What is a vault?

A vault is a secure repository for storing and managing various authentication credentials and sensitive information, collectively known as “secrets.” These secrets include tokens, SSH keys, certificates, API keys, and more.


Vaults are important for strengthening cybersecurity measures by using strong encryption techniques. They keep sensitive data safe from unauthorized access. Essentially, a vault fortifies the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of critical information.


One of the fundamental features of a vault is its ability to implement access control mechanisms. This means that only authorized personnel or systems can gain entry to the stored secrets. This is achieved through multifaceted authentication processes, which may involve passwords, biometrics, or even more advanced techniques like two-factor authentication. These layers of security provide the first line of defense against potential breaches.


How does a vault work?

A vault operates by employing a combination of encryption, access control policies, and secure storage mechanisms to safeguard secrets. Here are some key aspects of how a vault functions:

  • Secure storage: A vault uses advanced encryption techniques to store secrets securely, ensuring that unauthorized access is not allowed.
  • Access policies: A vault allows administrators to set precise access control policies, ensuring that only authorized individuals or systems can retrieve or modify specific secrets.
  • Usage logs: A vault keeps logs of all interactions, providing a trail that shows which services accessed any secret. While this is a good starting point, secrets require much more intelligence to be adequately secured from today’s cyber threats.
  • Secrets rotation: A vault has the ability to rotate secrets at regular intervals. The idea is to ensure secrets are dynamic, and less risky even if they fall into the wrong hands. However, this can also lead to downtime as multiple services may not be able to access the secrets at the same time.


Why do we need secrets vaults?

Securely storing secrets in a vault is crucial for the following reasons:

  • Protect against unauthorized access: Unauthorized access to critical information can lead to data breaches and security compromises. Vaults reduce this risk by keeping things safe and controlling who can access them.
  • Ensure compliance: Many industries have stringent compliance standards that mandate the secure management of sensitive data. A vault helps organizations meet these requirements.
  • Facilitate automated workflows: Modern systems often require automated processes needing sensitive information access. Vaults allow for secure integration with these workflows.


Secrets management best practices

As every organization that functions in the cloud today uses a vault in some capacity, here are best practices to keep in mind:

  • Implement the principle of least privilege: Organizations can use vaults to give users and systems the least possible access level to accomplish their tasks.
  • Implement Role-Based Access Control (RBAC): Grant access to secrets on a need-to-know basis. Use RBAC to define specific roles and assign permissions accordingly.
  • Centralize vaults: A typical organization may have as many as 5 vaults at any time – one per team, or project, or business unit. It’s essential to centralize these vaults so you don’t end up with the problem of secrets sprawl.


Vaults are not enough

While they serve as a crucial first line of defense in safeguarding sensitive information, Vaults fail to provide the contextual intelligence required for effective secrets management. Their secrets rotation capabilities can backfire in the real world. They can spiral out of control leading to too many secrets and a larger attack surface. Vaults are meant to store secrets, but they lack the advanced features required to secure and monitor these secrets end-to-end. This is where Entro steps in, offering a holistic approach beyond mere storage. 

Entro‘s platform gives security teams a bird’s-eye view of their entire secrets landscape, from discovery and enrichment to anomaly detection and misconfiguration alerts. By seamlessly integrating with existing infrastructure and adhering to the principle of least privilege, Entro enhances security and ensures compliance. In a world where every secret has a story, Entro gives you the narrative, making sure that your organization’s most valuable assets remain protected and accessible only to those who need them.

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