» GCP Auth Method

The gcp auth method allows authentication against Vault using Google credentials. It treats GCP as a Trusted Third Party and expects a JSON Web Token (JWT) signed by Google credentials from the authenticating entity. This token can be generated through different GCP APIs depending on the type of entity.

Currently supports authentication for:

  • GCP IAM service accounts (iam)
  • GCE IAM service accounts (gce)

» Setup

The following documentation assumes that the method has been mounted at auth/gcp.

$ vault auth enable 'gcp'
Success! Enabled gcp auth method at: gcp/

You must also enable the following GCP APIs for your GCP project:

  • IAM API for both iam service accounts and gce instances
  • GCE API for just gce instances

There are generally two setup steps:

» 1. Config


$ vault write auth/gcp/config credentials=@/path/to/creds.json

This step allows you to explicitly set GCP credentials that Vault (this auth backend) uses. If credentials are not configured or if the user explicitly sets the config with no credentials, the Vault server will attempt to infer credentials. In order of preference, the auth method will use the first credentials it finds from the following:

  • Provided JSON as credentials arg
  • Environment variables GOOGLE_CREDENTIALS or GOOGLE_CLOUD_KEYFILE_JSON set to the credentials JSON string
  • JSON file ~/.gcp/credentials
  • Google Application Default Credentials

For the complete list of configuration options, see the API documentation.

» 2. Roles


$ vault write auth/gcp/role/dev-iam-role \
    type="iam" \
    project_id="project-123456" \
    policies="dev" \

$ vault write auth/gcp/role/prod-gce-role \
    type="gce" \
    project_id="project-123456" \
    policies="prod" \
    bound_zone="us-central1-a" \

Users will login to Vault under roles (Vault-specific, unrelated to GCP IAM roles). Roles are associated with an authentication type using the type parameter. Currently iam or gce are acceptable values. The role also manages the policies the logged-in user will have and a set of constraints on authenticated users. These are determined by the authenticating entity type and confirmed with GCP.

For the complete list of role options, please see the API documentation.

» Authentication

These following examples assume the auth method is enabled at /auth/gcp and use the CLI. For more complete documentation of parameters, see the HTTP API documentation.

There are two ways to login using the CLI:

» Client-provided JWT

In this case, you already have the GCE VM identity metadata token or have obtained a IAM service account JWT, self-signed or Google-signed using the GCP IAM API method projects.serviceAccounts.signJwt.

$ vault write auth/gcp/login \
    role="dev-role" \
  • role is the role to login under
  • jwt is the GCE metadata token or IAM service account token

See docs on the IAM workflow or GCE workflow to see how to obtain this JWT.

» (IAM ONLY) Client-side helper for service account JWT

Because the process to sign a service account JWT can be tedious, we implemented a helper that can be run from client-side.

$ vault login -method=gcp \
    role="dev-role" \
    credentials="@/path/to/creds.json" \
    project="project-for-authenticating-service-account" \

This signs a properly formatted service account JWT for you and logs into Vault directly. For more information, run vault auth help gcp.

Required Parameters:

  • role (string: <required>) - The role with type=iam to login under.

Optional Parameters:

  • mount (string: `"gcp") - Name of the role.
  • jwt_exp (int: 15) - Number of minutes within which the JWT should expire. This defaults to the default value used when creating a role, and should only be set if set differently in the role (i.e. if the admin setting up your Vault server only accepts JWTs that expire within < 15 min).
  • credentials: If not provided, attempts to use Application Default Credentials. These credentials are ONLY used to sign the service account JWT, i.e. call API method projects.serviceAccounts.signJwt, and thus must have IAM permission iam.serviceAccounts.signJWT or role iam.serviceAccountTokenCreator on the service_account, even if they are the same service account (NOTE this permission is not enabled by default). ```
  • service_account (string:""): Service account to sign JWT for i.e. login to Vault as and is listed under roles bound_service_accounts. If not provided, uses client_email from the credentials JSON. Only provide if the credentials are for a different account, acting as a "signer".
  • project: Project of service account. If not provided, attempts to use project_id from the credentials JSON. Fails if not found and not provided by Application Default Credentials. Only provide if the credentials are for a different account, acting as a "signer".

