Secure Access to Web Applications & RESTful APIs with Teleport Application Access

Video Length: 39:48

Teleport Application Access - Overview

Are you nervous about web applications exposed to the public Internet? Would your users revolt if they had to use a VPN every time they viewed a dashboard?

It’s a headache to secure access to internal apps and dashboards while simultaneously maintaining ease of use, granular access policies, and visibility for audits and compliance!

Watch this webinar to learn how Teleport Application Access can help you to: - Protect access to your web application without using VPNs or other complex solutions. - Use role-based access controls to make sure users can only access resources they are allowed to. - Access the protected apps’ RESTful APIs with tools like curl or Postman.

Key Topics on Secure Access to Web Applications & RESTful APIs with Teleport Application Access

  • Because organizations often don’t have an easy and secure way to ensure consistent user identity across different environments, they are often forced to use directory-based authentication services, which are difficult to set up and expensive to maintain.
  • While organizations lack visibility into what users are doing when logged into their systems, having a detailed and accurate audit trail is very important for security and compliance reasons.
  • Teleport Application Access is designed to provide secure access to internal dashboards and applications, such as internal control panels; Wikis/tooling that’s only available on the VPN; infrastructure dashboards such as Kubernetes or Grafana; and developer tools such as Jenkins, Gitlab or Opsgenie.
  • Teleport Application Access gives users fast access to web apps and the ability to control user access by role.

Expanding Your Knowledge on Secure Access to Web Applications & RESTful APIs with Teleport Application Access

Learn More About Secure Access to Web Applications & RESTful APIs with Teleport Application Access

Introduction - Secure Access to Web Applications & RESTful APIs with Teleport Application Access

(The transcript of the session)

Roman: Welcome, everyone. Welcome to the Teleport Application Access webinar. Let’s get started. And let’s walk over the agenda first and see what we’re going to address during this presentation and demo, right? So first, the main topic for today is, obviously, secure access for your web applications, right? And we’re going to talk about the actual securing web applications problem first, right, the various issues that users and engineers encounter when they’re trying to get a secure access to their infrastructure and their applications, what it means, and how Teleport Application Access can help you solve some of these issues, right? So why we’re building Teleport Application Access for you. Now, we’ll also take a quick peek into the Application Access architecture so you folks understand how it works and what kind of benefits it provides, what kind of features it has and what kind of use cases it can cover, right? So to see if it would be a good fit for you to use. And the Teleport Application Access and Teleport itself is an open-source product, right? So everything we’re going to be talking about today and seen today during the demo, you will be able to just go ahead and try it out yourself right after this presentation. And finally, we’ll do you know a, hopefully, informative and detailed demo. So we’ll see Teleport Application Access connection. And at the end, we’ll probably have some time left for a Q&A.

Problem: Insecure & Hard-to-Access Applications

Roman: All right. So let’s get into it. So what is the actual problem with what we’re trying to solve here? Right? So in today’s cloud-native environments, engineers and just regular users usually have many different endpoints they need to be able to log into, which are often spread across many networks, such as data centers, there is DPCs of different cloud providers, and so on and so forth. And so despite all these security obstacles, which make accessing these systems quite a hassle — I mean, the [inaudible] comply with security standards, such as SOC 2, PCI, FedRAMP, or others for multiple reasons. So first, there is no, usually, great way to ensure consistent user identity between all these different environments, assuming there’s even any security at all. So organizations are often forced to use directory-based authentication services, which are difficult to set up and expensive to maintain. Or worse yet, they resort to using shared credentials, which makes it pretty much impossible to answer the questions like who did what in a system. So in addition to the inconsistent identity, we often also issue long-lasting security keys and username password credentials for different systems that can be leaked and compromised. So if the past decade, with its 10-out-of-15 largest data breaches in history has taught us anything is that the equation is not if my password gets compromised but rather when. So persistent credentials are not great from a security standpoint.

