Context is king when it comes to secrets management

Itzik Alvas, Co-founder & CEO, Entro
May 14, 2023

In today’s digital age, the importance of keeping cloud applications and services secure cannot be overstated. This is especially true when it comes to secrets management. Businesses and organizations rely on secret management tools to store and protect sensitive information, such as access keys, and API tokens. While small businesses can get away with simple secrets management solutions, as companies grow, it is important to have the right tools to keep secrets secure. While storing secrets in a vault or scanning them with a secrets scanner provides a basic level of protection, it is not enough. Context is king when it comes to secrets management. We’ll explain more in this blog post. We will dive deeper into understanding the context of secrets management best practices and the benefits of having context-aware secrets management. 

What is the context of secrets management? 

Secrets management involves storing, distributing, and revoking credentials, keys, and other sensitive information to access resources, such as databases, applications, and cloud services. Context is crucial in secrets management because it helps to ensure that sensitive information is protected and accessed only by authorized individuals. 


Context can refer to factors such as the purpose, scope, and level of sensitivity of the secrets and the identity and authorization of the users requesting access. For example, the context of a secret may include information about the application it is used for, the user roles that require access to it, and the level of security needed to protect it. By defining contexts, DevOps and SecOps teams can ensure that the right secrets are used in the proper context.


By considering the context of a secret, organizations can implement appropriate security measures and access controls to prevent unauthorized access and mitigate the risk of data breaches. This may include implementing role-based access controls, encryption, multi-factor authentication, and monitoring and auditing of access to sensitive information. But it all starts with having the right context for every secret.


Context is crucial because it gives you a full understanding of every secret, including what data or resources the secret is protecting, who has access to it, when it was created, when it is set to be retired or rotated, if it’s exposed or not, where it was exposed, what the severity level of the exposure is, and much more. By having this context, you can better manage and protect your secrets.


Importance of full context in secrets security

Security of sensitive information, such as tokens, keys, and other credentials is critical, as a breach can lead to unauthorized access, data theft, and other types of attacks.

To maintain the security of secrets, it is crucial to consider the full context in which they are used. This includes the systems and applications that rely on them and the people and processes that manage them. Failing to consider the whole context can leave vulnerabilities in the system that attackers can exploit.

For example, if a secret is stored in plain text in a configuration file, an attacker who gains access to that file will easily access the secret. However, even if the secret is encrypted, an attacker who gains access to the system may be able to extract the encryption key and decrypt the secret.

Another example is the use of multi-factor authentication (MFA). While MFA can provide an extra layer of security, it can weaken security if it is not implemented correctly. For example, if an MFA token is sent via SMS, an attacker who gains access to the victim’s phone can easily bypass the MFA.

For instance, let’s say your company’s login credentials for a production database were accidentally shared in a public Git repo. In this scenario, having context around the exposed secret would include knowing where it was exposed, what data or resources the database holds, and who has access to the credentials. The severity level of the exposure would also depend on the nature of the exposure, with a public repo being a high-severity exposure and an internal repo being a low-severity exposure. By clearly understanding the context around the secret, businesses can effectively manage and secure sensitive information, and respond quickly and appropriately to any security incidents that may occur.

Benefits of having context-aware secrets management

1. Improve visibility and control over secrets

Context-aware secrets management can provide greater visibility into an organization’s security posture. By collecting and analyzing data about the environment, users, and devices, security teams can gain a more comprehensive view of the threat landscape and identify potential vulnerabilities and risks.

2. Better risk management, compliance, and incident response

Full context enables organizations to assess the risk associated with each secret and implement appropriate security measures to mitigate those risks. This also ensures compliance with industry regulations and standards such as HIPAA, PCI, and GDPR. Context-based security management can also help organizations respond more effectively to security incidents. By analyzing the context of an event, security teams can quickly identify the source of an attack and take appropriate action to contain and remediate it.

3. Enhanced collaboration and communication

Context-based security management can enhance collaboration and communication between different organizational teams, including development, security, IT, and operations teams. By providing real-time information about the context of security events, teams can work together more effectively to identify and respond to threats. For example, if a security event occurs, context-aware secrets management can provide relevant information to IT and operations teams, enabling them to identify the affected systems and take appropriate action quickly.

4. Continuous detection for real-time anomalous behavior

context-aware secrets management enables continuous detection of anomalous behavior in real-time. By analyzing the context of user behavior and network activity, security teams can identify potential threats as they occur rather than relying on static rules and policies. This approach enables security teams to detect and respond to threats more quickly, reducing the risk of a successful attack.

Get the Full Context in Secrets Management with Entro

In conclusion, secrets monitoring is crucial for ensuring the security and compliance of modern software environments. However, simply managing individual pieces of the puzzle is not enough. To truly secure sensitive information, organizations must understand the context surrounding their secrets. For example, secrets management includes the need to monitor and control who has access to secrets, which communication channels are used to transmit them, and how compliance requirements are met. In addition to this, context also includes knowing what IAM policies govern each secret, the age of a secret, when it was used last, and who owns it. 

While other secrets management tools may provide separate pieces of the puzzle, Entro offers a complete and unique secrets management solution by providing full context for every secret. With Entro’s secrets management platform, organizations can gain the right context for every secret including what the secret protects, who has access to it, when it was exposed, when it is due for rotation, and much more. Entro allows organizations to fit the pieces of the puzzle together, and see the whole story behind every secret. Entro revolutionizes secrets monitoring with the power of context.

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