Policy Enforcement Modes

The configuration of the Cilium agent and the Cilium Network Policy determines whether an endpoint accepts traffic from a source or not. The agent can be put into the following three policy enforcement modes:


This is the default behavior for policy enforcement when Cilium is launched without any specified value for the policy enforcement configuration. The following rules apply:

  • If any rule selects an Endpoint and the rule has an ingress section, the endpoint goes into default deny at ingress.
  • If any rule selects an Endpoint and the rule has an egress section, the endpoint goes into default deny at egress.

This means that endpoints will start without any restrictions and as soon as a rule restricts their ability to receive traffic on ingress or to transmit traffic on egress, then the endpoint goes into whitelisting mode and all traffic must be explicitly allowed.

With always mode, policy enforcement is enabled on all endpoints even if no rules select specific endpoints.
With never mode, policy enforcement is disabled on all endpoints, even if rules do select specific endpoints. In other words, all traffic is allowed from any source (on ingress) or destination (on egress).

To configure the policy enforcement mode at runtime for all endpoints managed by a Cilium agent, use:

$ cilium config PolicyEnforcement={default,always,never}

If you want to configure the policy enforcement mode at start-time for a particular agent, provide the following flag when launching the Cilium daemon:

$ cilium-agent --enable-policy={default,always,never} [...]

Similarly, you can enable the policy enforcement mode across a Kubernetes cluster by including the parameter above in the Cilium DaemonSet.

  value: always

Rule Basics

All policy rules are based upon a whitelist model, that is, each rule in the policy allows traffic that matches the rule. If two rules exist, and one would match a broader set of traffic, then all traffic matching the broader rule will be allowed. If there is an intersection between two or more rules, then traffic matching the union of those rules will be allowed. Finally, if traffic does not match any of the rules, it will be dropped pursuant to the Policy Enforcement Modes.

Policy rules share a common base type which specifies which endpoints the rule applies to and common metadata to identify the rule. Each rule is split into an ingress section and an egress section. The ingress section contains the rules which must be applied to traffic entering the endpoint, and the egress section contains rules applied to traffic coming from the endpoint matching the endpoint selector. Either ingress, egress, or both can be provided. If both ingress and egress are omitted, the rule has no effect.

type Rule struct {
        // EndpointSelector selects all endpoints which should be subject to
        // this rule. Cannot be empty.
        EndpointSelector EndpointSelector `json:"endpointSelector"`

        // Ingress is a list of IngressRule which are enforced at ingress.
        // If omitted or empty, this rule does not apply at ingress.
        // +optional
        Ingress []IngressRule `json:"ingress,omitempty"`

        // Egress is a list of EgressRule which are enforced at egress.
        // If omitted or empty, this rule does not apply at egress.
        // +optional
        Egress []EgressRule `json:"egress,omitempty"`

        // Labels is a list of optional strings which can be used to
        // re-identify the rule or to store metadata. It is possible to lookup
        // or delete strings based on labels. Labels are not required to be
        // unique, multiple rules can have overlapping or identical labels.
        // +optional
        Labels labels.LabelArray `json:"labels,omitempty"`

        // Description is a free form string, it can be used by the creator of
        // the rule to store human readable explanation of the purpose of this
        // rule. Rules cannot be identified by comment.
        // +optional
        Description string `json:"description,omitempty"`

Selects the endpoints which the policy rules apply to. The policy rules will be applied to all endpoints which match the labels specified in the Endpoint Selector. See the Endpoint Selector section for additional details.
List of rules which must apply at ingress of the endpoint, i.e. to all network packets which are entering the endpoint.
List of rules which must apply at egress of the endpoint, i.e. to all network packets which are leaving the endpoint.
Labels are used to identify the rule. Rules can be listed and deleted by labels. Policy rules which are imported via kubernetes automatically get the label io.cilium.k8s.policy.name=NAME assigned where NAME corresponds to the name specified in the NetworkPolicy or CiliumNetworkPolicy resource.
Description is a string which is not interpreted by Cilium. It can be used to describe the intent and scope of the rule in a human readable form.

Endpoint Selector

The Endpoint Selector is based on the Kubernetes LabelSelector. It is called Endpoint Selector because it only applies to labels associated with Endpoint.