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Migrate your Kubernetes pod security policies to OpenShift security context constraints

Red Hat OpenShift is a Kubernetes-based container platform. Typically, any containerized applications that deploys and runs properly in a Kubernetes cluster will also deploy and run properly in an OpenShift cluster. However, one difference between Kubernetes and OpenShift is how the cluster allows the pod to modify the container’s security context.

  • Kubernetes has a feature called Pod Security Policies (PSPs) for granting permissions to modify the security context.
  • OpenShift has a similar but different feature called Security Context Constraints (SCCs).

The application deploys the same in both types of clusters, so the deployment manifest doesn’t need to change. But the OpenShift cluster is configured differently, with SCCs instead of PSPs, and the RBAC artifacts need to connect to these new SCC artifacts for granting access.

This article shows cluster administrators how to migrate cluster security policies from Kubernetes to OpenShift. Cluster administrators are in charge of configuring and deploying PSPs and SCCs. Specifically, the article explains how to convert PSPs to SCCs, and how to update the RBAC artifacts to use the SCCs instead of the PSPs.

Before you start

The learning path Get started with security context constraints on Red Hat OpenShift covers exactly how to build and use SCCs with OpenShift. If you’re not familiar with SCCs, you should read the learning path first.

Defining Pod Security Policies, Security Context Constraints, and RBAC

Before discussing how to migrate Pod Security Policies in Kubernetes to Security Context Constraints in OpenShift, let’s take a look at what each security mechanism does.

Pod Security Policies (PSPs) in Kubernetes

A container in a Kubernetes cluster restricts its application’s access to the host network, volumes, or other assets. This is to prevent the application from making changes that could affect the Linux environment and other containers. When an application needs access to protected Linux functions, the pod can configure this access. For the pod to run (that is, for the cluster to admit the pod), the cluster must allow the access the pod has configured.

A Kubernetes cluster uses PSPs to specify which permissions a pod can enable on a container. According to the Kubernetes docs: “The PodSecurityPolicy objects define a set of conditions that a pod must run in order to be accepted into the system, as well as defaults for the related fields.” As optional admission controllers, PSPs serve to restrict what can run on a Kubernetes cluster.

Security Context Constraints (SCCs) in OpenShift

OpenShift has stricter security policies than Kubernetes. OpenShift uses Security Context Constraints (SCCs) to enable containerized applications to access protected Linux functionality. An SCC is defined in a cluster and enables an administrator to control permissions for pods.

Similarly to how Role Based Access Controls (RBAC) manages users’ access to a cluster’s resources, an SCC manages pods’ access to Linux functions.

The learning path Get started with security context constraints on Red Hat OpenShift gives you a thorough introduction on what SCCs are and how to use them.

Role Based Access Control (RBAC)

An SCC is associated with a security account, either directly or, ideally, via an RBAC role. You use RBAC to authorize the use of policies and security constraints. RBAC infrastructure is implemented through Role, ClusterRole, RoleBinding, and ClusterRoleBinding. First, a Role or ClusterRole needs to grant access to use the desired policies. Then, the (Cluster)Role is bound to the authorized user(s).

To learn more about RBAC in Kubernetes and OpenShift, and how it incorporates PSPs and SCCs:

With this background information to reference, see what it takes to migrate policies from Kubernetes to OpenShift.

Migrate security policies from Kubernetes to OpenShift

To migrate security policies from Kubernetes to OpenShift, you must ensure that all of the control aspects in a Pod Security Policy are migrated to the Security Context Constraints. Cluster administrators define both PSPs and SCCs.

First, you need to identify the PSPs that are available in your Kubernetes cluster. You can use this command to get the list of PSPs.

$ kubectl get psp

A Kubernetes cluster does not include any built-in PSPs by default. This example adds a PSP called my-custom-psp. Then the command shows it in the list (and it’s the only item in the list):

$ kubectl get psp
NAME                        PRIV    CAPS                                                                                                                  SELINUX    RUNASUSER          FSGROUP     SUPGROUP    READONLYROOTFS   VOLUMES
my-custom-psp               false                                                                                                                         RunAsAny   MustRunAs          MustRunAs   MustRunAs   false            persistentVolumeClaim,secret,emptyDir


To see the configuration of my-custom-psp, run this command:

$ kubectl get psp my-custom-psp -o yaml

The command displays the PSP:

apiVersion: policy/v1beta1
kind: PodSecurityPolicy
  name: my-custom-psp
  selfLink: /apis/policy/v1beta1/podsecuritypolicies/my-custom-psp
  privileged: false
    - max: 6000
      min: 5000
    rule: MustRunAs
    - max: 2000
      min: 1000
    rule: MustRunAs
    rule: RunAsAny
    - max: 6000
      min: 5000
    rule: MustRunAs
  - persistentVolumeClaim
  - secret
  - emptyDir

In this policy, some of the controls are:

  • privileged is set to “false”. This policy does not allow deployment of pods having privileged access.
  • fsGroup and supplementalGroups are given limits to a certain range of group IDs.
  • The policy allows access to certain volumes: persistentVolumeClaim, secret, and emptyDir.

