Using Secrets

The TRAC platform is designed to connect to a wide variety of technologies and services, which often involves holding sensitive configuration details or “secrets” such as passwords and key files. TRAC uses plugins to handle these connections and has a configuration mechanism to keep the secrets safe. This mechanism can be used for any integration point with sensitive configuration.


Plugins can still use alternate methods to secure their sensitive configuration if required.

Plugin configuration blocks

Anywhere you are connecting to a technology service, you will see a plugin configuration block in the TRAC configuration. These blocks all have the same pattern, here is an example for connecting an S3 storage bucket:

protocol: S3
  bucket: acme-sales-data
  prefix: rockets/
  credentials: static
  accessKeyId: <aws_access_key_id>
  secretAccessKey: acme_bucket_secret_key

In this configuration block, protocol is the protocol that will be used to talk to the storage service. TRAC will look for a plugin that supports the protocol, if the plugin is missing TRAC will not start.

Once the plugin is found, all the properties are passed to that plugin as configuration. The properties that are required vary depending on the protocol / plugin. For example for the JDBC metadata plugin, properties are used to construct a JDBC datasource and vary depending on the SQL dialect and JDBC driver.

Sensitive configuration

Any property required by a plugin can also be supplied as a secret, by moving the property into the secrets section of the configuration. In this case, the ID (or “alias”) of the secret is specified in the main configuration file and TRAC fetches the secret value from the secret store, decrypts it and passes the decrypted value into the plugin as a property.

In the example above using static credentials for an AWS bucket, the key ID is presented as a regular property and the secret key is stored as a secret. TRAC does not limit which properties are stored as secrets, you could choose to key the key ID secret as well if necessary.

Configuring the secret store

The secret store itself is a technology touch point, and multiple implementations are available. The core platform includes an implementation using Java Keystores. All the major cloud providers offer key manager services, so for cloud deployments those may be more appropriate.

The secret store is configured in the config section at the top of the main configuration files. This example would set up a Java Keystore using PKCS12 format called secrets.p12 in the main config directory:

  secret.type: PKCS12
  secret.url: secrets.p12

In many deployments you will need a master key to access the secret store, which is called the secret key. A secret key is not normally needed for cloud deployments, where access to the secret store can be controlled using service roles in the cloud infrastructure, but there are several deployment situations where a secret key will be required.

The secret key can be passed to any of the TRAC services or tools using the TRAC_SECRET_KEY environment variable. For production deployments this can be done through a service configuration or a scheduling tool. For a developer running a sandbox on their laptop it is often OK to store the secret key in the config folder, by adding it to (or env.bat on Windows).

Managing secrets

If you are using a Java Keystore you can use the keytool that comes with the JDK to create and manage secrets. In practice we have found this to be fiddly, particularly for certificates and public/private key pairs. We have created a utility called secret-tool, which can be used to manage secrets in a java keystore using TRAC-style tasks. By default secret-tool will operate on the keystore configured in your TRAC platform config file.

To create a new secret store, the init_secrets task is available. This will create the keystore file referenced in the TRAC platform config if it does not exist, and protected with the secret key set in the TRAC_SECRET_KEY environment variable.

cd /opt/trac/current
bin/secret-tool run --task init_secrets
cd /d C:\trac\tracdap-sandbox-<version>
bin\secret-tool.bat run --task init_secrets

Now to complete the example above, suppose we wanted to add the secret acme_bucket_secret_key into the keystore:

bin/secret-tool run --task add_secret acme_bucket_secret_key
bin\secret-tool.bat run --task add_secret acme_bucket_secret_key

The tool will prompt you for the value of the secret, which will not be displayed on the console. There is also a delete_secret task to remove a secret from the store.

Currently the secret-tool utility only works with Java Keystores. If you are using a secret manager from your cloud provider, you will need to use their console or CLI tools to create and manage secrets.