NashTech Insights

How to Manage Secrets and Sensitive Data in Terraform

Rahul Miglani
Rahul Miglani
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Terraform, an infrastructure as code tool, allows you to provision and manage your infrastructure resources in a declarative manner. When working with Terraform, it’s crucial to handle secrets and sensitive data securely. Managing secrets properly ensures the protection of sensitive information such as API keys, passwords, and access tokens. In this blog post, we will explore best practices for managing secrets and sensitive data in Terraform. We will also provide an example Terraform code snippet to demonstrate how to securely handle secrets within your infrastructure configurations.

Understanding the Importance of Securing Secrets in Terraform:

In modern application deployments, secrets play a vital role in securing sensitive data and accessing external services. Terraform, being an infrastructure as code tool, interacts with various cloud providers and services. This often requires the use of secrets like API keys, passwords, and tokens to authenticate and authorize access.

If not managed securely, exposing these secrets can lead to unauthorized access, data breaches, and compromise of sensitive information. Therefore, it’s essential to follow best practices for securely handling secrets in your Terraform configurations.

Best Practices for Managing Secrets in Terraform:

Avoid Hardcoding Secrets: Hardcoding secrets directly in your Terraform configurations is strongly discouraged. Instead, externalize secrets and store them securely in a secrets management system or a password manager. This ensures that sensitive information is not stored in plain text within your codebase.

Use Environment Variables: Leverage environment variables to pass secrets to your Terraform configurations. This approach allows you to separate the management of secrets from your infrastructure code and provides flexibility in different environments.

Utilize Terraform Input Variables: Terraform provides input variables that allow you to pass values dynamically at runtime. Use input variables to securely pass secrets to your infrastructure code during Terraform plan and apply commands.

Leverage Secrets Management Systems: Use dedicated secrets management systems like HashiCorp Vault, AWS Secrets Manager, or Azure Key Vault to securely store and retrieve secrets. These systems offer encryption, access controls, and auditing capabilities, ensuring the secure management of sensitive data.

Example Terraform Code Snippet:

Let’s explore an example of how to securely manage secrets in Terraform by utilizing environment variables and input variables.

provider "aws" {
  region = var.aws_region
  access_key = var.aws_access_key
  secret_access_key = var.aws_secret_access_key

resource "aws_instance" "example_instance" {
  // Resource configuration

variable "aws_region" {
  type    = string
  default = ""

variable "aws_access_key" {
  type    = string
  default = ""

variable "aws_secret_access_key" {
  type    = string
  default = ""

In this example, we have an AWS provider block that requires region, access key, and secret access key to authenticate with AWS. Instead of hardcoding these sensitive values, we utilize input variables to pass them securely.

To provide values for these variables, we can use environment variables or pass them directly when executing Terraform commands. For example, you can set the environment variables TF_VAR_aws_region, TF_VAR_aws_access_key, and TF_VAR_aws_secret_access_key with the appropriate values.

By separating the sensitive values from the Terraform code and utilizing environment variables or input variables, you ensure that secrets are not exposed in the configuration files or stored in plain text.


Managing secrets and sensitive data securely is crucial when working with Terraform. By following best practices such as avoiding hardcoding secrets, utilizing environment variables, and leveraging secrets management systems, you can ensure the protection of sensitive information within your infrastructure configurations.

In this blog post, we discussed the importance of managing secrets in Terraform and provided best practices for securely handling secrets within your infrastructure code. We also demonstrated an example Terraform code snippet that showcases how to use input variables to manage sensitive information such as AWS access keys and secret access keys.

By adopting these best practices, you can mitigate the risk of exposing sensitive data and ensure the overall security of your Terraform deployments.

Remember, securing secrets goes beyond just managing them within your Terraform code. It’s essential to follow security principles such as granting the least privilege, regularly rotating secrets, and monitoring access to sensitive data. Additionally, ensure that the infrastructure where Terraform runs is secure and that appropriate access controls are in place.

Implementing a robust secrets management strategy in conjunction with Terraform empowers you to build and maintain secure infrastructure while adhering to the principles of infrastructure as code.


In this blog post, we explored the importance of managing secrets and sensitive data in Terraform. We discussed the risks associated with mishandling secrets and shared best practices for securely handling them within your infrastructure code. By following these practices, you can protect sensitive information, prevent unauthorized access, and ensure the overall security of your Terraform deployments.

Remember, securing secrets is a critical aspect of infrastructure security. It’s essential to consider the entire lifecycle of secrets, including their generation, storage, rotation, and access controls. Additionally, leverage existing secrets management systems and practices to enhance the security of your infrastructure-as-code projects.

By integrating robust secrets management practices into your Terraform workflows, you can confidently build and manage secure and scalable infrastructure, ensuring the protection of your sensitive data.

So, start implementing these best practices today and elevate the security of your Terraform deployments. Happy coding and securing!

Rahul Miglani

Rahul Miglani

Rahul Miglani is Vice President at NashTech and Heads the DevOps Competency and also Heads the Cloud Engineering Practice. He is a DevOps evangelist with a keen focus to build deep relationships with senior technical individuals as well as pre-sales from customers all over the globe to enable them to be DevOps and cloud advocates and help them achieve their automation journey. He also acts as a technical liaison between customers, service engineering teams, and the DevOps community as a whole. Rahul works with customers with the goal of making them solid references on the Cloud container services platforms and also participates as a thought leader in the docker, Kubernetes, container, cloud, and DevOps community. His proficiency includes rich experience in highly optimized, highly available architectural decision-making with an inclination towards logging, monitoring, security, governance, and visualization.

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