Skip to content


Repository files navigation

SOPS: Secrets OPerationS

SOPS is an editor of encrypted files that supports YAML, JSON, ENV, INI and BINARY formats and encrypts with AWS KMS, GCP KMS, Azure Key Vault, age, and PGP. (demo)

Binaries and packages of the latest stable release are available at

For the adventurous, unstable features are available in the main branch, which you can install from source:

$ mkdir -p $GOPATH/src/
$ git clone $GOPATH/src/
$ cd $GOPATH/src/
$ make install

(requires Go >= 1.19)

If you don't have Go installed, set it up with:

$ {apt,yum,brew} install golang
$ echo 'export GOPATH=~/go' >> ~/.bashrc
$ source ~/.bashrc
$ mkdir $GOPATH

Or whatever variation of the above fits your system and shell.

To use SOPS as a library, take a look at the decrypt package.

Table of Contents

For a quick presentation of SOPS, check out this Youtube tutorial:

If you're using AWS KMS, create one or multiple master keys in the IAM console and export them, comma separated, in the SOPS_KMS_ARN env variable. It is recommended to use at least two master keys in different regions.

export SOPS_KMS_ARN="arn:aws:kms:us-east-1:656532927350:key/920aff2e-c5f1-4040-943a-047fa387b27e,arn:aws:kms:ap-southeast-1:656532927350:key/9006a8aa-0fa6-4c14-930e-a2dfb916de1d"

SOPS uses aws-sdk-go-v2 to communicate with AWS KMS. It will automatically read the credentials from the ~/.aws/credentials file which can be created with the aws configure command.

An example of the ~/.aws/credentials file is shown below:

$ cat ~/.aws/credentials
aws_access_key_id = AKI.....
aws_secret_access_key = mw......

In addition to the ~/.aws/credentials file, you can also use the AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID and AWS_SECRET_ACCESS_KEY environment variables to specify your credentials:

export AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID="AKI......"
export AWS_SECRET_ACCESS_KEY="mw......"

For more information and additional environment variables, see specifying credentials.

If you want to use PGP, export the fingerprints of the public keys, comma separated, in the SOPS_PGP_FP env variable.

export SOPS_PGP_FP="85D77543B3D624B63CEA9E6DBC17301B491B3F21,E60892BB9BD89A69F759A1A0A3D652173B763E8F"

Note: you can use both PGP and KMS simultaneously.

Then simply call sops edit with a file path as argument. It will handle the encryption/decryption transparently and open the cleartext file in an editor

$ sops edit mynewtestfile.yaml
mynewtestfile.yaml doesn't exist, creating it.
please wait while an encryption key is being generated and stored in a secure fashion
file written to mynewtestfile.yaml

Editing will happen in whatever $EDITOR is set to, or, if it's not set, in vim. Keep in mind that SOPS will wait for the editor to exit, and then try to reencrypt the file. Some GUI editors (atom, sublime) spawn a child process and then exit immediately. They usually have an option to wait for the main editor window to be closed before exiting. See #127 for more information.

The resulting encrypted file looks like this:

myapp1: ENC[AES256_GCM,data:Tr7o=,iv:1=,aad:No=,tag:k=]
        user: ENC[AES256_GCM,data:CwE4O1s=,iv:2k=,aad:o=,tag:w==]
        password: ENC[AES256_GCM,data:p673w==,iv:YY=,aad:UQ=,tag:A=]
    # private key for secret operations in app2
    key: |-
    - ENC[AES256_GCM,data:v8jQ=,iv:HBE=,aad:21c=,tag:gA==]
    - ENC[AES256_GCM,data:X10=,iv:o8=,aad:CQ=,tag:Hw==]
    - ENC[AES256_GCM,data:KN=,iv:160=,aad:fI4=,tag:tNw==]
        - created_at: 1441570389.775376
          enc: CiC....Pm1Hm
          arn: arn:aws:kms:us-east-1:656532927350:key/920aff2e-c5f1-4040-943a-047fa387b27e
        - created_at: 1441570391.925734
          enc: Ci...awNx
          arn: arn:aws:kms:ap-southeast-1:656532927350:key/9006a8aa-0fa6-4c14-930e-a2dfb916de1d
        - fp: 85D77543B3D624B63CEA9E6DBC17301B491B3F21
          created_at: 1441570391.930042
          enc: |
              -----BEGIN PGP MESSAGE-----
              -----END PGP MESSAGE-----

A copy of the encryption/decryption key is stored securely in each KMS and PGP block. As long as one of the KMS or PGP method is still usable, you will be able to access your data.

To decrypt a file in a cat fashion, use the -d flag:

$ sops decrypt mynewtestfile.yaml

SOPS encrypted files contain the necessary information to decrypt their content. All a user of SOPS needs is valid AWS credentials and the necessary permissions on KMS keys.

Given that, the only command a SOPS user needs is:

$ sops edit <file>

<file> will be opened, decrypted, passed to a text editor (vim by default), encrypted if modified, and saved back to its original location. All of these steps, apart from the actual editing, are transparent to the user.

The order in which available decryption methods are tried can be specified with --decryption-order option or SOPS_DECRYPTION_ORDER environment variable as a comma separated list. The default order is age,pgp. Offline methods are tried first and then the remaining ones.

If you want to test SOPS without having to do a bunch of setup, you can use the example files and pgp key provided with the repository:

$ git clone
$ cd sops
$ gpg --import pgp/sops_functional_tests_key.asc
$ sops edit example.yaml

This last step will decrypt example.yaml using the test private key.

age is a simple, modern, and secure tool for encrypting files. It's recommended to use age over PGP, if possible.

You can encrypt a file for one or more age recipients (comma separated) using the --age option or the SOPS_AGE_RECIPIENTS environment variable:

$ sops encrypt --age age1yt3tfqlfrwdwx0z0ynwplcr6qxcxfaqycuprpmy89nr83ltx74tqdpszlw test.yaml > test.enc.yaml

When decrypting a file with the corresponding identity, SOPS will look for a text file name keys.txt located in a sops subdirectory of your user configuration directory. On Linux, this would be $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/sops/age/keys.txt. If $XDG_CONFIG_HOME is not set $HOME/.config/sops/age/keys.txt is used instead. On macOS, this would be $HOME/Library/Application Support/sops/age/keys.txt. On Windows, this would be %AppData%\sops\age\keys.txt. You can specify the location of this file manually by setting the environment variable SOPS_AGE_KEY_FILE. Alternatively, you can provide the key(s) directly by setting the SOPS_AGE_KEY environment variable.

The contents of this key file should be a list of age X25519 identities, one per line. Lines beginning with # are considered comments and ignored. Each identity will be tried in sequence until one is able to decrypt the data.

Encrypting with SSH keys via age is not yet supported by SOPS.