Roman: So finally, there’s no good visibility into what users are doing when they are logged into these systems. And having a detailed and accurate audit trail is very important for security and compliance reasons. And so all of these combined with [inaudible] identity information, persistence, and shared security credentials, becomes pretty easy to see that calling a system without these properties secure would be somewhat of a stretch. So now, if you notice when talking on the previous slide for all these points, I never explicitly said server anywhere, right? Because that’s kind of rather — because this is one of those cases when a generalization kind of works out in our favor, right? So all the points that I just made can be equally true for accessing servers, databases, and in our case, web applications, right, which are our main topic for today. So historically, Teleport started by making it easier for engineers to connect to servers and Kubernetes clusters. And when talking with the community about what problems they want to solve with Application Access, they share the very similar feedback with us. So for many users accessing their developer infrastructure is pretty frustrating because they can only get to it via VPN. And I can speak to it from experience as well, right? Pretty much a majority of engineers and users experience this themselves. At the same time, with all these security obstacles, there’s security compliance problems with tracking who is doing what in these systems.

Roman: Now, many of our users also need to secure access to their operational control panels. So every company has a slew of their home-built ones and a lot of open-source infrastructure, dashboards like Kubernetes dashboard, phpMyAdmin. All of these are famous for not having a very strong security and could benefit from a solution that kind of enhances their security capabilities. And then there’s compliance issues for applications that hold customer data. This might be your own internal kind of operational applications, or this could be the customer’s infrastructure, such as a managed service or a dedicated tenant. And in such a use case, your customers will be imposing any compliance requirements that they want to your company. And so we’re building Application Access to help solve these challenges.

How Application Access Works

Roman: Now, let’s go ahead and take a look at how Teleport Application Access works, right, in a little bit of detail. So for those folks who are not yet familiar with Teleport — I was a bit new to teleport - it’s an open-source product that provides secure access to your infrastructure. So now for a quick architecture tour — very quick, I promise — let’s walk over the main pieces of Teleport architecture. So two of the components that are common for all types of access, like servers, databases, and applications, like in our case here, are Teleport Auth, or Auth server, and Teleport proxy server, right, which are depicted here with these rectangles.

Roman: So Proxy Server is the cluster’s authentication gateway. It is the main user-facing component, and this is where all the clients connect to when they want to, let’s say, connect to a web application, right? So you can see if the client wants to use a browser to connect to the application or just cURL to call an application. So API, this is the proxy’s endpoint, is where they’re connected to. So Proxy also serves the cluster’s web UI, right? And yeah, like I said, it serves as a web UI and as a cluster authentication endpoint. Now, Auth Server, which usually sits somewhere deep in your infrastructure, not accessible from the outside, is the cluster certificate [inaudible]. Auth handles user authentication, authorization, integrates with SSO providers, and issues short-lived client certificates to users, which Teleport uses for authentication with everything. So, together, Proxy and Auth comprise what we call an access plane. So the access plane has a number of additional kind of functionality to it, such as access workflows, for example, which allows the users to temporarily elevate their privileges and gain access to resources such as web applications, which they normally don’t have access to.

Roman: So finally, Teleport Application Access Server, so these two components here, they take care of forwarding web applications, traffic from the proxy to the target applications. So app server establishes an SSH reverse-style connection back to the proxy over which the web application traffic is forwarded. So the actual applications that are sitting behind these app servers, again, they can reside anywhere, right? They can reside in a cloud provider VPC, in a private network behind a firewall and completely be inaccessible from the outside, right? So as long as the application servers can dial back to the proxy, these components can pretty much reside anywhere. So there are multiple ways users can connect to these web applications, right? So one is by using a web browser, obviously. And we’ll see this connection during the demo, is when the users would connect to the Teleport, which provides a web application catalog, and they’ll be able to kind of choose the particular application they’re interested in and navigate to it using their web browser, right, or by navigating directly to the application’s public address, bypassing proxy pretty much completely. Another way, Application Access also supports CLI flow, right, which is suitable for various programmatic API calls and things like that. And so this is also supported when the users, for example, may want to interact with a particular application’s API using tools like cURL or Postman or even programmatically.

Roman: And so one cool thing about this architecture is that even the applications that don’t necessarily support TLS or potentially even lack their own authentication capabilities can be put behind the app access and take advantage of enhanced security in the form of mutual TLS authentication, role-based access control, and so on and so forth, like session recording. And we’re going to take a look at both of these scenarios, accessing apps with just your browser and calling their APIs during our demo. Right. Let’s move on.

