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Vaults are Polykey's method of securely storing secrets and information. Multiple vaults can be created which contain multiple secrets. These vaults are able to be securely transferred between nodes.


Each vault has a unique id, which is generated when it gets created. It is generated using Base58, and stored in the encryptedfs under its id. Within Polykey, the ID gets mapped to the vault, the current vaultName as well as the vaultKey, and in leveldb, the name and key gets stored under the ID.


Vaults maintain their own encrypted file system (EFS) along with a virtual file system (VFS) to store secrets within their respective vault directories contained within the polykey directory. The EFS ( uses AES-256-GCM to encrypt data. In polykey, the respective vault keys are passed into the EFS for encryption and decryption. The cryptographic operations are performed in the VFS to maintain security.

Each vault has a key that is used to lock and unlock secrets. These keys are stored in the VaultManager as:

type VaultKeys = {[key: string]: VaultKey};

To ensure security when they are stored on disk, asymmetric encryption takes place on each vault key, using the Root Public Key. These keys are then stored on disk using the level library. For accessing secrets within a vault, the relevant key can be extracted from the level database which is then decrypted using the Root Private Key. Then this vault key can be used to access secrets.

When the VaultManager is started, if metadata is found, then it is decrypted, and loaded into memory.


Metadata is stored using leveldb, under ~/.local/share/polykey/vaultKeys. It is simply a key-value store, and it is being used to store vaultNames as key, and the encrytped vault key as the value. It is updated on every relevant VaultManager operation including:

  • addVault
  • renameVault
  • deleteVault

Encrypted File System

EFS stores the data in the following form:

| salt (random, safeguards secrets) | init vector (random, initial state) | auth tag (verify data has not been modified) | encrypted data |

A virtual file system (VFS) is also passed to the encrypted files system, in order to create the in-memory file system. Two operations can be performed using the Encrypted File System; reads and writes. In order to maintain security, the secrets are decrypted in memory and not on disk. For write operations, the encrypted file is stored on disk and then stored in memory using the Virtual File System. In read operations, the file is accessed on disk then stored and decrypted in memory using the Virtual File System.



The VaultManager class is responsible for handling the many vaults a polykey instance would have. It contains a mapping of the vault name to the Vault object along with functions manage the vaults. This is what is exported from the Vaults module.

type VaultKey

Buffer of a vault key

type VaultKeys

  • [key: string]: VaultKey

Associates key names with their key value

type Vaults

  • [key: string]: Vault

Associates vault names with their vault class

new VaultManager(...)

Takes an object with the following properties:

  • baseDir: The base directory of the vaults
  • keyManager: A keyManager object
  • fs?: A filesystem object, defaults to fs/promises
  • logger?: Logger for outputting information, defaults to a new Logger()

Constructs an instance of vault manager. The VaultManager needs to be started with start()

public async start(): void

Starts the vault manager

public async stop(): void

Stops the vault manager

public async started(): Promise<boolean>

Checks to see whether or nor the current VaultManager instance has been started. This will be of use when ensuring that the VaultManager is fully initialized before attempting any changes, such as refreshing root keys.

public async addVault(vaultName: string): Promise<Vault>

  • vaultName: Name of vault

Adds a new vault. Returns the new vault if successful.

  • Throws ErrorVaultDefined exception if the vault name already exists in this VaultManager.

Also generates a new vault key and writes encrypted vault metadata to disk.

public async renameVault(currVaultName: string, newVaultName: string): Promise<boolean>

  • currVaultName: Current name of vault
  • newVaultName: New name of vault

Renames an existing vault. Returns a boolean describing the success of the operation.

  • Throws ErrorVaultUndefined exception if name of current vault does not exist
  • Throws ErrorVaultDefined if the new vault name already exists.

Updates references to vault keys and writes new encrypted vault metadata to disk.

public deleteVault(vaultName: string): boolean

  • vaultName: Name of vault to be deleted

Delete an existing vault. Deletes file from filesystem and updates mappings to vaults and vaultKeys. If it fails to delete from the filesystem, it will not modify any mappings and return false.

  • Throws ErrorVaultUndefined if vault name does not exist.

public getVault(vaultName: string): Vault

  • vaultName: Name of vault to get

Retrieves a Vault instance from the vault manager's mapping of vaults.

  • Throws ErrorVaultUndefined if the name given does not exist.

public listVaults(): string

Retrieve all the vaults for current node, returns an Array of vault names managed currently by the vault manager.

public scanNodeVaults(nodeId: string): string

  • nodeId: ID of node to list vaults for

List all vaults for a node given a nodeId. Returns an string of vault names.

public pullVault(vaultName: string, nodeId: string): boolean

  • vaultName: Name of vault to pull
  • nodeId: ID of node to pull from

Pull a vault from another node.

Returns true if successful. If the vault exists then the vault is pulled, changing the contents of the vault in the EFS by calling the corresponding pullVault function for the vault. If it doesn't exist then the vault is cloned and the contents of the vault are written using the EFS.

