Credential Encryption

Credential Encryption

As of the Newton release, keystone encrypts all credentials stored in the default sql backend. Credentials are encrypted with the same mechanism used to encrypt Fernet tokens, fernet. Keystone provides only one type of credential encryption but the encryption provider is pluggable in the event you wish to supply a custom implementation.

This document details how credential encryption works, how to migrate existing credentials in a deployment, and how to manage encryption keys for credentials.

Configuring credential encryption

The configuration for credential encryption is straightforward. There are only two configuration options needed:

provider = fernet
key_repository = /etc/keystone/credential-keys/

[credential] provider defaults to the only option supplied by keystone, fernet. There is no reason to change this option unless you wish to provide a custom credential encryption implementation. The [credential] key_repository location is a requirement of using fernet but will default to the /etc/keystone/credential-keys/ directory. Both [credential] key_repository and [fernet_tokens] key_repository define locations for keys used to encrypt things. One holds the keys to encrypt and decrypt credentials and the other holds keys to encrypt and decrypt tokens. It is imperative that these repositories are managed separately and they must not share keys. Meaning they cannot share the same directory path. The [credential] key_repository is only allowed to have three keys. This is not configurable and allows for credentials to be re-encrypted periodically with a new encryption key for the sake of security.

How credential encryption works

The implementation of this feature did not change any existing credential API contracts. All changes are transparent to the user unless you’re inspecting the credential backend directly.

When creating a credential, keystone will encrypt the blob attribute before persisting it to the backend. Keystone will also store a hash of the key that was used to encrypt the information in that credential. Since Fernet is used to encrypt credentials, a key repository consists of multiple keys. Keeping track of which key was used to encrypt each credential is an important part of encryption key management. Why this is important is detailed later in the Encryption key management section.

When updating an existing credential’s blob attribute, keystone will encrypt the new blob and update the key hash.

When listing or showing credentials, all blob attributes are decrypted in the response. Neither the cipher text, nor the hash of the key used to encrypt the blob are exposed through the API. Furthermore, the key is only used internally to keystone.

Encrypting existing credentials

When upgrading a Mitaka deployment to Newton, three database migrations will ensure all credentials are encrypted. The process is as follows:

  1. An additive schema change is made to create the new encrypted_blob and key_hash columns in the existing credential table using keystone-manage db_sync --expand.
  2. A data migration will loop through all existing credentials, encrypt each blob and store the result in the new encrypted_blob column. The hash of the key used is also written to the key_hash column for that specific credential. This step is done using keystone-manage db_sync --migrate.
  3. A contractive schema will remove the blob column that held the plain text representations of the credential using keystone-manage db_sync --contract. This should only be done after all nodes in the deployment are running Newton. If any Mitaka nodes are running after the database is contracted, they won’t be able to read credentials since they are looking for the blob column that no longer exists.


You may also use keystone-manage db_sync --check in order to check the current status of your rolling upgrades.

If performing a rolling upgrade, please note that a limited service outage will take affect during this migration. When the migration is in place, credentials will become read-only until the database is contracted. After the contract phase is complete, credentials will be writeable to the backend. A [credential] key_repository location must be specified through configuration and bootstrapped with keys using keystone-manage credential_setup prior to migrating any existing credentials. If a new key repository isn’t setup using keystone-manage credential_setup keystone will assume a null key to encrypt and decrypt credentials until a proper key repository is present. The null key is a key consisting of all null bytes and its only purpose is to ease the upgrade process from Mitaka to Newton. It is highly recommended that the null key isn’t used. It is no more secure than storing credentials in plain text. If the null key is used, you should migrate to a proper key repository using keystone-manage credential_setup and keystone-manage credential_migrate.

Encryption key management

Key management of [credential] key_repository is handled with three keystone-manage commands:

  1. keystone-manage credential_setup
  2. keystone-manage credential_rotate
  3. keystone-manage credential_migrate

keystone-manage credential_setup will populate [credential] key_repository with new encryption keys. This must be done in order for proper credential encryption to work, with the exception of the null key. This step should only be done once.

keystone-manage credential_rotate will create and rotate a new encryption key in the [credential] key_repository. This will only be done if all credential key hashes match the hash of the current primary key. If any credential has been encrypted with an older key, or secondary key, the rotation will fail. Failing the rotation is necessary to prevent overrotation, which would leave some credentials indecipherable since the key used to encrypt it no longer exists. If this step fails, it is possible to forcibly re-key all credentials using the same primary key with keystone-manage credential_migrate.

keystone-manage credential_migrate will check the backend for credentials whose key hash doesn’t match the hash of the current primary key. Any credentials with a key hash mismatching the current primary key will be re-encrypted with the current primary key. The new cipher text and key hash will be updated in the backend.

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