Fix Python – How can I save my secret keys and password securely in my version control system?


Asked By – Chris W.

I keep important settings like the hostnames and ports of development and production servers in my version control system. But I know that it’s bad practice to keep secrets (like private keys and database passwords) in a VCS repository.

But passwords–like any other setting–seem like they should be versioned. So what is the proper way to keep passwords version controlled?

I imagine it would involve keeping the secrets in their own “secrets settings” file and having that file encrypted and version controlled. But what technologies? And how to do this properly? Is there a better way entirely to go about it?

I ask the question generally, but in my specific instance I would like to store secret keys and passwords for a Django/Python site using git and github.

Also, an ideal solution would do something magical when I push/pull with git–e.g., if the encrypted passwords file changes a script is run which asks for a password and decrypts it into place.

EDIT: For clarity, I am asking about where to store production secrets.

Now we will see solution for issue: How can I save my secret keys and password securely in my version control system?


Heroku pushes the use of environment variables for settings and secret keys:

The traditional approach for handling such config vars is to put them under source – in a properties file of some sort. This is an error-prone process, and is especially complicated for open source apps which often have to maintain separate (and private) branches with app-specific configurations.

A better solution is to use environment variables, and keep the keys out of the code. On a traditional host or working locally you can set environment vars in your bashrc. On Heroku, you use config vars.

With Foreman and .env files Heroku provide an enviable toolchain to export, import and synchronise environment variables.

Personally, I believe it’s wrong to save secret keys alongside code. It’s fundamentally inconsistent with source control, because the keys are for services extrinsic to the the code. The one boon would be that a developer can clone HEAD and run the application without any setup. However, suppose a developer checks out a historic revision of the code. Their copy will include last year’s database password, so the application will fail against today’s database.

With the Heroku method above, a developer can checkout last year’s app, configure it with today’s keys, and run it successfully against today’s database.

This question is answered By – Colonel Panic

This answer is collected from stackoverflow and reviewed by FixPython community admins, is licensed under cc by-sa 2.5 , cc by-sa 3.0 and cc by-sa 4.0