].persistentVolumeClaim.claimName}'
kubectl get pod -o=jsonpath='{.items[*].spec.tolerations[?(@.effect=="NoSchedule")].key}'

Custom Columns are helpful in order to output specific fields:

kubectl get pods -o='custom-columns=PODS:.metadata.name,Images:.spec.containers[*].image'

CKS Exam Topics

The CKS exam covers delve on topics related to security in the Kubernetes ecosystem. Kubernetes security is a vast topic to cover in one article, this article contains some of the topics covered in the exam.

How to secure and harden container images

While designing container images to run your code pay special attention to securing and hardening measures in order to prevent hacks and privilege escalation attacks. Keep the below points in mind while building the container images:

  1. Use specific package versions like alpine:3.13.
  2. Don’t run as root, use the USER <username> to block root access.
  3. Make filesystem read-only in the securityContext using readOnlyRootFilesystem: true
  4. Remove shell access using RUN rm -rf /bin/*

How to minimise OS Footprint

Conatiner Layers

The instructions RUN , COPY and ADD create container layers. Other instructions create temporary intermediate images and do not increase the size of the build. Instructions that create layers add to the size of the resulting image.

A typical Dockerfile looks like the one given below, it adds a single layer using the RUN instruction.

FROM ubuntu

RUN apt-get update && apt-get install -y golang-go

CMD ["sh"]
Multi Stage Builds

Multi-Stage builds leverage multiple FROM statements in the Dockerfile. The FROM instruction marks a new stage in the build, combining multiple FROM statements allow to leverage from the previous build in order to selectively copy binaries over to the new build stage omitting the unnecessary binaries. The resulting Docker image is considerably smaller in size with a drastically reduced attack surface.

FROM ubuntu:20.04 AS build
ARG DEBIAN_FRONTEND=noninteractive
RUN apt-get update && apt-get install -y golang-go
COPY app.go .
RUN CGO_ENABLED=0 go build app.go

FROM alpine:3.13
RUN chmod a-w /etc
RUN addgroup -S appgroup && adduser -S appuser -G appgroup -h /home/appuser
RUN rm -rf /bin/*
COPY --from=build /app /home/appuser/
USER appuser
CMD ["/home/appuser/app"]

How to limit node access

Access Control files contain sensitive information about users/groups in the Linux OS.

#Stores information about the UID/GID, user shell, and home directory for a user
#Stores the user password in a hashed format
#Stores information about the group a user belongs
#Stored information about the Sudoers present in the system

Disable user account helps in securing access to a Node by disabling login to a given user account.

usermod -s /bin/nologin <username>

Disabling the root user account is of special significance as the root account has all the capabilities.

usermod -s /bin/nologin root

Add a user with a home directory and shell

adduser --home /opt/faizanbashir --shell /bin/bash --uid 2328 --ingroup admin faizanbashir
useradd -d /opt/faizanbashir -s /bin/bash -G admin -u 2328 faizanbashir

Delete the user account

userdel <username>

Delete a Group

groupdel <groupname>

Add user to group

adduser <username> <groupname>

Remove user from a Group

# deluser faizanbashir admin
deluser <username> <groupname>

Set a password for the user

passwd <username>

Elevate a user to Sudoer

vim /etc/sudoers
faizanbashir ALL=(ALL:ALL) ALL

#Enable sudo with no password
vim /etc/sudoers
faizanbashir ALL=(ALL) NOPASSWD:ALL

usermod -aG sudo faizanbashir
usermod faizanbashir -G admin

SSH Hardening

How to disable SSH

The configuration is given in the /etc/ssh/sshd_config can be leveraged to secure SSH access to Linux nodes. Setting the PermitRootLogin to no disables the root login on a node. To enforce using a key to login and disabling login using passwords to nodes the PasswordAuthentication can be set to no.

vim /etc/ssh/sshd_config
PermitRootLogin no
PasswordAuthentication no
# Restart SSHD Service
systemctl restart sshd

Set no login for the root user:

usermod -s /bin/nologin root

SSH Copy user key / Passwordless SSH:

ssh-copy-id -i ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub [email protected]
ssh [email protected]

How to remove obsolete packages and services

List all services running on a Ubuntu machine.

systemctl list-units --type service
systemctl list-units --type service --state running

Stop and disable and remove a service

systemctl stop apache2
systemctl disable apache2
apt remove apache2

How to restrict kernel modules

In Linux, Kernel modules are pieces of code that can be loaded and unloaded into the kernel upon demand. They extend the functionality of the kernel without the need to reboot the system. A module can be configured as built-in or loadable.

