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Storing secrets in version control

This sample contains two projects:

  • SecretsInVcs: stores secret in config file
  • SecretsInVcsDoneBetter: stores secret in Azure Key Vault

The sample app here is a console app meant to sync data from EmployeeApi to another data store. It needs a client secret to acquire an access token to call the API. In the first project the secret is in the appsettings.json file. This is usually not a good idea.

The configuration only uses the JSON file:

private static IConfiguration BuildConfig()
    // We use an appsettings.json file as the configuration source
    // It should not be the place for secrets as it is in this case
    var builder = new ConfigurationBuilder()
        .AddJsonFile("appsettings.json", optional: true, reloadOnChange: true);
    return builder.Build();

The second project does it better by fetching additional configuration from an Azure Key Vault. It uses the logged-in user's credentials from Visual Studio (Tools/Options/Azure Service Authentication), or it can use the logged-in user of the AZ CLI. If deployed to Azure, the same code could be used to utilize a Managed Identity.

To test this you'll need to:

  • Create an Azure Key Vault
  • (optional) Create a group in Azure AD and assign the user(s) in it
  • Assign the user(s)/group to an access policy in Key Vault (secrets list + get)
  • Add the client secret as a secret in Key Vault with name ClientSecret

The configuration builder is only slightly different:

private static IConfiguration BuildConfig()
    var builder = new ConfigurationBuilder()
        .AddJsonFile("appsettings.json", optional: true, reloadOnChange: true);

    // Build config so we can get KeyVault URL from config
    var config = builder.Build();
    // Add KeyVault as configuration source
    var keyVaultUrl = config["KeyVaultUrl"];
    return builder.Build();

Don't put secrets in version control, it increases the amount of people with access to the secrets. Usually many of those people do not need the access.


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