10 Hashicorp Vault Best Practices

Hashicorp Vault is a powerful tool, but it's important to use it correctly. Here are 10 best practices to follow.

Hashicorp Vault is a popular open source tool for secrets management, used by many companies to protect sensitive data. As with any tool, there are best practices to follow to get the most out of Vault and to keep your data safe. In this article, we will discuss 10 of the most important Hashicorp Vault best practices.

1. Enable Audit Logging

Audit logs provide a complete history of every action that has been taken in Vault. This includes information like the user who took the action, the time it occurred, and what data was accessed.

This is valuable information to have for a number of reasons. First, it can help you troubleshoot issues that may arise. Second, it can be used to detect and prevent malicious activity. And finally, it can be used to meet compliance requirements.

Enabling audit logging is easy to do and only requires a few steps.

2. Use Namespaces to Separate Environments and Teams

When you have multiple environments, it’s important to keep them separate so that one team’s changes don’t unintentionally affect another. For example, you wouldn’t want your production environment to be impacted by changes made in your development or staging environments.

Similarly, when you have multiple teams working in Hashicorp Vault, it’s important to use namespaces to keep their data separate. This way, one team can’t accidentally delete or modify another team’s data.

Using namespaces is the best way to ensure that your Hashicorp Vault deployment is organized and efficient.

3. Store Sensitive Data in Transit Encrypted with TLS

When data is in transit, it is vulnerable to interception by third parties. This is especially true if the data is being sent over an unsecured network, such as the internet.

To protect data in transit, you should encrypt it using TLS (Transport Layer Security). TLS is a protocol that provides communication security over the internet. It uses encryption to prevent eavesdropping and ensure that data cannot be tampered with in transit.

Hashicorp Vault supports TLS encryption for all data in transit. This means that any data sent to or from Vault is encrypted using TLS. This includes data sent between Vault servers and clients, as well as data sent between Vault servers and storage backends.

TLS encryption is important because it helps to ensure that data remains confidential and integrity during transit.

4. Create Multiple Policies for Different Users

When you have different policies for different users, it allows you to granularly control who has access to what. For example, you might have a policy that gives read-only access to certain secrets, while another policy gives full access to all secrets.

This is important because it means that if one user’s credentials are compromised, the attacker will only be able to access the secrets that user has access to. They won’t be able to escalate their privileges and gain access to other secrets.

Creating multiple policies also makes it easier to manage permissions, as you can simply add or remove a user from a policy rather than having to update each individual secret.

5. Rotate Secrets Regularly

If a secret is compromised, the sooner you rotate it, the less damage that can be done. By regularly rotating secrets, you limit the amount of time that a bad actor has to work with any given secret.

How often you rotate secrets will depend on your organization and how sensitive the data is that’s being protected. But as a general rule, it’s best to err on the side of caution and rotate more frequently rather than less.

Hashicorp Vault makes it easy to rotate secrets with their built-in rotation capabilities. Simply specify the frequency with which you want secrets to be rotated, and Hashicorp Vault will take care of the rest.

6. Limit Access to the Root Token

The root token is essentially the “master key” to your hashicorp vault. It gives whoever has it full access to all of the secrets and data stored in your vault. That’s why it’s so important to limit who has access to it.

Ideally, you should only give the root token to a handful of people who absolutely need it, and even then, you should have a process in place for revoking and issuing new root tokens on a regular basis.

Additionally, you should make sure that your root token is stored securely. One way to do this is to use Hashicorp’s Vault Enterprise feature, which allows you to store your root token in an HSM (Hardware Security Module).

7. Use Dynamic Secrets Instead of Static Ones

If an attacker were to gain access to your static secrets, they would have access to them forever. With dynamic secrets, the secrets are only valid for a certain amount of time, so if an attacker were to gain access to them, they would only have access for that limited time period.

This is a much more secure way of handling secrets, and it’s one of the best practices that Hashicorp recommends.

8. Don’t Share Tokens Between Applications

When you create a new token in Vault, it’s automatically associated with the policies of the application that created it. So if you use that same token in another application, it will inherit the policies of that application as well.

This can be a major security risk because it means that a single token now has access to multiple applications. If that token is compromised, all of those applications are now at risk.

To avoid this, make sure to create a new token for each application. That way, even if one token is compromised, the others will still be safe.

9. Avoid Hard-Coding Secrets in Configuration Files

If an attacker were to gain access to one of your servers, they would then have access to any secrets that are hard-coded in configuration files on that server. This would give them the ability to masquerade as other users, access sensitive data, and potentially wreak havoc on your systems.

Instead of hard-coding secrets in configuration files, you should use Hashicorp Vault’s dynamic secret generation capabilities. This way, secrets are only stored in memory and are never written to disk. If an attacker were to gain access to a server, they would not be able to retrieve any secrets from it.

10. Don’t Leak Vault Credentials

If an attacker gets their hands on your Vault credentials, they can access all of the secrets stored in Vault. They can also use those secrets to launch attacks against other systems, potentially causing a lot of damage.

To prevent this from happening, it’s important to follow some basic security best practices. For example, never store Vault credentials in plain text. Instead, encrypt them using a tool like GnuPG or Hashicorp Vault’s built-in encryption feature.

It’s also a good idea to use a strong password for your Vault account. A password manager can help you generate and manage strong passwords. Finally, make sure to enable two-factor authentication for your Vault account. This will add an extra layer of security, making it much harder for an attacker to gain access to your account.


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