GCP KMS uses Application Default Credentials. If you already logged in using

$ gcloud auth login

you can enable application default credentials using the sdk:

$ gcloud auth application-default login

Encrypting/decrypting with GCP KMS requires a KMS ResourceID. You can use the cloud console the get the ResourceID or you can create one using the gcloud sdk:

$ gcloud kms keyrings create sops --location global
$ gcloud kms keys create sops-key --location global --keyring sops --purpose encryption
$ gcloud kms keys list --location global --keyring sops

# you should see
NAME                                                                   PURPOSE          PRIMARY_STATE
projects/my-project/locations/global/keyRings/sops/cryptoKeys/sops-key ENCRYPT_DECRYPT  ENABLED

Now you can encrypt a file using:

$ sops encrypt --gcp-kms projects/my-project/locations/global/keyRings/sops/cryptoKeys/sops-key test.yaml > test.enc.yaml

And decrypt it using:

$ sops decrypt test.enc.yaml

The Azure Key Vault integration uses the default credential chain which tries several authentication methods, in this order:

  1. Environment credentials
    1. Service Principal with Client Secret
    2. Service Principal with Certificate
    3. User with username and password
    4. Configuration for multi-tenant applications
  2. Workload Identity credentials
  3. Managed Identity credentials
  4. Azure CLI credentials

For example, you can use a Service Principal with the following environment variables:


You can create a Service Principal using the CLI like this:

$ az ad sp create-for-rbac -n my-keyvault-sp

    "appId": "<some-uuid>",
    "displayName": "my-keyvault-sp",
    "name": "http://my-keyvault-sp",
    "password": "<random-string>",
    "tenant": "<tenant-uuid>"

The appId is the client ID, and the password is the client secret.

Encrypting/decrypting with Azure Key Vault requires the resource identifier for a key. This has the following form:


To create a Key Vault and assign your service principal permissions on it from the commandline:

# Create a resource group if you do not have one:
$ az group create --name sops-rg --location westeurope
# Key Vault names are globally unique, so generate one:
$ keyvault_name=sops-$(uuidgen | tr -d - | head -c 16)
# Create a Vault, a key, and give the service principal access:
$ az keyvault create --name $keyvault_name --resource-group sops-rg --location westeurope
$ az keyvault key create --name sops-key --vault-name $keyvault_name --protection software --ops encrypt decrypt
$ az keyvault set-policy --name $keyvault_name --resource-group sops-rg --spn $AZURE_CLIENT_ID \
    --key-permissions encrypt decrypt
# Read the key id:
$ az keyvault key show --name sops-key --vault-name $keyvault_name --query key.kid

Now you can encrypt a file using:

$ sops encrypt --azure-kv test.yaml > test.enc.yaml

And decrypt it using:

$ sops decrypt test.enc.yaml

When using sops in scripts or from other programs, there are often situations where you do not want to write encrypted or decrypted data to disk. The best way to avoid this is to pass data to SOPS via stdin, and to let SOPS write data to stdout. By default, the encrypt and decrypt operations write data to stdout already. To pass data via stdin, you need to pass /dev/stdin as the input filename. Please note that this only works on Unix-like operating systems such as macOS and Linux. On Windows, you have to use named pipes.

To decrypt data, you can simply do:

$ cat encrypted-data | sops decrypt /dev/stdin > decrypted-data

To control the input and output format, pass --input-type and --output-type as appropriate. By default, sops determines the input and output format from the provided filename, which is /dev/stdin here, and thus will use the binary store which expects JSON input and outputs binary data on decryption.

For example, to decrypt YAML data and obtain the decrypted result as YAML, use:

$ cat encrypted-data | sops decrypt --input-type yaml --output-type yaml /dev/stdin > decrypted-data

To encrypt, it is important to note that SOPS also uses the filename to look up the correct creation rule from .sops.yaml. Likely /dev/stdin will not match a creation rule, or only match the fallback rule without path_regex, which is usually not what you want. For that, sops provides the --filename-override parameter which allows you to tell SOPS which filename to use to match creation rules:

$ echo 'foo: bar' | sops encrypt --filename-override path/filename.sops.yaml /dev/stdin > encrypted-data

SOPS will find a matching creation rule for path/filename.sops.yaml in .sops.yaml and use that one to encrypt the data from stdin. This filename will also be used to determine the input and output store. As always, the input store type can be adjusted by passing --input-type, and the output store type by passing --output-type:

$ echo foo=bar | sops encrypt --filename-override path/filename.sops.yaml --input-type dotenv /dev/stdin > encrypted-data

We assume you have an instance (or more) of Vault running and you have privileged access to it. For instructions on how to deploy a secure instance of Vault, refer to Hashicorp's official documentation.

To easily deploy Vault locally: (DO NOT DO THIS FOR PRODUCTION!!!)

$ docker run -d -p8200:8200 vault:1.2.0 server -dev -dev-root-token-id=toor
$ # Substitute this with the address Vault is running on
$ export VAULT_ADDR=

$ # this may not be necessary in case you previously used `vault login` for production use
$ export VAULT_TOKEN=toor

$ # to check if Vault started and is configured correctly
$ vault status
Key             Value
---             -----
Seal Type       shamir
Initialized     true
Sealed          false
Total Shares    1
Threshold       1
Version         1.2.0
Cluster Name    vault-cluster-618cc902
Cluster ID      e532e461-e8f0-1352-8a41-fc7c11096908
HA Enabled      false

$ # It is required to enable a transit engine if not already done (It is suggested to create a transit engine specifically for SOPS, in which it is possible to have multiple keys with various permission levels)
$ vault secrets enable -path=sops transit
Success! Enabled the transit secrets engine at: sops/

$ # Then create one or more keys
$ vault write sops/keys/firstkey type=rsa-4096
Success! Data written to: sops/keys/firstkey

$ vault write sops/keys/secondkey type=rsa-2048
Success! Data written to: sops/keys/secondkey

$ vault write sops/keys/thirdkey type=chacha20-poly1305
Success! Data written to: sops/keys/thirdkey

$ sops encrypt --hc-vault-transit $VAULT_ADDR/v1/sops/keys/firstkey vault_example.yml

$ cat <<EOF > .sops.yaml
    - path_regex: \.dev\.yaml$
      hc_vault_transit_uri: "$VAULT_ADDR/v1/sops/keys/secondkey"
    - path_regex: \.prod\.yaml$
      hc_vault_transit_uri: "$VAULT_ADDR/v1/sops/keys/thirdkey"

$ sops encrypt --verbose prod/raw.yaml > prod/encrypted.yaml

When creating new files, sops uses the PGP, KMS and GCP KMS defined in the command line arguments --kms, --pgp, --gcp-kms or --azure-kv, or from the environment variables SOPS_KMS_ARN, SOPS_PGP_FP, SOPS_GCP_KMS_IDS, SOPS_AZURE_KEYVAULT_URLS. That information is stored in the file under the sops section, such that decrypting files does not require providing those parameters again.