  • Throws ErrorVaultUndefined if the vault does not exist on the nodeIds store
  • Throws ErrorNodeUndefined if the node is not discoverable (in the node domain).

public reencryptVaultData(): void

When keypair is rotated, decrypt vault data and reencrypt with new keypair

private async writeVaultData(): Promise<void>

Writes encrypted vault data to disk. This includes encrypted vault keys and names. The encryption is done using the root key

private async putValueLeveldb(vaultName: string, vaultKey: Buffer): Promise<void>

  • vaultName name of vault
  • vaultKey vault key

Puts the vaultName value and the encrypted value for vaultKey into the leveldb

private async deleteValueLeveldb(vaultName: string): Promise<void>

  • vaultName name of vault

Deletes the vault from the leveldb

private async loadVaultData(): Promise<void>

Load existing vaults data into memory from vault metadata path. If metadata does not exist, does nothing. This method is called at the during the start() method and will attempt to populate the vaults and vaultKeys mappings of the VaultManager based on the information in the metadata.


This class represents the Vaults inside polykey, including functionality to manage its secrets, and git functionalities. Vaults are generally handled through the VaultManager.

const vaultManager = new VaultManager(...);
await vaultManager.addVault('MyVault');
const vault = vaultManager.getVault('MyVault');
// Create the vault, and initialize the vault's git repository for use
await vault.create();
await vault.initializeVault();

// Add a secret
await vault.addSecret("MySecret", "my-banking-details");

type NodePermissions

  • canPull: Indicates the ability of to pull the vault

Contains all the permissions and their values. At this stage, only pulling is implemented.

type ACL

  • [key: string]: NodePermissions

Associates a node ID with a node permissions instance

type FileChange

  • fileName: The name of the file that has been changed
  • action: The action performed on the file (added, removed, modified)

Contains the change information for a file

type FileChanges = Array<FileChange>

Alias for a list of file changes

new Vault(...)

  • baseDir: The base vault directory
  • vaultName: The name of the vault
  • nodePermissions: Indexed object of nodes and their permissions
  • efs: The encrypted file system for the vault
  • mutex: The mutex of the vault for blocking actions to a directory
  • 'logger`: The logger of the vault for outputting information

Creates an instance of a vault, takes in a key which is passed to the efs.

public async create()

Creates the vault directory.

public async destroy()

Destroys a vault.

public async initializeVault(): Promise<void>

Initializes the repository for the vault

public async vaultStats(): Promise<fs.Stats>

Retrieves stats for a vault. Returns an fs.Stats object which is serializable.

public pullVault(nodeId: string): void

  • nodeId: ID of node to pull from

Pulls the vault changes from a nodeId. No exceptions occur as the node ID has already been connected to and the existence of the vault has been checked by the VaultManager.

public async addSecret(secretName: string, content: Buffer): Promise<boolean>

  • secretName: Name of secret
  • content: Content of the secret

Adds a secret to the vault.

Returns true if success.

  • Throws ErrorSecretExists if a secret of the same name already exists or a directory of the same name exists
  • Throws ErrorGitFile exception if the file is a .git file
  • Throws ErrorVaultUnintialised if secret is added without the vault being initialised

public async addSecretDirectory(secretDirectory: string): Promise<void>

  • secretDirectory: Path to secret on disk

Adds a secret to the vault.

Returns true if success. If a secret of the same name already exists or a directory of the same name exists, that directory/secret will be updated.

  • Throws ErrorGitFile if a secret is a .git file
  • Throws ErrorVaultUninitialised if a secret is being added without the vault being initialised

public changePermissions(nodeId: string, newPermissions: NodePermissions): void

  • nodeId: ID of node
  • newPermissions: Permission(s) to change to

Changes the permissions of a node

public checkPermissions(nodeId: string): NodePermissions

  • nodeId: ID of node to check permissions for

Returns the permissions of a node in the form of NodePermissions. Inside the NodePermissions return there will be fields which indicate the ability of the node with a boolean. Currently there is only functionality for pulling, therefore only the canPull field will exist.

public async renameVault(newVaultName: string): Promise<boolean>

  • newVaultName: The name that the vault should be renamed to

Changes the name of the vault in memory and in the encrypted file system

public async updateSecret(secretName: string, content: Buffer): Promise<void>

  • secretName: Name of secret to update
  • content: New content of secret

Changes the contents of a secret

public async renameSecret(currSecretName: string, newSecretName: string): Promise<boolean>

  • currSecretName: Current name of secret
  • newSecretName: New name of secret

Changes the name of a secret in a vault: Returns true on success.

  • Throws ErrorGitFile is the currSecretName or newSecretName is '.git'
  • Throws ErrorSecretDefined if the new name of the secret already exists

public async listSecrets(): Promise<string>

Retrieves a list of the secrets in a vault: Returns secrets as a string.

public getSecret(secretName: string): Buffer | string;

  • secretName: Name of secret

Returns the contents of a secret. Uses the EFS to synchronously read in the contents of the file that has the secret name.

  • Throws ErrorSecretUndefined if secret with specified name does not exist

public async deleteSecret(secretName: string, recursive: boolean): Promise<boolean>

  • secretName: Name of secret to delete
  • recursive: Recursively delete secrets within

Removes a secret from a vault: Returns true on success.

  • Throws ErrorGitFile if secretName is '.git'
  • Throws ErrorRecursiveDelete if the specified secret is a directory but the deletion is not recursive
  • Throws ErrorSecretUdefined if the secret does not exist

private async commitChanges(fileChanges: FileChanges, message: string)

  • fileChanges: List of file changes
  • message: Commit message

Helper Method that commits the changes made to a vault repository

private writeNodePermissions(): void

Writes out the stored node permissions

private loadNodePermissions(): void

Loads the node permissions