Implementing least privilege for secrets in GitHub Actions

Implementing least privilege for secrets in GitHub Actions

Implementing least privilege for secrets in GitHub Actions. GitHub Actions provide several features to help your organization effectively implement a secret management strategy based on least privilege. GitHub provides the ability to store encrypted secrets used by GitHub Actions to authenticate against these resources.

GitHub Actions provide a powerful, extensible way to automate software development workflows. When access to outside resources is required, GitHub provides the ability to store  encrypted secrets used by GitHub Actions to authenticate against these resources. This makes managing access more simple and secure.

Good secret management practices include following principles of least privilege by narrowly scoping secrets to provide access to only what is required, limiting the manner in which the secret can be invoked, and rotating secrets when necessary. GitHub Actions provide several features to help your organization effectively implement a secret management strategy based on least privilege.

Secret availability

Secrets can be stored within GitHub at three different levels: the  organization, a single  repository, or a repository  environment. The level at which the secret should be stored depends on its scope and intended use.

For example, a Slack bot token with permissions to only post to organization-owned workspaces is used to broadcast status updates as part of CI/CD workflows. This token has no special access to any resources, and many different repositories’ workflows will post similar updates to Slack. This secret might be stored at the organization level. When creating an organization secret, you can choose to make it available to all repositories in the organization, only private and internal repositories, or a selected set of repositories.

A containerized application stores its custom images in AWS Elastic Container Registry (ECR). To ensure the automation used to deploy the application cannot be used to pull other containers, a unique token is created for the repository and stored as a repository-level secret.

That same containerized application is deployed as an Azure Web App in different dev, test, and prod environments. Each environment requires its own, unique publishing profile. Using environments, these can be stored as environment-level secrets within a repository.

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