Convert a PSP to an SCC

The controls should be migrated to OpenShift’s SCCs. The following table shows a mapping of security control fields between Kubernetes and OpenShift. Essentially, when building your OpenShift SCC file, you will update your PSP file by replacing the PSP control field names on the left with the corresponding SCC control field name on the right, where applicable.

Control aspect PSP field name SCC field name
Running of privileged containers privileged allowPrivilegedContainer
Usage of host namespaces hostPID, hostIPC allowHostPID, allowHostIPC
Usage of host networking and ports hostNetwork, hostPorts allowHostNetwork, allowHostPorts
Usage of volume types volumes volumes
Usage of the host filesystem allowedHostPaths (see note)
Allow specific FlexVolume drivers allowedFlexVolumes allowedFlexVolumes
Allocating an FSGroup that owns the pod’s volumes fsGroup fsGroup
Requiring the use of a read only root file system readOnlyRootFilesystem readOnlyRootFilesystem
The user and group IDs of the container runAsUser, runAsGroup, supplementalGroups runAsUser, fsGroup, supplementalGroups
Restricting escalation to root privileges allowPrivilegeEscalation, defaultAllowPrivilegeEscalation allowPrivilegeEscalation, defaultAllowPrivilegeEscalation
Linux capabilities defaultAddCapabilities, requiredDropCapabilities, allowedCapabilities defaultAddCapabilities, requiredDropCapabilities, allowedCapabilities
The SELinux context of the container seLinux seLinuxContext
The Allowed Proc Mount types for the container allowedProcMountTypes (see note)
The AppArmor profile used by containers annotations annotations
The seccomp profile used by containers annotations annotations
The sysctl profile used by containers forbiddenSysctls, allowedUnsafeSysctls forbiddenSysctls, allowedUnsafeSysctls

NOTE: allowedHostPaths: There is no equivalent of allowedHostPaths in SCC. In SCC, it is handled in a different way as explained in the Red Hat Customer Portal

NOTE: allowedProcMountTypes: There is no equivalent of allowedProcMountTypes in SCC.

For more details about control aspects and their field names, see What is a Pod Security Policy? in the Kubernetes docs and SecurityContextConstraints in the OpenShift docs.

There could be some variations in names and the way the controls are represented. As the table above shows, privileged in PSP is allowPrivilegedContainer in SCC, hostNetwork in PSP is allowHostNetwork in SCC, and so on.

Specify control aspect values

There are variations in details of a control aspect as well. For example, RunAsUser controls are represented in different ways.


      rule: MustRunAs
      - min: 1000
        max: 2000


  type: MustRunAsRange
  uidRangeMin: 1000
  uidRangeMax: 2000

You should go through the SCC learning path thoroughly to understand how all the controls are represented in SCCs and how they are different from PSP.

What a converted PSP looks like

When the previous PSP manifest example is adapted to an SCC manifest file, it looks like this:

apiVersion: v1
kind: SecurityContextConstraints
  name: scc-tutorial-scc
allowPrivilegedContainer: false
  type: MustRunAsRange
  uidRangeMin: 1000
  uidRangeMax: 2000
  type: RunAsAny
  type: MustRunAs
  - min: 5000
    max: 6000
  type: MustRunAs
  - min: 5000
    max: 6000

You can save that SCC to a file and then deploy it to a cluster using the command:

oc create -f <scc_manifest_file_name.yaml>

You now know what it takes to prepare an SCC configuration file from an existing PSP. The next step is to migrate the RBAC artifacts: the Role (and/or ClusterRole) and RoleBinding (and/or ClusterRoleBinding).

RBAC migration

Roles and RoleBindings help in mapping which user has access to which policies.

  1. Before you can migrate your security policies to OpenShift, you must identify roles that use specific pod security policies. Use kubectl get roles -n <namespace> to get the list of roles, and use kubectl get role <role_name> -o yaml -n <namespace> to get YAML output of a particular role.

    An example role YAML output is shown below:

     $ kubectl get role use-example-psp -n myproject -o yaml
     apiVersion: rbac.authorization.k8s.io/v1
     kind: Role
       creationTimestamp: "2021-03-16T03:48:35Z"
       - apiVersion: rbac.authorization.k8s.io/v1
         fieldsType: FieldsV1
           f:rules: {}
         manager: kubectl-create
         operation: Update
         time: "2021-03-16T03:48:35Z"
       name: use-example-psp
       namespace: myproject
       resourceVersion: "16574"
       selfLink: /apis/rbac.authorization.k8s.io/v1/namespaces/myproject/roles/use-example-psp
       uid: a227f47d-1981-4ad5-aad9-28ef167b73c2
     - apiGroups:
     - extensions
     - example-psp
     - podsecuritypolicies
     - use

    Notice that this role maps the resource podsecuritypolicies to the action use.

