Previously, we saw how to read and write arbitrary secrets to Vault. You may
have noticed all requests started with
secret/. Try the following command
which will result an error:
$ vault kv put foo/bar a=b Error making API request. URL: GET http://localhost:8200/v1/sys/internal/ui/mounts/foo/bar Code: 403. Errors: * preflight capability check returned 403, ... grant access to path "foo/bar/"
The path prefix tells Vault which secrets engine to which it should route traffic. When a request comes to Vault, it matches the initial path part using a longest prefix match and then passes the request to the corresponding secrets engine enabled at that path. Vault presents these secrets engines similar to a filesystem.
By default, Vault enables a secrets engine called
kv at the path
The kv secrets engine reads and writes raw data to the backend storage. Vault
supports many other secrets engines besides
kv, and this feature makes Vault
flexible and unique.
kv secrets engine has two versions:
kv secrets engine, pass
This page discusses secrets engines and the operations they support. This information is important to both operators who will configure Vault and users who will interact with Vault.
Enable a Secrets Engine
To get started, enable another instance of the
kv secrets engine at a
different path. Each path is completely isolated and cannot talk to other
paths. For example, a
kv secrets engine enabled at
foo has no ability to
communicate with a
kv secrets engine enabled at
vault secrets enable -path=kv kv Success! Enabled the kv secrets engine at: kv/
The path where the secrets engine is enabled defaults to the name of the secrets engine. Thus, the following commands are actually equivalent:
vault secrets enable -path=kv kv vault secrets enable kv
To verify our success and get more information about the secrets engine, use the
vault secrets list command:
$ vault secrets list Path Type Accessor Description ---- ---- -------- ----------- cubbyhole/ cubbyhole cubbyhole_78189996 per-token private secret storage identity/ identity identity_ac07951e identity store kv/ kv kv_15087625 n/a secret/ kv kv_4b990c45 key/value secret storage sys/ system system_adff0898 system endpoints used for control, policy and debugging
This shows there are 4 enabled secrets engines on this Vault server. You can see the type of the secrets engine, the corresponding path, and an optional description (or "n/a" if none was given).
sys/ path corresponds to the system backend. These paths interact with
Vault's core system and are not required for beginners.
Take a few moments to read and write some data to the new
kv secrets engine
kv/. Here are a few ideas to get started:
vault kv put kv/hello target=world vault kv get kv/hello vault kv put kv/my-secret value="s3c(eT" vault kv get kv/my-secret vault kv delete kv/my-secret vault kv list kv/
Disable a Secrets Engine
When a secrets engine is no longer needed, it can be disabled. When a secrets engine is disabled, all secrets are revoked and the corresponding Vault data and configuration is removed.
$ vault secrets disable kv/ Success! Disabled the secrets engine (if it existed) at: kv/
Note that this command takes a PATH to the secrets engine as an argument, not the TYPE of the secrets engine.
Any requests to route data to the original path would result in an error, but another secrets engine could now be enabled at that path.
What is a Secrets Engine?
Now that you've successfully enabled and disabled a secrets engine... what is it? What is the point of a secrets engine?
As mentioned above, Vault behaves similarly to a virtual filesystem. The read/write/delete/list operations are forwarded to the corresponding secrets engine, and the secrets engine decides how to react to those operations.
This abstraction is incredibly powerful. It enables Vault to interface directly with physical systems, databases, HSMs, etc. But in addition to these physical systems, Vault can interact with more unique environments like AWS IAM, dynamic SQL user creation, etc. all while using the same read/write interface.
You now know about secrets engines and how to operate on them. This is important knowledge to move forward and learn about other secrets engines.