2021-01-28
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Patience Adajah
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Jan 28, 2021 ⋅ 5 min read

Best practices for managing and storing secrets in frontend development

Patience Adajah Software developer and technical writer.

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3 Replies to "Best practices for managing and storing secrets in frontend development"

  1. This information is helpful (especially the things *not* to do), but it still does not provide enough advice on what *to* do to avoid exposing secrets in your downloaded application code – even if they are configured with environment variables.

    An approach I’m using — in an application that involves some sort of user authentication mechanism — is to store each user’s secrets in the server side user information database, and provide an API call that allows an authenticated user to download them. (Obviously, use SSL/TLS on this API call!) This approach avoids the problems of embedding secrets, and (if they are truly user-specific, like Gmail credentials) allows the users to manage them just like they manage the rest of their profile. If the secrets are global to the application (i.e. your organization signed up for them on behalf of all the users), still provide the API call, but never expose the secrets in the UI anywhere.

    This is still not a perfect defense against someone armed with the ability to do client side debugging in the browser, but makes life significantly more difficult for them.

  2. Having secrets in the frontend code is **always** a bad practice. You can obscure them using some techniques but I think it will create a false sense of security. I.E.: Any API key you have in your code will be sent clearly in the request to the corresponding service, no matter how hidden it’s in the code.
    Any reputable service will always have both private and public API keys if necessary.
    Another topic would be that you want to parametrize secrets. In fact, it is recommended, but it must not be confused with a security measure.

  3. You can use a middleware service to help you store and secure your API secrets then proxy the API calls to your frontend. This is the best way of going about it if you don’t want to set up your own backend server. We used a platform called KOR Connect, they simplified the whole connection into a couple simple steps as well as created their own layers of security on top of the regular proxy. Might be worth looking into?

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