» Authentication Workflow


The Vault authentication workflow for IAM service accounts is as follows:

  1. A client with IAM service account credentials generates a signed JWT using the IAM projects.serviceAccounts.signJwt method. See here for the expected format and example code.
  2. The client sends this JWT to Vault in a login request with a role name. This role should have type iam.
  3. Vault grabs the kid header value, which contains the ID of the key-pair used to generate the JWT, and the sub ID/email to find the service account key. If the service account does not exist or the key is not linked to the service account, Vault will deny authentication.
  4. Vault authorizes the confirmed service account against the given role. See authorization section to see how each type of role handles authorization.

IAM Login Workflow

» The iam Authentication Token

The expected format of the JWT payload is as follows:

  "aud" : "vault/[ROLE NAME]",
  "exp" : "[EXPIRATION]"
  • [SERVICE ACCOUNT ID OR EMAIL]: Either the email or the unique ID of a service account.

  • [ROLE NAME]: Name of the role that this token will be used to login against. The full expected aud string should be "vault/$roleName".

  • [EXPIRATION] : A NumericDate value (seconds from Epoch). This value must be before the max JWT expiration allowed for a role (see max_jwt_exp parameter for creating a role). This defaults to 15 minutes and cannot be more than a hour.

Note: By default, we enforce a shorter exp period than the default length for a given token (1 hour) in order to make reuse of tokens difficult. You can customize this value for a given role but it will be capped at an hour.

To generate this token, we use the Google IAM API method projects.serviceAccounts.signJwt. See an example of how to generate this token.


The Vault authentication workflow for GCE instances is as follows:

  1. A client logins into a GCE instances and obtains an instance identity metadata token.
  2. The client request to login using this token (a JWT) and gives a role name to Vault.
  3. Vault uses the kid header value, which contains the ID of the key-pair used to generate the JWT, to find the OAuth2 public cert to verify this JWT.
  4. Vault authorizes the confirmed instance against the given role. See the authorization section to see how each type of role handles authorization.

GCE Login Workflow

» The gce Authentication Token

The token can be obtained from the service-accounts/default/identity endpoint for a instance's metadata server. You can use the example of how to obtain an instance metadata token to get started.

Learn more about the JWT format from the documentation for the identity metadata token. The params the user provides are:

  • [AUD]: The full expected aud string should end in "vault/$roleName". Note that Google requires the aud claim to contain a scheme or authority but Vault will only check for a suffix.
  • [FORMAT]: MUST BE full for Vault. Format of the metadata token generated (standard or full).

» Examples for Obtaining Auth Tokens

» Generating IAM Token

If you don't want to use the CLI helper, you can generate the JWT using the following methods.

HTTP Request Example

This uses Google API HTTP annotation. Note the $PAYLOAD must be a marshaled JSON string with escaped double quotes.

OAUTH_TOKEN=$(oauth2l header cloud-platform)

PAYLOAD=$(echo "{ \"aud\": \"vault/$ROLE\", \"sub\": \"$SERVICE_ACCOUNT\"}" | sed -e 's/"/\\&/g')
curl -H "$OAUTH_TOKEN" \
    -H "Content-Type: application/json" \
    -X POST -d "{\"payload\":\"$PAYLOAD\"}" https://iam.googleapis.com/v1/projects/$PROJECT/serviceAccounts/$SERVICE_ACCOUNT:signJwt

Golang Example

We use the Go OAuth2 libraries, GCP IAM API, and Vault API. The example generates a token valid for the dev-role role (as indicated by the aud field of jwtPayload).

