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User Identity in Container


Privileged Access

In docker, as well as in Kubernetes, the default for running containers is running as 'root'. The implication of running as root is that processes running within the container have enough permissions to change anything on the machine itself.

This gives a lot of power to containers but does not sit well with modern security standards. Specifically enterprise security. To overcome that:

Run:AI supports both PSP and SCC. This support is at the cluster installation level.

User Identity

The identity of the user in the container determines its access to cluster resources. For example, network file storage solutions typically use this identity to determine the container's access to network volumes.

The Run:AI Command-line interface provides flags to control user identity within the container and to disable root access capabilities.

Command-Line Flags

There are two runai submit flags which control user identity at the Researcher level:

  • The flag --run-as-user starts the container with a specific user. The user is the current Linux user or if connected via SAML provider, it can be the Linux UID/GID which is stored in the organization's directory. This requires exposing UID/GID as part of the SAML response.
  • The flag --prevent-privilege-escalation prevents the container from elevating its own privileges into root (e.g. running sudo or changing system files.). This flag is not relevant when using PSP or SCC.

Note, that these flags are voluntary. They are not enforced by the system.

It is possible to set these flags as a cluster-wide default for the Run:AI CLI, such that all CLI users will be limited to non-root containers.

Setting a Cluster-Wide Default

Save the following in a file (cluster-config.yaml)

apiVersion: v1
  config: |
    enforceRunAsUser: true
    enforcePreventPrivilegeEscalation: true
kind: ConfigMap
  name: cluster-config
  namespace: runai
    runai/cluster-config: "true"


kubectl apply -f cluster-config.yaml


Preventing privilege escalation at the cluster level limits non-root for all Run:AI CLI users. However, it does not prevent users or malicious actors from starting containers directly via Kubernetes API (e.g. via YAML files). To fully secure the system use PSP or work with OpenShift SCC.

Creating a Temporary Home Directory

For containers to run as a specific user, the user needs to have a pre-created home directory within the image. This can be a daunting IT task.

To overcome this, Run:AI provides an additional flag --create-home-dir. Adding this flag creates a temporary home directory for the user within the container.


  • Data saved in this directory will not be saved when the container exits.
  • This flag is set by default to true when the --run-as-user flag is used, and false if not.

Last update: August 23, 2021