Adding per-secret policy to allow the storing of private secrets

Problem Description

This is a companion spec to the add-per-secret-policy spec. That spec proposed a mechanism for allowing users outside the the secrets project to access a secret/container. This mechanism involved storing access control data in the database for each secret/container.

This spec solves a related problem. Currently, secrets are accessible by all users with the relevant role in the secret creator’s project. That means that all members of the same project can access all secrets stored for that project.

Recently there have been requests to be able to designate “private secrets”. These are secrets that only the secret creator (the user that created the secrets) would be able to extract.

Now, it is possible to create a project for each user that would like to store private secrets. This seems to be a very burdensome solution, with large admin overhead in managing all the required groups and roles.

Proposed Change

The proposal is to store additional access data with each secret/container. This data (“creator_only” with a value of True/False) will be stored in the SecretACL and ContainerACL data tables as a separate column. The details are in the Data Model Impact section below.

When a secret/container is accessed, the creator_only information and any whitelist information is passed up to the policy layer through target.* variables. Access is then determined by evaluating policy rules that use these parameters. Proposed policy rules are specified in the Policy section below.

Finally, the REST API will need to be augmented to allow users to specify and change the creator_only status of a secret/container.


Many different operations are restricted when creator_only = True:

get: If creator_only is true, only the secret/container’s creator will

be able to access the secret. Restricting access to a container though does NOT cascade the restriction down to the constituent secrets.

Note that this does not affect whitelisted users that have explicitly been allowed to get the secret/container.

delete: If creator_only is true, the secret/container can only be deleted by
the creator.
write: If creator_only is true, the secret/container can only be modified by
the creator.

change-acl: By default, this can only be modified by the creator.

list: If creator_only is true, only the creator will be able to list the secret.
This means that the link to the secret will not show up if a non-creator accesses GET /secrets

Data model impact

As per the per-secret spec, secrets, containers and orders tables will have a column added to store the creator of the secret. This would be populated by the creator’s user_id.

A boolean column (“creator_only”) will need to be added to the ContainerACL and SecretACL tables. The fields for the ACL tables will be as follows:

secret_id: foreign key to Secrets table operation: (in this case, get, write, delete, list) users: string, list of whitelisted users for the specified operation creator_only: True/False

When a secret is designated as “creator_only”, several fields will be created/ modified:

secret_id : get : users, True
secret_id:  write: None, True
secret_id:  delete: None, True
secret_id:  list:  None, True

Undesignating a secret as “creator-only” would either modify/delete the above entries.

REST API impact

  • A new parameter (“creator-only”), which would take the values “True” and “False” will be added to the ACL definition. It will default to False. Accordingly, the ACL definition will look like:

        "get": {
            "users": ["some_user",
        "creator-only": "true"

    If creator-only is set to true, the fields mentioned in the section above would be created.

  • As described in the per-secret spec, the ACL could be specified as an optional acl parameter when creating the secret with a POST request. It can also be retrieved or modified through a GET or POST

    POST <host>/v1/secrets/<secret-UUID>/acl
    GET  <host>/v1/secrets/<secret-UUID>/acl


When a container or secret is accessed, the ACL data is retrieved from the database and provided to the RBAC layer as target.* attributes. For reading a secret, for example, we could pass in target.user_whitelist and target.creator_only.

The policy rule would then look something like:

(can_read_shared and user_in_user_whitelist) OR
((current_resource_permissions and not creator_only) OR user_is_creator)

The (current_resource_permissions) part is basically that the user has the relevant role in the secret creator’s project.

For deletes, modifications etc., the rule is much simpler because we do not need to account for the whitelists. Delete, for example, will likely look something like this:

((current_resource_permissions and not creator_only) OR user_is_creator)


As mentioned before, for private secrets, we could create a group for each user. Other than being cumbersome, this will entail a maintenance load on system administrators to keep track of new and removed users.

Security impact

This improves security and usability in the stack as a whole by allowing users to specify private secrets.

Notifications & Audit Impact


Other end user impact

python-barbicanclient will need to be updated to provide an interface to populate the extra parameters.

Performance Impact

Accessing a secret/container will require two database calls: one to get secret/container whitelist as part of the RBAC engine’s rules enforcement, and one to actually get the secret.

These two database accesses are logically separate as the first process is controlled by middleware, and the second by Pecan. We might be able to utilize the same SQLAlchemy transaction, or else cache that secret entity data for the controllers to work with, so this might be moot.

Other deployer impact


Developer impact




Primary assignee:
alee rm_work

Work Items

  • Add new field to the database tables, and new parameters/calls to the REST API.
  • Add logic to parse the data and store the data in the database.
  • Add logic to retrieve the data from the database and provide to RBAC layer as target.* attributes.
  • Modify policy rules based on these target.* attributes. It may be necessary to extend oslo policy here to account for the new boolean flag. Any changes will need to be communicated clearly to deployers as it is not guaranteed that they will deploy with default policy files.




The current unit tests will also be modified to have this change reflected upon them.

Documentation Impact

Barbican docs and API docs will need to be changed.