List all Kernel Modules


Manually Load Modules into Kernel

modprobe pcspkr

Blacklist a module: (Reference: CIS Benchmarks -> 3.4 Uncommon Network Protocols)

cat /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf
blacklist sctp
blacklist dccp

# Shutdown for changes to take effect
shutdown -r now

# Verify
lsmod | grep dccp

How to identify and disable open ports

Check for Open Ports:

netstat -an | grep -w LISTEN
netstat -natp | grep 9090

nc -zv <hostname|IP> 22
nc -zv <hostname|IP> 10-22

ufw deny 8080

Check Port usage

/etc/services | grep -w 53

Reference Doc for list of open ports: https://kubernetes.io/docs/setup/production-environment/tools/kubeadm/install-kubeadm/#control-plane-node-s

How to restrict network access

How to identity a service running on port
systemctl status ssh
cat /etc/services | grep ssh
netstat -an | grep 22 | grep -w LISTEN
UFW Firewall

Uncomplicated Fire Wall(UFW) is a tool for managing firewall rules in Arch Linux, Debian, or Ubuntu. UFW provides the functionality to allow and block traffic on a given port and from a given source.

Installing UFW Firewall

apt-get update
apt-get install ufw
systemctl enable ufw
systemctl start ufw
ufw status
ufw status numbered

Allow all outbound and inbound connections

ufw default allow outgoing
ufw default allow incoming

Allow Rules

ufw allow 22
ufw allow 1000:2000/tcp
ufw allow from to any port 22 proto tcp
ufw allow from to any port 80 proto tcp
ufw allow from to any port 80 proto tcp

Deny Rules

ufw deny 8080

Enable / Activate Firewall

ufw enable

Delete rules

ufw delete deny 8080
ufw delete <rule-line>

Reset rules

ufw reset

Linux Syscalls

Linux Syscalls are used to make requests from user space into the Linux kernel. For instance, while creating a file the userspace makes a request to the Linux Kernel to create the file.

Kernel Space has the following:

  • Kernel Code
  • Kernel Extensions
  • Device Drivers
How to trace Syscalls using Strace

Tracing syscalls using strace

which strace
strace touch /tmp/error.log

Get PID of service

pidof sshd
strace -p <pid>

List all syscalls made during an operation

strace -c touch /tmp/error.log

Consolidated listing syscalls: (Count and summarise)

strace -cw ls /

Follow a PID and consolidate

strace -p 3502 -f -cw

AquaSec Tracee

AquaSec Tracee was created by Aqua Security which uses eBPF to trace events in containers. Tracee makes use of eBPF (Extended Berkeley Packet Filter) at runtime directly in the kernel space without interfering with the kernel source or loading any kernel modules.

  • Binary stored at /tmp/tracee
  • Needs access to the following, in read-only mode if run using a container with --privileged capability:
    • /tmp/tracee -> Default workspace
    • /lib/modules -> Kernel Headers
    • /usr/src -> Kernel Headers

Running Tracee in Docker container

docker run --name tracee --rm --privileged --pid=host \
  -v /lib/modules/:/lib/modules/:ro -v /usr/src/:/usr/src/ro \
  -v /tmp/tracee:/tmp/tracee aquasec/tracee:0.4.0 --trace comm=ls

# List syscalls made by all the new process on the host
docker run --name tracee --rm --privileged --pid=host \
  -v /lib/modules/:/lib/modules/:ro -v /usr/src/:/usr/src/ro \
  -v /tmp/tracee:/tmp/tracee aquasec/tracee:0.4.0 --trace pid=new

# List syscalls made from any new container
docker run --name tracee --rm --privileged --pid=host \
  -v /lib/modules/:/lib/modules/:ro -v /usr/src/:/usr/src/ro \
  -v /tmp/tracee:/tmp/tracee aquasec/tracee:0.4.0 --trace container=new

How to restrict Syscalls with Seccomp

SECCOMP - Secure Computing Mode is a Linux Kernel level feature that can be used to sandbox applications to only use the syscalls they need.

