Limiting Identity-Relevant Labels

We recommend that operators with larger environments limit the set of identity-relevant labels to avoid frequent creation of new security identities. Many Kubernetes labels are not useful for policy enforcement or visibility. A few good examples of such labels include timestamps or hashes. These labels, when included in evaluation, cause Cilium to generate a unique identity for each pod instead of a single identity for all of the pods that comprise a service or application.

By default, Cilium considers all labels to be relevant for identities, with the following exceptions:




Ignore all io.kubernetes labels


Ignore all other labels


Ignore label


Ignore label


Ignore label


Ignore all labels


Ignore all labels


Ignore all pod-template-generation labels


Ignore all pod-template-hash labels


Ignore all controller-revision-hash labels


Ignore all annotation labels


Ignore all etcd_node labels

The above label patterns are all exclusive label patterns, that is to say they define which label keys should be ignored. These are identified by the presence of the ! character.

Label configurations that do not contain the ! character are inclusive label patterns. Once at least one inclusive label pattern is added, only labels that match the inclusive label configuration may be considered relevant for identities. Additionally, when at least one inclusive label pattern is configured, the following inclusive label patterns are automatically added to the configuration:




Include all reserved: labels


Include all io.kubernetes.pod.namespace labels


Include all io.cilium.k8s.namespace.labels labels


Include all labels

Configuring Identity-Relevant Labels

To limit the labels used for evaluating Cilium identities, edit the Cilium ConfigMap object using kubectl edit cm -n kube-system cilium-config and insert a line to define the label patterns to include or exclude. Alternatively, this attribute can also be set via helm option --set labels=<values>.

apiVersion: v1
  kube-proxy-replacement: "true"
  labels:  "k8s:io.kubernetes\\.pod\\.namespace k8s:k8s-app k8s:app k8s:name"
  enable-ipv4-masquerade: "true"
  monitor-aggregation: medium


The double backslash in \\. is required to escape the slash in the YAML string so that the regular expression contains \..

Label patterns are regular expressions that are implicitly anchored at the start of the label. For example example\.com will match labels that start with, whereas .*example\.com will match labels that contain anywhere. Be sure to escape periods in domain names to avoid the pattern matching too broadly and therefore including or excluding too many labels.

Upon defining a custom list of label patterns in the ConfigMap, Cilium adds the provided list of label patterns to the default list of label patterns. After saving the ConfigMap, restart the Cilium Agents to pickup the new label pattern setting.

kubectl delete pods -n kube-system -l k8s-app=cilium

Existing identities will not change as a result of this new configuration. To apply the new label pattern setting to existing identities, restart the associated pods. Upon restart, new identities will be created. The old identities will be garbage collected by the Cilium Operator once they are no longer used by any Cilium endpoints.

When specifying multiple label patterns to evaluate, provide the list of labels as a space-separated string.

Including Labels

Labels can be defined as a list of labels to include. Only the labels specified and the default inclusive labels will be used to evaluate Cilium identities:

labels: "k8s:io.kubernetes\\.pod\\.namespace k8s:k8s-app k8s:app k8s:name"

The above configuration would only include the following label keys when evaluating Cilium identities:

  • k8s:k8s-app

  • k8s:app

  • k8s:name

  • reserved:.*

  • io.kubernetes.pod.namespace

  • io.cilium.k8s.namespace.labels


Note that k8s:io\.kubernetes\.pod\.namespace is already included in default label io\.kubernetes\.pod\.namespace.

Labels with the same prefix as defined in the configuration will also be considered. This lists some examples of label keys that would also be evaluated for Cilium identities:

  • k8s-app-team

  • app-production

  • name-defined

When a single inclusive label is added to the filter, all labels not defined in the default list will be excluded. For example, pods running with the security labels team=team-1, env=prod will have the label env=prod ignored as soon Cilium is started with the filter k8s:team.

Excluding Labels

Label patterns can also be specified as a list of exclusions. Exclude labels by placing an exclamation mark after colon separating the prefix and pattern. When defined as a list of exclusions, Cilium will include the set of default labels, but will exclude any matches in the provided list when evaluating Cilium identities:

labels: "k8s:!controller-uid k8s:!job-name"

The provided example would cause Cilium to exclude any of the following label matches:

  • k8s:controller-uid

  • k8s:job-name