Features & Use Cases

Roman: Before we dive into the demo, actually, let’s just recap some of the features that Application Access provides. Right. So first, it’s obviously quickly finding and connecting to applications, or users can gain fast access to web apps and control the user access by role. So Teleport maintains a dynamic catalog of web apps that users can quickly find and connect to. And the users’ access authorizations allow them to only see access apps that they have access to, right? So for example, the role an engineer has should dictate whether and what kind of access they have to a particular web application. So this allows companies to practice least-privilege access policies with their internal apps, for example.

Roman: Now, adding compliance security to apps without modification is another kind of cool part about this because every organization probably has apps with no security controls whatsoever and many more with very simplistic unintegrated username/password credentials. And so Teleport’s ability to proxy authorized access into applications allows you to, essentially, wrap compliance security around each user session without necessarily having to modify a third-party app. So you can restrict access to just the users who should have those privileges and capture their activity for future auditability. This also helps, obviously, eliminate the need to manage a lot of shared secrets. So finally, supporting role-based features and custom apps is also pretty cool. So it is more helpful in the case where your engineers are creating your own internal apps, right, using app access to add SSO authentication flow and even implement authorization using information provided by Teleport in the JWT tokens, right? So we’ll see this during the demo, but Teleport sends a signed JWT token with each web application quest, which web app can integrate with to potentially implement authorizations in the app itself, right? So some third-party applications actually support JWT authentication out of the box.

Demo

Roman: All right. Great. So now, it’s that time, right, so let’s go ahead and jump into the demo. Let me just figure out how to close my presentation here. And for the demo, I’m going to start by logging into my Teleport cluster, right? So you will notice — again, for folks who are not yet very familiar with Teleport, this is what the Teleport proxy UI login screen looks like, right? If you remember from our architecture diagram, proxy is the only user-facing component. And here, I have a couple of SSO providers configurates, so I’m just going to go ahead and use GitHub to log into my cluster. Right. So with this cluster, I have a handful of web applications connected to it. And once we’re inside here, let’s navigate to the Applications tab. So this is the clusters’ application catalog, right, that displays all web apps that are currently available to me. So you will notice I only have two, right, which is [inaudible], like I mentioned before. And the displayed applications, obviously, are subject to users’ authorization check. So in my particular case, I always see these two just because my Teleport user’s role, and I’m logged in as this r0manT user, as you can see, in the top-right corner. My role only allows me to see these two applications. And before actually trying to do anything with that, let’s go to this team section here and inspect my user, right? So you can see I have the admin role in my control panel. And if I go to my role stamp and pull up the description of my role, you can see that this admin role, despite being called admin, right, it actually only allows me to see only applications with these particular labels.

Roman: So Teleport role-based access control model relies on our labels tool for authorization decisions, right? So every resource you connect to Teleport, which in our case is web apps can be marked with static or dynamic labels, which are then used in RBAC to allow or deny access, right? And so in my particular case, my role only allows me to see the applications that are marked with environment label with [inaudible] like home and dev, right, which is why I see only these two. And we’ll take a look at how I can gain access to the other applications in a minute as well. So now, these applications, like I mentioned, they can be deployed anywhere, right? So in my case, most of the apps I’m showing during the demo actually run just in Docker containers on my laptop or on my local network. And let’s start with something simple and just access one of these apps. So I’m going to start with this dumper app. And the dumper app is a very simple web app that just dumps all the headers of the request in the response, right? This app, actually, comes built in with Teleport Application Access, so you can enable this application just by a configuration parameter. And it’s not super useful, but it does have some troubleshooting and debugging value to it, which is why we included this. So for example, you can make sure that things are working correctly, right, and it also allows us to actually inspect the request of — a particular HTTP request that Teleport Application Access sends to kind of each application.

