Chainguard Enforce Profiles

An overview of Chainguard Enforce's observer and enforcer profiles

When you install Chainguard Enforce, you have the option to specify a profile that will determine what permissions Chainguard Enforce has over your cluster. Currently, Enforce offers two specialized profiles: enforcer and observer.

The observer profile has less expansive permissions, making it useful for running Enforce in a read-only mode. The broader permissions of the enforcer profile enable you to benefit from all of Chainguard Enforce’s features, including policy distribution and enforcement.

This guide provides brief overviews of both the observer and enforcer profiles. It also outlines how to install Chainguard Enforce under each profile, as well as check what profile a given cluster is enrolled under.

Enforcer Profile

enforcer is the default profile; if you install Chainguard Enforce without specifying a profile, the cluster will automatically be enrolled into the enforcer profile.

chainctl cluster install

You can, however, specify that you want to install the enforcer profile by including the --profiles= option and passing it the enforcer value

chainctl cluster install --profiles=enforcer

Regardless of how you do so, when you enroll a cluster or other resource into the enforcer profile, it will also be enrolled into the observer profile. These profiles allow Chainguard Enforce to perform different actions, and the enforcer profile wouldn’t be useful without the observer profile’s scanning abilities.

This means that when you enroll a cluster under enforcer, it will have all the same permissions as the observer profile along with a few more that give it broader access to a cluster, including the ability to enforce policies.

Observer Profile

To enroll a cluster into Chainguard Enforce under the observer profile, include the --profiles= option followed by observer, as in the following example.

chainctl cluster install --profiles=observer

As its name suggests, the observer profile is essentially a “read-only” profile for Chainguard Enforce. When installed under the observer profile, Chainguard Enforce does not install an admission webhook onto the cluster. This means that Enforce will only be able to monitor the cluster and report violations; it won’t be able to enforce policies or make any changes to your clusters.

In some ways, the observer profile is similar to having warn mode enabled. However, warn mode is set at the policy level. This means you can add mode: warn to certain policies, causing them to only return warnings, and leave it out of other policies that you want enforced. In contrast, the observer profile impacts the entire cluster; once you’ve installed Enforce onto a cluster under the observer profile, you won’t be able to enforce any policy on the cluster.

Checking profiles

You can check which profile a cluster is enrolled under with the chainctl clusters ls command.

chainctl clusters ls

This command returns a table listing your clusters. This example output lists three clusters enrolled into Chainguard Enforce under the same IAM group.

                     NAME                     | GROUP  |               REMOTEID               | REGISTERED |   K8S VERSION    | AGENT VERSION | LAST SEEN |   ACTIVITY     
  gke_cgacademy-project_us-central1_cluster-a | tester | 5d8c0797-0733-44f9-a321-ea3e3f26468f |       142m | v1.24.9-gke.3200 |       7e170b0 |        2s |   enforcer:2s  
                                              |        |                                      |            |                  |               |           | observer:117s  
  gke_cgacademy-project_us-central1_cluster-b | tester | a705b8d5-2313-48e3-8001-33e9a4e3b571 |       123m | v1.24.9-gke.3200 |       7e170b0 |        6s |   enforcer:6s  
                                              |        |                                      |            |                  |               |           |  observer:66s  
  gke_cgacademy-project_us-central1_cluster-c | tester | 78ba1a81-a2d7-4ea2-a11c-dbee4e9776d1 |       141m | v1.24.9-gke.3200 |       7e170b0 |       65s |  observer:65s  

The rightmost column, labeled ACTIVITY, indicates when a cluster’s profiles were last seen as “active” by the agent. If a cluster is enrolled under the enforcer profile, both enforcer and observer will be listed in the ACTIVITY column. If a cluster is enrolled under observer, though, only observer will appear. The previous sample output shows that cluster-a and cluster-b are enrolled under both the enforcer and observer profiles, while cluster-c is enrolled solely under observer.

You can also check the Chainguard Enforce Console to find what profiles your clusters are enrolled under. Navigate to the Console by going to in your web browser. After signing in, there will be a table listing all of your clusters available to Chainguard Enforce.

Screenshot of a portion of the Chainguard Enforce console, showing three rows representing three GKE clusters. The third column shows that the first and third clusters are enrolled in the enforcer and observer profiles, and the second cluster is only enrolled in the observer profile.

The Profiles column lists the profiles that each cluster is enrolled in.

Learn More

The observer profile can be useful for testing out Chainguard Enforce and understanding how it works. You can also test out Enforce on a per-policy basis with warn mode. Check out our documentation on disabling policy enforcement to learn more.

Last updated: 2023-11-29 15:22