Kubernetes Suspicious Assignment of Controller Service Accountedit

This rule detects a request to attach a controller service account to an existing or new pod running in the kube-system namespace. By default, controllers running as part of the API Server utilize admin-equivalent service accounts hosted in the kube-system namespace. Controller service accounts aren’t normally assigned to running pods and could indicate adversary behavior within the cluster. An attacker that can create or modify pods or pod controllers in the kube-system namespace, can assign one of these admin-equivalent service accounts to a pod and abuse their powerful token to escalate privileges and gain complete cluster control.

Rule type: query

Rule indices:

  • logs-kubernetes.*

Severity: medium

Risk score: 47

Runs every: 5 minutes

Searches indices from: now-6m (Date Math format, see also Additional look-back time)

Maximum alerts per execution: 100



  • Elastic
  • Kubernetes
  • Continuous Monitoring
  • Execution
  • Privilege Escalation

Version: 1

Added (Elastic Stack release): 8.5.0

Rule authors: Elastic

Rule license: Elastic License v2

Potential false positivesedit

Controller service accounts aren’t normally assigned to running pods, this is abnormal behavior with very few legitimate use-cases and should result in very few false positives.

Investigation guideedit

Rule queryedit

event.dataset : "kubernetes.audit_logs" and kubernetes.audit.verb :
"create" and kubernetes.audit.objectRef.resource : "pods" and
kubernetes.audit.objectRef.namespace : "kube-system" and

Threat mappingedit