How to rotate a WordPress MySQL database secret using AWS Secrets Manager in Amazon EKS
AWS Secrets Manager recently announced a feature update to rotate credentials for all Amazon RDS database types. This allows you to automatically rotate credentials for all types of databases hosted on Amazon RDS. In this post, I show you how to rotate database secrets for a non-RDS database using AWS Secrets Manager. I use a containerized WordPress application with a MySQL database to demonstrate the secret rotation.
Enabling regular rotation of database secrets helps secure application databases, protects customer data, and helps meet compliance requirements. You’ll use Amazon Elastic Container Service for Kubernetes (Amazon EKS) to help deploy, manage, and scale the WordPress application, and Secrets Manager to perform secret rotation on a containerized MySQL database.
You’ll need an Amazon EKS or a Kubernetes cluster running and accessible for this post. Getting Started with Amazon EKS provides instructions on setting up the cluster and node environment. I recommend that you have a basic understanding of Kubernetes concepts, but Kubernetes reference document links are provided throughout this walk-through. For this post, I use the placeholder EKSClusterName to denote the existing EKS cluster. Remember to replace this with the name of your EKS cluster.
You’ll also need AWS Command Line Interface (AWS CLI) installed and configured on your machine. For this blog, I assume that the default AWS CLI region is set to Oregon (us-west-2) and that you have access to the AWS services described in this post. If you use other regions, you should check the availability of AWS services in those regions.
The architecture diagram shows the overall deployment architecture with two data flows, a user data flow and a Secrets Manager data flow within the EKS three-node cluster VPC (virtual private cloud).
To access the WordPress site, user data flows through an internet gateway and an external load balancer as part of the WordPress frontend Kubernetes deployment. The AWS Secrets Manager data flow uses the recently announced Secrets Manager VPC Endpoint and an AWS Lambda function within the VPC that rotates the MySQL database secret through an internal load balancer. MySQL database and the internal load balancer are provisioned as part of the WordPress MySQL Kubernetes deployment. The internal load balancer allows the database service to be exposed internally for Secrets Manager to perform the rotation within a VPC. It removes the need for the database to be exposed to the Internet for secret rotation, which is not a good security practice.
The blog post consists of the following steps:
- Host WordPress and MySQL services on Amazon EKS.
- Store the database secret in AWS Secrets Manager.
- Set up the rotation of the database secret using Secrets Manager VPC Endpoint.
- Rotate the database secret and update the WordPress frontend deployment.
Note: This post helps you implement MySQL secret rotation for non-RDS databases. It should be used as a reference guide on database secret rotation. For guidance on using WordPress on AWS, please refer to the WordPress: Best Practices on AWS whitepaper.
Step 1: Host WordPress and MySQL services on Amazon EKS
To deploy WordPress on an EKS cluster, you’ll use three YAML templates.
- First, create a StorageClass in Amazon EKS that uses Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) for persistent volumes, using the command below if the volumes don’t exist. Then, create a Kubernetes namespace. The Kubernetes namespace creates a separate environment within your Kubernetes cluster to create objects specific to this walk-through. This helps with object management and logical separation.
- Next, use Kubernetes secrets to store your MySQL database password with an Amazon EKS cluster. The password is generated by the AWS Secret Manager get-random-password API using the command below. This allows a random password to be created and stored in the Kubernetes secret object through the Secrets Manager API feature without the need to manually create it. The get-random-password API allows various password length and type restrictions to be enforced based on your organizational security policy.
You’ll use the Kubernetes secret mysql-pass to create your MySQL and WordPress deployments using the YAML manifests in the next step.
Deploying MySQL and WordPress in Amazon EKS
Now, you’ll run the MySQL and WordPress templates provided by the Kubernetes community to deploy your backend MySQL services, deployments, and persistent volume claims.
- To deploy an internal load balancer that AWS Secrets Manager will use to perform its secret rotation, you’ll use the Kubernetes service annotation service.beta.kubernetes.io/aws-load-balancer-internal within the MySQL service YAML. For WordPress deployment, you’ll add three replicas for availability across the three availability zones.
