»AliCloud Auth Method

The alicloud auth method provides an automated mechanism to retrieve a Vault token for AliCloud entities. Unlike most Vault auth methods, this method does not require manual first-deploying, or provisioning security-sensitive credentials (tokens, username/password, client certificates, etc), by operators. It treats AliCloud as a Trusted Third Party and uses a special AliCloud request signed with private credentials. A variety of credentials can be used to construct the request, but AliCloud offers instance metadata that's ideally suited for the purpose. By launching an instance with a role, the role's STS credentials under instance metadata can be used to securely build the request.

»Authentication Workflow

The AliCloud STS API includes a method, sts:GetCallerIdentity, which allows you to validate the identity of a client. The client signs a GetCallerIdentity query using the AliCloud signature algorithm. It then submits 2 pieces of information to the Vault server to recreate a valid signed request: the request URL, and the request headers. The Vault server then reconstructs the query and forwards it on to the AliCloud STS service and validates the result back.

Importantly, the credentials used to sign the GetCallerIdentity request can come from the ECS instance metadata service for an ECS instance, which obviates the need for an operator to manually provision some sort of identity material first. However, the credentials can, in principle, come from anywhere, not just from the locations AliCloud has provided for you.

Each signed AliCloud request includes the current timestamp and a nonce to mitigate the risk of replay attacks.

It's also important to note that AliCloud does NOT include any sort of authorization around calls to GetCallerIdentity. For example, if you have a RAM policy on your credential that requires all access to be MFA authenticated, non-MFA authenticated credentials will still be able to authenticate to Vault using this method. It does not appear possible to enforce a RAM principal to be MFA authenticated while authenticating to Vault.

»Authorization Workflow

The basic mechanism of operation is per-role.

Roles are associated with a role ARN that has been pre-created in AliCloud. AliCloud's console displays each role's ARN. A role in Vault has a 1:1 relationship with a role in AliCloud, and must bear the same name.

When a client assumes that role and sends its GetCallerIdentity request to Vault, Vault matches the arn of its assumed role with that of a pre-created role in Vault. It then checks what policies have been associated with the role, and grants a token accordingly.


»Via the CLI

»Enable AliCloud authentication in Vault.

$ vault auth enable alicloud
$ vault auth enable alicloud

»Configure the policies on the role.

$ vault write auth/alicloud/role/dev-role arn='acs:ram::5138828231865461:role/dev-role'
$ vault write auth/alicloud/role/dev-role arn='acs:ram::5138828231865461:role/dev-role'

»Perform the login operation

$ vault write auth/alicloud/login \
        role=dev-role \
        identity_request_url=$IDENTITY_REQUEST_URL_BASE_64 \
$ vault write auth/alicloud/login \        role=dev-role \        identity_request_url=$IDENTITY_REQUEST_URL_BASE_64 \        identity_request_headers=$IDENTITY_REQUEST_HEADERS_BASE_64

For the RAM auth method, generating the signed request is a non-standard operation. The Vault CLI supports generating this for you:

$ vault login -method=alicloud access_key=... secret_key=... security_token=... region=...
$ vault login -method=alicloud access_key=... secret_key=... security_token=... region=...

This assumes you have the AliCloud credentials you would find on an ECS instance using the following call:

curl '$ROLE_NAME'
curl '$ROLE_NAME'

Please note the $ROLE_NAME above is case-sensitive and must be consistent with how it's reflected on the instance.

An example of how to generate the required request values for the login method can be found found in the Vault CLI source code.


The AliCloud auth method has a full HTTP API. Please see the AliCloud Auth API for more details.