Roman: So for example, here, you can see — let’s see what we have here. So first, we see that there is a set of these X-Forwarded headers that Teleport injects into each request with information about original hostname, about the target application protocol and server name, and so on and so forth, which is sometimes useful when you want to integrate with various reverse proxies and so on. Now, one particular interesting bit of information is this Teleport-Jwt-Assertion header that we see here. This is a signed JWT token that Teleport injects into each request with proxy to web applications, which, potentially, applications can use to automatically authenticate and authorize the user. We’ll come back and take a look in more detail at this current JWT token in a few minutes later during this demo. Now, other types of applications that can benefit from additional protection are various control panels, internal dashboards. In my case, here, I have this control panel for my router. So routers don’t usually boast high security, and I’m better off not being exposed on public internet pretty much at all. So I don’t have one of those traditional routers, unfortunately, or fortunately. I don’t know why I have this Google Nest router, which only serves the status page, which is just connected to my application access cluster as well, right? But this way, you could also connect your own router page or any other — we have folks who are using Application Access, actually, internally to connect to their Synology dashboards and so on and so forth.

Roman: So now, as I mentioned earlier, there are actually more apps that are connected to my cluster, which we can currently see, right, just because of my user’s permissions. So now, let’s take a look at how I can use this access workflow system, which I mentioned before, to get access to other applications, right? So this access workflows system allows me to temporarily elevate privileges in order to gain access to services where I normally don’t have access to. It’s built on top of role-based access control. And what it comes down to is — to a user’s ability to request another role, right? So my user right now, as we saw, has an admin role, which only allows it to see those particular applications. I also have another role that is called app, which we’ll take a look at it, consider it. It allows access via wildcards to everything pretty much connected to this cluster, right? And let me go ahead and request a role for my user assignment. Should go to the Activity tab, Access Requests, and let me put in an access request for this particular role. So I can put in an optional reason for request, right, and send it. And so normally, request went to a pending state. Normally, access workflows can be integrated with third-party services and tools like Slack or Mattermost or PagerDuty. So authorized people could go ahead and take a look at a particular access request and approve it or decline it. In my case, I’m going to do like a simple way and just approve my own request from the terminal. So I’m going to do this in the background real quick.

Roman: Right. So I approved my own request. You can see it went to the approved state right now. And now I can press this Assume button to assume an additional role, right, for my session. So now my user should have access to a wider range of applications that are connected to my cluster, right? And you can see that there’s more appeared here. And I also have various tools, like I have Grafana connected, I have this kind of Node-Red application. We can just pull up here and see if it’s working. So this is a WebSockets-based application, right, which Teleport [inaudible] application access also supports. So I just connected it as an example of an application you can use. You know what else? I have pgAdmin dashboard here to access my databases, right, which are also connected to Application Access. And really, they’ll serve as a good example of the apps that you can connect to the Application Access. So now let’s talk a little bit about different authentication options. So if a web application that you were accessing from here has its own login page and makes you to go through its own authentication flow, you will obviously be kind of presented with a second login screen, right, when you go to a particular app and will be asked to log in to that app. But as we saw in the beginning of the demo, Teleport sends a signed JWT token with each request forwarded to the application. So apps can choose to integrate with it to use identity of the Teleport user, right? So let’s go back to our dumper application here for a moment, pull it up again, and see in a little bit more detail what kind of information this token carries.

Roman: So let me go ahead and copy it. Then I’m going to go to just jwt.io because it has this neat token decoder and just inspect what kind of information is in the payload, right? So we can see that there’s a set of standard claims. So this section is actually the actual payload that is encoded into this token, right? There’s a second part of this token. So we can see that there’s audience, obviously, which is the application URL that this token or this request is actually intended for. Then there are some standard JWT claims like expiration date and not-before date, right? The issuer in our case is the cluster name, a Teleport cluster name that signed this particular token. Sub is a standard claim for the actual identity of a user or something that’s this token is intended for. And then there is a couple of custom claims that we also inject such as username, which, in our case, actually equals to sub and the roles of this particular user, right? So then we can see that, in my case, I have this admin role, which is default role for my user. And I also requested an additional app role using access workflows, which is also now being sent in a token, obviously, before the session. And so applications can integrate with these JWT tokens to implement their own authentication and authorization flows, right? Now, let’s go back here. And obviously, this is kind of most useful when you are working on your own kind of internal applications and have ability to add these JWT token integration to them, right?

