May 3, 2023

Achieving Zero-Trust Security in Kubernetes Clusters with BastionZero: Simplifying Access Management and Enhancing Protection

Devin Bernosky

VP, Solutions Engineering & Customer Success


Utilizing BastionZero for secure access to Kubernetes clusters is a game-changer as it empowers your teams (and service accounts) to access the API in a zero-trust manner while keeping your Kubernetes API off the public internet. BastionZero eliminates the technical debt associated with long-lived credentials, privilege creep and lack of observability (where you can’t tell who has access to what parts of the cluster, or what they did with that access). 

Deploying BastionZero with Kubernetes provides robust protection against unauthorized access and data breaches while streamlining access management. Whether you're looking to bolster your security posture, simplify remote access, or achieve regulatory compliance, BastionZero provides a comprehensive solution through its user-friendly and easy-to-deploy platform. That’s not all - the BastionZero platform is the only access solution on the market that doesn’t require privileged access to your cluster. This means you can rest easy, knowing that a compromise of the BastionZero service won’t lead to a compromise of your Kubernetes cluster.

Preparing our Account

For the purposes of this post, I’lll assume you have already signed up for a BastionZero account, have your BastionZero account integrated with your IDP, and have the ZLI installed on your local machine. I’ll also assume you have a Kubernetes cluster deployed that you’d like to access using BastionZero. We’ll do a few things in our BastionZero account to set ourselves up for success as outlined below:

  • Log into BastionZero web interface at
  • Create a registration key
  • (optional) Create an environment which we can associate our targets with

We can grab a registration key from the BastionZero web interface at Once you sign in, select "Create" in the upper righthand corner and choose "API Key." 

For Registration keys, you must select the Registration Key box below the name field. Clicking "Generate API Key" will then display the new registration key ID and secret. Hang onto this secret for later! It won’t be available in the UI again once you close the dialogue.

After we have generated our registration key, we can optionally create an environment to associate our targets with. Creating an environment will allow us to group targets together so that later we can manage access policies more efficiently; when you bring up a target, you can associate it with an environment which should give access to anyone who has been granted permissions to that environment. 

We’ll once again hit “Create” in the top right corner and select “Environment”. Give this environment a name (I’ll be using “Demo Environment” for this guide) and a description. You can configure the BastionZero platform to automatically remove offline targets after a certain period, which I’ve set to 90 days in this case.

After the environment has been created, you’ll want to find its UUID and save this for later. You can do this by checking the “Display: UUID” box and making note of the new environment’s UUID.

We’re now ready to install the agent into our cluster! We should have both our registration key and optional environment UUID at hand. If you’d like, we can set these as environment variables ahead of time using something like:

export environmentId=ffc71b0c-c023-4dab-8110-175295ff7fe3

Install the BastionZero Agent into your cluster

There are a number of ways we can install the BastionZero agent on our target. The primary installation methods are described here. For this blog post, we can take advantage of the Helm package manager for installation. 

Let’s install the BastionZero agent into your cluster using Helm. We’ll need to set a few environment variables ahead of time; our Registration Secret, our Environment UUID, and a given name for the cluster in question. An example of this is above.

1. Add the BastionZero repo:

helm repo add bastionzero

2. Install the Helm chart:

helm install bctl-agent bastionzero/bctl-quickstart --set apiKey=$REGISTRATION_SECRET
--set clusterName=$clustername --set environmentId=$environmentId --namespace=bastionzero --create-namespace

You should be greeted with a prompt confirming success! Check that the target has become available in the web interface’s Targets section.

Configuring Policy

Before connecting to our new cluster through the ZLI, we need to create an access policy which allows us to assume a role on our target. We’ll point our browsers to the Policy section of BastionZero’s web interface and once again click “Create” in the top right hand corner. We can then build an access policy for our new target. 

  • Policy Type: use “Kubernetes” which denotes the policy enables access to a cluster
  • Users: select yourself here
  • Environment: select test-environment (or, if you skipped creating an environment, click “Targets” and select your registered cluster here)
  • Allowed Target Users: select which roles you’d like to be able to assume on the target. You may want to include cluster-admin, or any role you can assume in the cluster that has permissions to perform the operations you need.

Click “Save”. You should now be ready to connect to our cluster!

Connecting to your BastionZero Target using the ZLI

Let’s head to our terminal and substantiate a connection to our new target. You can login to the ZLI using the zli login command.

Once you’re logged in, you should run the zli lt command to check which targets are registered and available for connection.

We can then connect to our Kubernetes cluster! Run zli connect *clustername*

This will add the necessary information required to connect to the Kubernetes cluster to your /.kube config file normally found in your home directory. At this point you should be able to use tools like kubectl right away. Test with kubectl get pods -A:

Tools like k9s and lens should also work straight away:


If you still can’t connect to your cluster, you may need to modify permissions for the target Kubernetes user you’re logging in as. For this guide, we’ve logged in as “cluster-admin” but you may wish to create a new user to impersonate. If you can’t seem to connect with your user, try ensuring that the user has the necessary permissions to do things like get, list, watch certain resources.

To do that, create a ClusterRole with the necessary permissions for your user; I’ll use "devin" for this example. Create a YAML file named devin-clusterrole.yaml with the following content:

kind: ClusterRole
  name: devin-clusterrole

- apiGroups: ["*"]
  resources: ["*"]
  verbs: ["get", "list", "watch"]

This ClusterRole allows the user "devin" to get, list, and watch pods or services in any namespace. You can modify the resources and verbs according to the specific permissions needed.

Apply the ClusterRole with the command:

kubectl apply -f devin-clusterrole.yaml

Now, create a ClusterRoleBinding to bind the user "devin" to the ClusterRole you just created. Create a new YAML file named devin-clusterrolebinding.yaml with the following content:

kind: ClusterRoleBinding
  name: devin-clusterrolebinding
- kind: User
  name: devin
  kind: ClusterRole
  name: devin-clusterrole

Apply the ClusterRoleBinding with the command:

kubectl apply -f devin-clusterrolebinding.yaml

Once the ClusterRole and ClusterRoleBinding are applied, the user "devin" should now have the necessary permissions to get, list, and watch pods in any namespace.

If you only want to grant these permissions for a specific namespace, replace the ClusterRole and ClusterRoleBinding kinds with Role and RoleBinding, respectively, and add the namespace field to the metadata sections in both YAML files.

Remember to test the kubectl get pods -A command with the user "devin" again after applying these changes to see if the issue has been resolved.

Achieving Zero-Trust Security in Kubernetes Clusters with BastionZero: Simplifying Access Management and Enhancing Protection

See BastionZero in Action

BastionZero connects teams to resources and requires no additional infrastructure to deploy or manage. It is the first—and only—cloud-native solution for trustless access providing multi-root authentication while maintaining zero entitlements to your systems.

With BastionZero, you can reclaim your architecture from over-privileged third parties and ensure that the right people have access to the right resources at just the right time—every time.

Schedule a demo now to see how you can trust less and access more with BastionZero.

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