Setting up hiera-eyaml-gpg

It’s inevitable at some point while writing puppet manifests that you’ll need to manage some sensitive configuration; be that a database password, an SSH deploy key, etc. One way to deal with this is to lock down your puppet code so that only trusted developers can see the contents. Another approach is to encrypt the secrets within the puppet code, which is where hiera-eyaml comes in. Hiera-eyaml provides a pluggable backend for your hiera data that can contain secrets encrypted through different means. By default hiera-eyaml uses a symmetric passphrase to protect the secrets, but hiera-eyaml-gpg adds a GPG backend allowing secrets to be protected using asymmetric keys.

The puppetmaster of course will need access to the secrets in order to provide them to end machines (whether using passwords or GPG keys), so hiera-eyaml does nothing to help secure the master itself. You should work on the basis that the secrets are effectively plaintext on the puppetmaster and protect it appropriately. If someone does compromise your puppetmaster, you’ll have bigger problems than someone being able to read the hiera secrets. However hiera-eyaml does protect the secrets while they reside outside of the puppetmaster, for example on workstations and in version control systems.

I prefer the GPG backend because it means developers can have passphrase-protected keys on workstations and use the gpg-agent to securely access the key. It means workstation machines don’t need the same rigorous protection as the puppetmasters to keep the secrets secure.

Installing the hiera backends

On Sabayon, use my community repo and install using entropy:

equo install dev-ruby/hiera-eyaml dev-ruby/hiera-eyaml-gpg -a

Or install using portage from my overlay:

emerge dev-ruby/hiera-eyaml dev-ruby/hiera-eyaml-gpg -av

On RedHat type systems, use fpm to build RPMs from the ruby gems and install natively. Note we’re building with sudo so that fpm picks up the right GEMPATH and doesn’t build packages that install to the builder’s home directory.

cd ~/rpmbuild
sudo -E fpm -s gem -t rpm -n hiera-eyaml -a noarch --version 2.0.2 --iteration 1 -p RPMS/noarch/hiera-eyaml-VERSION-ITERATION.ARCH.rpm hiera-eyaml
sudo -E fpm -s gem -t rpm -n hiera-eyaml-gpg -a noarch --version 0.4 --iteration 1 -p RPMS/noarch/hiera-eyaml-gpg-VERSION-ITERATION.ARCH.rpm -d hiera-eyaml hiera-eyaml-gpg
sudo rpm -Uvh RPMS/noarch/hiera-eyaml{,-gpg}*.rpm

I’m assuming here that the ~/rpmbuild environment is already setup for rpmbuild to use. If not you will need to do this first.

Creating your puppetmaster keys

On each of your puppetmasters, you’ll need to create a PGP keypair that the master can use to decrypt the secrets.

First up, create a directory to contain the keyrings:

sudo mkdir /etc/puppet/keyrings

Now generate the keypair and export the public part (be sure not to set a passphrase here):

sudo gpg --homedir /etc/puppet/keyrings --gen-key
sudo gpg --homedir /etc/puppet/keyrings/ --export -o /tmp/

Copy the to your local workstation using something like scp so you can encrypt data using it later.

You can reuse the same key on all puppetmasters by copying the keyrings directory around, but it would be better to repeat this process to generate a unique key on each of your puppetmasters. This means you can later revoke a single master’s key without having to re-key every machine.

Creating your personal keys

If you don’t already have a personal GPG keypair, create one for yourself now:

gpg --gen-key

Next up you need to import all of the puppet master keys into your keyring (be sure to set a strong passphrase here):

gpg --import

We need to list and sign each of the puppetmaster keys with your personal key:

gpg --list-keys
pub 4096R/CDADE567 2013-05-04
uid [ultimate] Ben Roberts <>
sub 2048R/FDF62278 2013-05-04

pub 4096R/CBF58456 2013-05-04
uid [ full ] <>
sub 2048R/234E54BF 2013-05-04

pub 4096R/427659C4 2014-11-22
uid [ full ] <>
sub 4096R/C645C3FB 2014-11-22

gpg --sign-key CBF58456
gpg --sign-key 427659C4

Setting up hiera

Now we need to configure hiera to use the hiera-eyaml and hiera-eyaml-gpg backends. Configure your hiera.conf contain the following to have it query

