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This document will use the Conjur command-line interface (CLI) to show you how to use Conjur to perform some common tasks such as loading and retrieving secrets from Conjur, creating security policies, logging in as a machine, and fetching a secret while logged in as a machine.

For this tour, we will use a Conjur server that is running in the cloud, where an account has already been created for you. Please note that this cloud-based Conjur server is for evaluation purposes only, and therefore you should make sure not to store any sensitive information in it. For production scenarios, the Conjur server would be deployed within your own private environment.

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Install Docker

If you don’t have Docker installed, you can download it here:

Download & Run the Conjur CLI

You can easily download and run the Conjur CLI using the official pre-built images hosted by Docker Hub.

$ docker run --rm -it -v $PWD:/work -w /work conjurinc/cli5

Export Environment Variables

Use your account information to configure the connection to the Conjur server. The information below is for the hosted solution, but if you have your own Conjur server then update it appropriately.

$ export CONJUR_ACCOUNT="your-conjur-account-id"


Login by entering your API key at the login prompt:

  $ conjur authn login -u admin
  Please enter admin password (it will not be echoed):
  Logged in

With this accomplished, you’re ready to walk through the following tour of Conjur features.

Introducing Policies

In order to manage control of infrastructure, you use Conjur policies to create access rules between users, machines, services and secrets. Policies are the medium of security model collaboration. Since they are human readable, they can be shared with all stakeholders to gain consensus before commiting changes to your security infrastructure.

A policy is a declarative document (data, not code), so loading a policy cannot have any effect other than to create and update the role-based access control model inside the Conjur service. It is written using Policy Markup, a subset of YAML which is human-readable.

Documents in Policy Markup format are easy to generate and manipulate using any programming language, and they are idempotent so you can safely re-apply a policy any number of times. These properties make them automation-friendly.

Here is a typical policy file. Save this file as conjur.yml:

- !policy
  id: db
  - &variables
    - !variable password

  - !group secrets-users

  - !permit
    resource: *variables
    privileges: [ read, execute ]
    roles: !group secrets-users

- !policy
  id: myapp
  - !layer
      description: My application layer

  - !host-factory
    layers: [ !layer ]
- !group developers

- !user
  id: alice

- !host myapp-01

- !grant
  role: !group developers
  member: !user alice

- !grant
  role: !group db/secrets-users
  member: !layer myapp

- !grant
  role: !layer myapp
  member: !host myapp-01

Here’s a screencast of the first part of this tour, showing how to start the container, setup the environment, and create a file in the container using nano:


Loading the Root Policy

To load the policy, use the CLI command conjur policy load <policy-id> <policy-file>. This command requires two arguments:

  • policy-id The first time you load a policy, use the policy id root. This is a special policy name that is used to define root-level data.
  • policy-file Policy file containing statements in YAML format.
$ conjur policy load root conjur.yml
Loaded policy 'root'
  "created_roles": {
    "myorg:user:alice": {
      "id": "myorg:user:alice",
      "api_key": "kme9412wxd05w32ask613anjk46yj11dq25ewed32hfqbzhkjec4w"
    "myorg:host:myapp-01": {
      "id": "myorg:host:myapp-01",
      "api_key": "r9exkb2485qz62ka9jvz1c0f9w1q4re5h2g7m2wq2y9n5rc3m7hnzz"
  "version": 1

You created a user and a group, and added the user to the group. You also created a host, and added the host to a layer. And you also created some variables, which can be used to store and distribute secret data, then you granted some permissions on the variables. Other tutorials provide more explanation about these different objects, how they are created how permissions are managed.

The command response includes the following data:

  • created_roles Hash<role_id, api_key> Conjur issues an API key to each new role which is created by the policy. These API keys are printed in the response. If you want to login as one of these roles, you can use the corresponding API key.

  • version integer The server reported "version": 1, because this is the first version of the “root” policy that you have loaded. As you update the policy, the version number will be incremented. You can use the CLI to view the current and historical policy YAML.

Adding a Secret

The policy defines a variable called db/password. As we mentioned earlier, Conjur variables store encrypted, access-controlled data. To load a secret value into the db/password, use the following commands:

$ password=$(openssl rand -hex 12)
$ conjur variable values add db/password $password
Value added

Fetching a Secret

Here’s how to retrieve a secret value:

$ conjur variable value db/password

The most recent 20 values of each variable are retained in Conjur in case you need to retrieve them again. The version history is 1-based, so to retrieve the first historical version of a secret, use the -v option:

$ conjur variable value -v 1 db/password

Logging in as a Machine

So far, we have performed all the commands while logged in as the “admin” user. But, we showed how the server issued a new API key for the host “myapp-01”.

To login as another role, use the CLI command conjur authn login. When prompted for the password, enter the API key which was printed when you loaded the policy above.

$ conjur authn login host/myapp-01
Please enter host/myapp-01s password (it will not be echoed):
Logged in
$ conjur authn whoami
{ "account": "myorg", "user": "host/myapp-01" }
Note If you lose the API key of a host, you can reset it using the command conjur host rotate_api_key -h <host-id>.

Fetching a Secret as a Machine

Because the policy permits the layer myapp to execute the variable db/password, and because the host myapp-01 is a member of this layer, we can now fetch the secret value while authenticated as the host:

$ conjur variable value db/password

Next Steps