Master PGP and KMS keys can be added and removed from a sops file in one of three ways:

  1. By using a .sops.yaml file and the updatekeys command.
  2. By using command line flags.
  3. By editing the file directly.

The SOPS team recommends the updatekeys approach.

The updatekeys command uses the .sops.yaml configuration file to update (add or remove) the corresponding secrets in the encrypted file. Note that the example below uses the Block Scalar yaml construct to build a space separated list.

    - pgp: >-
$ sops updatekeys test.enc.yaml

SOPS will prompt you with the changes to be made. This interactivity can be disabled by supplying the -y flag.

The rotate command generates a new data encryption key and reencrypt all values with the new key. At te same time, the command line flag --add-kms, --add-pgp, --add-gcp-kms, --add-azure-kv, --rm-kms, --rm-pgp, --rm-gcp-kms and --rm-azure-kv can be used to add and remove keys from a file. These flags use the comma separated syntax as the --kms, --pgp, --gcp-kms and --azure-kv arguments when creating new files.

Use updatekeys if you want to add a key without rotating the data key.

# add a new pgp key to the file and rotate the data key
$ sops rotate -i --add-pgp 85D77543B3D624B63CEA9E6DBC17301B491B3F21 example.yaml

# remove a pgp key from the file and rotate the data key
$ sops rotate -i --rm-pgp 85D77543B3D624B63CEA9E6DBC17301B491B3F21 example.yaml

Alternatively, invoking sops edit with the flag -s will display the master keys while editing. This method can be used to add or remove kms or pgp keys under the sops section.

For example, to add a KMS master key to a file, add the following entry while editing:

        - arn: arn:aws:kms:us-east-1:656532927350:key/920aff2e-c5f1-4040-943a-047fa387b27e

And, similarly, to add a PGP master key, we add its fingerprint:

        - fp: 85D77543B3D624B63CEA9E6DBC17301B491B3F21

When the file is saved, SOPS will update its metadata and encrypt the data key with the freshly added master keys. The removed entries are simply deleted from the file.

When removing keys, it is recommended to rotate the data key using -r, otherwise, owners of the removed key may have add access to the data key in the past.

If you want to use a specific profile, you can do so with aws_profile:

        - arn: arn:aws:kms:us-east-1:656532927350:key/920aff2e-c5f1-4040-943a-047fa387b27e
          aws_profile: foo

If no AWS profile is set, default credentials will be used.

Similarly the --aws-profile flag can be set with the command line with any of the KMS commands.

SOPS has the ability to use KMS in multiple AWS accounts by assuming roles in each account. Being able to assume roles is a nice feature of AWS that allows administrators to establish trust relationships between accounts, typically from the most secure account to the least secure one. In our use-case, we use roles to indicate that a user of the Master AWS account is allowed to make use of KMS master keys in development and staging AWS accounts. Using roles, a single file can be encrypted with KMS keys in multiple accounts, thus increasing reliability and ease of use.

You can use keys in various accounts by tying each KMS master key to a role that the user is allowed to assume in each account. The IAM roles documentation has full details on how this needs to be configured on AWS's side.

From the point of view of SOPS, you only need to specify the role a KMS key must assume alongside its ARN, as follows:

        - arn: arn:aws:kms:us-east-1:656532927350:key/920aff2e-c5f1-4040-943a-047fa387b27e
          role: arn:aws:iam::927034868273:role/sops-dev-xyz

The role must have permission to call Encrypt and Decrypt using KMS. An example policy is shown below.

  "Sid": "Allow use of the key",
  "Effect": "Allow",
  "Action": [
  "Resource": "*",
  "Principal": {
    "AWS": [

You can specify a role in the --kms flag and SOPS_KMS_ARN variable by appending it to the ARN of the master key, separated by a + sign:


SOPS has the ability to use AWS KMS key policy and encryption context to refine the access control of a given KMS master key.

When creating a new file, you can specify the encryption context in the --encryption-context flag by comma separated list of key-value pairs:

$ sops edit --encryption-context Environment:production,Role:web-server

The format of the Encrypt Context string is <EncryptionContext Key>:<EncryptionContext Value>,<EncryptionContext Key>:<EncryptionContext Value>,...

The encryption context will be stored in the file metadata and does not need to be provided at decryption.

Encryption contexts can be used in conjunction with KMS Key Policies to define roles that can only access a given context. An example policy is shown below:

  "Effect": "Allow",
  "Principal": {
    "AWS": "arn:aws:iam::111122223333:role/RoleForExampleApp"
  "Action": "kms:Decrypt",
  "Resource": "*",
  "Condition": {
    "StringEquals": {
      "kms:EncryptionContext:AppName": "ExampleApp",
      "kms:EncryptionContext:FilePath": "/var/opt/secrets/"

It is recommended to renew the data key on a regular basis. sops supports key rotation via the rotate command. Invoking it on an existing file causes sops to reencrypt the file with a new data key, which is then encrypted with the various KMS and PGP master keys defined in the file.

Add the -i option to write the rotated file back, instead of printing it to stdout.

$ sops rotate example.yaml

It is often tedious to specify the --kms --gcp-kms --pgp and --age parameters for creation of all new files. If your secrets are stored under a specific directory, like a git repository, you can create a .sops.yaml configuration file at the root directory to define which keys are used for which filename.

Let's take an example:

  • file named should use one set of KMS A, PGP and age
  • file named should use another set of KMS B, PGP and age
  • other files use a third set of KMS C and PGP
  • all live under mysecretrepo/something.{dev,prod,gcp}.yaml

Under those circumstances, a file placed at mysecretrepo/.sops.yaml can manage the three sets of configurations for the three types of files:

# creation rules are evaluated sequentially, the first match wins
    # upon creation of a file that matches the pattern *.dev.yaml,
    # KMS set A as well as PGP and age is used
    - path_regex: \.dev\.yaml$
      kms: 'arn:aws:kms:us-west-2:927034868273:key/fe86dd69-4132-404c-ab86-4269956b4500,arn:aws:kms:us-west-2:361527076523:key/5052f06a-5d3f-489e-b86c-57201e06f31e+arn:aws:iam::361527076523:role/hiera-sops-prod'
      pgp: 'FBC7B9E2A4F9289AC0C1D4843D16CEE4A27381B4'
      age: 'age129h70qwx39k7h5x6l9hg566nwm53527zvamre8vep9e3plsm44uqgy8gla'

    # prod files use KMS set B in the PROD IAM, PGP and age
    - path_regex: \.prod\.yaml$
      kms: 'arn:aws:kms:us-west-2:361527076523:key/5052f06a-5d3f-489e-b86c-57201e06f31e+arn:aws:iam::361527076523:role/hiera-sops-prod,arn:aws:kms:eu-central-1:361527076523:key/cb1fab90-8d17-42a1-a9d8-334968904f94+arn:aws:iam::361527076523:role/hiera-sops-prod'
      pgp: 'FBC7B9E2A4F9289AC0C1D4843D16CEE4A27381B4'
      age: 'age129h70qwx39k7h5x6l9hg566nwm53527zvamre8vep9e3plsm44uqgy8gla'
      hc_vault_uris: "http://localhost:8200/v1/sops/keys/thirdkey"