Check support for seccomp:

grep -i seccomp /boot/config-$(uname -r)

Test to change system time:

docker run -it --rm docker/whalesay /bin/sh
# date -s '19 APR 2013 22:00:00'

ps -ef

Check seccomp status for any PID:

grep -i seccomp /proc/1/status

Seccomp modes:

  • Mode 0: Disabled
  • Mode 1: Strict
  • Mode 2: Filtered

The following configuration is used to whitelist syscalls. While list profile is secure but syscalls have to be selectively enabled as it blocks all syscalls by default.

  "defaultAction": "SCMP_ACT_ERRNO",
  "architectures": [
  "syscalls": [
      "names": [
      "action": "SCMP_ACT_ALLOW"

The following configuration is used to blacklist syscalls. The black list profile has a greater attack surface than the white list.

  "defaultAction": "SCMP_ACT_ALLOW",
  "architectures": [
  "syscalls": [
      "names": [
      "action": "SCMP_ACT_ERRNO"

The Docker seccomp profile blocks 60 of the 300+ syscalls on the x86 architecture.

Using seccomp profiles with docker

docker run -it --rm --security-opt seccomp=/root/custom.json docker/whalesay /bin/sh

Allow all syscalls with the container

docker run -it --rm --security-opt seccomp=unconfined docker/whalesay /bin/sh

# Verify
grep -i seccomp /proc/1/status

# Output should be:
Seccomp:         0

Docker container to get container runtime related information:

docker run r.j3ss.co/amicontained amicontained
Seccomp in Kubernetes

Secure computing mode (SECCOMP) is a Linux kernel feature. You can use it to restrict the actions available within the container. Seccomp documentation

Run amicontained in Kubernetes:

kubectl run amicontained --image r.j3ss.co/amicontained amicontained -- amicontained

As of version v1.20 Kubernetes does not implement seccomp by default.

Seccomp ‘RuntimeDefault’ docker profile in Kubernetes:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
    run: amicontained
  name: amicontained
      type: RuntimeDefault
  - args:
    - amicontained
    image: r.j3ss.co/amicontained
    name: amicontained
      allowPrivilegeEscalation: false

Default seccomp location in kubelets


Create a seccomp profile in node

mkdir -p /var/lib/kubelet/seccomp/profiles

# Add a profile for audit
vim /var/lib/kubelet/seccomp/profiles/audit.json
  defaultAction: "SCMP_ACT_LOG"

# Add a profile for violations (Blocks all syscalls by default, will let nothing run)
vim /var/lib/kubelet/seccomp/profiles/violation.json
  defaultAction: "SCMP_ACT_ERRNO"

Local seccomp profile, this file should exist locally on a node to be able to work

    type: Localhost
    localhostProfile: profiles/audit.json

The above profile will enable syscalls to be saved to a file

grep syscall /var/log/syslog

Mapping syscall numbers to syscall name

grep -w 35 /usr/include/asm/unistd_64.h

# OR
grep -w 35 /usr/include/asm-generic/unistd.h


AppArmor is a Linux security module that is used to confine a program to a limited set of resources.

