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Secrets Management

April 10, 2018 #security #podcast

I recently listened to Software Engineering Radio Episode 311: Armon Dadgar on Secrets Management from December 5, 2017

The show covers: what a secret is; the difference between secrets and sensitive data; what is secrets management; the different types of secrets; key management; auditing of secrets; implementing secrets management.

It answered simple questions like, “what is a secret?”

anything that can be used to authenticate or authorize / grants access or elevates access to a system

  • username/password
  • api token
  • TLS/SSL certificate

Later they posed questions about secrets management:

  • How are we distributing that secret to application?
  • How do I update that secret?
  • In case of a breach, how do we revoke, update, react?

An interesting discussion was the “sharing of secrets over space and time.”  In many systems, each server gets a copy of the same secret, which isn’t rotated often (or ever).  This makes it much harder to track down the source of a breach.  However, if each server got a unique, short-lived secret, then auditing becomes easier.  HashiCorp Vault even has the concept of Dynamic Secrets, which are generated when they are accessed.

Toward the end, some additional questions were asked regarding implementing a secrets management system.

  • What are all of our secrets and where are they?
  • Which applications and people should have access to secrets?
  • What is the simplest path of getting all secrets to one place?