This document explains how to manage sensitive data for an ASP.NET Core app on a development machine. Never store passwords or other sensitive data in source code. Production secrets shouldn’t be used for development or test. Secrets shouldn’t be deployed with the app. Instead, production secrets should be accessed through a controlled means like environment variables or Azure Key Vault. You can store and protect Azure test and production secrets with the Azure Key Vault configuration provider.

Environment variables are generally stored in plain, unencrypted text. If the machine or process is compromised, environment variables can be accessed by untrusted parties. Additional measures to prevent disclosure of user secrets may be required.

Secret Manager Tool

The Secret Manager tool stores sensitive data during the development of an ASP.NET Core project. In this context, a piece of sensitive data is an app secret. App secrets are stored in a separate location from the project tree. The app secrets are associated with a specific project or shared across several projects. The app secrets aren’t checked into source control.

Warning: The Secret Manager tool doesn’t encrypt the stored secrets and shouldn’t be treated as a trusted store. It’s for development purposes only. The keys and values are stored in a JSON configuration file in the user profile directory.

How the Secret Manager tool works

The Secret Manager tool hides implementation details, such as where and how the values are stored. You can use the tool without knowing these implementation details. The values are stored in a JSON file in the local machine’s user profile folder:

File system path:

%APPDATA%\Microsoft\UserSecrets\<user_secrets_id>\secrets.json

C:\Users\user01\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\UserSecrets\e13a4f3c-0111-4fcc-bba1-11d7e67a1b6d\secrets.json

In the preceding file paths, replace <user_secrets_id> with the UserSecretsId value specified in the project file.

Don’t write code that depends on the location or format of data saved with the Secret Manager tool. These implementation details may change. For example, the secret values aren’t encrypted, but could be in the future.

Enable secret storage

The Secret Manager tool operates on project-specific configuration settings stored in your user profile.

The Secret Manager tool includes an init command in .NET Core SDK 3.0.100 or later. To use user secrets, run the following command in the project directory:

.NET CLI

Note: run the following in “Developer command Prompt” tool after navigation to the project folder.

C:\MyApp01\Client> dotnet user-secrets init

The preceding command adds a UserSecretsId element within a PropertyGroup of the project file. By default, the inner text of UserSecretsId is a GUID. The inner text is arbitrary, but is unique to the project.

<PropertyGroup>
  <TargetFramework>net5.0</TargetFramework>
  <UserSecretsId>79a3edd0-2092-40a2-a04d-dcb46d5ca9ed</UserSecretsId>
</PropertyGroup>

In Visual Studio, right-click the project in Solution Explorer, and select Manage User Secrets from the context menu. This gesture adds a UserSecretsId element, populated with a GUID, to the project file.

Set a secret

Define an app secret consisting of a key and its value. The secret is associated with the project’s UserSecretsId value. For example, run the following command from the directory in which the project file exists:.NET CLICopy

dotnet user-secrets set "Movies:ServiceApiKey" "12345" --project "C:\apps\WebApp1\src\WebApp1"

In the preceding example, the colon denotes that Movies is an object literal with a ServiceApiKey property.

secrets.json

{
  "Movies:ServiceApiKey": "12345"
}

Access a secret

To access a secret, complete the following steps:

  1. Register the user secrets configuration source
  2. Read the secret via the Configuration API

Note: For Azure App Service deployment, add entry to application settings in configuration section on Azure Portal.

Register the user secrets configuration source

The user secrets configuration provider registers the appropriate configuration source with the .NET Configuration API.

The user secrets configuration source is automatically added in Development mode when the project calls CreateDefaultBuilderCreateDefaultBuilder calls AddUserSecrets when the EnvironmentName is Development:

public static IHostBuilder CreateHostBuilder(string[] args) =>
    Host.CreateDefaultBuilder(args)
        .ConfigureWebHostDefaults(webBuilder =>
        {
            webBuilder.UseStartup<Startup>();
        });

When CreateDefaultBuilder isn’t called, add the user secrets configuration source explicitly by calling AddUserSecrets in ConfigureAppConfiguration. Call AddUserSecrets only when the app runs in the Development environment, as shown in the following example:

public class Program
{
    public static void Main(string[] args)
    {
        var host = new HostBuilder()
            .ConfigureAppConfiguration((hostContext, builder) =>
            {
                // Add other providers for JSON, etc.

                if (hostContext.HostingEnvironment.IsDevelopment())
                {
                    builder.AddUserSecrets<Program>();
                }
            })
            .Build();
        
        host.Run();
    }
}

Read the secret via the Configuration API

If the user secrets configuration source is registered, the .NET Configuration API can read the secrets. Constructor injection can be used to gain access to the .NET Configuration API. Consider the following examples of reading the Movies:ServiceApiKey key:

Startup class:

public class Startup
{
    private string _moviesApiKey = null;

    public Startup(IConfiguration configuration)
    {
        Configuration = configuration;
    }

    public IConfiguration Configuration { get; }

    public void ConfigureServices(IServiceCollection services)
    {
        _moviesApiKey = Configuration["Movies:ServiceApiKey"];
    }

    public void Configure(IApplicationBuilder app)
    {
        app.Run(async (context) =>
        {
            var result = string.IsNullOrEmpty(_moviesApiKey) ? "Null" : "Not Null";
            await context.Response.WriteAsync($"Secret is {result}");
        });
    }
}

Razor Pages page model:

public class IndexModel : PageModel
{
    private readonly IConfiguration _config;

    public IndexModel(IConfiguration config)
    {
        _config = config;
    }

    public void OnGet()
    {
        var moviesApiKey = _config["Movies:ServiceApiKey"];

        // call Movies service with the API key
    }
}

For more information, see Access configuration in Startup and Access configuration in Razor Pages.

Sources:

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/aspnet/core/security/app-secrets?view=aspnetcore-5.0&tabs=windows

Last modified: May 24, 2021

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