age-encrypted secrets for NixOS
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README.md

agenix - age-encrypted secrets for NixOS

agenix is a small and convenient Nix library for securely managing and deploying secrets using common public-private SSH key pairs: You can encrypt a secret (password, access-token, etc.) on a source machine using a number of public SSH keys, and deploy that encrypted secret to any another target machine that has the corresponding private SSH key of one of those public keys.
This project contains two parts:

  1. An agenix commandline app (CLI) to encrypt secrets into secured .age files that can be copied into the Nix store.
  2. An agenix NixOS module to conveniently
    • add those encrypted secrets (.age files) into the Nix store so that they can be deployed like any other Nix package using nixos-rebuild or similar tools.
    • automatically decrypt on a target machine using the private SSH keys on that machine
    • automatically mount these decrypted secrets on a well known path like /run/agenix/... to be consumed.

Contents

Problem and solution

All files in the Nix store are readable by any system user, so it is not a suitable place for including cleartext secrets. Many existing tools (like NixOps deployment.keys) deploy secrets separately from nixos-rebuild, making deployment, caching, and auditing more difficult. Out-of-band secret management is also less reproducible.

agenix solves these issues by using your pre-existing SSH key infrastructure and age to encrypt secrets into the Nix store. Secrets are decrypted using an SSH host private key during NixOS system activation.

Features

  • Secrets are encrypted with SSH keys
  • No GPG
  • Very little code, so it should be easy for you to audit
  • Encrypted secrets are stored in the Nix store, so a separate distribution mechanism is not necessary

Notices

  • Password-protected ssh keys: since age does not support ssh-agent, password-protected ssh keys do not work well. For example, if you need to rekey 20 secrets you will have to enter your password 20 times.

Installation

Install via niv

First add it to niv:

$ niv add ryantm/agenix

Install module via niv

Then add the following to your configuration.nix in the imports list:

{
  imports = [ "${(import ./nix/sources.nix).agenix}/modules/age.nix" ];
}

Install CLI via niv

To install the agenix binary:

{
  environment.systemPackages = [ (pkgs.callPackage "${(import ./nix/sources.nix).agenix}/pkgs/agenix.nix" {}) ];
}

Install via nix-channel

As root run:

$ sudo nix-channel --add https://github.com/ryantm/agenix/archive/main.tar.gz agenix
$ sudo nix-channel --update

Install module via nix-channel

Then add the following to your configuration.nix in the imports list:

{
  imports = [ <agenix/modules/age.nix> ];
}

Install CLI via nix-channel

To install the agenix binary:

{
  environment.systemPackages = [ (pkgs.callPackage <agenix/pkgs/agenix.nix> {}) ];
}

Install via fetchTarball

Install module via fetchTarball

Add the following to your configuration.nix:

{
  imports = [ "${builtins.fetchTarball "https://github.com/ryantm/agenix/archive/main.tar.gz"}/modules/age.nix" ];
}

or with pinning:

{
  imports = let
    # replace this with an actual commit id or tag
    commit = "298b235f664f925b433614dc33380f0662adfc3f";
  in [
    "${builtins.fetchTarball {
      url = "https://github.com/ryantm/agenix/archive/${commit}.tar.gz";
      # update hash from nix build output
      sha256 = "";
    }}/modules/age.nix"
  ];
}

Install CLI via fetchTarball

To install the agenix binary:

{
  environment.systemPackages = [ (pkgs.callPackage "${builtins.fetchTarball "https://github.com/ryantm/agenix/archive/main.tar.gz"}/pkgs/agenix.nix" {}) ];
}

Install via Flakes

Install module via Flakes

{
  inputs.agenix.url = "github:ryantm/agenix";
  # optional, not necessary for the module
  #inputs.agenix.inputs.nixpkgs.follows = "nixpkgs";
  # optionally choose not to download darwin deps (saves some resources on Linux)
  #inputs.agenix.inputs.darwin.follows = "";

  outputs = { self, nixpkgs, agenix }: {
    # change `yourhostname` to your actual hostname
    nixosConfigurations.yourhostname = nixpkgs.lib.nixosSystem {
      # change to your system:
      system = "x86_64-linux";
      modules = [
        ./configuration.nix
        agenix.nixosModules.default
      ];
    };
  };
}