Roman: However, some third-party apps actually do support JWT authentication out of the box. And I think more and more applications, actually, add support for it. And one such application is Grafana, which I’m pretty sure everyone is familiar with. So this is one of your authentication methods that Grafana supports. I don’t think it’s actually even been released now. It was merged in kind of mainline just a few days ago, and I’m running Grafana on master here to demonstrate this ability. But let me first go to Grafana and — I’m going to directly right now, not through the Application Access just to demonstrate how to configure it. So I’m logged into it as an admin. And if I into Grafana dashboard settings, you can see that I have JWT authentication enabled, and I specified the name of the header from which Grafana should extract the token, right? And jwk_set_file is also kind of here, so Grafana can actually validate that this token was signed in by an appropriate Teleport authority. And you can specify Teleport provides it a URL with a key set file. But I’m just using a local file for simplicity here. And a particular kind of claim, token claim, right, where to extract the username from. And so now, with all this configuration in place, if I go ahead and try to access my Grafana instance, you can see I’m not actually presented with a login screen, but rather, I’m being taken directly to Grafana dashboard. And if you take a look at my user, you can see that I’m logged in as a same user as my Teleport user here, right? So because the foreigner extracted the JWT token from the request and signed me in as kind of this particular Teleport user, so it mapped my Teleport user onto its own internal r0mant user, in this case.

Roman: So yeah. JWT tokens are a pretty cool kind of method of authenticating in third-party or internal applications that support this type of authentication just because it basically alleviates all the kind of necessity to implement this functionality in these applications themselves. Now, before we move on to the next part of the demo, which will be terminal based, we’ll go ahead and take a look at this Audit Log tab here, right? So like I mentioned before, audit capabilities, hitting like an audit trail is important for security and compliance reasons. And with Teleport App Access, every application section is getting captured in the audit log in the form of five-minute chunks that contain all HTTP requests that occurred within that interval for that session, right? So if we expand the details for a particular session, you can see that each session is also associated with the particular Teleport user. So it’s kind of pretty easy to keep track of who did what, when they connected to the application. And the information about the user, obviously can come from your SSO provider. In my case, if you remember, in the beginning, I logged into my cluster using my GitHub SSO connector. So this way, you kind of get the whole chain linked together, right, where your SSO user is getting eventually linked to a particular activity in a particular application.

Roman: All right. So for the final part of the demo, let me go ahead and share my terminal now because, here, we’re going to take a look at accessing the application’s HTTP API’s over Application Access. So Teleport supports CLI app access flow, and it will be very familiar to existing Teleport users. But again, for folks who are kind of newish to it, we can start by just logging into the Teleport cluster, right? And the command is tsh login, and I specify it, like my proxy endpoint. And this will take me for the same SSO login flow which I used in my UI but only for CLI, right? And by the way, the application access CLI flow, that we’re going to be taking a look at, is a new feature in 6.1 release, which we just put out just a few days ago, I think on Friday or Monday. So yeah, we’re going to have another webinar sometime next month, I think, to go into more detail about the features that were released as a part of 6.1. And Anadelia will put a link to that webinar In the Slack channel if you’re interested in checking it out. But otherwise, let’s keep looking at this app access CLI flow, right? So now as I’m logged into my cluster here, I can use — so, again, for folks who are familiar with Teleport or not familiar, there’s a tsh ls command that gives you all the servers that are currently registered in the cluster, right?

Roman: Then by the same analogy, there is a new command that’s called tsh app ls that shows you all the applications that are connected to the cluster. And here, again, I see the same tool, which I originally saw in my control panel, right, just because my permissions only allow me to see these two. And now, let’s say I wanted to make a request to one of these applications, right? So let’s say, let’s take this dumper app again as an example. So, in response, I would expect it to return me a header. And so in order to call the application’s API, the first step I need to do is to retrieve a client certificate, right? Like I mentioned, at the beginning, Teleport uses client certs for authentication with everything, and web apps are not an exception. So if I execute this tsh app login command, what it’ll do is it will retrieve credentials for these particular applications, as in credentials, specifically meaning x509 short-lived cert for this app, and gives me an example cURL command that I can use with proper paths to all the secrets filled in and the application public URL filled in, so I can just copy and paste it — which, in this case, it’s a very simple app, it replies to any request. So I don’t need to modify this command. I just can call it like this, right? So this way, basically, I used cURL to call these apps’ API. And as expected, the response — it just gave me all the same headers which we saw before when we went through for the UI access flow, right?

