You don’t want sensitive information such as a database password or an API key kept around in clear text. Secrets provide you with a mechanism to use such information in a safe and reliable way with the following properties:

  • Secrets are namespaced objects, that is, exist in the context of a namespace
  • You can access them via a volume or an environment variable from a container running in a pod
  • The secret data on nodes is stored in tmpfs volumes
  • A per-secret size limit of 1MB exists
  • The API server stores secrets as plaintext in etcd

Let’s create a secret apikey that holds a (made-up) API key:

$ echo -n "A19fh68B001j" > ./apikey.txt

$ kubectl create secret generic apikey --from-file=./apikey.txt
secret "apikey" created

$ kubectl describe secrets/apikey
Name:           apikey
Namespace:      default
Labels:         <none>
Annotations:    <none>

Type:   Opaque

apikey.txt:     12 bytes

Now let’s use the secret in a pod via a volume:

$ kubectl create -f

If we now exec into the container we see the secret mounted at /tmp/apikey:

$ kubectl exec consumesec -c shell -i -t -- bash
[root@consumesec /]# mount | grep apikey
tmpfs on /tmp/apikey type tmpfs (ro,relatime)
[root@consumesec /]# cat /tmp/apikey/apikey.txt

Note that for service accounts Kubernetes automatically creates secrets containing credentials for accessing the API and modifies your pods to use this type of secret.