What is Azure Key Vault? (2023)

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Azure Key Vault is a cloud service for securely storing and accessing secrets. A secret is anything that you want to tightly control access to, such as API keys, passwords, certificates, or cryptographic keys. Key Vault service supports two types of containers: vaults and managed hardware security module(HSM) pools. Vaults support storing software and HSM-backed keys, secrets, and certificates. Managed HSM pools only support HSM-backed keys. See Azure Key Vault REST API overview for complete details.

Here are other important terms:

  • Tenant: A tenant is the organization that owns and manages a specific instance of Microsoft cloud services. It's most often used to refer to the set of Azure and Microsoft 365 services for an organization.

  • Vault owner: A vault owner can create a key vault and gain full access and control over it. The vault owner can also set up auditing to log who accesses secrets and keys. Administrators can control the key lifecycle. They can roll to a new version of the key, back it up, and do related tasks.

  • Vault consumer: A vault consumer can perform actions on the assets inside the key vault when the vault owner grants the consumer access. The available actions depend on the permissions granted.

  • Managed HSM Administrators: Users who are assigned the Administrator role have complete control over a Managed HSM pool. They can create more role assignments to delegate controlled access to other users.

  • Managed HSM Crypto Officer/User: Built-in roles that are usually assigned to users or service principals that will perform cryptographic operations using keys in Managed HSM. Crypto User can create new keys, but can't delete keys.

  • Managed HSM Crypto Service Encryption User: Built-in role that is usually assigned to a service accounts managed service identity (for example, Storage account) for encryption of data at rest with customer managed key.

  • Resource: A resource is a manageable item that's available through Azure. Common examples are virtual machine, storage account, web app, database, and virtual network. There are many more.

  • Resource group: A resource group is a container that holds related resources for an Azure solution. The resource group can include all the resources for the solution, or only those resources that you want to manage as a group. You decide how you want to allocate resources to resource groups, based on what makes the most sense for your organization.

  • Security principal: An Azure security principal is a security identity that user-created apps, services, and automation tools use to access specific Azure resources. Think of it as a "user identity" (username and password or certificate) with a specific role, and tightly controlled permissions. A security principal should only need to do specific things, unlike a general user identity. It improves security if you grant it only the minimum permission level that it needs to perform its management tasks. A security principal used with an application or service is called a service principal.

  • Azure Active Directory (Azure AD): Azure AD is the Active Directory service for a tenant. Each directory has one or more domains. A directory can have many subscriptions associated with it, but only one tenant.

  • Azure tenant ID: A tenant ID is a unique way to identify an Azure AD instance within an Azure subscription.

  • Managed identities: Azure Key Vault provides a way to securely store credentials and other keys and secrets, but your code needs to authenticate to Key Vault to retrieve them. Using a managed identity makes solving this problem simpler by giving Azure services an automatically managed identity in Azure AD. You can use this identity to authenticate to Key Vault or any service that supports Azure AD authentication, without having any credentials in your code. For more information, see the following image and the overview of managed identities for Azure resources.


To do any operations with Key Vault, you first need to authenticate to it. There are three ways to authenticate to Key Vault:

  • Managed identities for Azure resources: When you deploy an app on a virtual machine in Azure, you can assign an identity to your virtual machine that has access to Key Vault. You can also assign identities to other Azure resources. The benefit of this approach is that the app or service isn't managing the rotation of the first secret. Azure automatically rotates the identity. We recommend this approach as a best practice.
  • Service principal and certificate: You can use a service principal and an associated certificate that has access to Key Vault. We don't recommend this approach because the application owner or developer must rotate the certificate.
  • Service principal and secret: Although you can use a service principal and a secret to authenticate to Key Vault, we don't recommend it. It's hard to automatically rotate the bootstrap secret that's used to authenticate to Key Vault.

Encryption of data in transit

Azure Key Vault enforces Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol to protect data when it’s traveling between Azure Key vault and clients. Clients negotiate a TLS connection with Azure Key Vault. TLS provides strong authentication, message privacy, and integrity (enabling detection of message tampering, interception, and forgery), interoperability, algorithm flexibility, and ease of deployment and use.

Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS) protects connections between customers’ client systems and Microsoft cloud services by unique keys. Connections also use RSA-based 2,048-bit encryption key lengths. This combination makes it difficult for someone to intercept and access data that is in transit.

Key Vault roles

Use the following table to better understand how Key Vault can help to meet the needs of developers and security administrators.

RoleProblem statementSolved by Azure Key Vault
Developer for an Azure application"I want to write an application for Azure that uses keys for signing and encryption. But I want these keys to be external from my application so that the solution is suitable for an application that's geographically distributed.

I want these keys and secrets to be protected, without having to write the code myself. I also want these keys and secrets to be easy for me to use from my applications, with optimal performance."