    # gcp files using GCP KMS
    - path_regex: \.gcp\.yaml$
      gcp_kms: projects/mygcproject/locations/global/keyRings/mykeyring/cryptoKeys/thekey

    # Finally, if the rules above have not matched, this one is a
    # catchall that will encrypt the file using KMS set C as well as PGP
    # The absence of a path_regex means it will match everything
    - kms: 'arn:aws:kms:us-west-2:927034868273:key/fe86dd69-4132-404c-ab86-4269956b4500,arn:aws:kms:us-west-2:142069644989:key/846cfb17-373d-49b9-8baf-f36b04512e47,arn:aws:kms:us-west-2:361527076523:key/5052f06a-5d3f-489e-b86c-57201e06f31e'
      pgp: 'FBC7B9E2A4F9289AC0C1D4843D16CEE4A27381B4'

When creating any file under mysecretrepo, whether at the root or under a subdirectory, SOPS will recursively look for a .sops.yaml file. If one is found, the filename of the file being created is compared with the filename regexes of the configuration file. The first regex that matches is selected, and its KMS and PGP keys are used to encrypt the file. It should be noted that the looking up of .sops.yaml is from the working directory (CWD) instead of the directory of the encrypting file (see Issue 242).

The path_regex checks the path of the encrypting file relative to the .sops.yaml config file. Here is another example:

  • files located under directory development should use one set of KMS A
  • files located under directory production should use another set of KMS B
  • other files use a third set of KMS C
    # upon creation of a file under development,
    # KMS set A is used
    - path_regex: .*/development/.*
      kms: 'arn:aws:kms:us-west-2:927034868273:key/fe86dd69-4132-404c-ab86-4269956b4500,arn:aws:kms:us-west-2:361527076523:key/5052f06a-5d3f-489e-b86c-57201e06f31e+arn:aws:iam::361527076523:role/hiera-sops-prod'
      pgp: 'FBC7B9E2A4F9289AC0C1D4843D16CEE4A27381B4'

    # prod files use KMS set B in the PROD IAM
    - path_regex: .*/production/.*
      kms: 'arn:aws:kms:us-west-2:361527076523:key/5052f06a-5d3f-489e-b86c-57201e06f31e+arn:aws:iam::361527076523:role/hiera-sops-prod,arn:aws:kms:eu-central-1:361527076523:key/cb1fab90-8d17-42a1-a9d8-334968904f94+arn:aws:iam::361527076523:role/hiera-sops-prod'
      pgp: 'FBC7B9E2A4F9289AC0C1D4843D16CEE4A27381B4'

    # other files use KMS set C
    - kms: 'arn:aws:kms:us-west-2:927034868273:key/fe86dd69-4132-404c-ab86-4269956b4500,arn:aws:kms:us-west-2:142069644989:key/846cfb17-373d-49b9-8baf-f36b04512e47,arn:aws:kms:us-west-2:361527076523:key/5052f06a-5d3f-489e-b86c-57201e06f31e'
      pgp: 'FBC7B9E2A4F9289AC0C1D4843D16CEE4A27381B4'

Creating a new file with the right keys is now as simple as

$ sops edit <newfile>.prod.yaml

Note that the configuration file is ignored when KMS or PGP parameters are passed on the SOPS command line or in environment variables.

SOPS checks for the SOPS_GPG_EXEC environment variable. If specified, it will attempt to use the executable set there instead of the default of gpg.

Example: place the following in your ~/.bashrc

SOPS_GPG_EXEC = 'your_gpg_client_wrapper'

By default, SOPS uses the key server to retrieve the GPG keys that are not present in the local keyring. This is no longer configurable. You can learn more about why from this write-up: SKS Keyserver Network Under Attack.

By default, SOPS encrypts the data key for a file with each of the master keys, such that if any of the master keys is available, the file can be decrypted. However, it is sometimes desirable to require access to multiple master keys in order to decrypt files. This can be achieved with key groups.

When using key groups in SOPS, data keys are split into parts such that keys from multiple groups are required to decrypt a file. SOPS uses Shamir's Secret Sharing to split the data key such that each key group has a fragment, each key in the key group can decrypt that fragment, and a configurable number of fragments (threshold) are needed to decrypt and piece together the complete data key. When decrypting a file using multiple key groups, SOPS goes through key groups in order, and in each group, tries to recover the fragment of the data key using a master key from that group. Once the fragment is recovered, SOPS moves on to the next group, until enough fragments have been recovered to obtain the complete data key.

By default, the threshold is set to the number of key groups. For example, if you have three key groups configured in your SOPS file and you don't override the default threshold, then one master key from each of the three groups will be required to decrypt the file.

Management of key groups is done with the sops groups command.

For example, you can add a new key group with 3 PGP keys and 3 KMS keys to the file my_file.yaml:

$ sops groups add --file my_file.yaml --pgp fingerprint1 --pgp fingerprint2 --pgp fingerprint3 --kms arn1 --kms arn2 --kms arn3

Or you can delete the 1st group (group number 0, as groups are zero-indexed) from my_file.yaml:

$ sops groups delete --file my_file.yaml 0

Key groups can also be specified in the .sops.yaml config file, like so:

    - path_regex: .*keygroups.*
          # First key group
          - pgp:
                - fingerprint1
                - fingerprint2
                - arn: arn1
                  role: role1
                      foo: bar
                - arn: arn2
                  aws_profile: myprofile
          # Second key group
          - pgp:
                - fingerprint3
                - fingerprint4
                - arn: arn3
                - arn: arn4
          # Third key group
          - pgp:
                - fingerprint5

Given this configuration, we can create a new encrypted file like we normally would, and optionally provide the --shamir-secret-sharing-threshold command line flag if we want to override the default threshold. SOPS will then split the data key into three parts (from the number of key groups) and encrypt each fragment with the master keys found in each group.

For example:

$ sops edit --shamir-secret-sharing-threshold 2 example.json

Alternatively, you can configure the Shamir threshold for each creation rule in the .sops.yaml config with shamir_threshold:

    - path_regex: .*keygroups.*
      shamir_threshold: 2
          # First key group
          - pgp:
                - fingerprint1
                - fingerprint2
                - arn: arn1
                  role: role1
                      foo: bar
                - arn: arn2
                  aws_profile: myprofile
          # Second key group
          - pgp:
                - fingerprint3
                - fingerprint4
                - arn: arn3
                - arn: arn4
          # Third key group
          - pgp:
                - fingerprint5

And then run sops edit example.json.

The threshold (shamir_threshold) is set to 2, so this configuration will require master keys from two of the three different key groups in order to decrypt the file. You can then decrypt the file the same way as with any other SOPS file:

$ sops decrypt example.json

There are situations where you might want to run SOPS on a machine that doesn't have direct access to encryption keys such as PGP keys. The sops key service allows you to forward a socket so that SOPS can access encryption keys stored on a remote machine. This is similar to GPG Agent, but more portable.

