Ansible SSH private key in source control?

I have been developing an Ansible playbook for a couple of weeks, therefore, my experience with such technology is relatively short. Part of my strategy includes using a custom ansible_ssh_user for provisioning hosts throughout the inventory, however, such user will need its own SSH key pair, which would involve some sort of a plan for holding/storing its correspondent private key. On a production environment, this playbook would be cloned/pulled and run inside a certain playbook node whose role is to provision the rest of the infrastructure.

At first, I was thinking to just put that private key inside the playbook git repository, but I am having second thoughts about it nonetheless, mostly because of somewhat obvious security reasons and common sense around it, hence the reason I need to consult you about this matter.

With this set on the table, here are the follow-up questions:

  • In an Ansible-based development environment, is it sane/reasonable to hold a private SSH key in source control?
  • Would this practice be advised only for development environments whereas another local git branch inside the playbook node would be then used to hold the actual production SSH private key?
  • Would it be better to address this case scenario via Ansible Vault instead?, I have not ever used this before, but regardless of that I cannot yet tell whether this would be a proper case for using it.
  • In your experience, what would be your approach around this in a production environment?, what would it be considered as the best practice in this particular scenario?

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  • 2 Solutions collect form web for “Ansible SSH private key in source control?”

    It is an anti-pattern to keep any kind of plaintext secrets under revision control, SSH private keys included.

    Instead, as you surmised, use ansible-vault to store the private key. I do so as follows.

    Make a variable with the key:

    ssh_key: |
      -----BEGIN RSA PRIVATE KEY-----
      -----END RSA PRIVATE KEY-----
    key_file: /home/user/.ssh/id_rsa

    Encrypt with ansible-vault:

    ansible-vault encrypt <your_var_file>

    And install the key:

    - name: Ensure .ssh directory exists.
        dest: "{{ key_file | dirname }}"
        mode: 0700 
        owner: user 
        state: directory
    - name: Install ssh key
        content: "{{ ssh_key }}" 
        dest: "{{ key_file }}"
        mode: 0600
        owner: user

    Thanks to Allen Luce and Xiong Chiamiov whose comments improved the answer.

    Since you are provisioning from scratch, you should generate the private/public key pair on the playbook node and then distribute the public key via the authorized_keys module. This would eliminate the need to store a secret anywhere except on the host where it is needed. Here is a playbook to achieve this, which would be executed on the playbook node:

    - hosts:
      sudo: yes
      gather_facts: no
      - name: create ansible_ssh_user locally
        user: name=ansible_ssh_user generate_ssh_key=yes ssh_key_bits=2048 ssh_key_file=.ssh/id_rsa
      - name: copy the generated public key to an accessible location for the next play
        shell: cp ~ansible_ssh_user/.ssh/ /tmp/
    - hosts: all
      sudo: yes
      gather_facts: no
      - name: create ansible_ssh_user
        user: name=ansible_ssh_user groups=group1,group2
      - name: Add RSA public key to the remote host
        authorized_key: user=ansible_ssh_user key="{{ lookup('file', '/tmp/') }}"
    - hosts:
      sudo: yes
      gather_facts: no
      - name: remove public key from /tmp
        shell: rm /tmp/
    Git Baby is a git and github fan, let's start git clone.