Getting Started

Using the HTTP APIs with Authentication

All of Vault's capabilities are accessible via the HTTP API in addition to the CLI. In fact, most calls from the CLI actually invoke the HTTP API. In some cases, Vault features are not available via the CLI and can only be accessed via the HTTP API.

Once you have started the Vault server, you can use curl or any other http client to make API calls. For example, if you started the Vault server in dev mode, you could validate the initialization status like this:

$ curl http://127.0.0.1:8200/v1/sys/init

This will return a JSON response:

{
  "initialized": true
}

» Accessing Secrets via the REST APIs

Machines that need access to information stored in Vault will most likely access Vault via its REST API. For example, if a machine were using AppRole for authentication, the application would first authenticate to Vault which would return a Vault API token. The application would use that token for future communication with Vault.

For the purpose of this guide, we will use the following configuration which disables TLS and uses a file-based backend. TLS is disabled here only for example purposes; it should never be disabled in production.

backend "file" {
  path = "vault"
}

listener "tcp" {
  tls_disable = 1
}

Save this file on disk as config.hcl and then start the Vault server:

$ vault server -config=config.hcl

At this point, we can use Vault's API for all our interactions. For example, we can initialize Vault like this:

$ curl \
    --request POST \
    --data '{"secret_shares": 1, "secret_threshold": 1}' \
    http://127.0.0.1:8200/v1/sys/init

The response should be JSON and looks something like this:

{
  "keys": ["373d500274dd8eb95271cb0f868e4ded27d9afa205d1741d60bb97cd7ce2fe41"],
  "keys_base64": ["Nz1QAnTdjrlSccsPho5N7SfZr6IF0XQdYLuXzXzi/kE="],
  "root_token": "6fa4128e-8bd2-fd02-0ea8-a5e020d9b766"
}

This response contains our initial root token. It also includes the unseal key. You can use the unseal key to unseal the Vault and use the root token perform other requests in Vault that require authentication.

To make this guide easy to copy-and-paste, we will be using the environment variable $VAULT_TOKEN to store the root token. You can export this Vault token in your current shell like this:

$ export VAULT_TOKEN=6fa4128e-8bd2-fd02-0ea8-a5e020d9b766

Using the unseal key (not the root token) from above, you can unseal the Vault via the HTTP API:

$ curl \
    --request POST \
    --data '{"key": "Nz1QAnTdjrlSccsPho5N7SfZr6IF0XQdYLuXzXzi/kE="}' \
    http://127.0.0.1:8200/v1/sys/unseal

Note that you should replace Nz1QAnT... with the generated key from your output. This will return a JSON response:

{
  "sealed": false,
  "t": 1,
  "n": 1,
  "progress": 0,
  "nonce": "",
  "version": "1.2.3",
  "cluster_name": "vault-cluster-9d524900",
  "cluster_id": "d69ab1b0-7e9a-2523-0d05-b0bfd09caeea"
}

Now any of the available auth methods can be enabled and configured. For the purposes of this guide lets enable AppRole authentication.

Start by enabling the AppRole authentication.

$ curl \
    --header "X-Vault-Token: $VAULT_TOKEN" \
    --request POST \
    --data '{"type": "approle"}' \
    http://127.0.0.1:8200/v1/sys/auth/approle

Notice that the request to enable the AppRole endpoint needed an authentication token. In this case we are passing the root token generated when we started the Vault server. We could also generate tokens using any other authentication mechanisms, but we will use the root token for simplicity.

Now create an AppRole with desired set of ACL policies. In the following command, it is being specified that the tokens issued under the AppRole my-role, should be associated with dev-policy and the my-policy.

$ curl \
    --header "X-Vault-Token: $VAULT_TOKEN" \
    --request POST \
    --data '{"policies": ["dev-policy", "my-policy"]}' \
    http://127.0.0.1:8200/v1/auth/approle/role/my-role

The AppRole backend, in its default configuration expects two hard to guess credentials, a role ID and a secret ID. This command fetches the role ID of the my-role.

$ curl \
    --header "X-Vault-Token: $VAULT_TOKEN" \
     http://127.0.0.1:8200/v1/auth/approle/role/my-role/role-id

The response will include a data key with the role_id:

{
  "data": {
    "role_id": "86a32a73-1f2b-05e0-113a-dfa930145d72"
  }
}

This command creates a new secret ID under the my-role.

$ curl \
    --header "X-Vault-Token: $VAULT_TOKEN" \
    --request POST \
    http://127.0.0.1:8200/v1/auth/approle/role/my-role/secret-id

The response will include the secret_id in the data key:

{
  "data": {
    "secret_id": "cd4b2002-3e3b-aceb-378d-5caa84dffd14",
    "secret_id_accessor": "6b9b58f6-d11a-c73c-ffa8-04a47d42716b"
  }
}

These two credentials can be supplied to the login endpoint to fetch a new Vault token.

$ curl \
    --request POST \
    --data '{"role_id": "86a32a73-1f2b-05e0-113a-dfa930145d72", "secret_id": "cd4b2002-3e3b-aceb-378d-5caa84dffd14"}' \
    http://127.0.0.1:8200/v1/auth/approle/login

The response will be JSON, under the key auth:

{
  "auth": {
    "client_token": "50617721-dfb5-1916-7b13-4091e169d28c",
    "accessor": "ada8d354-47c0-5d9e-50f9-d74e6de2df9b",
    "policies": ["default", "dev-policy", "my-policy"],
    "metadata": {
      "role_name": "my-role"
    },
    "lease_duration": 2764800,
    "renewable": true
  }
}

The returned client token (50617721...) can be used to authenticate with Vault. This token will be authorized with specific capabilities on all the resources encompassed by the policies default, dev-policy and my-policy.

The newly acquired token can be exported as a new VAULT_TOKEN and use it to authenticate Vault requests.

$ export VAULT_TOKEN="50617721-dfb5-1916-7b13-4091e169d28c"
$ curl \
    --header "X-Vault-Token: $VAULT_TOKEN" \
    --request POST \
    --data '{"bar": "baz"}' \
    http://127.0.0.1:8200/v1/secret/foo

This will create a new secret named "foo" with the given JSON contents. We can read this value back with the same token:

$ curl \
    --header "X-Vault-Token: $VAULT_TOKEN" \
    http://127.0.0.1:8200/v1/secret/foo

This should return a response like this:

{
  "data": {
    "bar": "baz"
  },
  "lease_duration": 2764800,
  "renewable": false,
  "request_id": "5e246671-ec05-6fc8-9f93-4fe4512f34ab"
}

You can see the documentation on the HTTP APIs for more details on other available endpoints.

Congratulations! You now know all the basics needed to get started with Vault.