√ Keys are stored in a vault and invoked by URI when needed.

√ Keys are safeguarded by Azure, using industry-standard algorithms, key lengths, and hardware security modules.

√ Keys are processed in HSMs that reside in the same Azure datacenters as the applications. This method provides better reliability and reduced latency than keys that reside in a separate location, such as on-premises.

Developer for software as a service (SaaS)"I don't want the responsibility or potential liability for my customers' tenant keys and secrets.

I want customers to own and manage their keys so that I can concentrate on doing what I do best, which is providing the core software features."

√ Customers can import their own keys into Azure, and manage them. When a SaaS application needs to perform cryptographic operations by using customers' keys, Key Vault does these operations on behalf of the application. The application does not see the customers' keys.
Chief security officer (CSO)"I want to know that our applications comply with FIPS 140-2 Level 2 or FIPS 140-2 Level 3 HSMs for secure key management.

I want to make sure that my organization is in control of the key lifecycle and can monitor key usage.

And although we use multiple Azure services and resources, I want to manage the keys from a single location in Azure."

√ Choose vaults for FIPS 140-2 Level 2 validated HSMs.
√ Choose managed HSM pools for FIPS 140-2 Level 3 validated HSMs.

√ Key Vault is designed so that Microsoft does not see or extract your keys.
√ Key usage is logged in near real time.

√ The vault provides a single interface, regardless of how many vaults you have in Azure, which regions they support, and which applications use them.

Anybody with an Azure subscription can create and use key vaults. Although Key Vault benefits developers and security administrators, it can be implemented and managed by an organization's administrator who manages other Azure services. For example, this administrator can sign in with an Azure subscription, create a vault for the organization in which to store keys, and then be responsible for operational tasks like these:

  • Create or import a key or secret
  • Revoke or delete a key or secret
  • Authorize users or applications to access the key vault, so they can then manage or use its keys and secrets
  • Configure key usage (for example, sign or encrypt)
  • Monitor key usage

This administrator then gives developers URIs to call from their applications. This administrator also gives key usage logging information to the security administrator.

What is Azure Key Vault? (1)

Developers can also manage the keys directly, by using APIs. For more information, see the Key Vault developer's guide.

Next steps

  • Learn about Azure Key Vault security features.
  • Learn how to secure your managed HSM pools

Azure Key Vault is available in most regions. For more information, see the Key Vault pricing page.


Is Azure key Vault a password manager? ›

It is a cloud based key management and security service that enables in securing cryptographic keys, password and other secret services used by cloud applications and services.

What is Azure key vault for beginners? ›

Azure Key Vault enables users to securely store and manage sensitive data like keys, passwords, certificates, and other sensitive information. These are kept in centralized storage that is protected by industry-standard algorithms and hardware security modules.

What is difference between key and secret in Azure key vault? ›

Object types

Cryptographic keys: Supports multiple key types and algorithms, and enables the use of software-protected and HSM-protected keys. For more information, see About keys. Secrets: Provides secure storage of secrets, such as passwords and database connection strings. For more information, see About secrets.

What is a key in key vault? ›

Microsoft Azure Key Vault is a cloud-hosted management service that allows users to encrypt keys and small secrets by using keys that are protected by hardware security modules (HSMs). Small secrets are data less than 10 KB like passwords and . PFX files.

What is the benefit of Azure key vault? ›

Enhance data protection and compliance. Secure key management is essential to protect data in the cloud. Use Azure Key Vault to encrypt keys and small secrets like passwords that use keys stored in hardware security modules (HSMs).

When should I use key vault? ›

Secrets Management - Azure Key Vault can be used to Securely store and tightly control access to tokens, passwords, certificates, API keys, and other secrets. Key Management - Azure Key Vault can be used as a Key Management solution.

Who has access to Azure key vault? ›

User-only: The user accesses the key vault from any application registered in the tenant. Examples of this type of access include Azure PowerShell and the Azure portal.

How do I implement Azure key vault? ›

Create a vault
  1. From the Azure portal menu, or from the Home page, select Create a resource.
  2. In the Search box, enter Key Vault.
  3. From the results list, choose Key Vault.
  4. On the Key Vault section, choose Create.
  5. On the Create key vault section provide the following information: ...
  6. Select Create.
Jan 24, 2023

How many secrets can a Azure key vault hold? ›

Key Vault does not restrict the number of keys, secrets or certificates that can be stored in a vault.

How many Azure key vaults should I have? ›

Our recommendation is to use a vault per application per environment (development, pre-production, and production), per region. This helps you not share secrets across environments and regions.

What are the two types of keys available in encryption in Azure? ›

Azure Key Vault provides two types of resources to store and manage cryptographic keys. Vaults support software-protected and HSM-protected (Hardware Security Module) keys.

