When creating a new Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) cluster, you must define a Service Principal in your Azure Active Directory Tenant that will be used by the cluster to do operations on the Azure infrastructure later on.

The documentation states:

On the master and node VMs in the Kubernetes cluster, the service principal credentials are stored in the file /etc/kubernetes/azure.json

I was curious how this worked, so I set out to take a look at the file. An easy way to do this was to spawn a new busybox pod on the cluster with the azure.json file mounted as a volume into the container.

I used the following YAML template to create the pod using kubectl apply:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
  name: test
  - name: test
    image: busybox
      - sleep
      - "3600"
      - mountPath: /etc/kubernetes/azure.json
        name: azure-secret
    - name: azure-secret
        path: /etc/kubernetes/azure.json
        type: File

Once the pod is up and running, I went spelunking into it by opening a new interactive session using kubectl exec -it test -- sh.

First, let’s look at the contents of the file through cat /etc/kubernetes/azure.json:

    "tenantId": "*********",
    "subscriptionId": "*********",
    "aadClientId": "**********",
    "aadClientSecret": "*********",
    "resourceGroup": "MC_dev-k-eastus-2-rg_dev-k-eastus-2_eastus",
    "location": "eastus",
    "vmType": "standard",
    "subnetName": "aks-subnet",
    "securityGroupName": "aks-agentpool-22088002-nsg",
    "vnetName": "aks-vnet-22088002",
    "vnetResourceGroup": "",
    "routeTableName": "aks-agentpool-22088002-routetable",
    "primaryAvailabilitySetName": "agentpool-availabilitySet-22088002",
    "primaryScaleSetName": "",
    "cloudProviderBackoff": false,
    "cloudProviderBackoffRetries": 0,
    "cloudProviderBackoffExponent": 0,
    "cloudProviderBackoffDuration": 0,
    "cloudProviderBackoffJitter": 0,
    "cloudProviderRatelimit": false,
    "cloudProviderRateLimitQPS": 0,
    "cloudProviderRateLimitBucket": 0,
    "useManagedIdentityExtension": false,
    "useInstanceMetadata": true,
    "providerVaultName": "",
    "providerKeyName": "k8s",
    "providerKeyVersion": ""

The relevant fields containing the credentials are aadClientId and aadClientSecret.

I was curious, however, as to the permissions on the file:

/ # ls -l /etc/kubernetes
total 4
-rw-------    1 root     root          1173 Jul 24 19:13 azure.json

As suspected, the file is only readable by containers running as root.

Tomas Restrepo

Software developer located in Colombia.