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0.99.1 Jan 28, 2020
0.99.0 Jan 21, 2020

#552 in Cryptography

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Apache-2.0 OR MIT

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ssclient SecureStore companion utility

ssclient is a companion utility to the (rust) implementation of the SecureStore open secrets format, although it may be used to create and manage SecureStore secrets files for any compatible SecureStore implementation. The companion crate to this utility for creating or consuming SecureStore secrets from within rust code can be found in this same repository. Per the SecureStore open secrets protocol promise, vaults created or modified with this utility can be used from other languages too, for example, with the SecureStore.NET library.

The SecureStore open format

SecureStore is an open protocol for securely storing secrets in human-readable files that are versioned alongside the code that uses them and are intended to be shipped with your deployed binaries. To make things really nice and easy for developers, this command line utility was developed to allow for creating secrets stores and managing their secrets via a simple interface.


ssclient is published as an installable binary crate on crates.io, and can be installed directly via cargo, the rust package manager:

~> cargo install ssclient


The command line options available for usage with ssclient can be seen by running either ssclient -h for a basic listing of options or ssclient --help for extended usage information:

    ssclient [OPTIONS] [SUBCOMMAND]

        --export-key <EXPORT_PATH>    Exports a key equivalent to the supplied password.
    -h, --help                        Print help information
    -k, --key <KEYFILE>               Use key stored at path KEYFILE.
        --no-vcs                      Do not exclude private key in vcs ignore file.
    -p, --password                    Prompt for password used to derive key.
                                      In headless environments, takes the password as an argument.
    -s, --store <STORE>               Specify the path to the secrets store to use for all
                                      operations. [default: secrets.json]
    -V, --version                     Print version information

    create    Create a new SecureStore vault for secrets storage.
                  See `ssclient help create` for more info
    delete    Remove a secret from the store.
                  See `ssclient help set` for more info
    get       Decrypt and retrieve secrets.
                  See `ssclient help get` for more info
    help      Print this message or the help of the given subcommand(s)
    set       Add or update an encrypted value to/in the store.
                  See `ssclient help set` for more info

A long-form version of the help may be seen by executing ssclient --help, while help for the individual commands may be obtained by running ssclient help [create|set|get|delete]

The command line interface has been optimized to reduce friction when working with secrets, it should be a joy easy to manage secrets for a new or existing projects, and developers shouldn't have to hesitate or put off securing secrets.

Creating a new secrets store

Secrets are stored in human-readable, pretty-printed JSON files that are intended to be added to version control along with the same code that depends on them. The file format is carefully designed to be VCS-friendly and is resilient to merging/rebasing. A new store can be created with the ssclient create subcommand. Stores are always encrypted (both on-disk and in-memory in SecureStore API clients) and both the API and the ssclient frontend support multiple options for encryption key sources, with the option to use password-based encryption/decryption, have the application/api generate encryption keyfiles for you, or bring your own keyfiles.

The typical scenario is to create a new store using a password, from which the needed encryption key(s) are automatically (and securely) derived, and also export a compatible copy of the encryption key with it. This lets you interact with ssclient using the convenience of password-based encryption/decryption while securely deploying the encryption key out-of-band to your production servers where it can be used to decrypt the secrets file in a password less manner.

To create a new store using password-based encryption at the command line:

~> ssclient create secrets.json
Password: ***********
Confirm password: ***********

Where secrets.json is the name of the store to be created. If no store name is specified, omitted, secrets.json is used by default.

To create a store using key-based authentication (i.e. no option to decrypt with a password), use the following instead:

ssclient create secrets.json -k secrets.key

If secrets.key exists and is a valid key file, it will be used to encrypt a new store at secrets.json. If secrets.key does not exist, a CSPRNG will be used to securely generate a new key for you, a copy of which is saved to the supplied path (in this case, secrets.key), with the new store itself being saved at the path provided (secrets.json in this example).