How does key vault store passwords? ›

Under Secrets, click + Add button to add the secrets/passwords stored in the Key Vault: Name: Must be unique. Secret: you must use the following format: vault://<KeyVaultName>/<SecretName> Secret type: Manual.

What type of encryption is Azure key vault? ›

Encryption. All secrets in your Key Vault are stored encrypted. Key Vault encrypts secrets at rest with a hierarchy of encryption keys, with all keys in that hierarchy are protected by modules that are FIPS 140-2 compliant. This encryption is transparent, and requires no action from the user.

How do I use Azure key vault in pipeline? ›

Display Name: Azure Key Vault Azure subscription: Select your Azure subscription from the list, and then select Authorize. Key vault: Select your key vault Secret filter: A comma separated list of secret names or leave * to download all secrets from the selected key vault.

Can you store files in Azure key vault? ›

You can also use Key Vault to store a multi-line secret, such as a JSON file or RSA private key.

How do I store SSH keys in Azure key vault? ›

Upload an SSH key
  1. Open the Azure portal.
  2. At the top of the page, type SSH to search. ...
  3. On the SSH Key page, select Create.
  4. In Resource group select Create new to create a new resource group to store your keys. ...
  5. In Region select a region to store your keys. ...
  6. Type a name for your key in Key pair name.
Feb 21, 2023

How do I store database credentials in Azure key vault? ›

Azure Key Vault linked service

The type property must be set to: AzureKeyVault. Specify the Azure Key Vault URL. Select the provisioned Azure Key Vault where your credentials are stored. You can do Test Connection to make sure your AKV connection is valid.

Is Azure key vault an encrypted at rest? ›

Azure Key Vault

The storage location of the encryption keys and access control to those keys is central to an encryption at rest model. The keys need to be highly secured but manageable by specified users and available to specific services.

Can Azure key vault generate keys? ›

Add a key to Key Vault

On the Key Vault properties pages, select Keys. Select Generate/Import. On the Create a key screen choose the following values: Options: Generate.

Is key Vault free in Azure? ›

Vaults are offered in two service tiers—standard and premium. Renewals—$3 per renewal request. Renewals—$3 per renewal request. Free during preview.

Are key vaults free? ›

Vaults are offered in two service tiers—standard and premium.
Managed Azure Storage account key rotation (in preview)Free during preview. General availability price — $1 per renewal2Free during preview.
2 more rows

Where do I store my vault key? ›

To store your API key within the configured physical storage for Vault, use the key/value secrets engine.
You will perform the following:
  • Start Vault.
  • Enable KV Secrets Engine.
  • Store the Google API key.
  • Store the root certificate for MySQL.
  • Generate a token for apps.
  • Retrieve the secrets.

How do you get secrets from key vault? ›

Retrieve a secret from Key Vault

You can now reference this password that you added to Azure Key Vault by using its URI. Use https://<your-unique-keyvault-name>.vault.azure.net/secrets/ExamplePassword to get the current version. Now, you have created a Key Vault, stored a secret, and retrieved it.

Is Azure key vault Paas or SaaS? ›

Azure Key Vault is a SaaS solution.

How do I use key vault in Azure SQL Database? ›

Existing VMs

For existing SQL virtual machines, open your SQL virtual machines resource and select Security under Settings. Select Enable to enable Azure Key Vault integration. When you're finished, select the Apply button on the bottom of the Security page to save your changes.

Do Azure secrets expire? ›

Microsoft Azure Key Vault enables you to store and keep secrets within your Azure cloud environment. By default, these secret keys never expire, therefore it is strongly recommended to configure all the secret keys with an explicit expiration date/time to enforce secret rotation as an additional layer of protection.

What happens when a key vault secret expires? ›

The expiration date attribute configured for an Azure Key Vault secret identifies the expiration time after which the secret must not be used anymore for storing sensitive and confidential data such as passwords and database connection strings.

Does Azure key Vault require a subscription? ›

Two Azure subscriptions are required for Customer Key. As a best practice, Microsoft recommends that you create new Azure subscriptions for use with Customer Key.

Why does Azure have two keys? ›

The reason behind two storage account keys is to regenerate the keys with no interruption to your storage service or access to that service.

Why does Azure storage have two keys? ›

Two access keys are assigned so that you can rotate your keys. Having two keys ensures that your application maintains access to Azure Storage throughout the process. Regenerating your access keys can affect any applications or Azure services that are dependent on the storage account key.

What is the difference between Azure key Vault and Azure HSM? ›

A. Both types of key have the key stored in the HSM at rest. The difference is for a software-protected key when cryptographic operations are performed they are performed in software in compute VMs while for HSM-protected keys the cryptographic operations are performed within the HSM.

What can be stored in key vault? ›

Azure Key Vault is a cloud service that provides a secure store for secrets. You can securely store keys, passwords, certificates, and other secrets. Azure key vaults may be created and managed through the Azure portal.

