KeyVault Secrets with PowerShell

KeyVault Secrets with PowerShell

Azure KeyVault is a mechanism for storing, retrieving and maintaining secured values in the cloud. The secure bit can be a challenging when working this out for the first time, particularly with some of the examples you can find out there.

The kinds of use cases I am thinking about is storing the secrets in one location/context and then allowing them to be read from another location/context with the minimumn exchanged information. Perhaps setting up a VM that needs lots of settings, credentials etc. but passing them all around in a document or script would be onerous. To me, this always means using a temporary account like a service principal which can be granted access then deleted after the work has been completed.

Setup and Storage

First we need to check for and create a new key vault. If the keyvault has been created and since deleted, you will get an error here. The whole point of keyvault is to store secrets so the next thing is to start pushing key-value pairs of all of our deepest, darkest secrets into the key vault. Note that the secret needs to be a secure string here.

With the key vault created, we need to create a service principal. New-AzADServicePrincipal returns an object that contains the application id (the 'user name' for this account) and the secret (the 'password'). You need to make sure you store these values for use later. The application id will be visible in the Azure portal but the secret will be lost forever if you don't capture it now. Note that the secret is a secure string so may need unsecuring if you want to be able to read it.

The last thing is to use Set-AzKeyVaultAccessPolicy to allow the service principal access to the key vault to read secrets. I have gone overboard a little in the example allowing access to create and delete too to show the range of features but in practice I would only grant read access and have a pre-defined list of keys I want to read from.


$KeyVaultName = "$($ResourceGroupName)-kv"

Write-Verbose "Checking for key vault $KeyVaultName in $ResourceGroupName"
$KeyVault = Get-AzKeyVault -VaultName $KeyVaultName -ResourceGroupName $ResourceGroupName -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue

If ($null -eq $KeyVault) {
    Write-Verbose "Creating new key vault $KeyVaultName in $ResourceGroupName"
    $KeyVault = New-AzKeyVault -Name $KeyVaultName -ResourceGroupName $ResourceGroupName -Location $Location -EnabledForDeployment -EnabledForTemplateDeployment -Sku Standard -SoftDeleteRetentionInDays 7

$Secrets = @(
    @{ Key = 'My Sinsiter Secret'; Value = 'I am not telling you' }

$Secrets | ForEach-Object {
    $Key = $_.Key
    $Value = $_.Value

    $Secret = ConvertTo-SecureString -String $Value -AsPlainText -Force
    Set-AzKeyVaultSecret -VaultName $KeyVaultName -Name $Key -SecretValue $Secret | Out-Null

$ServicePrincipal = New-AzADServicePrincipal  -DisplayName 'MyLovelySP'

# Store these values !!!
$UserName = $ServicePrincipal.ApplicationId
$Password = [System.Runtime.InteropServices.Marshal]::PtrToStringAuto([System.Runtime.InteropServices.Marshal]::SecureStringToBSTR($ServicePrincipal.Secret))

Set-AzKeyVaultAccessPolicy -VaultName $KeyVaultName -ServicePrincipalName $ServicePrincipal.ApplicationId -PermissionsToKeys create,import,delete,list -PermissionsToSecrets set,delete 

That completes the storage and setup of the secrets, now some time later, we want to be able to read them back.

Access and Reading

Given some basic information, in our case, the tenant id (found in the Overview page of the AAD blade), the application id and secret you captured from the first part, and the name of the key vault, we can start retrieving secrets.

In the context removed from the original setup where an automation script is running, we don't have a human logged in, so we connect to Azure using the service principal details from earlier but call the same cmdlet Connect-AzAccount and make sure to include the switch to tell it this account is a service principal.

Each secret can then be read back, again as a secure string, given the name of the key vault and the name of the secret we setup originally.


# Requires Module Az

$Tenant = 'my-tenant-guid-from-AAD-overview-page-in-portal'
$ApplicationId = 'application-id-guid-from-earlier'
$Secret = 'service-principal-secret-from-earlier'
$VaultName = 'key-vault-name'

# Authenticate against Azure
[SecureString]$pwd = ConvertTo-SecureString $Secret -AsPlainText -Force
[PSCredential]$Credential = New-Object System.Management.Automation.PSCredential($ApplicationId, $pwd)
Connect-AzAccount -Credential $Credential -Tenant $Tenant -ServicePrincipal

# Now we can get secrets. 
$Value = Get-AzKeyVaultSecret -VaultName $VaultName -Name 'My Sinister Secret'
$InsecureValue = [System.Runtime.InteropServices.Marshal]::PtrToStringAuto([System.Runtime.InteropServices.Marshal]::SecureStringToBSTR($Value.SecretValue))
Write-Output $InsecureValue