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Ansible vault tools

Ansible vault is a great tool for managing secrets for Ansible playbooks, but dealing with the vault can be a pain. This repo contains instructions and helper scripts to reduce that pain.


This project provides some helper scripts for dealing with ansible vault files. These scripts can be installed by running make install, which may or may not require root permissions.

There is also a make uninstall, in case you change your mind.

Vault Filename Conventions

In order for git to know when to use the ansible vault tools for decrypting files, it needs to know when it's dealing with a vault file. To do this, you will need to have a consistent naming convention for your vault files. I recommend either vault.yml (if you like having a single vault) or *.vault.yml (if you like having lots of vaults).

Git configuration

The pattern for your vault files can be configured in one of three places for git.

  • ./.gitattributes - per project, checked into git
  • ./.git/info/attributes - per project, not checked in
  • $HOME/.config/git/attributes - per user config

Wherever you chose to put it, the configuration is the same:

# gitattributes
vault.yml diff=ansible-vault merge=ansible-vault
*.vault.yml diff=ansible-vault merge=ansible-vault

git diff

Git diff can be configured to convert binary files into text, allowing for an effective binary diff. Some other projects use this to do some pretty cool stuff.

The configuration for the ansible-vault diff handler goes into $HOME/.gitconfig.

# gitconfig
[diff "ansible-vault"]
	textconv = ansible-vault view
	# Do not cache the vault contents
	cachetextconv = false

git grep

With the textconv settings above, this also allows you to grep into vaulted files. To do this, you need to pass the --textconv option to git grep.

$ git grep --textconv super_secret
group_vars/all/vault.yml:super_secret: tell no one

git merge

You can similarly configure a merge driver for use with ansible vault files. The provided merge driver uses the underlying git merge-files command to merge the unencrypted contents of the vault files being merged. If there are any merge conflicts, $EDITOR is opened allowing you to resolve the conflict before the merged file is re-encrypted.

# gitconfig
[merge "ansible-vault"]
	name = ansible-vault merge driver
	driver = /usr/local/bin/ansible-vault-merge -- %O %A %B %P

ansible vault password caching

Ansible vault allows you to configure the location of the vault password file, which can go into any of Ansible's configuration files.

  • ./ansible.cfg - per project configuration
  • $HOME/.ansible.cfg - per user configuration
  • /etc/ansible/ansible.cfg - per system configuration
# ansible.cfg
vault_password_file = /path/to/vault_password_file

While normally the vault password file is a file that contains the plain text vault password (which seems like a bad idea), this password file could be an executable script, which can use a tool with good password caching (like gpg) to decrypt the password file. Please look up the gpg-agent for instructions on how to use it effectively.

The helper gpg-vault-password-file can be used to create a script that can be used to store the vault password in a GPG encrypted file. This will create an executable script in the location given, and the vault password encrypted with the default self key.

Used in this manner, ansible-vault will prompt for your GPG password when used, which will be cached for some period of time.

$ gpg-vault-password-file /path/to/vault_password_file


ISC License


Tools for working with ansible-vault




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