Install CLI via Flakes

You can run the CLI tool ad-hoc without installing it:

nix run github:ryantm/agenix -- --help

But you can also add it permanently into a NixOS module (replace system "x86_64-linux" with your system):

{
  environment.systemPackages = [ agenix.packages.x86_64-linux.default ];
}

e.g. inside your flake.nix file:

{
  inputs.agenix.url = "github:ryantm/agenix";
  # ...

  outputs = { self, nixpkgs, agenix }: {
    # change `yourhostname` to your actual hostname
    nixosConfigurations.yourhostname = nixpkgs.lib.nixosSystem {
      system = "x86_64-linux";
      modules = [
        # ...
        {
          environment.systemPackages = [ agenix.packages.${system}.default ];
        }
      ];
    };
  };
}

Tutorial

  1. The system you want to deploy secrets to should already exist and have sshd running on it so that it has generated SSH host keys in /etc/ssh/.

  2. Make a directory to store secrets and secrets.nix file for listing secrets and their public keys:

    $ mkdir secrets
    $ cd secrets
    $ touch secrets.nix
    

    This secrets.nix file is not imported into your NixOS configuration. It's only used for the agenix CLI tool (example below) to know which public keys to use for encryption.

  3. Add public keys to your secrets.nix file:

    let
      user1 = "ssh-ed25519 AAAAC3NzaC1lZDI1NTE5AAAAIL0idNvgGiucWgup/mP78zyC23uFjYq0evcWdjGQUaBH";
      user2 = "ssh-ed25519 AAAAC3NzaC1lZDI1NTE5AAAAILI6jSq53F/3hEmSs+oq9L4TwOo1PrDMAgcA1uo1CCV/";
      users = [ user1 user2 ];
    
      system1 = "ssh-ed25519 AAAAC3NzaC1lZDI1NTE5AAAAIPJDyIr/FSz1cJdcoW69R+NrWzwGK/+3gJpqD1t8L2zE";
      system2 = "ssh-ed25519 AAAAC3NzaC1lZDI1NTE5AAAAIKzxQgondgEYcLpcPdJLrTdNgZ2gznOHCAxMdaceTUT1";
      systems = [ system1 system2 ];
    in
    {
      "secret1.age".publicKeys = [ user1 system1 ];
      "secret2.age".publicKeys = users ++ systems;
    }
    

    These are the users and systems that will be able to decrypt the .age files later with their corresponding private keys. You can obtain the public keys from

    • your local computer usually in ~/.ssh, e.g. ~/.ssh/id_ed25519.pub.
    • from a running target machine with ssh-keyscan:
      $ ssh-keyscan <ip-address>
      ... ssh-ed25519 AAAAC3NzaC1lZDI1NTE5AAAAIKzxQgondgEYcLpcPdJLrTdNgZ2gznOHCAxMdaceTUT1
      ...
      
    • from GitHub like https://github.com/ryantm.keys.
  4. Create a secret file:

    $ agenix -e secret1.age
    

    It will open a temporary file in the app configured in your $EDITOR environment variable. When you save that file its content will be encrypted with all the public keys mentioned in the secrets.nix file.

  5. Add secret to a NixOS module config:

    {
      age.secrets.secret1.file = ../secrets/secret1.age;
    }
    

    When the age.secrets attribute set contains a secret, the agenix NixOS module will later automatically decrypt and mount that secret under the default path /run/agenix/secret1. Here the secret1.age file becomes part of your NixOS deployment, i.e. moves into the Nix store.

  6. Reference the secrets' mount path in your config:

    {
      users.users.user1 = {
        isNormalUser = true;
        passwordFile = config.age.secrets.secret1.path;
      };
    }
    

    You can reference the mount path to the (later) unencrypted secret already in your other configuration. So config.age.secrets.secret1.path will contain the path /run/agenix/secret1 by default.

