Authorization policies determine whether a user is allowed to perform a given action within a project. This allows platform administrators to use the cluster policy to control who has various access levels to the OpenShift platform itself and all projects. It also allows developers to use local policy to control who has access to their projects. Note that authorization is a separate step from authentication, which is more about determining the identity of who is taking the action.

Authorization is managed using:


Sets of permitted verbs on a set of objects. For example, whether something can create pods.


Collections of rules. Users and groups can be associated with, or bound to, multiple roles at the same time.


Associations between users and/or groups with a role.

Rules, roles, and bindings can be visualized using the CLI. For example, consider the following excerpt from viewing a policy, showing rule sets for the admin and basic-user default roles:

admin			Verbs					Resources															Resource Names	Extension
			[create delete get list update watch]	[projects resourcegroup:exposedkube resourcegroup:exposedopenshift resourcegroup:granter secrets]				[]
			[get list watch]			[resourcegroup:allkube resourcegroup:allkube-status resourcegroup:allopenshift-status resourcegroup:policy]			[]
basic-user		Verbs					Resources															Resource Names	Extension
			[get]					[users]																[~]
			[list]					[projectrequests]														[]
			[list]					[projects]															[]
			[create]				[subjectaccessreviews]														[]		IsPersonalSubjectAccessReview

The following excerpt from viewing policy bindings shows the above roles bound to various users and groups:

				Role:	admin
				Users:	[alice system:admin]
				Groups:	[]
				Role:	basic-user
				Users:	[joe]
				Groups:	[devel]

Evaluating Authorization

Several factors are combined to make the decision when OpenShift evaluates authorization:


In the context of authorization, both the user name and list of groups the user belongs to.


The action being performed. In most cases, this consists of:


The project being accessed.


Can be get, list, create, update, delete, or watch.

Resource Name

The API endpoint being accessed.


The full list of bindings.

OpenShift evaluates authorizations using the following steps:

  1. The identity and the project-scoped action is used to find all bindings that apply to the user or their groups.

  2. Bindings are used to locate all the roles that apply.

  3. Roles are used to find all the rules that apply.

  4. The action is checked against each rule to find a match.

  5. If no matching rule is found, the action is then denied by default.

Cluster Policy and Local Policy

There are two levels of authorization policy:

Cluster policy

Roles and bindings that are applicable across all projects. Roles that exist in the cluster policy are considered cluster roles. Cluster bindings can only reference cluster roles.

Local policy

Roles and bindings that are scoped to a given project. Roles that exist only in a local policy are considered local roles. Local bindings can reference both cluster and local roles.

This two-level hierarchy allows re-usability over multiple projects through the cluster policy while allowing customization inside of individual projects through local policies.

During evaluation, both the cluster bindings and the local bindings are used. For example:

  1. Cluster-wide "allow" rules are checked.

  2. Locally-bound "allow" rules are checked.

  3. Deny by default.


Roles are collections of policy rules, which are sets of permitted verbs that can be performed on a set of resources. OpenShift includes a set of default roles that can be added to users and groups in the cluster policy or in a local policy.

Default Role Description


A project manager. If used in a local binding, an admin user will have rights to view any resource in the project and modify any resource in the project except for role creation and quota. If the cluster-admin wants to allow an admin to modify roles, the cluster-admin must create a project-scoped Policy object using JSON.


A user that can get basic information about projects and users.


A super-user that can perform any action in any project. When granted to a user within a local policy, they have full control over quota and roles and every action on every resource in the project.


A user that can get basic cluster status information.


A user that can modify most objects in a project, but does not have the power to view or modify roles or bindings.


A user that can create their own projects.


A user who cannot make any modifications, but can see most objects in a project. They cannot view or modify roles or bindings.

Remember that users and groups can be associated with, or bound to, multiple roles at the same time.

These roles, including a matrix of the verbs and resources each are associated with, can be visualized in the cluster policy by using the CLI to view the cluster roles. Additional system: roles are listed as well, which are used for various OpenShift system and component operations.