SOPS uses a client-server approach to encrypting and decrypting the data key. By default, SOPS runs a local key service in-process. SOPS uses a key service client to send an encrypt or decrypt request to a key service, which then performs the operation. The requests are sent using gRPC and Protocol Buffers. The requests contain an identifier for the key they should perform the operation with, and the plaintext or encrypted data key. The requests do not contain any cryptographic keys, public or private.

WARNING: the key service connection currently does not use any sort of authentication or encryption. Therefore, it is recommended that you make sure the connection is authenticated and encrypted in some other way, for example through an SSH tunnel.

Whenever we try to encrypt or decrypt a data key, SOPS will try to do so first with the local key service (unless it's disabled), and if that fails, it will try all other remote key services until one succeeds.

You can start a key service server by running sops keyservice.

You can specify the key services the sops binary uses with --keyservice. This flag can be specified more than once, so you can use multiple key services. The local key service can be disabled with enable-local-keyservice=false.

For example, to decrypt a file using both the local key service and the key service exposed on the unix socket located in /tmp/sops.sock, you can run:

$ sops decrypt --keyservice unix:///tmp/sops.sock file.yaml`

And if you only want to use the key service exposed on the unix socket located in /tmp/sops.sock and not the local key service, you can run:

$ sops decrypt --enable-local-keyservice=false --keyservice unix:///tmp/sops.sock file.yaml

Sometimes, users want to be able to tell what files were accessed by whom in an environment they control. For this reason, SOPS can generate audit logs to record activity on encrypted files. When enabled, SOPS will write a log entry into a pre-configured PostgreSQL database when a file is decrypted. The log includes a timestamp, the username SOPS is running as, and the file that was decrypted.

In order to enable auditing, you must first create the database and credentials using the schema found in audit/schema.sql. This schema defines the tables that store the audit events and a role named sops that only has permission to add entries to the audit event tables. The default password for the role sops is sops. You should change this password.

Once you have created the database, you have to tell SOPS how to connect to it. Because we don't want users of SOPS to be able to control auditing, the audit configuration file location is not configurable, and must be at /etc/sops/audit.yaml. This file should have strict permissions such that only the root user can modify it.

For example, to enable auditing to a PostgreSQL database named sops running on localhost, using the user sops and the password sops, /etc/sops/audit.yaml should have the following contents:

        - connection_string: "postgres://sops:sops@localhost/sops?sslmode=verify-full"

You can find more information on the connection_string format in the PostgreSQL docs.

Under the postgres map entry in the above YAML is a list, so one can provide more than one backend, and SOPS will log to all of them:

        - connection_string: "postgres://sops:sops@localhost/sops?sslmode=verify-full"
        - connection_string: "postgres://sops:sops@remotehost/sops?sslmode=verify-full"

By default SOPS just dumps all the output to the standard output. We can use the --output flag followed by a filename to save the output to the file specified. Beware using both --in-place and --output flags will result in an error.

In addition to writing secrets to standard output and to files on disk, SOPS has two commands for passing decrypted secrets to a new process: exec-env and exec-file. These commands will place all output into the environment of a child process and into a temporary file, respectively. For example, if a program looks for credentials in its environment, exec-env can be used to ensure that the decrypted contents are available only to this process and never written to disk.

# print secrets to stdout to confirm values
$ sops decrypt out.json
        "database_password": "jf48t9wfw094gf4nhdf023r",

# decrypt out.json and run a command
# the command prints the environment variable and runs a script that uses it
$ sops exec-env out.json 'echo secret: $database_password; ./database-import'
secret: jf48t9wfw094gf4nhdf023r

# launch a shell with the secrets available in its environment
$ sops exec-env out.json 'sh'
sh-3.2# echo $database_password

# the secret is not accessible anywhere else
sh-3.2$ exit
$ echo your password: $database_password
your password:

If the command you want to run only operates on files, you can use exec-file instead. By default, SOPS will use a FIFO to pass the contents of the decrypted file to the new program. Using a FIFO, secrets are only passed in memory which has two benefits: the plaintext secrets never touch the disk, and the child process can only read the secrets once. In contexts where this won't work, eg platforms like Windows where FIFOs unavailable or secret files that need to be available to the child process longer term, the --no-fifo flag can be used to instruct SOPS to use a traditional temporary file that will get cleaned up once the process is finished executing. exec-file behaves similar to find(1) in that {} is used as a placeholder in the command which will be substituted with the temporary file path (whether a FIFO or an actual file).

# operating on the same file as before, but as a file this time
$ sops exec-file out.json 'echo your temporary file: {}; cat {}'
your temporary file: /tmp/.sops894650499/tmp-file
        "database_password": "jf48t9wfw094gf4nhdf023r",

# launch a shell with a variable TMPFILE pointing to the temporary file
$ sops exec-file --no-fifo out.json 'TMPFILE={} sh'
sh-3.2$ echo $TMPFILE
sh-3.2$ cat $TMPFILE
        "database_password": "jf48t9wfw094gf4nhdf023r",
sh-3.2$ ./program --config $TMPFILE
sh-3.2$ exit

# try to open the temporary file from earlier
$ cat /tmp/.sops506055069/tmp-file291138648
cat: /tmp/.sops506055069/tmp-file291138648: No such file or directory

Additionally, on unix-like platforms, both exec-env and exec-file support dropping privileges before executing the new program via the --user <username> flag. This is particularly useful in cases where the encrypted file is only readable by root, but the target program does not need root privileges to function. This flag should be used where possible for added security.

To overwrite the default file name (tmp-file) in exec-file use the --filename <filename> parameter.

# the encrypted file can't be read by the current user
$ cat out.json
cat: out.json: Permission denied

# execute sops as root, decrypt secrets, then drop privileges
$ sudo sops exec-env --user nobody out.json 'sh'
sh-3.2$ echo $database_password

# dropped privileges, still can't load the original file
sh-3.2$ id
uid=4294967294(nobody) gid=4294967294(nobody) groups=4294967294(nobody)
sh-3.2$ cat out.json
cat: out.json: Permission denied

sops publish $file publishes a file to a pre-configured destination (this lives in the SOPS config file). Additionally, support re-encryption rules that work just like the creation rules.

This command requires a .sops.yaml configuration file. Below is an example:

    - s3_bucket: "sops-secrets"
      path_regex: s3/*
          pgp: F69E4901EDBAD2D1753F8C67A64535C4163FB307
    - gcs_bucket: "sops-secrets"
      path_regex: gcs/*
          pgp: F69E4901EDBAD2D1753F8C67A64535C4163FB307
    - vault_path: "sops/"
      vault_kv_mount_name: "secret/" # default
      vault_kv_version: 2 # default
      path_regex: vault/*
      omit_extensions: true

The above configuration will place all files under s3/* into the S3 bucket sops-secrets, all files under gcs/* into the GCS bucket sops-secrets, and the contents of all files under vault/* into Vault's KV store under the path secrets/sops/. For the files that will be published to S3 and GCS, it will decrypt them and re-encrypt them using the F69E4901EDBAD2D1753F8C67A64535C4163FB307 pgp key.

