Expired Certificates: Incident Review

19 Mar 2023 20:07 kubernetes incident-review

During the morning of March 18th, 2023, while investigating this incident, Firefox reported a “your connection is not secure” error when connecting to my gitea server. This is the incident review.


The certificate apparently expired 12 days ago. It does appear to be the correct certificate – this is important to note, given that I was investigating a potential problem with DNS or a load-balancer.


I’m using cert-manager for my cluster. Why didn’t it renew the certificate automatically?

Cert-manager uses Secrets and Certificates. Let’s take a look at those.

% kubectl --namespace gitea get secrets
NAME                          TYPE                 DATA   AGE
gitea-postgres-secret         Opaque               1      139d
gitea-tls                     kubernetes.io/tls    2      139d
gitea-inline-config           Opaque               6      139d
gitea                         Opaque               1      139d
gitea-init                    Opaque               2      139d
sh.helm.release.v1.gitea.v1   helm.sh/release.v1   1      139d
sh.helm.release.v1.gitea.v2   helm.sh/release.v1   1      70d
% kubectl --namespace gitea describe secret gitea-tls
Name:         gitea-tls
Namespace:    gitea
Labels:       <none>
Annotations:  <none>

Type:  kubernetes.io/tls

tls.crt:  787 bytes
tls.key:  228 bytes
% kubectl --namespace gitea get certificates
No resources found in gitea namespace.

This TLS secret doesn’t appear to be managed by cert-manager.

The certificate expired 2023-03-06, and was issued 2022-02-04, which … is the date on this blog post. This means that I’m not using cert-manager for that certificate.

But: that duration’s not an exact number of years or months. Where did that come from?

It comes from my certs script:

# 1 year, plus a 30 days grace period
validity: 365 + 30,

Immediate actions

  • Create a new Certificate resource.
  • Delete the gitea-tls secret.

This will cause cert-manager to take over the responsibility for issuing and renewing the TLS certificate for gitea.

While looking in ArgoCD to see whether – after deleting the secret.yaml file from git – it would automatically delete the secret as well, I discovered that the certificate for ArgoCD had also expired.

I also realised that this wouldn’t work anyway – if the gitea certificate had expired, ArgoCD wouldn’t be able to refresh the application.

So I deleted the secret and applied the certificate.yaml file, both manually. Once I restarted the gitea-0 pod, this resolved the problem.

Gitea uses a Certificate resource, rather than an Ingress, because it has an SSH server, and needs its own load-balancer.

It’s also worth pointing out that Gitea doesn’t seem to reload the certificate when it’s renewed. You’ll need to restart it every 30-60 days or so. I tried sending it a HUP signal, but that just killed the pod.

Similarly, ArgoCD uses an IngressRoute, rather than an Ingress – I don’t recall why, but it needed the same fix: delete the existing Secret resource and create a new Certificate resource.

Future Actions

  • Audit the cluster to see if there are any other TLS secrets that aren’t using cert-manager.
  • Investigate why gitea didn’t load the new certificate and whether that’ll be a problem when it auto-renews.