    For all the roles that use podsecuritypolicies, you need to create a corresponding role in OpenShift.

  2. The next step is to identify RoleBindings which map roles to users and service accounts. When migrating security policies from Kubernetes to OpenShift, you will migrate RoleBindings the same way that you migrate Roles.

  3. If there are ClusterRoles that use the security policies, then ClusterRoles and ClusterRoleBindings should be migrated too.

    NOTE: You should ensure that users, groups, and service accounts specified in SCC and (Cluster)RoleBinding exist. If the users and groups don’t exist, then you should do one of the following:

    • Edit the Role to include the appropriate user, group, or service account.
    • Create required users, groups, or service accounts in OpenShift so that they can be used in SCC and ClusterRoleBindings.

Once all these manifest files (SCC, (Cluster)Role and (Cluster)RoleBinding) are created, you can apply these to your cluster so that the SCCs are implemented and your application deployments are secure.

Mapping of predefined PSPs in Kubernetes to predefined SCCs in OpenShift

Generally, to grant permissions to the application pods in the cluster, an administrator should define custom PSPs rather than use a predefined (that is, default) PSP from a vendor. To migrate the application, the administrator should convert the definitions for those custom PSPs into definitions for corresponding custom SCCs, as described above. However, if an application uses a vendor’s predefined PSPs, how should the administrator translate those into corresponding predefined SCCs?

For starters, a Kubernetes cluster does not include any built-in PSPs by default, so there are no predefined PSPs to convert into SCCs. OpenShift does define nine default SCCs, which are:

  • anyuid
  • hostaccess
  • hostmount-anyuid
  • hostnetwork
  • node-exporter
  • nonroot
  • privileged
  • restricted
  • pipelines-scc

See OpenShift’s predefined SCCs for more details.

OpenShift’s predefined SCCs are mostly for use by the tools Red Hat builds into a cluster. User applications can also use the predefined SCCs, but unless one is an exact match for the privileges an application needs, by the principle of least privilege, a more secure approach is to define a custom SCC with only the privileges that the application requires.

Predefined PSPs and SCCs in IBM Cloud Kubernetes Service

If migrating an application from an IBM Cloud Kubernetes Service (IKS) cluster to a Red Hat OpenShift on IBM Cloud cluster, IBM builds in some of its own predefined PSPs and SCCs. An IBM-hosted Kubernetes cluster includes these additional PSPs:

  • ibm-anyuid-hostaccess-psp
  • ibm-anyuid-hostpath-psp
  • ibm-anyuid-psp
  • ibm-privileged-psp
  • ibm-restricted-psp

An IBM hosted OpenShift cluster includes these additional SCCs:

  • ibm-anyuid-hostaccess-scc
  • ibm-anyuid-hostpath-scc
  • ibm-anyuid-scc
  • ibm-privileged-scc
  • ibm-restricted-scc

As you can see, there’s a one-to-one correspondence between IBM’s predefined PSPs and SCCs. The only difference is the “psp” or “scc” suffix on the end of the name. If your application uses one of IBM’s predefined PSPs, when migrating it to OpenShift, change the RBAC resource to specify the resource with the “scc” name instead of the one with the “psp” name.

Predefined PSP in Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service

Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS) adds a single predefined PSP to its Kubernetes clusters, eks.privileged. This policy has no restrictions, so it places no limits on the privileges that can be enabled in a container. Red Hat OpenShift Service on AWS (ROSA) does not add any predefined SCCs to its OpenShift clusters. To migrate an application that requires the eks.privileged PSP, update its RBAC to use the privileged SCC that’s predefined by Red Hat.

Predefined PSP in Azure Kubernetes Service

Similarly, Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) adds a single default AKS policy named privileged, which AKS applies to any authenticated user in the cluster. Because this policy has no restrictions, any user in the cluster can deploy containers with no limits on the privileges that can be enabled. Azure Red Hat OpenShift does not add any predefined SCCs to the ones Red Hat already includes, but one of the ones predefined by Red Hat is the privileged SCC. Therefore, if an application uses Azure’s privileged PSP, update its RBAC to use the privileged SCC predefined by Red Hat.


Stateful workloads often use persistent volumes, network capabilities, and users and groups. These resources are protected both in Kubernetes and OpenShift using PSPs and SCCs. By following the process above, you should be able to migrate security control aspects for these resources from Kubernetes to OpenShift.