A tool for managing secrets.
Vault secures, stores, and tightly controls access to tokens, passwords, certificates, API keys, and other secrets in modern computing. Vault handles leasing, key revocation, key rolling, and auditing. Through a unified API, users can access an encrypted Key/Value store and network encryption-as-a-service, or generate AWS IAM/STS credentials, SQL/NoSQL databases, X.509 certificates, SSH credentials, and more.
Secure Secret Storage: Arbitrary key/value secrets can be stored in Vault. Vault encrypts these secrets prior to writing them to persistent storage, so gaining access to the raw storage isn't enough to access your secrets. Vault can write to disk, Consul, and more.
Dynamic Secrets: Vault can generate secrets on-demand for some systems, such as AWS or SQL databases. For example, when an application needs to access an S3 bucket, it asks Vault for credentials, and Vault will generate an AWS keypair with valid permissions on demand. After creating these dynamic secrets, Vault will also automatically revoke them after the lease is up.
Data Encryption: Vault can encrypt and decrypt data without storing it. This allows security teams to define encryption parameters and developers to store encrypted data in a location such as SQL without having to design their own encryption methods.
Leasing and Renewal: All secrets in Vault have a lease associated with them. At the end of the lease, Vault will automatically revoke that secret. Clients are able to renew leases via built-in renew APIs.
Revocation: Vault has built-in support for secret revocation. Vault can revoke not only single secrets, but a tree of secrets, for example all secrets read by a specific user, or all secrets of a particular type. Revocation assists in key rolling as well as locking down systems in the case of an intrusion.
The installation deploys vault as free open-source software. Enterprise support is offered by HashiCorp.
General Secret Storage
At a bare minimum, Vault can be used for the storage of any secrets. For example, Vault would be a fantastic way to store sensitive environment variables, database credentials, API keys, etc.
Compare this with the current way to store these which might be plaintext in files, configuration management, a database, etc. It would be much safer to query these using vault read or the API. This protects the plaintext version of these secrets as well as records access in the Vault audit log.
Employee Credential Storage
While this overlaps with "General Secret Storage", Vault is a good mechanism for storing credentials that employees share to access web services. The audit log mechanism lets you know what secrets an employee accessed and when an employee leaves, it is easier to roll keys and understand which keys have and haven't been rolled.
API Key Generation for Scripts
The "dynamic secrets" feature of Vault is ideal for scripts: an AWS access key can be generated for the duration of a script, then revoked. The keypair will not exist before or after the script runs, and the creation of the keys are completely logged.
This is an improvement over using something like Amazon IAM but still effectively hardcoding limited-access access tokens in various places.
In addition to being able to store secrets, Vault can be used to encrypt/decrypt data that is stored elsewhere. The primary use of this is to allow applications to encrypt their data while still storing it in the primary data store.
The benefit of this is that developers do not need to worry about how to properly encrypt data. The responsibility of encryption is on Vault and the security team managing it, and developers just encrypt/decrypt data as needed.