Authenticating Your Clients to Mongodb on Kubernetes Using X509 Certificates

Managing database users and their passwords can be a hassle. Sometimes, they could even wait in various configuration files, hardcoded. Using certificates can help you avoid the toil of managing, rotating, and securing user passwords, so let’s see how to have x509 certificate authentication with the Percona Server for MongoDB Operator and cert-manager.

cert-manager is our recommended way to manage TLS certificates on Kubernetes clusters. The operator is already integrated with it to generate certificates for TLS and cluster member authentication. We’re going to leverage cert-manager APIs to generate valid certificates for MongoDB clients.

There are rules to follow to have a valid certificate for user authentication:

  1. A single Certificate Authority (CA) MUST sign all certificates.
  2. The certificate’s subject MUST be unique.
  3. The certificate MUST not be expired.

For the complete requirements, check the MongoDB docs.

Let’s check our current certificates:

$ kubectl get cert
NAME                      READY   SECRET                    AGE
cluster1-ssl              True    cluster1-ssl              17h
cluster1-ssl-internal     True    cluster1-ssl-internal     17h

The operator configures MongoDB nodes to use “cluster1-ssl-internal” as the certificate authority. We’re going to use it to sign the client certificates to conform to Rule 1.

First, we need to create an Issuer:

$ kubectl apply -f - <<EOF
kind: Issuer
 name: cluster1-psmdb-x509-ca
   secretName: cluster1-ssl-internal

Then, our certificate:

$ kubectl apply -f - <<EOF
kind: Certificate
 name: cluster1-psmdb-egegunes
 secretName: cluster1-psmdb-egegunes
 isCA: false
 commonName: egegunes
     - percona
     - cloud
   - digital signature
   - client auth
   name: cluster1-psmdb-x509-ca
   kind: Issuer

The “usages” field is important. You shouldn’t touch its values. You can change the “subject” and “commonName” fields as you wish. They’re going to construct the Distinguished Name (DN) and DN will be the username.

$ kubectl get secret cluster1-psmdb-egegunes -o yaml \
    | yq3 r - 'data."tls.crt"' \
    | base64 -d \
    | openssl x509 -subject -noout

subject=O = percona, OU = cloud, CN = egegunes

Let’s create the user:

rs0:PRIMARY> db.getSiblingDB("$external").runCommand(
   createUser: "CN=egegunes,OU=cloud,O=percona",
   roles: [{ role: 'readWrite', db: 'test' }]

       "ok" : 1,
       "$clusterTime" : {
               "clusterTime" : Timestamp(1643099623, 3),
               "signature" : {
                       "hash" : BinData(0,"EdPrmPJqfgRpMEZwGMeKNLdCe10="),
                       "keyId" : NumberLong("7056790236952526853")
       "operationTime" : Timestamp(1643099623, 3)

We’re creating the user in the “$external” database. You need to use “$external” as your authentication source. Note that we’re reversing the subject fields, this is important.

I have created a simple Go application to show how you can use x509 certificates to authenticate. It’s redacted here for brevity:

// ca.crt is mounted from secret/cluster1-ssl
caFilePath := "/etc/mongodb-ssl/ca.crt"

// tls.pem consists of tls.key and tls.crt, they're mounted from
certKeyFilePath := "/tmp/tls.pem"

endpoint := "cluster1-rs0.psmdb.svc.cluster.local"

uri := fmt.Sprintf(

credential := options.Credential{
       AuthMechanism: "MONGODB-X509",
       AuthSource:    "$external",

opts := options.Client().SetAuth(credential).ApplyURI(uri)

client, _ := mongo.Connect(ctx, opts)

The important part is using “MONGODB-X509” as the authentication mechanism. We also need to pass the CA and client certificate in the MongoDB URI.

$ kubectl logs psmdb-x509-tester-688c989567-rmgxv
2022/01/25 07:50:09 Connecting to database
2022/01/25 07:50:09 URI: mongodb+srv://cluster1-rs0.psmdb.svc.cluster.local/?tlsCAFile=/etc/mongodb-ssl/ca.crt&tlsCertificateKeyFile=/tmp/tls.pem
2022/01/25 07:50:09 Username: O=percona,OU=cloud,CN=egegunes
2022/01/25 07:50:09 Connected to database
2022/01/25 07:50:09 Successful ping

You can see the complete example in this repository. If you have any questions, please add a comment or create a topic in the Percona Forums.