Run the commands above with the Kubernetes YAML manifests to create MySQL and WordPress services, deployments, and persistent volume claims. As shown in the architecture diagram, these services also provision an external and an internal load balancer. The external load balancer is accessible over the internet for your WordPress frontend, while you’ll use the internal load balancer to rotate database secrets. It takes a few minutes for the load balancers to be provisioned.
- Once the load balancers are provisioned, you should be able to access your WordPress site in your browser by running the following command. The browser will open to show the WordPress setup prompt in Figure 2.
- From here, follow the WordPress instructions to complete installation and set up credentials to access your WordPress administration page. This completes the hosting and setup of your WordPress blog on Amazon EKS.
Step 2: Store the database secret in AWS Secrets Manager
Next, you’re going to store your database secret in AWS Secrets Manager. AWS Secrets Manager is a fully managed AWS service that enables you to rotate, manage, and retrieve secrets such as database credentials and application programming interface keys (API keys) throughout their lifecycle. Follow the steps below to use Secrets Manager to store the MySQL database secret and the rotation configuration details.
From the Secrets Manager console, select Store a new secret to open the page shown in Figure 3 above. Follow the instructions below to store the MySQL database secret parameters.
- Select Credentials for other database and provide the username and password you created in the previous step. The username value will be root, and you should paste the password value from the output of the command below. This command copies the MySQL password stored in the Kubernetes secret object, allowing you to store it in Secrets Manager.
- Secrets Manager encrypts secrets by default using the service-specific encryption key for your AWS account. Since you’re storing the secret for MySQL database, choose the MySQL tile and provide the server details. For Server address, you can paste the output of the command below. The database name and port values are mysql and 3306, respectively.
- Select Next and give the secret a name and a description that enables you to reference and manage the secret easily. I use the placeholder yourSecretName to reference your secret throughout the rest of my post; be sure to swap this placeholder with your own secret name.
- On the next screen, accept the default setting: Disable automatic rotation.
- Finally, select Store to store your MySQL secret in AWS Secrets Manager.
Step 3: Set MySQL secret rotation using Secrets Manager VPC Endpoint
Next, you’ll create a Lambda Function within the Amazon EKS node cluster VPC to rotate this secret. Within the node cluster VPC, you’re also going to configure the AWS Secrets Manager recently announced support for Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) endpoints powered by AWS PrivateLink.
Note: If you have a database hosted on Amazon RDS, Secrets Manager natively supports rotating secrets. However, if you’re using a container-based MySQL database, you must create and configure the Lambda rotation function for AWS Secrets Manager, and then provide the Amazon Resource Name (ARN) of the completed function to the secret.
Creating a Lambda rotation function
The following commands apply a WordPress MySQL rotation template to a new Lambda function. CloudFormation uses an AWS Serverless Application Repository template to automate most of the steps for you. The values you need to replace for your environment are denoted in red.
- The command below will return a ChangeSetId. It uses the Secrets Manager MySQL single user template from the AWS Serverless Application Repository and creates a CloudFormation Change Set by providing the Secrets Manager endpoint and Lambda function name as parameters. You need to change the Secrets Manager region within the endpoint parameter and provide a name for the Lambda function that you’re creating.
- The next command runs the change set that you just created to create a Lambda function. The change-set-name parameter comes from the ChangeSetId output of the previous command. Copy the ChangeSetId value into the instruction below.
- The following command grants Secrets Manager permission to call the Lambda function on your behalf. You should provide the Lambda function name that you set earlier.
Configuring the Lambda rotation function to use Secrets Manager VPC Endpoint
Instead of connecting your VPC to the internet, you can connect directly to Secrets Manager through a private endpoint that you configure within your VPC. When you use a VPC service endpoint, communication between your VPC and Secrets Manager occurs entirely within the AWS network and requires no public internet access.
- To enable AWS Secrets Manager VPC endpoint, first store the Node Instance security group in a NODE_INSTANCE_SG environment variable to use it as an argument for creating the Secrets Manager VPC Endpoint. Using the VPC ID from the EKS cluster, this command filters the Security Groups attached to the nodes and stores them in the NODE_INSTANCE_SG environment variable. This variable will be used as an argument in the next step to create a Secrets Manager VPC endpoint.
