Kubernetes 1.30: Beta Support For Pods With User Namespaces

Authors: Rodrigo Campos Catelin (Microsoft), Giuseppe Scrivano (Red Hat), Sascha Grunert (Red Hat)

Linux provides different namespaces to isolate processes from each other. For
example, a typical Kubernetes pod runs within a network namespace to isolate the
network identity and a PID namespace to isolate the processes.

One Linux namespace that was left behind is the user
. This
namespace allows us to isolate the user and group identifiers (UIDs and GIDs) we
use inside the container from the ones on the host.

This is a powerful abstraction that allows us to run containers as “root”: we
are root inside the container and can do everything root can inside the pod,
but our interactions with the host are limited to what a non-privileged user can
do. This is great for limiting the impact of a container breakout.

A container breakout is when a process inside a container can break out
onto the host using some unpatched vulnerability in the container runtime or the
kernel and can access/modify files on the host or other containers. If we
run our pods with user namespaces, the privileges the container has over the
rest of the host are reduced, and the files outside the container it can access
are limited too.

In Kubernetes v1.25, we introduced support for user namespaces only for stateless
pods. Kubernetes 1.28 lifted that restriction, and now, with Kubernetes 1.30, we
are moving to beta!

What is a user namespace?

Note: Linux user namespaces are a different concept from Kubernetes
The former is a Linux kernel feature; the latter is a Kubernetes feature.

User namespaces are a Linux feature that isolates the UIDs and GIDs of the
containers from the ones on the host. The identifiers in the container can be
mapped to identifiers on the host in a way where the host UID/GIDs used for
different containers never overlap. Furthermore, the identifiers can be mapped
to unprivileged, non-overlapping UIDs and GIDs on the host. This brings two key

  • Prevention of lateral movement: As the UIDs and GIDs for different
    containers are mapped to different UIDs and GIDs on the host, containers have a
    harder time attacking each other, even if they escape the container boundaries.
    For example, suppose container A runs with different UIDs and GIDs on the host
    than container B. In that case, the operations it can do on container B’s files and processes
    are limited: only read/write what a file allows to others, as it will never
    have permission owner or group permission (the UIDs/GIDs on the host are
    guaranteed to be different for different containers).

  • Increased host isolation: As the UIDs and GIDs are mapped to unprivileged
    users on the host, if a container escapes the container boundaries, even if it
    runs as root inside the container, it has no privileges on the host. This
    greatly protects what host files it can read/write, which process it can send
    signals to, etc. Furthermore, capabilities granted are only valid inside the
    user namespace and not on the host, limiting the impact a container
    escape can have.

Image showing IDs 0-65535 are reserved to the host, pods use higher IDs

User namespace IDs allocation

Without using a user namespace, a container running as root in the case of a
container breakout has root privileges on the node. If some capabilities
were granted to the container, the capabilities are valid on the host too. None
of this is true when using user namespaces (modulo bugs, of course 🙂).

Changes in 1.30

In Kubernetes 1.30, besides moving user namespaces to beta, the contributors
working on this feature:

  • Introduced a way for the kubelet to use custom ranges for the UIDs/GIDs mapping
  • Have added a way for Kubernetes to enforce that the runtime supports all the features
    needed for user namespaces. If they are not supported, Kubernetes will show a
    clear error when trying to create a pod with user namespaces. Before 1.30, if
    the container runtime didn’t support user namespaces, the pod could be created
    without a user namespace.
  • Added more tests, including tests in the


You can check the
on user namespaces for how to configure custom ranges for the mapping.


A few months ago, CVE-2024-21626 was disclosed. This vulnerability
score is 8.6 (HIGH)
. It allows an attacker to escape a container and
read/write to any path on the node and other pods hosted on the same node.

Rodrigo created a demo that exploits CVE 2024-21626 and shows how
the exploit, which works without user namespaces, is mitigated when user
namespaces are in use.

Please note that with user namespaces, an attacker can do on the host file system
what the permission bits for “others” allow. Therefore, the CVE is not
completely prevented, but the impact is greatly reduced.

Node system requirements

There are requirements on the Linux kernel version and the container
runtime to use this feature.

On Linux you need Linux 6.3 or greater. This is because the feature relies on a
kernel feature named idmap mounts, and support for using idmap mounts with tmpfs
was merged in Linux 6.3.

Suppose you are using CRI-O with crun; as always, you can expect support for
Kubernetes 1.30 with CRI-O 1.30. Please note you also need crun 1.9 or
greater. If you are using CRI-O with runc, this is still not supported.

Containerd support is currently targeted for containerd 2.0, and
the same crun version requirements apply. If you are using containerd with runc,
this is still not supported.

Please note that containerd 1.7 added experimental support for user
namespaces, as implemented in Kubernetes 1.25 and 1.26. We did a redesign in
Kubernetes 1.27, which requires changes in the container runtime. Those changes
are not present in containerd 1.7, so it only works with user namespaces
support in Kubernetes 1.25 and 1.26.

Another limitation of containerd 1.7 is that it needs to change the
ownership of every file and directory inside the container image during Pod
startup. This has a storage overhead and can significantly impact the
container startup latency. Containerd 2.0 will probably include an implementation
that will eliminate the added startup latency and storage overhead. Consider
this if you plan to use containerd 1.7 with user namespaces in

None of these containerd 1.7 limitations apply to CRI-O.

How do I get involved?

You can reach SIG Node by several means:

You can also contact us directly:

  • GitHub: @rata @giuseppe @saschagrunert
  • Slack: @rata @giuseppe @sascha

Originally posted on Kubernetes Blog

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