 - eyaml
- common
 :datadir: /etc/puppet/environments/%{::environment}/data
 :extension: 'yaml'
 :encrypt_method: gpg
 :gpg_gnupghome: /etc/puppet/keyrings

Next up we need to tell eyaml which keys to encrypt new data with. This is a simple text file that goes inside your hiera data directory and contains the names of the PGP keys we generated earlier. You’ll need to include the names of all the puppetmasters so the catalogs can be generated plus all the developers who need to be able to make changes to the secrets.

Make sure the updated hiera.yaml and hiera-eyaml-gpg.recipients files are available on all puppet masters and reload/restart the master to pick up the changes.

Your first secret

Now we’re all set, it’s time for the fun bit. We’ll use the eyaml tool to edit the common.yaml to add a new secret value.

eyaml edit data/common.csv

Add a new value into the file, wrapping the plaintext secret in DEC::GPG[ and ]!. This will tell eyaml that the secret is in decrypted form, and should be encrypted with the GPG backend.

host::root_password: "DEC::GPG[superseekrit]!"

Now save and exit the file, then re-open it, and you’ll see something like this instead:

 host::root_password: "ENC[GPG,hQEMA4LkLtcnPlS+AQf/SabmYb9US3HTv8B1Bxx3CN9Tw29Lt3WcC4OeOnq1a5xzlhP5dolMcSV/qPqo4j3hq+ z2D1e+POZSd+ 3cH4lD6wRr3IWjJkyHyGmibVlIUPv2Y7CNMOXPcGJaAEFCKTpTEKlS87zDied19b9jS6yoCDVtGgLlUF32Et66P6pimVelWSb4REnv3rRVR7goCLmlaFk30/ UqeJfwmwNxPPsO+Ne8SreA0dfukkkyZ3JnSTmbtXlGJfMPLA7bjW8+Jexb/0c6WJiEDXCxuncvzkBeMz6+ cuKjZ6SHLIxiQtZUDrxAvkpiId6cWM49nYpbxdZVvzfoyiQkDtK7uw/hF92wxYUCDAOVcE7kxjXDjgEP/ 2XcJQnRSuagdOUPMZMW4RkC3pNXRV8IcoLWQVDP08YuICCdL5iVaNbU66fU034UyJmHRyZREU+ NiTUvxj92gkuNSG4jqMiDEdehNTnkCmij9qSjiZGaHHcIx6OwfYanLsWm5b0R+HBRCg1EXqwjmeUqi3sFCu6qlRPaDLc77xRCxJdvGRHZ04JUnyjYS/ leRxdVo2FEzJVHAW/Psm2wa+wkTcuW6g2Uv65WzANxaNBcP+vWAlErMHbxmkFiRvYHPBxbS6L/w5+Umh+5LLrx6M/op3iQWAialqNd8NKFYKkVqb/ Y7Tmfaj6W0XV+JiEkwoYY0SMD6wTtQwH6OPk99VfDUPiU7uQ+i8Q8doK8J8OH7sQTj/ye1Rq0e6dF7xGhvhm7YOa3UMSx/V33eZAr4EQ/n+ bMVZxDfZ6Qmi5wVw9oZ9KO826zkUy1K/ 4QrxjQZfz0YZTzDIrc8lGcHXuroIbiUemPbgkX6GEiXInha5tt7chTiiyjFgfCtSOcekeQ4VAMcBb66LUp2M8D3k4Aqp3j+ wK7KesDTaoTF1gN4FyVsXuest6YB6v67Zv+Wox30z+AG97RIzHZlWqioPxtB98QAbg5pT2a5brnRuD2/6rllO4dCRE1lMO1Sh8v5ZiV824rxVMo4z+ NzybSB2kDN4DoeubDUCzExeJXM9MRqpz7hQEMA5Fhm/f79iLoAQf9EZ8XH2jNgHY8K4oJ/TKapivcEqZm5a/ 35eWzFigBHKaBwag05q2M5imtFbI4Ez7ugFrwSdeUFeQHW16Mt9Jka7KfAmo9CuxYuOcc5/3T6qjzwf1nQtRiX/ 9LMxAQWz5vQRYXbIPhPzMif6JfUxGfT5fg4oNBsDc2mIo6K7gxUg1EDhqznVpnclVuv4LrTieZgq2FPue95IM1SGsFFHak5y3f+sbQUl8xvVQohq+ hyXhsxGmMASkt6ZPIQE1v3u35FUA8ovKQg5cIOdt5sYp1EV7tDL6kPieaVF0Ba20v01MY0dsHFxuGmeAIHWJxukxXDB8bPOQBoW45TRTZ0u0GOdJHAaGi6dM JwzVz2Dt/IQZlhjG3Yh0VPkUgQ78bsHKYuL7k0CDpDr3vb4mT0PljNEot7wDb4pBUL/3KtumvmDRxJ20TA4sFaNI=]"