You would deploy a file to S3 with a command like: sops publish s3/app.yaml

To publish all files in selected directory recursively, you need to specify --recursive flag.

If you don't want file extension to appear in destination secret path, use --omit-extensions flag or omit_extensions: true in the destination rule in .sops.yaml.

There are a few settings for Vault that you can place in your destination rules. The first is vault_path, which is required. The others are optional, and they are vault_address, vault_kv_mount_name, vault_kv_version.

SOPS uses the official Vault API provided by Hashicorp, which makes use of environment variables for configuring the client.

vault_kv_mount_name is used if your Vault KV is mounted somewhere other than secret/. vault_kv_version supports 1 and 2, with 2 being the default.

If the destination secret path already exists in Vault and contains the same data as the source file, it will be skipped.

Below is an example of publishing to Vault (using token auth with a local dev instance of Vault).

$ export VAULT_TOKEN=...
$ export VAULT_ADDR=''
$ sops decrypt vault/test.yaml
example_string: bar
example_number: 42
    key: value
$ sops publish vault/test.yaml
uploading /home/user/sops_directory/vault/test.yaml to ? (y/n): y
$ vault kv get secret/sops/test.yaml
====== Metadata ======
Key              Value
---              -----
created_time     2019-07-11T03:32:17.074792017Z
deletion_time    n/a
destroyed        false
version          3

========= Data =========
Key               Value
---               -----
example_map       map[key:value]
example_number    42
example_string    bar

SOPS uses the file extension to decide which encryption method to use on the file content. YAML, JSON, ENV, and INI files are treated as trees of data, and key/values are extracted from the files to only encrypt the leaf values. The tree structure is also used to check the integrity of the file.

Therefore, if a file is encrypted using a specific format, it needs to be decrypted in the same format. The easiest way to achieve this is to conserve the original file extension after encrypting a file. For example:

$ sops encrypt -i myfile.json
$ sops decrypt myfile.json

If you want to change the extension of the file once encrypted, you need to provide sops with the --input-type flag upon decryption. For example:

$ sops encrypt myfile.json > myfile.json.enc

$ sops decrypt --input-type json myfile.json.enc

When operating on stdin, use the --input-type and --output-type flags as follows:

$ cat myfile.json | sops decrypt --input-type json --output-type json /dev/stdin

SOPS indents JSON files by default using one tab. However, you can change this default behaviour to use spaces by either using the additional --indent=2 CLI option or by configuring .sops.yaml with the code below.

The special value 0 disables indentation, and -1 uses a single tab.

        indent: 2
        indent: 2

SOPS indents YAML files by default using 4 spaces. However, you can change this default behaviour by either using the additional --indent=2 CLI option or by configuring .sops.yaml with:

        indent: 2


The YAML emitter used by sops only supports values between 2 and 9. If you specify 1, or 10 and larger, the indent will be 2.

SOPS only supports a subset of YAML's many types. Encrypting YAML files that contain strings, numbers and booleans will work fine, but files that contain anchors will not work, because the anchors redefine the structure of the file at load time.

This file will not work in SOPS:

bill-to:  &id001
    street: |
        123 Tornado Alley
        Suite 16
    city:   East Centerville
    state:  KS

ship-to:  *id001

SOPS uses the path to a value as additional data in the AEAD encryption, and thus dynamic paths generated by anchors break the authentication step.

JSON and TEXT file types do not support anchors and thus have no such limitation.

YAML supports having more than one "document" in a single file, while formats like JSON do not. SOPS is able to handle both. This means the following multi-document will be encrypted as expected:

data: foo
data: bar

Note that the sops metadata, i.e. the hash, etc, is computed for the physical file rather than each internal "document".

YAML and JSON top-level arrays are not supported, because SOPS needs a top-level sops key to store its metadata.

This file will not work in SOPS:

  - some
  - array
  - elements

But this one will work because the sops key can be added at the same level as the data key.

    - some
    - array
    - elements

Similarly, with JSON arrays, this document will not work:


But this one will work just fine:

  "data": [

Take a look into the examples folder for detailed use cases of SOPS in a CI environment. The section below describes specific tips for common use cases.

The command below creates a new file with a data key encrypted by KMS and PGP.

$ sops edit --kms "arn:aws:kms:us-west-2:927034868273:key/fe86dd69-4132-404c-ab86-4269956b4500" --pgp C9CAB0AF1165060DB58D6D6B2653B624D620786D /path/to/new/file.yaml

Similar to the previous command, we tell SOPS to use one KMS and one PGP key. The path points to an existing cleartext file, so we give sops the flag -e to encrypt the file, and redirect the output to a destination file.

$ export SOPS_KMS_ARN="arn:aws:kms:us-west-2:927034868273:key/fe86dd69-4132-404c-ab86-4269956b4500"
$ export SOPS_PGP_FP="C9CAB0AF1165060DB58D6D6B2653B624D620786D"
$ sops encrypt /path/to/existing/file.yaml > /path/to/new/encrypted/file.yaml

Decrypt the file with -d.

$ sops decrypt /path/to/new/encrypted/file.yaml

Rather than redirecting the output of -e or -d, sops can replace the original file after encrypting or decrypting it.

# file.yaml is in cleartext
$ sops encrypt -i /path/to/existing/file.yaml
# file.yaml is now encrypted
$ sops decrypt -i /path/to/existing/file.yaml
# file.yaml is back in cleartext

SOPS primary use case is encrypting YAML and JSON configuration files, but it also has the ability to manage binary files. When encrypting a binary, SOPS will read the data as bytes, encrypt it, store the encrypted base64 under tree['data'] and write the result as JSON.

Note that the base64 encoding of encrypted data can actually make the encrypted file larger than the cleartext one.

In-place encryption/decryption also works on binary files.

$ dd if=/dev/urandom of=/tmp/somerandom bs=1024
512+0 records in
512+0 records out
524288 bytes (524 kB) copied, 0.0466158 s, 11.2 MB/s

$ sha512sum /tmp/somerandom
9589bb20280e9d381f7a192000498c994e921b3cdb11d2ef5a986578dc2239a340b25ef30691bac72bdb14028270828dad7e8bd31e274af9828c40d216e60cbe /tmp/somerandom

$ sops encrypt -i /tmp/somerandom
please wait while a data encryption key is being generated and stored securely

$ sops decrypt -i /tmp/somerandom

$ sha512sum /tmp/somerandom
9589bb20280e9d381f7a192000498c994e921b3cdb11d2ef5a986578dc2239a340b25ef30691bac72bdb14028270828dad7e8bd31e274af9828c40d216e60cbe /tmp/somerandom

SOPS can extract a specific part of a YAML or JSON document, by provided the path in the --extract command line flag. This is useful to extract specific values, like keys, without needing an extra parser.

