#crypto #cryptography #allocator


Protected-access memory for cryptographic secrets

10 releases (3 stable)

1.2.0 Mar 26, 2022
1.1.0 Jul 27, 2020
1.0.0 Mar 13, 2020
0.12.1 Jul 26, 2019
0.9.1 Dec 16, 2014

#87 in Cryptography

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Used in 4 crates (via edcert)


1.5K SLoC


Build Status

Cargo Crate Docs License

secrets is a library to help Rust programmers safely held cryptographic secrets in memory.

It is mostly an ergonomic wrapper around the memory-protection utilities provided by libsodium.

Fixed-size buffers allocated on the stack gain the following protections:

  • mlock(2) is called on the underlying memory
  • the underlying memory is zeroed out when no longer in use
  • they are borrowed for their entire lifespan, so cannot be moved
  • they are compared in constant time
  • they are prevented from being printed by Debug
  • they are prevented from being Cloned

Fixed and variable-sized buffers can be allocated on the heap and gain the following protections:

  • the underlying memory is protected from being read from or written to with mprotect(2) unless an active borrow is in scope
  • mlock(2) is called on the allocated memory
  • the underlying memory is zeroed out when no longer in use
  • overflows and underflows are detected using inaccessible guard pages, causing an immediate segmentation fault and program termination
  • short underflows that write to memory are detected when memory is freed using canaries, and will result in a segmentation fault and program termination

Panic Safety

This library is explicitly not panic-safe. To ensure the safety of protected memory space, this library can and will panic if it is unable to enforce its advertised guarantees.

Similarly, this library will cause segmentation faults if (and only if) it detects certain safety violations. For example, this can happen if a process attempts to directly read or write to the contents of memory that hasn't been properly unlocked, or if canaries have been overwritten. This library has been written to ensure that such violations should be impossible to cause through well-formed Rust, and so should only occur as a result of a security vulnerability.


Example: generating cryptographic keys

Secret::<[u8; 16]>::random(|s| {
    // use `s` as if it were a `&mut [u8; 16]`
    // the memory is `mlock(2)`ed and will be zeroed when this closure
    // exits

Example: load a master key from disk and generate subkeys from it

use std::fs::File;
use std::io::Read;

use libsodium_sys as sodium;
use secrets::SecretBox;

const KEY_LEN : usize = sodium::crypto_kdf_KEYBYTES     as _;
const CTX_LEN : usize = sodium::crypto_kdf_CONTEXTBYTES as _;

const CONTEXT : &[u8; CTX_LEN] = b"example\0";

fn derive_subkey(
    key:       &[u8; KEY_LEN],
    context:   &[u8; CTX_LEN],
    subkey_id: u64,
    subkey:    &mut [u8],
) {
    unsafe {

let master_key = SecretBox::<[u8; KEY_LEN]>::try_new(|mut s| {

let subkey_0 = SecretBox::<[u8; 16]>::new(|mut s| {
    derive_subkey(&master_key.borrow(), CONTEXT, 0, s);

let subkey_1 = SecretBox::<[u8; 16]>::new(|mut s| {
    derive_subkey(&master_key.borrow(), CONTEXT, 1, s);


Example: securely storing a decrypted ciphertext in memory

use std::fs::File;
use std::io::Read;

use libsodium_sys as sodium;
use secrets::{SecretBox, SecretVec};

const KEY_LEN   : usize = sodium::crypto_secretbox_KEYBYTES   as _;
const NONCE_LEN : usize = sodium::crypto_secretbox_NONCEBYTES as _;
const MAC_LEN   : usize = sodium::crypto_secretbox_MACBYTES   as _;

let mut key        = SecretBox::<[u8; KEY_LEN]>::zero();
let mut nonce      = [0; NONCE_LEN];
let mut ciphertext = Vec::new();


    .read_exact(&mut nonce)?;

    .read_to_end(&mut ciphertext)?;

let plaintext = SecretVec::<u8>::new(ciphertext.len() - MAC_LEN, |mut s| {
    if -1 == unsafe {
            ciphertext.len() as _,
    } {
        panic!("failed to authenticate ciphertext during decryption");

    *b"attack at dawn",


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~14K SLoC