Using socat to strip HTTPS

11 Mar 2023 11:54

I’m trying to figure out how kubectl does its thing. Because it uses HTTPS to talk to the API server, I can’t use Wireshark to look at the traffic. Here’s how I used socat to snoop on the traffic.

The plan

The plan is to tell kubectl to talk to socat using HTTP and for socat to forward that to the real API server using HTTPS.

Add a new cluster

In order to avoid breaking anything, I added a new cluster to ~/.kube/config as follows:

apiVersion: v1
- cluster:
    certificate-authority-data: LS0t...LS0K
    server: https://original-api-server:6443
  name: default
- cluster:
    server: http://localhost:8132
  name: socat

Extracting the CA certificate

So that socat can connect to the API server using HTTPS, we’ll need the CA certificate. We can get it from the config file by using yq; see

yq -r < ~/.kube/config \
        '.clusters[] | select(.name == "default") | .cluster.certificate-authority-data' | \
    base64 -d > ca.crt

Extracting the user certificate

I’m using K3s, which uses client certificates to authenticate, so I also need to grab the user key and certificate:

yq -r < ~/.kube/config \
        '.users[] | select(.name == "default") | .user.client-certificate-data' | \
    base64 -d > user.crt
yq -r < ~/.kube/config \
        '.users[] select(.name == "default") | .user.client-key-data' | \
    base64 -d > user.key

Run socat

    yq < ~/.kube/config \
        '.clusters[] | select(.name == "default") | .cluster.server' | \
    sed 's,https://,,')"

socat \
    "tcp-listen:8132,reuseaddr,fork" \

Run kubectl

$ kubectl --cluster socat get pods
NAME                         READY   STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
nginx-76d6c9b8c-jhbw9        1/1     Running   0          42h
nginx-76d6c9b8c-h7q5k        1/1     Running   0          42h
nginx-76d6c9b8c-jhb6h        1/1     Running   0          42h

That works. Can we grab the traffic?

Running tcpdump

$ sudo tcpdump -A -i lo port 8132
tcpdump: verbose output suppressed, use -v[v]... for full protocol decode
listening on lo, link-type EN10MB (Ethernet), snapshot length 262144 bytes
23:20:02.104147 IP localhost.38678 > localhost.8132: Flags [P.], seq 1:372, ack 1, win 512, options [nop,nop,TS val 2024223897 ecr 2024223897], length 371
x.4.x.4.GET /api/v1/namespaces/default/pods?limit=500 HTTP/1.1
Host: localhost:8132
User-Agent: kubectl/v1.26.1 (linux/amd64) kubernetes/8f94681

Well, that certainly looks like unencrypted HTTP.

Avoiding tcpdump

If you’re dealing with plaintext, you can skip the tcpdump step and just use socat -v – from here:

socat -v \
    "tcp-listen:8132,reuseaddr,fork" \


E0310 23:12:06.306704 11768 memcache.go:238] couldn't get current server API group list: the server has asked for the client to provide credentials

Did you provide the correct client certificate and key on the socat command line?

2023/03/10 23:06:56 socat[11273] E SSL_connect(): error:0A000086:SSL routines::certificate verify failed

Did you provide the correct CA certificate on the socat command line?