Sealed Secrets

Manage Kubernetes secrets with Bitnami sealed-secrets controller.

In order to store secrets safely in a public or private Git repository, you can use Bitnami’s sealed-secrets controller and encrypt your Kubernetes Secrets into SealedSecrets. The sealed secrets can be decrypted only by the controller running in your cluster and nobody else can obtain the original secret, even if they have access to the Git repository.


To follow this guide you’ll need a Kubernetes cluster with the GitOps toolkit controllers installed on it. Please see the get started guide or the installation guide.

The sealed-secrets controller comes with a companion CLI tool called kubeseal. With kubeseal you can create SealedSecret custom resources in YAML format and store those in your Git repository.

Install the kubeseal CLI:

brew install kubeseal

For Linux or Windows you can download the kubeseal binary from GitHub.

Deploy sealed-secrets with a HelmRelease

You’ll be using helm-controller APIs to install the sealed-secrets controller from its Helm chart.

First you have to register the Helm repository where the sealed-secrets chart is published:

flux create source helm sealed-secrets \
--interval=1h \

With interval we configure source-controller to download the Helm repository index every hour. If a newer version of sealed-secrets is published, source-controller will signal helm-controller that a new chart is available.

Create a Helm release that installs the latest version of sealed-secrets controller:

flux create helmrelease sealed-secrets \
--interval=1h \
--release-name=sealed-secrets-controller \
--target-namespace=flux-system \
--source=HelmRepository/sealed-secrets \
--chart=sealed-secrets \
--chart-version=">=1.15.0-0" \

With chart version >=1.15.0-0 we configure helm-controller to automatically upgrade the release when a new chart version is fetched by source-controller.

At startup, the sealed-secrets controller generates a 4096-bit RSA key pair and persists the private and public keys as Kubernetes secrets in the flux-system namespace.

You can retrieve the public key with:

kubeseal --fetch-cert \
--controller-name=sealed-secrets-controller \
--controller-namespace=flux-system \
> pub-sealed-secrets.pem

The public key can be safely stored in Git, and can be used to encrypt secrets without direct access to the Kubernetes cluster.

Encrypt secrets

Generate a Kubernetes secret manifest with kubectl:

kubectl -n default create secret generic basic-auth \
--from-literal=user=admin \
--from-literal=password=change-me \
--dry-run=client \
-o yaml > basic-auth.yaml

Encrypt the secret with kubeseal:

kubeseal --format=yaml --cert=pub-sealed-secrets.pem \
< basic-auth.yaml > basic-auth-sealed.yaml

Delete the plain secret and apply the sealed one:

rm basic-auth.yaml
kubectl apply -f basic-auth-sealed.yaml

Verify that the sealed-secrets controller has created the basic-auth Kubernetes Secret:

$ kubectl -n default get secrets basic-auth

NAME         TYPE     DATA   AGE
basic-auth   Opaque   2      1m43s

GitOps workflow

A cluster admin should add the stable HelmRepository manifest and the sealed-secrets HelmRelease to the fleet repository.

Helm repository manifest:

kind: HelmRepository
  name: sealed-secrets
  namespace: flux-system
  interval: 1h0m0s

Helm release manifest:

kind: HelmRelease
  name: sealed-secrets
  namespace: flux-system
      chart: sealed-secrets
        kind: HelmRepository
        name: sealed-secrets
      version: ">=1.15.0-0"
  interval: 1h0m0s
  releaseName: sealed-secrets-controller
  targetNamespace: flux-system
    crds: Create
    crds: CreateReplace

Once the sealed-secrets controller is installed, the admin fetches the public key and shares it with the teams that operate on the fleet clusters via Git.

When a team member wants to create a Kubernetes Secret on a cluster, they uses kubeseal and the public key corresponding to that cluster to generate a SealedSecret.

Assuming a team member wants to deploy an application that needs to connect to a database using a username and password, they’ll be doing the following:

  • create a Kubernetes Secret manifest locally with the db credentials e.g. db-auth.yaml
  • encrypt the secret with kubeseal as db-auth-sealed.yaml
  • delete the original secret file db-auth.yaml
  • create a Kubernetes Deployment manifest for the app e.g. app-deployment.yaml
  • add the Secret to the Deployment manifest as a volume mount or env var using the original name db-auth
  • commit the manifests db-auth-sealed.yaml and app-deployment.yaml to a Git repository that’s being synced by the GitOps toolkit controllers

Once the manifests have been pushed to the Git repository, the following happens:

  • source-controller pulls the changes from Git
  • kustomize-controller applies the SealedSecret and the Deployment manifests
  • sealed-secrets controller decrypts the SealedSecret and creates a Kubernetes Secret
  • kubelet creates the pods and mounts the secret as a volume or env variable inside the app container
Last modified 2024-05-13: upgrade apis for helm GA (b3dba1e)