Use Azure Key Vault from a Web Application


Use this tutorial to help you learn how to use Azure Key Vault from a web application in Azure. It walks you through the process of accessing a secret from an Azure Key Vault so that it can be used in your web application.

Estimated time to complete: 15 minutes

For overview information about Azure Key Vault, see What is Azure Key Vault?


To complete this tutorial, you must have the following:

  • A URI to a secret in an Azure Key Vault
  • A Client ID and a Client Secret for a web application registered with Azure Active Directory that has access to your Key Vault
  • A web application.


  • This sample depends on an older way of manually provisioning AAD Identities. Currently, there is a new feature in preview called Managed Service Identity (MSI), which can automatically provision AAD Identities. For information on Key Vault and managed service identities please refer to the following sample on GitHub.


  • It is essential that you have completed the steps listed in Get Started with Azure Key Vault for this tutorial so that you have the URI to a secret and the Client ID and Client Secret for a web application.

The web application will access the vault needs to be registered in Azure Active Directory. It also needs to have access rights to Key Vault. If not, go back to Register an Application in the Get Started tutorial and repeat the steps listed.

This tutorial is designed for web developers that understand the basics of creating web applications on Azure. For more information about Azure Web Apps, see Web Apps overview.

Add NuGet Packages

There are two packages that your web application needs to have installed.

  • Active Directory Authentication Library - contains methods for interacting with Azure Active Directory and managing user identity
  • Azure Key Vault Library - contains methods for interacting with Azure Key Vault

Both of these packages can be installed using the Package Manager Console using the Install-Package command.

// this is currently the latest stable version of ADAL
Install-Package Microsoft.IdentityModel.Clients.ActiveDirectory -Version 2.16.204221202
Install-Package Microsoft.Azure.KeyVault

Modify Web.Config

There are three application settings that need to be added to the web.config file as follows.

    <!-- ClientId and ClientSecret refer to the web application registration with Azure Active Directory -->
    <add key="ClientId" value="clientid" />
    <add key="ClientSecret" value="clientsecret" />

    <!-- SecretUri is the URI for the secret in Azure Key Vault -->
    <add key="SecretUri" value="secreturi" />

If you are not going to host your application as an Azure Web App, then you should add the actual ClientId, Client Secret, and Secret URI values to the web.config. Otherwise leave these dummy values because we will be adding the actual values in the Azure portal for an additional level of security.

Add Method to Get an Access Token

In order to use the Key Vault API you need an access token. The Key Vault Client handles calls to the Key Vault API but you need to supply it with a function that gets the access token.

Following is the code to get an access token from Azure Active Directory. This code can go anywhere in your application. I like to add a Utils or EncryptionHelper class.

//add these using statements
using Microsoft.IdentityModel.Clients.ActiveDirectory;
using System.Threading.Tasks;
using System.Web.Configuration;

//this is an optional property to hold the secret after it is retrieved
public static string EncryptSecret { get; set; }

//the method that will be provided to the KeyVaultClient
public static async Task<string> GetToken(string authority, string resource, string scope)
    var authContext = new AuthenticationContext(authority);
    ClientCredential clientCred = new ClientCredential(WebConfigurationManager.AppSettings["ClientId"],
    AuthenticationResult result = await authContext.AcquireTokenAsync(resource, clientCred);

    if (result == null)
        throw new InvalidOperationException("Failed to obtain the JWT token");

    return result.AccessToken;


  • Currently, the new feature Managed Service Identity (MSI) is the easiest way to authenticate. For further details please see the following link to the sample using Key Vault with MSI in an application in .NET and related MSI with App Service and Functions tutorial.
  • Using Client ID and Client Secret is another way to authenticate an Azure AD application. And using it in your web application allows for a separation of duties and more control over your key management. But it does rely on putting the Client Secret in your configuration settings, which for some can be as risky as putting the secret that you want to protect in your configuration settings. See the following for a discussion on how to use a Client ID and Certificate instead of Client ID and Client Secret to authenticate the Azure AD application.

Retrieve the secret on Application Start

Now we need code to call the Key Vault API and retrieve the secret. The following code can be put anywhere as long as it is called before you need to use it. I have put this code in the Application Start event in the Global.asax so that it runs once on start and makes the secret available for the application.

//add these using statements
using Microsoft.Azure.KeyVault;
using System.Web.Configuration;

// I put my GetToken method in a Utils class. Change for wherever you placed your method.
var kv = new KeyVaultClient(new KeyVaultClient.AuthenticationCallback(Utils.GetToken));
var sec = await kv.GetSecretAsync(WebConfigurationManager.AppSettings["SecretUri"]);

//I put a variable in a Utils class to hold the secret for general  application use.
Utils.EncryptSecret = sec.Value;

Add App Settings in the Azure portal (optional)

If you have an Azure Web App, you can now add the actual values for the AppSettings in the Azure portal. By doing this, the actual values will not be in the web.config but protected via the Portal where you have separate access control capabilities. These values will be substituted for the values that you entered in your web.config. Make sure that the names are the same.

