Manage Key Vault using CLI 2.0

This article covers how to get started working with Azure Key Vault using the Azure CLI 2.0. You can see information on:

  • How to create a hardened container (a vault) in Azure
  • How to store and manage cryptographic keys and secrets in Azure.
  • Using the Azure CLI to create a vault.
  • Creating a key or password that you can then use with an Azure application.
  • How an application can use the created key or password.

Azure Key Vault is available in most regions. For more information, see the Key Vault pricing page.


This article does not include instructions on how to write the Azure application that one of the steps includes, which shows how to authorize an application to use a key or secret in the key vault.

For an overview of Azure Key Vault, see What is Azure Key Vault?


To use the Azure CLI commands in this article, you must have the following items:

Getting help with Azure Cross-Platform Command-Line Interface

This article assumes that you're familiar with the command-line interface (Bash, Terminal, Command prompt).

The --help or -h parameter can be used to view help for specific commands. Alternately, The Azure help [command] [options] format can also be used too. When in doubt about the parameters needed by a command, refer to help. For example, the following commands all return the same information:

az account set --help
az account set -h

You can also read the following articles to get familiar with Azure Resource Manager in Azure Cross-Platform Command-Line Interface:

Connect to your subscriptions

To log in interactively, use the following command:

az login

To log in using an organizational account, you can pass in your username and password.

az login -u -p password

If you have more than one subscription and need to specify which to use, type the following to see the subscriptions for your account:

az account list

Specify a subscription with the subscription parameter.

az account set --subscription <subscription name or ID>

For more information about configuring Azure Cross-Platform Command-Line Interface, see Install Azure CLI.

Create a new resource group

When using Azure Resource Manager, all related resources are created inside a resource group. You can create a key vault in an existing resource group. If you want to use a new resource group, you can create a new one.

az group create -n 'ContosoResourceGroup' -l 'East Asia'

The first parameter is resource group name and the second parameter is the location. To get a list of all possible locations type:

az account list-locations

Register the Key Vault resource provider

You may see the error "The subscription is not registered to use namespace 'Microsoft.KeyVault'" when you try to create a new key vault. If that message appears, make sure that Key Vault resource provider is registered in your subscription. This is a one-time operation for each subscription.

az provider register -n Microsoft.KeyVault

Create a key vault

Use the az keyvault create command to create a key vault. This script has three mandatory parameters: a resource group name, a key vault name, and the geographic location.

To create a new vault with the name ContosoKeyVault, in the resource group ContosoResourceGroup, residing in the East Asia location, type:

az keyvault create --name 'ContosoKeyVault' --resource-group 'ContosoResourceGroup' --location 'East Asia'

The output of this command shows properties of the key vault that you've created. The two most important properties are:

  • name: In the example, the name is ContosoKeyVault. You'll use this name for other Key Vault commands.
  • vaultUri: In the example, the URI is Applications that use your vault through its REST API must use this URI.

Your Azure account is now authorized to perform any operations on this key vault. As of yet, nobody else is authorized.

Add a key, secret, or certificate to the key vault

If you want Azure Key Vault to create a software-protected key for you, use the az key create command.

az keyvault key create --vault-name 'ContosoKeyVault' --name 'ContosoFirstKey' --protection software

If you have an existing key in a .pem file, you can upload it to Azure Key Vault. You can choose to protect the key with software or HSM. Use the following to import the key from the .pem file and protect it with software:

az keyvault key import --vault-name 'ContosoKeyVault' --name 'ContosoFirstKey' --pem-file './softkey.pem' --pem-password 'Pa$$w0rd' --protection software

You can now reference the key that you created or uploaded to Azure Key Vault, by using its URI. Use to always get the current version. Use https://[keyvault-name][keyname]/[key-unique-id] to get this specific version. For example,

Add a secret to the vault, which is a password named SQLPassword, and that has the value of Pa$$w0rd to Azure Key Vaults.

az keyvault secret set --vault-name 'ContosoKeyVault' --name 'SQLPassword' --value 'Pa$$w0rd'

Reference this password by using its URI. Use to always get the current version, and https://[keyvault-name][secret-name]/[secret-unique-id] to get this specific version. For example,

Import a certificate to the vault using a .pem or .pfx.

az keyvault certificate import --vault-name 'ContosoKeyVault' --file 'c:\cert\cert.pfx' --name 'ContosoCert' --password 'Pa$$w0rd'

Let's view the key, secret, or certificate that you created:

  • To view your keys, type:
az keyvault key list --vault-name 'ContosoKeyVault'
  • To view your secrets, type:
az keyvault secret list --vault-name 'ContosoKeyVault'
  • To view certificates, type:
az keyvault certificate list --vault-name 'ContosoKeyVault'

Register an application with Azure Active Directory

This step would usually be done by a developer, on a separate computer. It isn't specific to Azure Key Vault but is included here, for awareness. To complete the app registration, your account, the vault, and the application need to be in the same Azure directory.

