Chapter 13. Hardening API endpoints

The process of engaging with an OpenStack cloud begins by querying an API endpoint. While there are different challenges for public and private endpoints, these are high value assets that can pose a significant risk if compromised.

This chapter recommends security enhancements for both public and private-facing API endpoints.

13.1. API endpoint configuration recommendations

This section describes recommendations for hardening your API endpoints.

13.1.1. Internal API communications

OpenStack provides both public-facing, internal admin, and private API endpoints. By default, OpenStack components use the publicly defined endpoints. The recommendation is to configure these components to use the API endpoint within the proper security domain. The internal admin endpoint allows further elevated access to keystone, so it might be desirable to further isolate this.

Services select their respective API endpoints based on the OpenStack service catalog. These services might not obey the listed public or internal API endpoint values. This can lead to internal management traffic being routed to external API endpoints.

13.1.2. Configure internal URLs in the Identity service catalog

The Identity service catalog should be aware of your internal URLs. While this feature is not used by default, it may be available through configuration. In addition, it should be forward-compatible with expectant changes once this behavior becomes the default.

Consider isolating the configured endpoints from a network level, given that they have different levels of access. The Admin endpoint is intended for access by cloud administrators, as it provides elevated access to keystone operations not available on the internal or public endpoints. The internal endpoints are intended for uses internal to the cloud (for example, by OpenStack services), and usually would not be accessible outside of the deployment network. The public endpoints should be TLS-enabled, and the only API endpoints accessible outside of the deployment for cloud users to operate on.

Registration of an internal URL for an endpoint is automated by director. For more information, see

13.1.3. Configure applications for internal URLs

You can force some services to use specific API endpoints. As a result, it is recommended that any OpenStack service that contacts the API of another service must be explicitly configured to access the proper internal API endpoint.

Each project might present an inconsistent way of defining target API endpoints. Future releases of OpenStack seek to resolve these inconsistencies through consistent use of the Identity service catalog.

13.1.4. Paste and middleware

Most API endpoints and other HTTP services in OpenStack use the Python Paste Deploy library. From a security perspective, this library enables manipulation of the request filter pipeline through the application’s configuration. Each element in this chain is referred to as middleware. Changing the order of filters in the pipeline or adding additional middleware might have unpredictable security impact.

Commonly, implementers add middleware to extend OpenStack’s base functionality. Consider giving careful consideration to the potential exposure introduced by the addition of non-standard software components to the HTTP request pipeline.

13.1.5. API endpoint process isolation and policy

You should isolate API endpoint processes, especially those that reside within the public security domain should be isolated as much as possible. Where deployments allow, API endpoints should be deployed on separate hosts for increased isolation.

13.1.6. Namespaces

Linux uses namespaces to assign processes into independent domains. Other parts of this guide cover system compartmentalization in more detail.

13.1.7. Network policy

API endpoints will typically span multiple security zones, so you must pay particular attention to the separation of the API processes. For example, at the network design level, you can consider restricting access to specified systems only. See the guidance on security zones for more information.

With careful modeling, you can use network ACLs and IDS technologies to enforce explicit point-to-point communication between network services. As a critical cross domain service, this type of explicit enforcement works well for OpenStack’s message queue service.

To enforce policies, you can configure services, host-based firewalls (such as iptables), local policy (SELinux), and optionally global network policy.

13.1.8. Mandatory access controls

You should isolate API endpoint processes from each other and other processes on a machine. The configuration for those processes should be restricted to those processes by Discretionary Access Controls (DAC) and Mandatory Access Controls (MAC). The goal of these enhanced access controls is to aid in the containment of API endpoint security breaches.

13.1.9. API endpoint rate-limiting

Rate Limiting is a means to control the frequency of events received by a network based application. When robust rate limiting is not present, it can result in an application being susceptible to various denial of service attacks. This is especially true for APIs, which by their nature are designed to accept a high frequency of similar request types and operations.

It is recommended that all endpoints (especially public) are give an extra layer of protection, for example, using physical network design, a rate-limiting proxy, or web application firewall.

It is key that the operator carefully plans and considers the individual performance needs of users and services within their OpenStack cloud when configuring and implementing any rate limiting functionality.

NOTE For Red Hat OpenStack Platform deployments, all services are placed behind load balancing proxies.