By default in a local policy, only the binding for the admin role is immediately listed when using the CLI to view local bindings. However, if other default roles are added to users and groups within a local policy, they become listed in the CLI output, as well.

If you find that these roles do not suit you, a cluster-admin user can create a policyBinding object named <projectname>:default with the CLI using a JSON file. This allows the project admin to bind users to roles that are defined only in the <projectname> local policy.

Updating Cluster Roles

After any OpenShift cluster upgrade, the recommended default roles may have been updated. See the Administrator Guide for instructions on updating the policy definitions to the new recommendations using:

$ oadm policy reconcile-cluster-roles

Security Context Constraints

In addition to authorization policies that control what a user can do, OpenShift provides security context constraints (SCC) that control the actions that a pod can perform and what it has the ability to access. Administrators can manage SCCs using the CLI.

SCCs are objects that define a set of conditions that a pod must run with in order to be accepted into the system. They allow an administrator to control the following:

  1. Running of privileged containers.

  2. Capabilities a container can request to be added.

  3. Use of host directories as volumes.

  4. The SELinux context of the container.

  5. The user ID.

Two SCCs are added to the cluster by default, privileged and restricted, which are viewable by cluster administrators using the CLI:

$ oc get scc
privileged   true      []        true      RunAsAny    RunAsAny
restricted   false     []        false     MustRunAs   MustRunAsRange

The definition for each SCC is also viewable by cluster administrators using the CLI. For example, for the privileged SCC:

# oc export scc/privileged
allowHostDirVolumePlugin: true
allowPrivilegedContainer: true
apiVersion: v1
groups: (1)
- system:cluster-admins
- system:nodes
kind: SecurityContextConstraints
  creationTimestamp: null
  name: privileged
  type: RunAsAny (2)
  type: RunAsAny (3)
users: (4)
- system:serviceaccount:openshift-infra:build-controller
1 The groups that have access to this SCC
2 The run as user strategy type which dictates the allowable values for the Security Context
3 The SELinux context strategy type which dictates the allowable values for the Security Context
4 The users who have access to this SCC

The users and groups fields on the SCC control which SCCs can be used. By default, cluster administrators, nodes, and the build controller are granted access to the privileged SCC. All authenticated users are granted access to the restricted SCC.

The privileged SCC:

  • allows privileged pods.

  • allows host directories to be mounted as volumes.

  • allows a pod to run as any user.

  • allows a pod to run with any MCS label.

The restricted SCC:

  • ensures pods cannot run as privileged.

  • ensures pods cannot use host directory volumes.

  • requires that a pod run as a user in a pre-allocated range of UIDs.

  • requires that a pod run with a pre-allocated MCS label.

SCCs are comprised of settings and strategies that control the security features a pod has access to. These settings fall into three categories:

Controlled by a boolean

Fields of this type default to the most restrictive value. For example, AllowPrivilegedContainer is always set to false if unspecified.

Controlled by an allowable set

Fields of this type are checked against the set to ensure their value is allowed.

Controlled by a strategy

Items that have a strategy to generate a value provide:

  • A mechanism to generate the value, and

  • A mechanism to ensure that a specified value falls into the set of allowable values.


Admission control with SCCs allows for control over the creation of resources based on the capabilities granted to a user.

In terms of the SCCs, this means that an admission controller can inspect the user information made available in the context to retrieve an appropriate set of SCCs. Doing so ensures the pod is authorized to make requests about its operating environment or to generate a set of constraints to apply to the pod.

The set of SCCs that admission uses to authorize a pod are determined by the user identity and groups that the user belongs to. Additionally, if the pod specifies a service account, the set of allowable SCCs includes any constraints accessible to the service account.

Admission uses the following approach to create the final security context for the pod:

  1. Retrieve all SCCs available for use.

  2. Generate field values for any security context setting that was not specified on the request.

  3. Validate the final settings against the available constraints.

If a matching set of constraints is found, then the pod is accepted. If the request cannot be matched to an SCC, the pod is rejected.