Managing Secrets in the Cloud: How Google Cloud Secret Manager Helps


Google Cloud Secret Manager is a secure storage solution for sensitive information, such as passwords, API keys, and certificates. It provides a centralized location for managing and protecting these secrets and integrates with other Google Cloud services such as Cloud Identity and Access Management (IAM) to provide a comprehensive security solution. The service allows for the hierarchical organization of secrets and various levels of access control and permissions. Additionally, Secret Manager offers an automatic rotation of secrets, audit logging, and integration with Cloud Identity-Aware Proxy (IAP) to bolster the security of the stored information further.

GCP Secret Manager

Key features of Secret Manager

Some of the key features of GCP Secret Manager include:

Encryption: Secret Manager uses encryption to protect the secrets that you store in it. Storing plain text is subject to risk. Hence, it is required to encrypt the data using KMS and persist it in Secret Manager. Encryption of secrets are performed by default using AES-256 algorithms. It is called Google Managed encryption. One can encrypt data using Customer Managed Encryption Keys (CMEK).

Access control: You can use Secret Manager to control access to secrets based on the identity of the person or service accessing the secrets.

Auditing: Secret Manager logs all access to secrets, allowing you to track who has accessed them and when.

Integration with other Google Cloud services: You can use Secret Manager with other Google Cloud services, such as Compute Engine and Kubernetes Engine, to inject secrets into your applications.

Versioning: Secret Manager supports versioning, to store multiple versions of a secret and roll back to a previous version if needed. One can access any version of Secrets.

Rest API: Secret Manager provides a REST API that you can use to manage secrets programmatically.

Replication Policies: Secret names are global. Secret values can be stored such that it is accessible in a particular region or many regions. For high availability secrets are recommended to be replicated across multiple regions. In the event one region becomes unavailable, we shall still be able to get our secrets from other regions.

Operations performed using GCP Secret Manager

• Create a Secret – You can use GCP Secret Manager to store and manage sensitive data such as API keys, passwords, and other confidential information. You can create a secret by specifying the secret’s name and the data to be stored. You can also set access controls to determine who can access the secret.

• Add a version to secret – As your secrets change over time, you can add new versions of a secret to keep your data current and secure. This can be useful for rotating secrets automatically or manually.

• Specifying replication policy – With GCP Secret Manager, you can specify a replication policy to determine how and where secrets are replicated. This can help enhance the security and reliability of your secrets.

• Set an expiration date for a secret – You can set an expiration date for a secret to automate secret rotation. When the expiration date is reached, the secret will be automatically disabled, and you can create a new version of the secret with updated data.

• Enable CMEK for Secret Manager – You can use Cloud Key Management Service (CMEK) to encrypt secrets stored in Secret Manager. This can provide an additional layer of security for your sensitive data.

• Access a secret version – You can use the Secret Manager API or the Secret Manager library to access a specific version of a secret in your applications or systems. You can also use the Cloud Console to view the data contained in a secret.

• Disable a secret version – You can disable a specific version of a secret to temporarily block access to it. This can be useful for security or maintenance purposes.

• Enable a disabled secret version – If you have disabled a secret version, you can re-enable it to allow access to the secret again. This allows you to temporarily block access to a secret for security or maintenance purposes, and then restore access when needed.

• Destroy a secret – You can permanently delete a secret and all its versions using the Destroy operation. This is an irreversible action, so use caution when destroying secrets.

• Assign an alias to a secret – You can assign an alias to a specific version of a secret to easily reference it. This can be helpful when you have multiple versions of a secret and want to easily access a specific version.

• Ensure data integrity – Ensuring data integrity is an essential operation for managing secrets with GCP Secret Manager. Data integrity refers to the accuracy and consistency of data over its entire lifecycle. To ensure data integrity with Secret Manager, you can use features such as fine-grained access controls, auditing, encryption, and secret expiration to protect secrets from unauthorized access and tampering, and to keep data current and accurate.

• Audit Logging – GCP write audit trails so that one can find out who did what, when and from where?

• Setup notification for secret – Event notification sends information about changes to secrets. These notifications can be used to trigger arbitrary workflows.

Conclusion

With any tool or service, it is important to continue learning about best practices for secure secrets management to protect sensitive information. Google Cloud Platform’s Secret Manager is a powerful tool for securely storing and managing sensitive information. It provides a centralized and encrypted storage location for secrets, such as API keys, passwords, and certificates, and allows for easy retrieval and rotation of secrets. Overall, GCP Secret Manager is a robust and convenient solution for managing sensitive information in a cloud environment.

“As more businesses turn to the cloud to store and manage their data, it’s crucial to have a solid understanding of data security best practices.”

Manoj Tiwari

VP, Technology Management