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.
  • The process of using Azure Cross-Platform Command-Line Interface to create a vault that contains a key or password that you can then use with an Azure application.
  • How an application can then use that key or password.

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

Estimated time to complete: 20 minutes


This tutorial 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 complete this tutorial, you must have the following:

Getting help with Azure Cross-Platform Command-Line Interface

This tutorial assumes that you are 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 to return the same information. For example, the following commands all return the same information:

az account set --help
az account set -h

When in doubt about the parameters needed by a command, refer to help using --help, -h or az help [command].

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

Connect to your subscriptions

To log in using an organizational account, use the following command:

az login -u -p password

or if you want to log in by typing interactively

az login

If you have multiple subscriptions and want to specify a specific one to use for Azure Key Vault, type the following to see the subscriptions for your account:

az account list

Then, to specify the subscription to use, type:

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. We will create a new resource group 'ContosoResourceGroup' for this tutorial.

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

If you need more information, type:

az account list-locations -h

Register the Key Vault resource provider

When you try to create a new key vault you may see the error "The subscription is not registered to use namespace 'Microsoft.KeyVault'". If that message appears make sure that Key Vault resource provider is registered in your subscription:

az provider register -n Microsoft.KeyVault


This only needs to be done once per subscription.

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.

For example:

  • if you use the vault name of ContosoKeyVault
  • The resource group name of ContosoResourceGroup
  • The location of East Asia

You would 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 just created. The two most important properties are:

  • name: In the example this is ContosoKeyVault. You will use this name for other Key Vault commands.
  • vaultUri: In the example this 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 yet, nobody else is.

Add a key or secret to the key vault

If you want Azure Key Vault to create a software-protected key for you, use the az key create command, and type the following:

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

However, if you have an existing key in a .pem file saved as local file in a file named softkey.pem that you want to upload to Azure Key Vault, type the following to import the key from the .PEM file, which protects the key by software in the Key Vault service:

az keyvault key import --vault-name 'ContosoKeyVault' --name 'ContosoFirstKey' --pem-file './softkey.pem' --pem-password 'PaSSWORD' --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, and use to get this specific version.

To add a secret to the vault, which is a password named SQLPassword and that has the value of Pa$$w0rd to Azure Key Vault, type the following:

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

You can now reference this password that you added to Azure Key Vault, by using its URI. Use to always get the current version, and use to get this specific version.

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

  • To view your key, type:
az keyvault key list --vault-name 'ContosoKeyVault'
  • To view your secret, type:
az keyvault secret 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 is not specific to Azure Key Vault but is included here, for awareness.


To complete the tutorial, your account, the vault, and the application that you will register in this step must all be in the same Azure directory.

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

  • An Application ID
  • 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 the application is configured to do this depends 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 article titled Integrating applications with Azure Active Directory or Use portal to create an Azure Active Directory application and service principal that can access resources To register the application in Azure Active Directory:

  1. Sign in to the Azure portal.
  2. On the left, click App registrations. If you don't see app registrations you click on more services and find it there.
    [!NOTE] You must select the same directory that contains the Azure subscription with which you created your key vault.
  3. Click New application registration.
  4. On the Create blade provide a name for your application, and then select WEB APPLICATION AND/OR WEB API (the default) and specify the SIGN-ON URL for your web application. If you don't have this information at this time, you can make it up for this step (for example, you could specify ). It does not matter if these sites exist.

    New application registration


    Make sure that you chose WEB APPLICATION AND/OR WEB API if you did not you will not see the keys option under settings.

  5. Click the Create button.

  6. When the app registration is completed you can see the list of registered apps. Find the app that you just registered and click on it.
  7. Click on the Registered app blade copy the Application ID
  8. Click on All settings
  9. On the Settings blade click on keys
  10. Type in a description in the Key description box and select a duration, and then click SAVE. The page refreshes and now shows a key value.
  11. You will use the Application ID and the Key information in the next step to set permissions on your vault.

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 and the application you want to authorize has a client ID of 8f8c4bbd-485b-45fd-98f7-ec6300b7b4ed, and you want to authorize the application to decrypt and sign with keys in your vault, then run the following:

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

If you want to authorize that same application to read secrets in your vault, run the following:

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

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

For added assurance, you can import or generate keys in 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 the key or secret that it contains, 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 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