$ sops decrypt --extract '["app2"]["key"]' ~/git/svc/sops/example.yaml

The tree path syntax uses regular python dictionary syntax, without the variable name. Extract keys by naming them, and array elements by numbering them.

$ sops decrypt --extract '["an_array"][1]' ~/git/svc/sops/example.yaml

SOPS can set a specific part of a YAML or JSON document, by providing the path and value in the set command. This is useful to set specific values, like keys, without needing an editor.

$ sops set ~/git/svc/sops/example.yaml '["app2"]["key"]' '"app2keystringvalue"'

The tree path syntax uses regular python dictionary syntax, without the variable name. Set to keys by naming them, and array elements by numbering them.

$ sops set ~/git/svc/sops/example.yaml '["an_array"][1]' '"secretuser2"'

The value must be formatted as json.

$ sops set ~/git/svc/sops/example.yaml '["an_array"][1]' '{"uid1":null,"uid2":1000,"uid3":["bob"]}'

Symmetrically, SOPS can unset a specific part of a YAML or JSON document, by providing the path in the unset command. This is useful to unset specific values, like keys, without needing an editor.

$ sops unset ~/git/svc/sops/example.yaml '["app2"]["key"]'

The tree path syntax uses regular python dictionary syntax, without the variable name. Set to keys by naming them, and array elements by numbering them.

$ sops unset ~/git/svc/sops/example.yaml '["an_array"][1]'

You most likely want to store encrypted files in a version controlled repository. SOPS can be used with git to decrypt files when showing diffs between versions. This is very handy for reviewing changes or visualizing history.

To configure SOPS to decrypt files during diff, create a .gitattributes file at the root of your repository that contains a filter and a command.

*.yaml diff=sopsdiffer

Here we only care about YAML files. sopsdiffer is an arbitrary name that we map to a SOPS command in the git configuration file of the repository.

$ git config diff.sopsdiffer.textconv "sops decrypt"

$ grep -A 1 sopsdiffer .git/config
[diff "sopsdiffer"]
    textconv = "sops decrypt"

With this in place, calls to git diff will decrypt both previous and current versions of the target file prior to displaying the diff. And it even works with git client interfaces, because they call git diff under the hood!

Note: this only works on YAML and JSON files, not on BINARY files.

By default, SOPS encrypts all the values of a YAML or JSON file and leaves the keys in cleartext. In some instances, you may want to exclude some values from being encrypted. This can be accomplished by adding the suffix _unencrypted to any key of a file. When set, all values underneath the key that set the _unencrypted suffix will be left in cleartext.

Note that, while in cleartext, unencrypted content is still added to the checksum of the file, and thus cannot be modified outside of SOPS without breaking the file integrity check. This behavior can be modified using --mac-only-encrypted flag or .sops.yaml config file which makes SOPS compute a MAC only over values it encrypted and not all values.

The unencrypted suffix can be set to a different value using the --unencrypted-suffix option.

Conversely, you can opt in to only encrypt some values in a YAML or JSON file, by adding a chosen suffix to those keys and passing it to the --encrypted-suffix option.

A third method is to use the --encrypted-regex which will only encrypt values under keys that match the supplied regular expression. For example, this command:

$ sops encrypt --encrypted-regex '^(data|stringData)$' k8s-secrets.yaml

will encrypt the values under the data and stringData keys in a YAML file containing kubernetes secrets. It will not encrypt other values that help you to navigate the file, like metadata which contains the secrets' names.

Conversely, you can opt in to only leave certain keys without encrypting by using the --unencrypted-regex option, which will leave the values unencrypted of those keys that match the supplied regular expression. For example, this command:

$ sops encrypt --unencrypted-regex '^(description|metadata)$' k8s-secrets.yaml

will not encrypt the values under the description and metadata keys in a YAML file containing kubernetes secrets, while encrypting everything else.

For YAML files, another method is to use --encrypted-comment-regex which will only encrypt comments and values which have a preceding comment matching the supplied regular expression.

Conversely, you can opt in to only left certain keys without encrypting by using the --unencrypted-comment-regex option, which will leave the values and comments unencrypted when they have a preeceding comment, or a trailing comment on the same line, that matches the supplied regular expression.

You can also specify these options in the .sops.yaml config file.

Note: these six options --unencrypted-suffix, --encrypted-suffix, --encrypted-regex, --unencrypted-regex, --encrypted-comment-regex, and --unencrypted-comment-regex are mutually exclusive and cannot all be used in the same file.

When SOPS creates a file, it generates a random 256 bit data key and asks each KMS and PGP master key to encrypt the data key. The encrypted version of the data key is stored in the sops metadata under sops.kms and sops.pgp.

For KMS:

        - enc: CiC6yCOtzsnFhkfdIslYZ0bAf//gYLYCmIu87B3sy/5yYxKnAQEBAQB4usgjrc7JxYZH3SLJWGdGwH//4GC2ApiLvOwd7Mv+cmMAAAB+MHwGCSqGSIb3DQEHBqBvMG0CAQAwaAYJKoZIhvcNAQcBMB4GCWCGSAFlAwQBLjARBAyGdRODuYMHbA8Ozj8CARCAO7opMolPJUmBXd39Zlp0L2H9fzMKidHm1vvaF6nNFq0ClRY7FlIZmTm4JfnOebPseffiXFn9tG8cq7oi
          enc_ts: 1439568549.245995
          arn: arn:aws:kms:us-east-1:656532927350:key/920aff2e-c5f1-4040-943a-047fa387b27e

For PGP:

        - fp: 85D77543B3D624B63CEA9E6DBC17301B491B3F21
          created_at: 1441570391.930042
          enc: |
              -----BEGIN PGP MESSAGE-----
              Version: GnuPG v1

              -----END PGP MESSAGE-----

SOPS then opens a text editor on the newly created file. The user adds data to the file and saves it when done.

Upon save, SOPS browses the entire file as a key/value tree. Every time SOPS encounters a leaf value (a value that does not have children), it encrypts the value with AES256_GCM using the data key and a 256 bit random initialization vector.

Each file uses a single data key to encrypt all values of a document, but each value receives a unique initialization vector and has unique authentication data.

Additional data is used to guarantee the integrity of the encrypted data and of the tree structure: when encrypting the tree, key names are concatenated into a byte string that is used as AEAD additional data (aad) when encrypting values. We expect that keys do not carry sensitive information, and keeping them in cleartext allows for better diff and overall readability.

Any valid KMS or PGP master key can later decrypt the data key and access the data.

Multiple master keys allow for sharing encrypted files without sharing master keys, and provide a disaster recovery solution. The recommended way to use SOPS is to have two KMS master keys in different regions and one PGP public key with the private key stored offline. If, by any chance, both KMS master keys are lost, you can always recover the encrypted data using the PGP private key.

