Securing Key Credentials in Code

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Published on
February 13, 2023

   For an application to operate successfully, it needs a variety of resources, including databases, third-party APIs, logging and monitoring tools, and more. Codes are used by the programme to communicate with these necessary resources after it reaches the running stage.  


   This data is typically kept in an application's configuration files. It is the simplest method for storing confidential information, and many frameworks support it. Every application environment, such as Dev, QA, and Prod, must keep its own set of application codes. It is simpler to encounter a situation when the code base has unique configuration files with security for each environment.  


   Why is traditional security not effective?  


   Consider a scenario where a user gains access to the production database and tampers with the data, tries to export user or customer information, or attempts to extract contact information. Things can go wrong, harming not only the company's reputation but also the ecosystem as a whole.  


   Despite being a better method than storing codes in an application ,env files still need to be posted to a repository in a version control system. Due to the difficulty in enforcing ACL, information can be accessed by anyone who has access to the repository. Files containing sensitive information are encrypted to address this issue. This strategy is irrelevant since the programme needs access to the master key to access the codes. The overall strategy produces a fictitious sense of security.  


   The complexity of modern applications and cloud environments seems to increase: distributed services, several databases, messaging systems, and other technologies all have sensitive information dispersed somewhat everywhere, raising the possibility of a security compromise.  


   What can we do, then? This is where Vault guarantees the best!  


   What is Vault? How does it help in storing sensitive data?  


   Vault is a solution made to securely store and access sensitive data from applications. We can create a centralised secret management service with its assistance. Vault can create secrets, encrypt data, control who has access to stored data, and assist in the revocation of access.  


   Knowing who is accessing secrets is crucial for every firm, but using the methods stated above makes this tough to execute. Vault addresses this issue by gathering and disseminating audit logs. Request and response objects from each contact with the Vault are recorded in audit logs. Sensitive data is by default hashed before being logged in the audit logs.  


   Tokens are the main form of currency used by Vault, and each client's policy has a corresponding token. Every policy is based on a set of paths, and each client's access to those paths is limited by the policy's rules. With Vault, you may manually create tokens and provide them to your customers, or the customers can sign in and get a token. The basic workflow for Vault is shown in the figure below.  


   The basic Vault workflow is divided into four steps  



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  1. Authenticate: For Vault to verify that a client is who they claim to be, authentication is the procedure by which the client provides data. A token is generated and linked to a policy once the client has successfully been authenticated using an auth method.
  2. Validate: Vault verifies the client using trustworthy third-party databases like Github, LDAP, AppRole, and others.
  3. Authorize: A client is compared to the security policy of the vault. This policy outlines the API endpoints that a client may access using their Vault token. In Vault, policies offer a declarative mechanism to permit or disallow access to particular pathways and actions.
  4. Access: By issuing a token following the policies connected to the client's identity, Vault provides access to secrets, keys, and encryption capabilities. The client may then carry out subsequent transactions using their Vault token.



   Today, credentials are dispersed throughout the majority of businesses. The app source code, configuration files, and other places all store plain text passwords, API keys, and credentials. These credentials exist everywhere, and the sprawl can make it challenging and overwhelming to understand who has access to and authorization over. The likelihood of cyber attacks increases when passwords are stored in plain text.  


   Vault Applications and Benefits  


   There are numerous applications for Vault; we've listed some of them here.  


   Securing Files and Service Accounts  


   With the ability to manage who has access and who does not, Vault can store any kind of secret information, including sensitive environment variables, database login information, API keys, and more. You may take complete control of any critical credentials by using Vault, and you have the flexibility to rotate and revoke access whenever you choose.  


   When keeping plaintext files in your configuration management system when using Vault, you may be sure that your credentials are secure. Any files or secret service accounts are also simple to cycle and revoke; if a worker leaves your company, you can do so quickly and safely.  


   Identity-Based Access and Secure Keys  


   A version number is assigned to each master encryption key. A new key version is generated by the Vault service when a key is rotated, or it can be imported. If a key is ever compromised, the risk can be decreased by routinely rotating them. The key version enables the Vault service to effortlessly rotate keys to satisfy any compliance needs while maintaining a key's unique OCID between rotations. Encryption cannot be performed with earlier key versions.  


   Access to systems and secrets is mediated by Vault via identity-based access. There are two main actors when it comes to identity-based authentication: humans and machines.  


   Role-based access control (RBAC), which grants authorization and restricts access to either generate and manage codes or manage other users' access based on the secret value they are logged in with, is used to manage access for humans.  


   On the other hand, managing access to devices entails granting access to various servers or secrets. You can make temporary secrets with Vault's dynamic nature and remote access in the event of a breach.  


   High-Level Security and data protection  


   With the help of TLS, Vault offers "encryption as a service," encrypting data both in transit and at rest. Sensitive data is shielded against unauthorised access in two main ways: while it's being transferred across your network and while it's being stored in your data centers and cloud.  


   It is simple to update and deploy new keys across the distributed infrastructure with centralized key management.  


   Why Vault helps in overcoming security challenges?  


   During the modelling process, architects might automate certain operations to save time and make the model easier to generate, update, and maintain over time.      


  • Utilize cutting-edge data security techniques like de-identification and encryption algorithms to reduce unneeded data risks.
  • Enable safe data sharing using techniques like encryption, data masking, and asymmetrical redaction with internal systems and third-party platforms.
  • Integrate reporting applications like Power BI to facilitate precise data-driven decision-making while safeguarding private client information.
  • Role-based authentication processes and data authentication can help with the adoption of a zero-trust paradigm by ensuring that only authorised personnel can access particular datasets.
  • Isolate sensitive data to simplify data monitoring without increasing costs or straining your resources.





   Data privacy has become a reality. Any type of organisation must have an affordable method for collecting and updating code safely in a zero-trust vault. Additionally, they must appropriately use the information across the entire organisation to streamline business operations and provide a cutting-edge consumer experience.  


   Fornax is using Vault to keep client information safe and to stay on top of maintaining compliance standards and requirements.  


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