Where is the safest place to store passwords? ›

What Is the Smartest and Safest Way to Store Your Passwords?
  1. A Software Password Manager. Software password managers are one of the most popular methods of password storage today. ...
  2. A Flash Drive. Using a flash drive allows you to store your passwords in an offline setting. ...
  3. Paper.
Dec 25, 2022

Can a password vault be hacked? ›

One way this could happen is if a hacker was able to install a keystroke-logger program on your computer or other connected device and recorded your master password. Your password manager vault and all of your accounts could then be compromised.

Can you use Azure key vault with AWS? ›

Yes you can use Azure key Vault to secure keys for your app running in both AWS and Azure.

What port does Azure key Vault use? ›

Ports. All traffic to a key vault for all three functions (authentication, management, and data plane access) goes over HTTPS: port 443.

What is key vault equivalent in AWS? ›

In AWS, it's call AWS HSM while in Azure, it's call KeyVault. There is yet a simpler version of HSM in AWS which can be used as an HSM, and it is called AWS KMS.

How do I access Azure key vault from local machine? ›

Deploy the app to Azure
  1. Configure the local Git deployment.
  2. Create a resource group.
  3. Create an App Service plan.
  4. Create a web app.
  5. Deploy your local app.
  6. Create and assign a managed identity.
  7. Modify the app to access your key vault.
Jan 18, 2023

Where are secrets stored in Azure DevOps? ›

Secret variables are encrypted at rest with a 2048-bit RSA key and are available on the agent for tasks and scripts to use. The recommended ways to set secret variables are in the UI, in a variable group, and in a variable group from Azure Key Vault.

Is password vault same as password manager? ›

A password vault is also often called a password manager. In some cases, the software provider may add the word "manager" to the name of the password vault tool. In other cases, the terms "password vault" and "password manager" are used interchangeably.

Which Azure service for storing passwords? ›

Azure Key Vault linked service

Specify the Azure Key Vault URL. Select the provisioned Azure Key Vault where your credentials are stored. You can do Test Connection to make sure your AKV connection is valid.

What password manager uses YubiKey? ›

KeePass is a free, open source password manager that supports strong, hardware-backed YubiKey two-factor authentication, enabling users to easily and efficiently protect their accounts from takeovers.

What is Microsoft's password manager? ›

Microsoft Authenticator can generate, store, and apply passwords at websites via an autofill feature. Beyond supporting iOS, iPadOS, and Android devices, the autofill option works in the desktop flavors of Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge via an extension.

Which password manager has been hacked? ›

The LastPass security breach in late 2022 sent a shockwave through the security community. Password managers are typically seen as the most secure and trusted platforms because they have to be. Holding credentials to numerous services, a breach in any customer vault can have catastrophic consequences.

What is the safest app to store passwords? ›

The Best Password Managers

We've updated this with more information about the LastPass breach. 1Password and Bitwarden remain our picks. Almost everyone should use a password manager. It's the most important thing you can do—alongside two-factor authentication—to keep your online data safe.

Can someone hack my password manager? ›

The quick answer is “yes.” Password managers can be hacked. But while cybercriminals may get "in" it doesn't mean they will get your master password or other information.

What are three types of Azure storage? ›

Azure Queues: A messaging store for reliable messaging between application components. Azure Tables: A NoSQL store for schemaless storage of structured data. Azure Disks: Block-level storage volumes for Azure VMs.

What types of data can be stored in Azure key vault? ›

Secrets Management - Azure Key Vault can be used to Securely store and tightly control access to tokens, passwords, certificates, API keys, and other secrets. Key Management - Azure Key Vault can be used as a Key Management solution.

Can someone hack a YubiKey? ›

The power of touch. YubiKeys require a user to be physically present, so remote attacks are impossible.

Can someone steal my YubiKey? ›

A properly implemented Yubikey cannot be cloned. It can be stolen, but ideally you would notice it was missing. An authenticator can be copy/cloned.

How many passwords can YubiKey hold? ›

OATH (Yubico Authenticator) - the YubiKey 5's OATH application can hold up to 32 OATH-TOTP credentials (AKA authenticator app codes).

Does Office 365 have a password vault? ›

Wake up from your password fatigue

Now, with the Zoho Vault integration with Office 365, businesses can also securely manage their passwords. Zoho Vault helps you securely store, share, and manage passwords and simplify cloud app logins with its powerful single sign-on.

Does Windows have a built in password manager? ›

Under AutoComplete, click on Settings. Click on Manage Passwords. This will then open Credential Manager where you can view your saved passwords.

Does Office 365 have a password manager? ›

The SAASPASS office365.com password manager comes with a number of features: Autofill & Autologin on your computer with the browser extension from the web portal. Autofill & Autologin on your computer with the browser extension from the SSO Client. Autofill & Autologin within the mobile app.


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