Difficulty: beginner
Estimated Time: 2 minutes

Vault logo

One of the core features of Vault is the ability to read and write arbitrary secrets securely. This scenario uses the CLI, but there is also a complete HTTP API that can be used to programmatically do anything with Vault.

Secrets written to Vault are encrypted and then written to backend storage. For our dev server, backend storage is in-memory, but in production this would more likely be on disk or in Consul. Vault encrypts the value before it is ever handed to the storage driver. The backend storage mechanism never sees the unencrypted value and doesn't have the means necessary to decrypt it without Vault.

This scenario gave you a quick introduction to writing static secrets in Vault.

Next step

Read on the secrets engine guide.

Vault Getting Started - Your First Secret

Write secrets

Now that the dev server is up and running, let's get straight to it and read and write our first secret.

Login with root token.

Click on the command () will automatically copy it into the terminal and execute it.

vault login root

Let's start by writing a secret. This is done very simply with the vault kv command, as shown below:

vault kv put secret/hello foo=world

This writes the pair foo=world to the path secret/hello. For now, it is important that the path is prefixed with secret/, otherwise this example won't work. The secret/ prefix is where arbitrary secrets can be read and written.

You can even write multiple pieces of data, if you want:

vault kv put secret/hello foo=world excited=yes

vault kv put is a very powerful command. In addition to writing data directly from the command-line, it can read values and key pairs from STDIN as well as files. For more information, see the command documentation.

Warning: The documentation uses the key=value based entry throughout, but it is more secure to use files if possible. Sending data via the CLI is often logged in shell history. For real secrets, please use files. See the link above about reading in from STDIN for more information.

Getting a Secret

As you might expect, secrets can be gotten with vault get:

vault kv get secret/hello

As you can see, the values we wrote are given back to us. Vault gets the data from storage and decrypts it.

The output format is purposefully whitespace separated to make it easy to pipe into a tool like awk.

This contains some extra information. Many secrets engines create leases for secrets that allow time-limited access to other systems, and in those cases lease_id would contain a lease identifier and lease_duration would contain the length of time for which the lease is valid, in seconds.

To print only the value of a given field:

vault kv get -field=excited secret/hello

Optional JSON output is very useful for scripts. For example below we use the jq tool to extract the value of the excited secret:

vault kv get -format=json secret/hello | jq -r .data.data.excited

Deleting a Secret

Now that we've learned how to read and write a secret, let's go ahead and delete it. We can do this with vault delete:

vault kv delete secret/hello