  7. Use nixos-rebuild or another deployment tool of choice as usual.

    The secret1.age file will be copied over to the target machine like any other Nix package. Then it will be decrypted and mounted as described before.

  8. Edit secret files:

    $ agenix -e secret1.age
    

    It assumes your SSH private key is in ~/.ssh/. In order to decrypt and open a .age file for editing you need the private key of one of the public keys it was encrypted with. You can pass the private key you want to use explicitly with -i, e.g.

    $ agenix -e secret1.age -i ~/.ssh/id_ed25519
    

Reference

age module reference

age.secrets

age.secrets attrset of secrets. You always need to use this configuration option. Defaults to {}.

age.secrets.<name>.file

age.secrets.<name>.file is the path to the encrypted .age for this secret. This is the only required secret option.

Example:

{
  age.secrets.monitrc.file = ../secrets/monitrc.age;
}

age.secrets.<name>.path

age.secrets.<name>.path is the path where the secret is decrypted to. Defaults to /run/agenix/<name> (config.age.secretsDir/<name>).

Example defining a different path:

{
  age.secrets.monitrc = {
    file = ../secrets/monitrc.age;
    path = "/etc/monitrc";
  };
}

For many services, you do not need to set this. Instead, refer to the decryption path in your configuration with config.age.secrets.<name>.path.

Example referring to path:

{
  users.users.ryantm = {
    isNormalUser = true;
    passwordFile = config.age.secrets.passwordfile-ryantm.path;
  };
}
builtins.readFile anti-pattern
{
  # Do not do this!
  config.password = builtins.readFile config.age.secrets.secret1.path;
}

This can cause the cleartext to be placed into the world-readable Nix store. Instead, have your services read the cleartext path at runtime.

age.secrets.<name>.mode

age.secrets.<name>.mode is permissions mode of the decrypted secret in a format understood by chmod. Usually, you only need to use this in combination with age.secrets.<name>.owner and age.secrets.<name>.group

Example:

{
  age.secrets.nginx-htpasswd = {
    file = ../secrets/nginx.htpasswd.age;
    mode = "770";
    owner = "nginx";
    group = "nginx";
  };
}

age.secrets.<name>.owner

age.secrets.<name>.owner is the username of the decrypted file's owner. Usually, you only need to use this in combination with age.secrets.<name>.mode and age.secrets.<name>.group

Example:

{
  age.secrets.nginx-htpasswd = {
    file = ../secrets/nginx.htpasswd.age;
    mode = "770";
    owner = "nginx";
    group = "nginx";
  };
}

age.secrets.<name>.group

age.secrets.<name>.group is the name of the decrypted file's group. Usually, you only need to use this in combination with age.secrets.<name>.owner and age.secrets.<name>.mode

Example:

{
  age.secrets.nginx-htpasswd = {
    file = ../secrets/nginx.htpasswd.age;
    mode = "770";
    owner = "nginx";
    group = "nginx";
  };
}

age.secrets.<name>.symlink is a boolean. If true (the default), secrets are symlinked to age.secrets.<name>.path. If false, secrets are copied to age.secrets.<name>.path. Usually, you want to keep this as true, because it secure cleanup of secrets no longer used. (The symlink will still be there, but it will be broken.) If false, you are responsible for cleaning up your own secrets after you stop using them.

Some programs do not like following symlinks (for example Java programs like Elasticsearch).

Example:

{
  age.secrets."elasticsearch.conf" = {
    file = ../secrets/elasticsearch.conf.age;
    symlink = false;
  };
}

age.secrets.<name>.name

age.secrets.<name>.name is the string of the name of the file after it is decrypted. Defaults to the <name> in the attrpath, but can be set separately if you want the file name to be different from the attribute name part.

Example of a secret with a name different from its attrpath:

{
  age.secrets.monit = {
    name = "monitrc";
    file = ../secrets/monitrc.age;
  };
}

age.ageBin

age.ageBin the string of the path to the age binary. Usually, you don't need to change this. Defaults to age/bin/age.