Roman: So now, let’s, for the sake of a demo, try to log into different applications, so this Wi-Fi router thing that I have, and you can be logged into multiple apps at the same time, right, like we’re seeing here. So I can also use various similar kind of flow to call my router’s API if I want to. So I think it’s api/v1/status path to do something a little bit and spit me out the status of my Wi-Fi router. Hopefully, it’s working. So now, let’s say I also want to make a request to my Grafana instance, right? And, again, similar to our UI example, I don’t see it right now, just because my user doesn’t have permission, so I actually need to go through the same request approval workflow as I did before to gain additional access. And to do that, I can execute this tsh login –request-roles=app command, right, which, again, similar to user interface, it puts in an additional role request for myself, which I’m again going to go ahead and approve for myself now using the CLI flow. Now that I’ve assumed an additional role, you can see my status not changed to include this app role and we do tsh app ls, as expected. I can now see all the other apps that are actually connected to my cluster and can interact with them as well.

Roman: And let’s just go ahead and log into this Grafana application here and just try to call its API, again, for the sake of the demo. So if I do it, please wait, right — so I know the Grafana has this API user’s endpoint, which requires like a privileged user. And obviously, if you remember, when we’re talking about how Grafana is configured, it uses JWT authentication. So in my case, it authenticates me automatically as this r0mant user, which is just a regular standard user, which apparently doesn’t have permissions to call this user’s API, which is why I’ve got this permission tonight there. But what I could do is just authenticate as a user, which, in my case, is just default installation. So I didn’t change the admin password or anything in the test installation. But if I provide a basic auth header to cURL, you can see that it actually now lets me through. So that is just to demonstrate that all the headers are kind of getting passed through Application Access so you can supply authentication and so on and so forth when calling applications API’s. All right. Once we’re done here, let me go ahead and log out of everything. So the tsh app logout command clears all the credentials that were retrieved, right, because we’re using short-lived mutual TLS, short-lived client certificates. Those credentials would have expired on their own in a few hours, but it’s always a good practice to can explicitly remove all secrets when you no longer need them. And let me log out of all of my Teleport cluster as well.

Roman: All right. So this concludes our demo. I hope it was informative and useful. And let’s get back to our presentation to wrap up if I find my browser. All right. So before we wrap up here, I just wanted to mention that web applications, which were our main topic for today, is a part of a larger Teleport access plane, which also can provide access to servers, Kubernetes clusters, and databases, such as Postgres, MySQL, and MongoDB with the same features as RBAC auditing session, recording access workflows, and so on, so forth. So if you’re interested in any of these other types of accesses as well, feel free to check it out. Now, for the next steps, you just can take a look at our Application Access documentation, right, and our Getting Started guide, which is really, really, really quick. So it really gets you started in 10 minutes. And everything we’ve talked about today is open source, so you can go ahead and download the open-source edition of Teleport right after this call if you’re interested and start playing with it and try out all the things that we’ve seen today during the demo. So go ahead and start exploring. Thank you, everyone, for attention. And now, Anadelia, we have some time left for Q&A.

Q&A

Anadelia: Excellent. Thank you for a great presentation, Roman. It looks like we don’t have any questions at the moment, but if people want to reach out to you after this presentation, what is the best way to get in touch with you?

Roman: Oh, yeah, so I think a good way would be to, first of all, join our community Slack, which is, I believe, just goteleport.slack.com, right? If you have a link handy, Anadelia, it might be helpful to put it in chat. And we have the GitHub discussions as well, right? So we’re using GitHub discussions to facilitate like discussions with the open-source community. So if you’re running into any issues, have any questions for us, feel free to use either community Slack or GitHub discussions, and we’ll be happy to chat to you.

Anadelia: Perfect. Thank you. Thank you, Roman, for a great presentation. This recording will be sent out to everyone who has joined today, so you should expect to see that later today in your inbox, and we will see you at the next webinar.

Roman: Thanks, everyone.

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