Application Settings displayed in Azure portal

Authenticate with a Certificate instead of a Client Secret

Another way to authenticate an Azure AD application is by using a Client ID and a Certificate instead of a Client ID and Client Secret. Following are the steps to use a Certificate in an Azure Web App:

  1. Get or Create a Certificate
  2. Associate the Certificate with an Azure AD application
  3. Add code to your Web App to use the Certificate
  4. Add a Certificate to your Web App

Get or Create a Certificate

For our purposes, we will make a test certificate. Here are a couple of commands that you can use in a Developer Command Prompt to create a certificate. Change directory to where you want the cert files created. Also, for the beginning and ending date of the certificate, use the current date plus 1 year.

makecert -sv mykey.pvk -n "cn=KVWebApp" KVWebApp.cer -b 07/31/2017 -e 07/31/2018 -r
pvk2pfx -pvk mykey.pvk -spc KVWebApp.cer -pfx KVWebApp.pfx -po test123

Make note of the end date and the password for the .pfx (in this example: 07/31/2018 and test123). You will need them below.

For more information on creating a test certificate, see How to: Create Your Own Test Certificate

Associate the Certificate with an Azure AD application

Now that you have a certificate, you need to associate it with an Azure AD application. Run the following commands to associate the certificate with the Azure AD application:

$x509 = New-Object System.Security.Cryptography.X509Certificates.X509Certificate2
$credValue = [System.Convert]::ToBase64String($x509.GetRawCertData())

$adapp = New-AzureRmADApplication -DisplayName "KVWebApp" -HomePage "http://kvwebapp" -IdentifierUris "http://kvwebapp" -CertValue $credValue -StartDate $x509.NotBefore -EndDate $x509.NotAfter

$sp = New-AzureRmADServicePrincipal -ApplicationId $adapp.ApplicationId

Set-AzureRmKeyVaultAccessPolicy -VaultName 'contosokv' -ServicePrincipalName "http://kvwebapp" -PermissionsToSecrets all -ResourceGroupName 'contosorg'

# get the thumbprint to use in your app settings

After you have run these commands, you can see the application in Azure AD. When searching, ensure you select "Applications my company owns" instead of "Applications my company uses" in the search dialog.

To learn more about Azure AD Application Objects and ServicePrincipal Objects, see Application Objects and Service Principal Objects.

Add code to your Web App to use the Certificate

Now we will add code to your Web App to access the cert and use it for authentication.

First there is code to access the cert.

public static class CertificateHelper
    public static X509Certificate2 FindCertificateByThumbprint(string findValue)
        X509Store store = new X509Store(StoreName.My, StoreLocation.CurrentUser);
            X509Certificate2Collection col = store.Certificates.Find(X509FindType.FindByThumbprint,
                findValue, false); // Don't validate certs, since the test root isn't installed.
            if (col == null || col.Count == 0)
                return null;
            return col[0];

Note that the StoreLocation is CurrentUser instead of LocalMachine. And that we are supplying 'false' to the Find method because we are using a test cert.

Next is code that uses the CertificateHelper and creates a ClientAssertionCertificate which is needed for authentication.

public static ClientAssertionCertificate AssertionCert { get; set; }

public static void GetCert()
    var clientAssertionCertPfx = CertificateHelper.FindCertificateByThumbprint(WebConfigurationManager.AppSettings["thumbprint"]);
    AssertionCert = new ClientAssertionCertificate(WebConfigurationManager.AppSettings["clientid"], clientAssertionCertPfx);

Here is the new code to get the access token. This replaces the GetToken method in the preceding example. I have given it a different name for convenience.

public static async Task<string> GetAccessToken(string authority, string resource, string scope)
    var context = new AuthenticationContext(authority, TokenCache.DefaultShared);
    var result = await context.AcquireTokenAsync(resource, AssertionCert);
    return result.AccessToken;

I have put all of this code into my Web App project's Utils class for ease of use.

The last code change is in the Application_Start method. First we need to call the GetCert() method to load the ClientAssertionCertificate. And then we change the callback method that we supply when creating a new KeyVaultClient. Note that this replaces the code that we had in the preceding example.

var kv = new KeyVaultClient(new KeyVaultClient.AuthenticationCallback(Utils.GetAccessToken));

Add a Certificate to your Web App through the Azure portal

Adding a Certificate to your Web App is a simple two-step process. First, go to the Azure portal and navigate to your Web App. On the Settings blade for your Web App, click on the entry for "Custom domains and SSL". On the blade that opens you will be able to upload the Certificate that you created in the preceding example, KVWebApp.pfx, make sure that you remember the password for the pfx.

Adding a Certificate to a Web App in the Azure portal

The last thing that you need to do is to add an Application Setting to your Web App that has the name WEBSITE_LOAD_CERTIFICATES and a value of *. This will ensure that all Certificates are loaded. If you wanted to load only the Certificates that you have uploaded, then you can enter a comma-separated list of their thumbprints.

To learn more about adding a Certificate to a Web App, see Using Certificates in Azure Websites Applications

Add a Certificate to Key Vault as a secret

Instead of uploading your certificate to the Web App service directly, you can store it in Key Vault as a secret and deploy it from there. This is a two-step process that is outlined in the following blog post, Deploying Azure Web App Certificate through Key Vault

Next steps

For programming references, see Azure Key Vault C# Client API Reference.