Tutorial: Use Azure Key Vault with a Windows virtual machine in .NET

Azure Key Vault helps you to protect secrets such as API keys, the database connection strings you need to access your applications, services, and IT resources.

In this tutorial, you learn how to get a console application to read information from Azure Key Vault. To do so, you use managed identities for Azure resources.

The tutorial shows you how to:

  • Create a resource group.
  • Create a key vault.
  • Add a secret to the key vault.
  • Retrieve a secret from the key vault.
  • Create an Azure virtual machine.
  • Enable a managed identity for the Virtual Machine.
  • Assign permissions to the VM identity.

Before you begin, read Key Vault basic concepts.

If you don’t have an Azure subscription, create a free account.


For Windows, Mac, and Linux:

  • Git
  • This tutorial requires that you run the Azure CLI locally. You must have the Azure CLI version 2.0.4 or later installed. Run az --version to find the version. If you need to install or upgrade the CLI, see Install Azure CLI 2.0.

About Managed Service Identity

Azure Key Vault stores credentials securely, so they're not displayed in your code. However, you need to authenticate to Azure Key Vault to retrieve your keys. To authenticate to Key Vault, you need a credential. It's a classic bootstrap dilemma. Managed Service Identity (MSI) solves this issue by providing a bootstrap identity that simplifies the process.

When you enable MSI for an Azure service, such as Azure Virtual Machines, Azure App Service, or Azure Functions, Azure creates a service principal. MSI does this for the instance of the service in Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) and injects the service principal credentials into that instance.


Next, to get an access token, your code calls a local metadata service that's available on the Azure resource. To authenticate to an Azure Key Vault service, your code uses the access token that it gets from the local MSI endpoint.

Create resources and assign permissions

Before you start coding you need to create some resources, put a secret into your key vault, and assign permissions.

Sign in to Azure

To sign in to Azure by using the Azure CLI, enter:

az login

Create a resource group

An Azure resource group is a logical container into which Azure resources are deployed and managed. Create a resource group by using the az group create command.

This example creates a resource group in the West US location:

# To list locations: az account list-locations --output table
az group create --name "<YourResourceGroupName>" --location "West US"

Your newly created resource group will be used throughout this tutorial.

Create a key vault and populate it with a secret

Create a key vault in your resource group by providing the az keyvault create command with the following information:

  • Key vault name: a string of 3 to 24 characters that can contain only numbers (0-9), letters (a-z, A-Z), and hyphens (-)
  • Resource group name
  • Location: West US
az keyvault create --name "<YourKeyVaultName>" --resource-group "<YourResourceGroupName>" --location "West US"

At this point, your Azure account is the only one that's authorized to perform operations on this new key vault.

Now add a secret to your key vault using the az keyvault secret set command

To create a secret in the key vault called AppSecret, enter the following command:

az keyvault secret set --vault-name "<YourKeyVaultName>" --name "AppSecret" --value "MySecret"

This secret stores the value MySecret.

Create a virtual machine

Create a virtual machine by using one of the following methods:

Assign an identity to the VM

Create a system-assigned identity for the virtual machine with the az vm identity assign command:

az vm identity assign --name <NameOfYourVirtualMachine> --resource-group <YourResourceGroupName>

Note the system-assigned identity that's displayed in the following code. The output of the preceding command would be:

  "systemAssignedIdentity": "xxxxxxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxxxxxxxxxx",
  "userAssignedIdentities": {}

Assign permissions to the VM identity

Assign the previously created identity permissions to your key vault with the az keyvault set-policy command:

az keyvault set-policy --name '<YourKeyVaultName>' --object-id <VMSystemAssignedIdentity> --secret-permissions get list

Sign in to the virtual machine

To sign in to the virtual machine, follow the instructions in Connect and sign in to an Azure virtual machine running Windows.

Set up the console app

Create a console app and install the required packages using the dotnet command.

Install .NET Core

To install .NET Core, go to the .NET downloads page.

Create and run a sample .NET app

Open a command prompt.

You can print "Hello World" to the console by running the following commands:

dotnet new console -o helloworldapp
cd helloworldapp
dotnet run

Install the packages

From the console window, install the .NET packages required for this quickstart:

dotnet add package System.IO;
dotnet add package System.Net;
dotnet add package System.Text;
dotnet add package Newtonsoft.Json;
dotnet add package Newtonsoft.Json.Linq;

Edit the console app

Open the Program.cs file and add these packages:

using System;
using System.IO;
using System.Net;
using System.Text;
using Newtonsoft.Json;
using Newtonsoft.Json.Linq;

Edit the class file to contain the code in the following two-step process:

  1. Fetch a token from the local MSI endpoint on the VM. Doing so also fetches a token from Azure AD.
  2. Pass the token to your key vault, and then fetch your secret.
 class Program
        static void Main(string[] args)
            // Step 1: Get a token from the local (URI) Managed Service Identity endpoint, which in turn fetches it from Azure AD
            var token = GetToken();

            // Step 2: Fetch the secret value from your key vault

        static string GetToken()
            WebRequest request = WebRequest.Create("");
            request.Headers.Add("Metadata", "true");
            WebResponse response = request.GetResponse();
            return ParseWebResponse(response, "access_token");

        static string FetchSecretValueFromKeyVault(string token)
            WebRequest kvRequest = WebRequest.Create("https://<YourVaultName>.vault.azure.net/secrets/<YourSecretName>?api-version=2016-10-01");
            kvRequest.Headers.Add("Authorization", "Bearer "+  token);
            WebResponse kvResponse = kvRequest.GetResponse();
            return ParseWebResponse(kvResponse, "value");

        private static string ParseWebResponse(WebResponse response, string tokenName)
            string token = String.Empty;
            using (Stream stream = response.GetResponseStream())
                StreamReader reader = new StreamReader(stream, Encoding.UTF8);
                String responseString = reader.ReadToEnd();

                JObject joResponse = JObject.Parse(responseString);    
                JValue ojObject = (JValue)joResponse[tokenName];             
                token = ojObject.Value.ToString();
            return token;

The preceding code shows you how to do operations with Azure Key Vault in a Windows virtual machine.

Clean up resources

When they are no longer needed, delete the virtual machine and your key vault.

Next steps