Applications that use a key vault must authenticate by using a token from Azure Active Directory. The owner of the application must register it in Azure Active Directory first. At the end of registration, the application owner gets the following values:

  • An Application ID (also known as the AAD Client ID or appID)
  • An authentication key (also known as the shared secret).

The application must present both these values to Azure Active Directory, to get a token. How an application is configured to get a token will depend on the application. For the Key Vault sample application, the application owner sets these values in the app.config file.

For detailed steps on registering an application with Azure Active Directory you should review the articles titled Integrating applications with Azure Active Directory, Use portal to create an Azure Active Directory application and service principal that can access resources, and Create an Azure service principal with Azure CLI 2.0.

To register an application in Azure Active Directory:

az ad sp create-for-rbac -n "MyApp" --password 'Pa$$w0rd' --skip-assignment
# If you don't specify a password, one will be created for you.

Authorize the application to use the key or secret

To authorize the application to access the key or secret in the vault, use the az keyvault set-policy command.

For example, if your vault name is ContosoKeyVault, the application has an appID of 8f8c4bbd-485b-45fd-98f7-ec6300b7b4ed, and you want to authorize the application to decrypt and sign with keys in your vault, use the following command:

az keyvault set-policy --name 'ContosoKeyVault' --spn 8f8c4bbd-485b-45fd-98f7-ec6300b7b4ed --key-permissions decrypt sign

To authorize the same application to read secrets in your vault, type the following command:

az keyvault set-policy --name 'ContosoKeyVault' --spn 8f8c4bbd-485b-45fd-98f7-ec6300b7b4ed --secret-permissions get

Set key vault advanced access policies

Use az keyvault update to enable advanced policies for the key vault.

Enable Key Vault for deployment: Allows virtual machines to retrieve certificates stored as secrets from the vault.

az keyvault update --name 'ContosoKeyVault' --resource-group 'ContosoResourceGroup' --enabled-for-deployment 'true'

Enable Key Vault for disk encryption: Required when using the vault for Azure Disk encryption.

az keyvault update --name 'ContosoKeyVault' --resource-group 'ContosoResourceGroup' --enabled-for-disk-encryption 'true'

Enable Key Vault for template deployment: Allows Resource Manager to retrieve secrets from the vault.

az keyvault update --name 'ContosoKeyVault' --resource-group 'ContosoResourceGroup' --enabled-for-template-deployment 'true'

If you want to use a hardware security module (HSM)

For added assurance, you can import or generate keys from hardware security modules (HSMs) that never leave the HSM boundary. The HSMs are FIPS 140-2 Level 2 validated. If this requirement doesn't apply to you, skip this section and go to Delete the key vault and associated keys and secrets.

To create these HSM-protected keys, you must have a vault subscription that supports HSM-protected keys.

When you create the keyvault, add the 'sku' parameter:

az keyvault create --name 'ContosoKeyVaultHSM' --resource-group 'ContosoResourceGroup' --location 'East Asia' --sku 'Premium'

You can add software-protected keys (as shown earlier) and HSM-protected keys to this vault. To create an HSM-protected key, set the Destination parameter to 'HSM':

az keyvault key create --vault-name 'ContosoKeyVaultHSM' --name 'ContosoFirstHSMKey' --protection 'hsm'

You can use the following command to import a key from a .pem file on your computer. This command imports the key into HSMs in the Key Vault service:

az keyvault key import --vault-name 'ContosoKeyVaultHSM' --name 'ContosoFirstHSMKey' --pem-file '/.softkey.pem' --protection 'hsm' --pem-password 'PaSSWORD'

The next command imports a “bring your own key" (BYOK) package. This lets you generate your key in your local HSM, and transfer it to HSMs in the Key Vault service, without the key leaving the HSM boundary:

az keyvault key import --vault-name 'ContosoKeyVaultHSM' --name 'ContosoFirstHSMKey' --byok-file './ITByok.byok' --protection 'hsm'

For more detailed instructions about how to generate this BYOK package, see How to use HSM-Protected Keys with Azure Key Vault.

Delete the key vault and associated keys and secrets

If you no longer need the key vault and its keys or secrets, you can delete the key vault by using the az keyvault delete command:

az keyvault delete --name 'ContosoKeyVault'

Or, you can delete an entire Azure resource group, which includes the key vault and any other resources that you included in that group:

az group delete --name 'ContosoResourceGroup'

Other Azure Cross-Platform Command-line Interface Commands

Other commands that you might find useful for managing Azure Key Vault.

This command lists a tabular display of all keys and selected properties:

az keyvault key list --vault-name 'ContosoKeyVault'

This command displays a full list of properties for the specified key:

az keyvault key show --vault-name 'ContosoKeyVault' --name 'ContosoFirstKey'

This command lists a tabular display of all secret names and selected properties:

az keyvault secret list --vault-name 'ContosoKeyVault'

Here's an example of how to remove a specific key:

az keyvault key delete --vault-name 'ContosoKeyVault' --name 'ContosoFirstKey'

Here's an example of how to remove a specific secret:

az keyvault secret delete --vault-name 'ContosoKeyVault' --name 'SQLPassword'

Next steps