Preventing Privileged pods using Pod Security Admission / Standards

In a Kubernetes cluster, a privileged pod is a pod that has been given extended permissions beyond the default set of permissions. These extended permissions can include the ability to access the host's network, devices, and other sensitive resources. While privileged pods can be useful in certain situations, they also present a significant security risk.

In this blog post, you will learn how to prevent privileged pods/containers using Pod Security Admission and applying Pod Security Standards. Note that using Pod Security Policy has been deprecated in 1.23 and removed in 1.25.

Introduction to Pod Security Standards and Pod Security Admission Controller

K8s comes with three predefined Pod Security Standards (PSS):

K8s offers a built-in Pod Security Admission (PSA) controller that to enforce Pod Security Standards across namespaces. The built-in Pod Security Admission controller is included by default since K8s 1.23.

Preventing privileged pods with PSS

The baseline and restricted Pod Security Standard would both prevent privileged pods. However, the restricted PSS would likely be too restrictive for your pod and would require you to update your Pod Spec and potentially your application. So if all you need is preventing privileged pods then Baseline would likely be an easier option.

Enforcing the baseline Pod Security Standard

Enforcing a pod security standard to a namespace has the risk of preventing new pods from being deployed to the namespace. So lets do a dry-run first instead of directly enforcing baseline.

Run a dry-run and check if any warnings are thrown:

kubectl label --dry-run=server --overwrite ns default \

If you saw namespace/default labeled without any warnings then that means all the currently running pods inside the namespace default would have been admitted if baseline was enforced.

Assuming you had no warnings. Let's start by enforcing the baseline standard on the default namespace:

kubectl label --overwrite ns default \

Notice that this time the --dry-run=server parameter is not added.

Let's verify that privileged pods indeed are getting blocked.

Create a file named nginx-priv.yaml with the following content:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
  name: nginx-priv
  - name: nginx-priv
    image: nginx:1.14.2
    - containerPort: 80
      privileged: true

Try to create the privileged pod:

kubectl apply -f nginx-priv.yaml

You should see the following output:

Error from server (Forbidden): error when creating "nginx-priv.yaml": pods "nginx-priv" is forbidden: violates PodSecurity "baseline:latest": privileged (container "nginx-priv" must not set securityContext.privileged=true)