Encrypt all the things

Running eyaml edit again will decrypt the file and open it in your text editor. Saving and quitting the editor will re-encrypt the file again. While editing the file, the wrapper string will change to DEC::GPG(N) where N is a unique number within the file. This is used for eyaml to keep track of which values have been edited so you don’t see all the encrypted blobs change every time the file is edited, and only the actually changed values will show up in version control diffs. Neat.

Adding a new developer/puppetmaster

If in future you need to deploy a new puppetmaster or a new developer joins the team there are three things you need to do.

  1. Import the new user’s key into your keyring and sign it
  2. Update data/hiera-eyaml-gpg.recipients with the name of the new keys
  3. Run eyaml recrypt <filename> for each file that contains secrets so they are re-encrypted with the new keys.

Preventing information leaks

Secrets are now protected on disk and in version control, which is good, but that’s not the only place secrets can be leaked. Recall when you do a [startCodepuppet agent –test –noop run to see what things puppet would change? That shows diffs of files secrets and all. Oops. And logged to syslog by default. Oops. And if you’re running with stored configs/puppetdb the reports including the diffs will be stored there as well. Oops.

To prevent this, make sure that when managing any file resource in puppet that could potentially include secrets, that you make use of the show_diff option to hide the diffs. This has the slight downside that doing a –noop run no longer shows you what would change in the file, but that’s probably better than having a password available in plaintext somewhere.

Also remember that just because the current version of the heira data is protected doesn’t mean that any history is. If you start using hiera-eyaml to protect existing secrets, remember that previous revisions may contain the plaintext versions. Bringing in heira-eyaml is a good excuse to change passwords too.


If you see a message like this, then your gpg-agent or pinentry programs may not be working properly:

[gpg] !!! Warning: General exception decrypting GPG file
[hiera-eyaml-core] !!! Bad passphrase

Make sure you have a pinentry application installed (e.g. pinentry-curses, and that your gpg-agent is running:

$eval(gpg-agent --daemon)

Then try again.

One thought on “Setting up hiera-eyaml-gpg

  1. I think I’m missing something pretty basic, I hit the first step in key generation:

    sudo gpg –homedir /etc/puppet/keyrings –gen-key

    I fill in all the info and it results in:

    Real name: puppetmaster01
    Email address: puppet@puppetmaster01
    You selected this USER-ID:
    “puppetmaster01 ”

    Change (N)ame, (C)omment, (E)mail or (O)kay/(Q)uit? o
    You need a Passphrase to protect your secret key.

    gpg: can’t connect to the agent: IPC connect call failed
    gpg: problem with the agent: No agent running
    gpg: can’t connect to the agent: IPC connect call failed
    gpg: problem with the agent: No agent running
    gpg: Key generation canceled.

    what did I miss? This is my first use of gpg keys btw.

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