When neither -p/--password nor -k/--keyfile is supplied, ssclient defaults to password-based encryption/decryption for convenience.

When using password-based encryption, you can use --export-key PATH to export a copy of the key(s) derived from the password to PATH, so that the keyfile can subsequently be used together with the SecureStore API to decrypt individual secrets in a passwordless fashion, while you can continue to add, remove, or update secrets at the command line with ssclient using your password instead of a key file.

~> ssclient create secrets.json --export-key secrets.key
Password: ***********
Confirm password: ***********

# Now you can use `ssclient -p` with your old password
# or `ssclient -k secrets.key` to encrypt/decrypt with
# the same keys.

Adding or updating secrets

With a store created, naturally the first thing you'll want to do is add a secret to it. Secrets are added one-at-a-time via the ssclient set subcommand.

Secrets may be provided directly as command line arguments (tip: prefixing a command with a single space excludes it from the history file in most shells):

ssclient set aws:s3:accesskey 715a868e-3c83-11ea-99bd-af944d8d3940

or interactively for added security (to avoid shell history altogether):

~> ssclient set aws:s3:accesskey
Password: ********
Value: 715a868e-3c83-11ea-99bd-af944d8d3940

If a secret by the same name already exists, it will be overwritten without confirmation. Luckily, you are following the SecureStore best recommendations and are storing and versioning your secrets file side-by-side with your code under VCS, so you can easily undo from such an error just by using git checkout or whatever equivalent your VCS exposes!

Retrieving and decrypting a single secret

As a direct parallel to ssclient set, ssclient get can be used to retrieve a single secret. As with all other subcommands, the name of the store to use can be specified with -s/--store and defaults to secrets.json and the mode of encryption/decryption can be picked with -p/--password or -k/--key KEY, defaulting to --password in interactive environments.

~> ssclient -k secrets.key get aws:s3:accesskey

While the ssclient interface to a SecureStore vault only supports saving text-based secrets to a vault, the SecureStore API can be used (e.g. via securestore or (SecureStore.NET)[https://github.com/neosmart/SecureStore]) to store binary secrets to a vault. ssclient can retrieve these binary secrets and will return them as base64-encoded strings prefixed with base64:, e.g. base64:cGFzc3dvcmQ=.

When used in a headless environment, the password may be specified directly as a command line argument (after the -p/--password). We do not recommend doing this, export and use a keyfile instead!

Exporting all secrets

ssclient get supports an optional -a/--all parameter that exports all the (key, secret) pairs in the store. SecureStore is an open format and we believe you should always be able to get your data in a universal format, but please use this option with care!

The optional --format switch can be used to influence the output format of the exported data. The default is json, but text may be used instead (please keep in mind that in text mode, no escaping is performed and it may be tricky to correctly parse the results):

~> ssclient get --all -k secrets.key
    "key": "aws:s3:accesskey",
    "value": "715a868e-3c83-11ea-99bd-af944d8d3940"
    "key": "secret",
    "value": "password"

In json mode, the output is guaranteed to be valid JSON and is a JSON array of objects, each with a key (the secret name) and a value (the secret itself).

In text mode, each result is printed on a new line:

~> ssclient get --all --format text --key secrets.key
aws:s3:accesskey: 715a868e-3c83-11ea-99bd-af944d8d3940
secret: password

Notice how naive text splitting on : would not have parsed the results correctly.

Removing a secret

A secret may be removed from the store by means of the ssclient delete subcommand. An error is displayed if the requested key is not found in the store.

~> ssclient delete aws:s3:accesskey
Password: ********

ssclient was created by Mahmoud Al-Qudsi of NeoSmart Technologies, and is Copyright NeoSmart Technologies 2019-2022. ssclient is released to the general public without any warranty in the hopes that it might be beneficial, dually licensed (at your choosing) under the MIT and Apache 2.0 public licenses.


Contributions are welcome in the form of bug reports and pull requests, as well as new projects implementing SecureStore in/for other languages.


~67K SLoC