In addition to authenticating branches of the tree using keys as additional data, SOPS computes a MAC on all the values to ensure that no value has been added or removed fraudulently. The MAC is stored encrypted with AES_GCM and the data key under tree -> sops -> mac. This behavior can be modified using --mac-only-encrypted flag or .sops.yaml config file which makes SOPS compute a MAC only over values it encrypted and not all values.

📝 A note from the maintainers

This section was written by the original authors of SOPS while they were working at Mozilla. It is kept here for historical reasons and to provide technical background on the project. It is not necessarily representative of the views of the current maintainers, nor are they currently affiliated with Mozilla.

Automating the distribution of secrets and credentials to components of an infrastructure is a hard problem. We know how to encrypt secrets and share them between humans, but extending that trust to systems is difficult. Particularly when these systems follow devops principles and are created and destroyed without human intervention. The issue boils down to establishing the initial trust of a system that just joined the infrastructure, and providing it access to the secrets it needs to configure itself.

In many infrastructures, even highly dynamic ones, the initial trust is established by a human. An example is seen in Puppet by the way certificates are issued: when a new system attempts to join a Puppetmaster, an administrator must, by default, manually approve the issuance of the certificate the system needs. This is cumbersome, and many puppetmasters are configured to auto-sign new certificates to work around that issue. This is obviously not recommended and far from ideal.

AWS provides a more flexible approach to trusting new systems. It uses a powerful mechanism of roles and identities. In AWS, it is possible to verify that a new system has been granted a specific role at creation, and it is possible to map that role to specific resources. Instead of trusting new systems directly, the administrator trusts the AWS permission model and its automation infrastructure. As long as AWS keys are safe, and the AWS API is secure, we can assume that trust is maintained and systems are who they say they are.

Using the AWS trust model, we can create fine grained access controls to Amazon's Key Management Service (KMS). KMS is a service that encrypts and decrypts data with AES_GCM, using keys that are never visible to users of the service. Each KMS master key has a set of role-based access controls, and individual roles are permitted to encrypt or decrypt using the master key. KMS helps solve the problem of distributing keys, by shifting it into an access control problem that can be solved using AWS's trust model.

When Mozilla's Services Operations team started revisiting the issue of distributing secrets to EC2 instances, we set a goal to store these secrets encrypted until the very last moment, when they need to be decrypted on target systems. Not unlike many other organizations that operate sufficiently complex automation, we found this to be a hard problem with a number of prerequisites:

  1. Secrets must be stored in YAML files for easy integration into hiera
  2. Secrets must be stored in GIT, and when a new CloudFormation stack is built, the current HEAD is pinned to the stack. (This allows secrets to be changed in GIT without impacting the current stack that may autoscale).
  3. Entries must be encrypted separately. Encrypting entire files as blobs makes git conflict resolution almost impossible. Encrypting each entry separately is much easier to manage.
  4. Secrets must always be encrypted on disk (admin laptop, upstream git repo, jenkins and S3) and only be decrypted on the target systems

SOPS can be used to encrypt YAML, JSON and BINARY files. In BINARY mode, the content of the file is treated as a blob, the same way PGP would encrypt an entire file. In YAML and JSON modes, however, the content of the file is manipulated as a tree where keys are stored in cleartext, and values are encrypted. hiera-eyaml does something similar, and over the years we learned to appreciate its benefits, namely:

  • diffs are meaningful. If a single value of a file is modified, only that value will show up in the diff. The diff is still limited to only showing encrypted data, but that information is already more granular that indicating that an entire file has changed.
  • conflicts are easier to resolve. If multiple users are working on the same encrypted files, as long as they don't modify the same values, changes are easy to merge. This is an improvement over the PGP encryption approach where unsolvable conflicts often happen when multiple users work on the same file.

OpenPGP gets a lot of bad press for being an outdated crypto protocol, and while true, what really made us look for alternatives is the difficulty of managing and distributing keys to systems. With KMS, we manage permissions to an API, not keys, and that's a lot easier to do.

But PGP is not dead yet, and we still rely on it heavily as a backup solution: all our files are encrypted with KMS and with one PGP public key, with its private key stored securely for emergency decryption in the event that we lose all our KMS master keys.

SOPS can be used without KMS entirely, the same way you would use an encrypted PGP file: by referencing the pubkeys of each individual who has access to the file. It can easily be done by providing SOPS with a comma-separated list of public keys when creating a new file:

$ sops edit --pgp "E60892BB9BD89A69F759A1A0A3D652173B763E8F,84050F1D61AF7C230A12217687DF65059EF093D3,85D77543B3D624B63CEA9E6DBC17301B491B3F21" mynewfile.yaml

The security of the data stored using SOPS is as strong as the weakest cryptographic mechanism. Values are encrypted using AES256_GCM which is the strongest symmetric encryption algorithm known today. Data keys are encrypted in either KMS, which also uses AES256_GCM, or PGP which uses either RSA or ECDSA keys.

Going from the most likely to the least likely, the threats are as follows:

An attacker with access to an AWS console can grant itself access to one of the KMS master keys used to encrypt a sops data key. This threat should be mitigated by protecting AWS accesses with strong controls, such as multi-factor authentication, and also by performing regular audits of permissions granted to AWS users.

PGP keys are routinely mishandled, either because owners copy them from machine to machine, or because the key is left forgotten on an unused machine an attacker gains access to. When using PGP encryption, SOPS users should take special care of PGP private keys, and store them on smart cards or offline as often as possible.

SOPS doesn't apply any restriction on the size or type of PGP keys. A weak PGP keys, for example 512 bits RSA, could be factorized by an attacker to gain access to the private key and decrypt the data key. Users of SOPS should rely on strong keys, such as 2048+ bits RSA keys, or 256+ bits ECDSA keys.

A vulnerability in AES256_GCM could potentially leak the data key or the KMS master key used by a SOPS encrypted file. While no such vulnerability exists today, we recommend that users keep their encrypted files reasonably private.

SOPS will remain backward compatible on the major version, meaning that all improvements brought to the 1.X and 2.X branches (current) will maintain the file format introduced in 1.0.

Please report any security issues privately using GitHub's advisory form.

Mozilla Public License Version 2.0

SOPS was initially launched as a project at Mozilla in 2015 and has been graciously donated to the CNCF as a Sandbox project in 2023, now under the stewardship of a new group of maintainers.

The original authors of the project were:

  • Adrian Utrilla @autrilla
  • Julien Vehent @jvehent

Furthermore, the project has been carried for a long time by AJ Bahnken @ajvb, and had not been possible without the contributions of numerous contributors.

SOPS was inspired by hiera-eyaml, credstash, sneaker, password store and too many years managing PGP encrypted files by hand...

CNCF Sandbox Project

We are a Cloud Native Computing Foundation sandbox project.