Tools for storing encrypted content in Git
Switch branches/tags
Nothing to show
Clone or download
Fetching latest commit…
Cannot retrieve the latest commit at this time.
Failed to load latest commit information.



Gem Version

git-cipher is a utility script for encrypting sensitive files for storage in a public Git repo.


git cipher encrypt [FILES...] # encrypts files
git cipher decrypt [FILES...] # decrypts files
git cipher log [FILES...]     # shows log with (plaintext) diffs
git cipher help


git-cipher is a single Ruby script with no major dependencies beyond Ruby, Git, and GnuPG. As such, it can be run directly from the repo:

git clone

Alternatively, you can install the Gem:

gem install git-cipher

Note: If you install the git-cipher executable somewhere in your $PATH, Git will treat it as a subcommand, which means you can invoke it as git cipher. Otherwise, you will have to provide the full path to the git-cipher executable.

To install the external prerequisites, use your preferred method. For example, on OS X you might choose to use Homebrew:

brew install git gnupg gpg-agent


Selecting a key for encryption and decryption

There are three ways to override the default signing key (which is and probably not useful to anybody other than me):

1. Set the GPG_USER environment variable git cipher decrypt

# or alternatively:
git cipher decrypt

2. Use git-config to set cipher.gpguser

git config cipher.gpguser # per-repo
git config --global cipher.gpguser # globally

3. Edit DEFAULT_GPG_USER in the git-cipher source

This last may be appropriate if you've installed by cloning the Git repo.


This section describes the background and rationale for the design of git-cipher.

git-cipher was originally developed within the context of an Ansible-powered configuration repo. Some of the files contained sensitive information so I couldn't commit them to the repo as plaintext, but I did still want to version control them, so needed to encrypt them prior to committing.

At the time (prior to version 1.5) Ansible didn't have the Vault feature (equivalent to Chef's encrypted data bags), so the git-cipher was developed. When the Vault feature did arrive, I decided to continue using git-cipher because I liked the convenience of being able to work using my normal editor and Ansible workflow (Vault requires you to edit files through the ansible-vault command, and pass special arguments to ansible-playbook when running playbooks).

git-cipher stores encrypted versions of sensitive files in the Git repo with an .encrypted file extension. Before running Ansible commands, we decrypt the necessary files with git cipher decrypt. This works well because Ansible doesn't employ a client-server architecture like Chef or Puppet; it suffices to have the decrypted files available on the local machine where the repo is checked out and the commands are run.

The plain-text versions of the encrypted files should be ignored via the gitignore mechanism (although that is only a recommendation and git-cipher does nothing to enforce the policy, beyond printing a warning when it sees that the plaintext version of an encrypted file is not being ignored).

This approach compares to using git encrypt as recommended in "An example of provisioning and deployment with Ansible". There are a couple of problems with that approach; one is that it uses "deterministic encryption" in the name of convenience, while noting that it is insecure. Additionally, a lengthy thread on the Git mailing list argues that this is an abuse of the clean/smudge filtering system.

We use semantically secure GPG encryption and make use of timestamp comparisons to avoid unnecessary churn (in other words, we only update the encrypted version of a file if the plain text version is newer). Note that we effectively trust the local system's integrity, relying on filesystem encryption, filesystem permissions, and the general security of the system to keep the plain-text safe. Also note that, like the clean/smudge filtering, we are effectively forgoing some of the niceties that Git offers (compression, meaningful diffs etc) in exchange for security. (But note: you can also split your encrypted content across smaller individual files and then pull the values from those files into a template, preserving the ability to get meaningful diffs of the template files themselves. The log subcommand also goes some way towards providing visualization of change over time in encrypted files.)

Although git-cipher can be obtained as a RubyGem, the executable itself is, by-design, a single file. This is to reduce the dependency footprint, making it more suitable for use in boot-strapped environments (which might not have RubyGems installed yet).


You may see prompts like the following, depending on the trust level of your signing key:

It is NOT certain that the key belongs to the person named
in the user ID.  If you *really* know what you are doing,
you may answer the next question with yes.

You can avoid these prompts by setting the trust level to "ultimate" like this:

gpg --edit-key # or $GPG_USER
> trust
> quit


git-cipher was hacked together by Greg Hurrell (


This is minimal, currently with no tests, no Bundler, no Rakefile. To cut a new release, update the version number in the gemspec and:

git tag -s 0.2 -m "0.2 release"
git push --follow-tags origin master
gem build git-cipher.gemspec
gem push git-cipher-0.2.gem


git-cipher is licensed under the MIT license. See the LICENSE.txt file in the git-cipher repo for more details.