- Next, create a Secrets Manager VPC endpoint attached to the EKS node cluster subnets and the related security group. This command retrieves the VPC ID and Subnet IDs from the EKS cluster to create a Secrets Manager VPC endpoint.
- Next, update the Lambda function to attach it to the EKS node cluster subnets and the related security group. This command updates the Lambda function’s configuration by retrieving its ARN and EKS cluster Subnet IDs and Security Group ID.
Step 4: Rotate the database secret and update your WordPress frontend deployment
Now that you’ve configured the Lambda rotation function, use the rotate-secret command to schedule a rotation of this secret. The command below uses the previously stored secret name with the Lambda function ARN to rotate your secret automatically every 30 days. You can adjust the rotation frequency value, if you want. The minimum rotation frequency is 1 day.
The figure below shows the Secrets Manager data flow for secret rotation using the VPC endpoint.
Based on the frequency of the rotation, Secrets Manager will follow the steps below to perform automatic rotations:
- Secrets Manager will invoke <EKSMySQLRotationFunction> within the EKS node VPC using the Secrets Manager VPC endpoint.
- Using the credentials provided for MySQL database, <EKSMySQLRotationFunction> will rotate the database secret and update the secret value in Secrets Manager.
Once the Lambda function has executed, you can test the updated database secret value that’s stored in AWS Secrets Manager by using the command below.
Next, update the Kubernetes secret (mysql-pass) with the rotated secret stored in AWS Secrets Manager, then update the WordPress frontend deployment with the rotated MySQL password environment variable using the command below. These instructions should be automated using Kubernetes and AWS API once you’ve completed your secret rotation.
The command below retrieves the rotated secret from Secrets Manager using the GetSecretValue API call and passes the updated value to the Kubernetes secret. The next command patches the WordPress deployment for the frontend WordPress containers to use the updated Kubernetes secret. It also adds a rotation date annotation for the deployment.
You should now be able to access the updated WordPress site with database secret rotation enabled.
To delete the environment used in this walk-through in EKS, the secret in Secrets Manager, and the accompanying Lambda function, run the following commands. You only need to follow these steps if you intend to remove the secret, Lambda function, VPC endpoint, and EKS objects created in this walk-through.
Next, I review the pricing and estimated cost of this example. AWS Secrets Manager offers a 30-day trial period that starts when you store your first secret. Storage of each secret costs $0.40 per secret per month. For secrets that are stored for less than a month, the price is prorated based on the number of hours. There is an additional cost of $0.05 per 10,000 API calls. You can learn more by visiting the AWS Secrets Manager pricing service details page.
You pay $0.20 per hour for each Amazon EKS cluster that you create. You can use a single Amazon EKS cluster to run multiple applications by taking advantage of Kubernetes namespaces and IAM security policies. You pay for AWS resources (for example, EC2 instances or EBS volumes) that you create to run your Kubernetes worker nodes. You only pay for what you use, as you use it; there are no minimum fees and no upfront commitments. See detailed pricing information on the Amazon EC2 pricing page.
Assuming you allocate two hours to follow the blog instructions, the cost will be approximately $1.
- Amazon EKS – 2 hours x ($0.20 per EKS cluster + 3 nodes x $0.096 m5.large instance)
- AWS Secrets Manager – 2 hours x ($0.40 per secret per month / 30 days / 24 hours + $0.05 per 10,000 API calls)
In this post, I showed you how to rotate WordPress database credentials in Amazon EKS using AWS Secrets Manager.
For more details on secrets management within Amazon EKS, check out the Github workshop for Kubernetes, particularly the section on ConfigMaps and Secrets, to understand different secret management alternatives available. To get started using Kubernetes on AWS, open the Amazon EKS console. To learn more, read the EKS documentation. To get started managing secrets, open the Secrets Manager console. To learn more, read the Secrets Manager documentation.
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