Install AppArmor utils

apt-get install apparmor-utils

Check if AppArmor is running and enabled

systemctl status apparmor

cat /sys/module/apparmor/parameters/enabled

The AppArmor profiles are stored at

cat /etc/apparmor.d/root.add_data.sh

Listing AppArmor profiles

cat /sys/kernel/security/apparmor/profiles

Deny all file write profile

profile apparmor-deny-write flags=(attach_disconnected) {
  # Deny all file writes.
  deny /** w,

Deny write to /proc files

profile apparmor-deny-proc-write flags=(attach_disconnected) {
  # Deny all file writes.
  deny /proc/* w,

Deny remount root FS

profile apparmor-deny-remount-root flags=(attach_disconnected) {

  # Deny all file writes.
  deny mount options=(ro, remount) -> /,

Check profile status


Profile load modes

  • Enforce, monitor and enforce the rules
  • Complain, will not enforce the rules but logs them as events
  • Unconfined, will not enforce or log events

Check if a profile is valid

apparmor_parser /etc/apparmor.d/root.add_data.sh

Disable a profile

apparmor_parser -R /etc/apparmor.d/root.add_data.sh
ln -s /etc/apparmor.d/root.add_data.sh /etc/apparmor.d/disable/

Generate a profile and answer the series of questions that follow

aa-genprof /root/add_data.sh

Generate profile for a command

aa-genprof curl

Disable profile from logs

How to use AppArmor in Kubernetes

To be used with Kubernetes the following prerequisites must be met:

  • Kubernetes version should be greater than 1.4
  • AppArmor Kernel module should be enabled
  • AppArmor profile should be loaded in the kernel
  • Container runtime should be supported

Sample usage in Kubernetes:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
  name: ubuntu-sleeper
    container.apparmor.security.beta.kubernetes.io/<container-name>: localhost/<profile-name>
  - name: ubuntu-sleeper
    image: ubuntu
    command: ["sh", "-c", "echo 'Sleeping for an hour!' && sleep 1h"]

Note: The container should run in a node containing the AppArmor profile.

Linux Capabilities

The Linux capabilities feature breaks up the privileges available to processes run as the root user into smaller groups of privileges. This way a process running with root privilege can be limited to get only the minimal permissions it needs to perform its operation.

Docker supports the Linux capabilities as part of the Docker run command: with --cap-add and --cap-drop. By default, a container is started with several capabilities that are allowed by default and can be dropped. Other permissions can be added manually.

Both --cap-add and --cap-drop support the ALL value, to allow or drop all capabilities. By default Docker containers run with 14 capabilities.

  • Kernel < 2.2
    • Privileged Process
    • Unprivileged Process
  • Kernel >= 2.2
    • Privileged Process
      • CAP_CHOWN
      • CAP_SYS_TIME
      • CAP_SYS_BOOT

Refer to this document for the full list of Linux Capabilities

Check what capabilities a command needs

getcap /usr/bin/ping

Get process capabilities

getpcaps <pid>

Add security capabilities

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
  name: ubuntu-sleeper
  - name: ubuntu-sleeper
    image: ubuntu
    command: ["sleep", "1000"]
        add: ["SYS_TIME"]
        drop: ["CHOWN"]

How to prepare for the Exam

CKS is considered a pretty tough exam. But based on my experience I think that, given good enough practice and if you understand the concepts the exam covers, it’ll be pretty manageable within two hours.

You definitely need to understand the underlying Kubernetes concepts. And since a prerequisite for CKS is to pass the CKA exam, you should have a strong understanding of Kubernetes and how it functions before attempting the CKS.

In addition, to pass the CKS, you need to understand the threats and security implications introduced by container orchestration.

The introduction of the CKS exam is an indication that the security of containers should not be taken lightly. Security mechanisms should always be in place to thwart attacks on Kubernetes clusters.

The Tesla cryptocurrency hack that was thanks to an unprotected Kubernetes dashboard brings to light the risks associated with Kubernetes or any other container orchestration engine. Hackerone has a Kubernetes bounty page listing the source code repos used in a standard Kubernetes cluster.

Practice, Practice, and Practice!

Practice is the key to cracking the exam, I personally found that the exam simulators by KodeKloud and Killer.sh were immensely helpful for me.

I didn’t have as much time to prepare for the CKS exam as I had for the CKA exam, but I was working on Kubernetes in my day job so I’d become really comfortable with it.

Practice is the key to success. Best of luck with the exam!


Faizan Bashir

Principal Engineer | Architecting and building distributed applications in the Cloud | Adventurer

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