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Argo CD has undergone rigorous internal security reviews and penetration testing to satisfy PCI compliance requirements. The following are some security topics and implementation details of Argo CD.


Authentication to Argo CD API server is performed exclusively using JSON Web Tokens (JWTs). Username/password bearer tokens are not used for authentication. The JWT is obtained/managed in one of the following ways:

  1. For the local admin user, a username/password is exchanged for a JWT using the /api/v1/session endpoint. This token is signed & issued by the Argo CD API server itself, and has no expiration. When the admin password is updated, all existing admin JWT tokens are immediately revoked. The password is stored as a bcrypt hash in the argocd-secret Secret.

  2. For Single Sign-On users, the user completes an OAuth2 login flow to the configured OIDC identity provider (either delegated through the bundled Dex provider, or directly to a self-managed OIDC provider). This JWT is signed & issued by the IDP, and expiration and revocation is handled by the provider. Dex tokens expire after 24 hours.

  3. Automation tokens are generated for a project using the /api/v1/projects/{project}/roles/{role}/token endpoint, and are signed & issued by Argo CD. These tokens are limited in scope and privilege, and can only be used to manage application resources in the project which it belongs to. Project JWTs have a configurable expiration and can be immediately revoked by deleting the JWT reference ID from the project role.


Authorization is performed by iterating the list of group membership in a user's JWT groups claims, and comparing each group against the roles/rules in the RBAC policy. Any matched rule permits access to the API request.


All network communication is performed over TLS including service-to-service communication between the three components (argocd-server, argocd-repo-server, argocd-application-controller). The Argo CD API server can enforce the use of TLS 1.2 using the flag: --tlsminversion 1.2. Communication with Redis is performed over plain HTTP by default. TLS can be setup with command line arguments.

Sensitive Information


Argo CD never returns sensitive data from its API, and redacts all sensitive data in API payloads and logs. This includes:

  • cluster credentials
  • Git credentials
  • OAuth2 client secrets
  • Kubernetes Secret values

External Cluster Credentials

To manage external clusters, Argo CD stores the credentials of the external cluster as a Kubernetes Secret in the argocd namespace. This secret contains the K8s API bearer token associated with the argocd-manager ServiceAccount created during argocd cluster add, along with connection options to that API server (TLS configuration/certs, AWS role-arn, etc...). The information is used to reconstruct a REST config and kubeconfig to the cluster used by Argo CD services.

To rotate the bearer token used by Argo CD, the token can be deleted (e.g. using kubectl) which causes kubernetes to generate a new secret with a new bearer token. The new token can be re-inputted to Argo CD by re-running argocd cluster add. Run the following commands against the managed cluster:

# run using a kubeconfig for the externally managed cluster
kubectl delete secret argocd-manager-token-XXXXXX -n kube-system
argocd cluster add CONTEXTNAME

To revoke Argo CD's access to a managed cluster, delete the RBAC artifacts against the managed cluster, and remove the cluster entry from Argo CD:

# run using a kubeconfig for the externally managed cluster
kubectl delete sa argocd-manager -n kube-system
kubectl delete clusterrole argocd-manager-role
kubectl delete clusterrolebinding argocd-manager-role-binding
argocd cluster rm https://your-kubernetes-cluster-addr

NOTE: for AWS EKS clusters, the get-token command is used to authenticate to the external cluster, which uses IAM roles in lieu of locally stored tokens, so token rotation is not needed, and revocation is handled through IAM.

Cluster RBAC

By default, Argo CD uses a clusteradmin level role in order to:

  1. watch & operate on cluster state
  2. deploy resources to the cluster

Although Argo CD requires cluster-wide read privileges to resources in the managed cluster to function properly, it does not necessarily need full write privileges to the cluster. The ClusterRole used by argocd-server and argocd-application-controller can be modified such that write privileges are limited to only the namespaces and resources that you wish Argo CD to manage.

To fine-tune privileges of externally managed clusters, edit the ClusterRole of the argocd-manager-role

# run using a kubeconfig for the externally managed cluster
kubectl edit clusterrole argocd-manager-role

To fine-tune privileges which Argo CD has against its own cluster (i.e. https://kubernetes.default.svc), edit the following cluster roles where Argo CD is running in:

# run using a kubeconfig to the cluster Argo CD is running in
kubectl edit clusterrole argocd-server
kubectl edit clusterrole argocd-application-controller


If you want to deny ArgoCD access to a kind of resource then add it as an excluded resource.


As a GitOps deployment tool, the Git commit history provides a natural audit log of what changes were made to application configuration, when they were made, and by whom. However, this audit log only applies to what happened in Git and does not necessarily correlate one-to-one with events that happen in a cluster. For example, User A could have made multiple commits to application manifests, but User B could have just only synced those changes to the cluster sometime later.

To complement the Git revision history, Argo CD emits Kubernetes Events of application activity, indicating the responsible actor when applicable. For example:

$ kubectl get events
LAST SEEN   FIRST SEEN   COUNT   NAME                         KIND          SUBOBJECT   TYPE      REASON               SOURCE                          MESSAGE
1m          1m           1       guestbook.157f7c5edd33aeac   Application               Normal    ResourceCreated      argocd-server                   admin created application
1m          1m           1       guestbook.157f7c5f0f747acf   Application               Normal    ResourceUpdated      argocd-application-controller   Updated sync status:  -> OutOfSync
1m          1m           1       guestbook.157f7c5f0fbebbff   Application               Normal    ResourceUpdated      argocd-application-controller   Updated health status:  -> Missing
1m          1m           1       guestbook.157f7c6069e14f4d   Application               Normal    OperationStarted     argocd-server                   admin initiated sync to HEAD (8a1cb4a02d3538e54907c827352f66f20c3d7b0d)
1m          1m           1       guestbook.157f7c60a55a81a8   Application               Normal    OperationCompleted   argocd-application-controller   Sync operation to 8a1cb4a02d3538e54907c827352f66f20c3d7b0d succeeded
1m          1m           1       guestbook.157f7c60af1ccae2   Application               Normal    ResourceUpdated      argocd-application-controller   Updated sync status: OutOfSync -> Synced
1m          1m           1       guestbook.157f7c60af5bc4f0   Application               Normal    ResourceUpdated      argocd-application-controller   Updated health status: Missing -> Progressing
1m          1m           1       guestbook.157f7c651990e848   Application               Normal    ResourceUpdated      argocd-application-controller   Updated health status: Progressing -> Healthy

These events can be then be persisted for longer periods of time using other tools as Event Exporter or Event Router.

WebHook Payloads

Payloads from webhook events are considered untrusted. Argo CD only examines the payload to infer the involved applications of the webhook event (e.g. which repo was modified), then refreshes the related application for reconciliation. This refresh is the same refresh which occurs regularly at three minute intervals, just fast-tracked by the webhook event.