Overriding age.ageBin example:

{pkgs, ...}:{
    age.ageBin = "${pkgs.age}/bin/age";
}

age.identityPaths

age.identityPaths is a list of paths to recipient keys to try to use to decrypt the secrets. By default, it is the rsa and ed25519 keys in config.services.openssh.hostKeys, and on NixOS you usually don't need to change this. The list items should be strings ("/path/to/id_rsa"), not nix paths (../path/to/id_rsa), as the latter would copy your private key to the nix store, which is the exact situation agenix is designed to avoid. At least one of the file paths must be present at runtime and able to decrypt the secret in question. Overriding age.identityPaths example:

{
    age.identityPaths = [ "/var/lib/persistent/ssh_host_ed25519_key" ];
}

age.secretsDir

age.secretsDir is the directory where secrets are symlinked to by default. Usually, you don't need to change this. Defaults to /run/agenix.

Overriding age.secretsDir example:

{
    age.secretsDir = "/run/keys";
}

age.secretsMountPoint

age.secretsMountPoint is the directory where the secret generations are created before they are symlinked. Usually, you don't need to change this. Defaults to /run/agenix.d.

Overriding age.secretsMountPoint example:

{
    age.secretsMountPoint = "/run/secret-generations";
}

agenix CLI reference

agenix - edit and rekey age secret files

agenix -e FILE [-i PRIVATE_KEY]
agenix -r [-i PRIVATE_KEY]

options:
-h, --help                show help
-e, --edit FILE           edits FILE using $EDITOR
-r, --rekey               re-encrypts all secrets with specified recipients
-d, --decrypt FILE        decrypts FILE to STDOUT
-i, --identity            identity to use when decrypting
-v, --verbose             verbose output

FILE an age-encrypted file

PRIVATE_KEY a path to a private SSH key used to decrypt file

EDITOR environment variable of editor to use when editing FILE

If STDIN is not interactive, EDITOR will be set to "cp /dev/stdin"

RULES environment variable with path to Nix file specifying recipient public keys.
Defaults to './secrets.nix'

Rekeying

If you change the public keys in secrets.nix, you should rekey your secrets:

$ agenix --rekey

To rekey a secret, you have to be able to decrypt it. Because of randomness in age's encryption algorithms, the files always change when rekeyed, even if the identities do not. (This eventually could be improved upon by reading the identities from the age file.)

Overriding age binary

The agenix CLI uses age by default as its age implemenation, you can use the rage implementation with Flakes like this:

{pkgs,agenix,...}:{
  environment.systemPackages = [
    (agenix.packages.x86_64-linux.default.override { ageBin = "${pkgs.rage}/bin/rage"; })
  ];
}

Community and Support

Support and development discussion is available here on GitHub and also through Matrix.

Threat model/Warnings

This project has not been audited by a security professional.

People unfamiliar with age might be surprised that secrets are not authenticated. This means that every attacker that has write access to the secret files can modify secrets because public keys are exposed. This seems like not a problem on the first glance because changing the configuration itself could expose secrets easily. However, reviewing configuration changes is easier than reviewing random secrets (for example, 4096-bit rsa keys). This would be solved by having a message authentication code (MAC) like other implementations like GPG or sops have, however this was left out for simplicity in age.

Contributing

  • The main branch is protected against direct pushes
  • All changes must go through GitHub PR review and get at least one approval
  • PR titles and commit messages should be prefixed with at least one of these categories:
    • contrib - things that make the project development better
    • doc - documentation
    • feature - new features
    • fix - bug fixes
  • Please update or make integration tests for new features
  • Use nix fmt to format nix code

Tests

You can run the tests with

nix flake check

You can run the integration tests in interactive mode like this:

nix run .#checks.x86_64-linux.integration.driverInteractive

After it starts, enter run_tests() to run the tests.

Acknowledgements

This project is based off of sops-nix created Mic92. Thank you to Mic92 for inspiration and advice.