Tech Musings and Assorted Thoughts

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2023-03-26 16:00:09

If you're reading this, you likely already know what SPIFFE and SPIRE are. But in case you don't here is a really short summary: SPIFFE (Secure Production Identity Framework for Everyone) is a specification and SPIRE (SPIFFE Runtime Environment) an implementation of that specification for securely issuing identities to workloads running in different compute environments, and for managing these identities (such as refreshing, revoking, etc.). Why is it useful? Well, it lets your services, such as pods running in Kubernetes, to have their own certificates and signed JWTs, which are automatically refreshed, etc. and using which they can authenticate themselves to other services, and communicate securely with them. For example, the certificates could be used to create mTLS connections with other workloads, or signed tokens could be used as a proof-of-possession for authentication.

One key problem of securely issuing identities is the security of the initial handshake, for the initial request asking for identity. SPIRE solves this in a novel way using agents that are capable of querying the compute environment about the workloads requesting identities, and then issuing the identities only if these workloads satisfy certain criteria. By keeping the agents local to the node where the workloads run, concerns about the initial secrets are addressed. Of course there is a lot more to it, and the right place to head to for more details is here.

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