// Abbreviated imports to show libraries.
import (
    vaultapi "github.com/hashicorp/vault/api"

func main() {
    // Start [PARAMS]
    project := "project-123456"
    serviceAccount := "myserviceaccount@project-123456.iam.gserviceaccount.com"
    credsPath := "path/to/creds.json"

    os.Setenv("VAULT_ADDR", "https://vault.mycompany.com")
    defer os.Setenv("VAULT_ADDR", "")
    // End [PARAMS]

    // Start [GCP IAM Setup]
    jsonBytes, err := ioutil.ReadFile(credsPath)
    if err != nil {
    config, err := google.JWTConfigFromJSON(jsonBytes, iam.CloudPlatformScope)
    if err != nil {

    httpClient := config.Client(oauth2.NoContext)
    iamClient, err := iam.New(httpClient)
    if err != nil {
    // End [GCP IAM Setup]

    // 1. Generate signed JWT using IAM.
    resourceName := fmt.Sprintf("projects/%s/serviceAccounts/%s", project, serviceAccount)
    jwtPayload := map[string]interface{}{
        "aud": "vault/dev-role",
        "sub": serviceAccount,
        "exp": time.Now().Add(time.Minute * 10).Unix(),

    payloadBytes, err := json.Marshal(jwtPayload)
    if err != nil {
    signJwtReq := &iam.SignJwtRequest{
        Payload: string(payloadBytes),

    resp, err := iamClient.Projects.ServiceAccounts.SignJwt(resourceName, signJwtReq).Do()
    if err != nil {

    // 2. Send signed JWT in login request to Vault.
    vaultClient, err := vaultapi.NewClient(vaultapi.DefaultConfig())
    if err != nil {

    vaultResp, err := vaultClient.Logical().Write(
            "role": "test",
            "jwt":  resp.SignedJwt,

    if err != nil {

    // 3. Use auth token from response.
    log.Println("Access token: %s", vaultResp.Auth.ClientToken)
    // ...

» Generating GCE Token

HTTP Request Example

This uses Google API HTTP annotation and must be run on a GCE instance.

SERVICE_ACCOUNT="default" # replace with an instance's service account if needed

curl -H "Metadata-Flavor: Google"\
     --data-urlencode "audience=$VAULT_ADDR/vault/$ROLE"\
     --data-urlencode "format=full" \

» Authorization Workflow

For gcp, login is per-role. Each role has a specific set of restrictions that an authorized entity must fit in order to login. These restrictions are specific to the role type.

Currently supported role types are:

  • iam (Supports both IAM and inference for GCE tokens)
  • gce (Only supports GCE tokens)

Vault validates an authenticated entity against the role and uses the role to determine information about the lease, including Vault policies assigned and TTLs. For a full list of accepted restrictions, see role API docs.

If a GCE token is provided for login under an iam role, the service account associated with the token (sub claim) is inferred and used to login.

» Usage

» Via the CLI.

» Enable GCP authentication in Vault

$ vault auth enable gcp

» Configure the GCP Auth Method

$ vault write auth/gcp/config credentials=@path/to/creds.json

Configuration: This includes GCP credentials Vault will use these to make calls to GCP APIs. If credentials are not configured or if the user explicitly sets the config with no credentials, the Vault server will attempt to use Application Default Credentials as set on the Vault server.

See API documentation to learn more about parameters.

» Create a role

$ vault write auth/gcp/role/dev-role \
    type="iam" \
    project_id="project-123456" \
    policies="prod,dev" \

Roles: Roles are associated with an authentication type/entity and a set of Vault policies. Roles are configured with constraints specific to the authentication type, as well as overall constraints and configuration for the generated auth tokens.

We also expose a helper path for updating the service accounts attached to an existing iam role:

$ vault write auth/gcp/role/iam-role/service-accounts \
    add='serviceAccountToAdd,...' \
    remove='serviceAccountToRemove,...' \

and for updating the labels attached to an existing gce role:

$ vault write auth/gcp/role/gce-role/labels \
    add='label1:value1,foo:bar,...' \
    remove='key1,key2,...' \

See API docs to view parameters for role creation and updates.

» Login to get a Vault Token

Once the backend is setup and roles are registered with the backend, the user can login against a specific role.

$ vault write auth/gcp/login role='dev-role' jwt='eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9...'

The role and jwt parameters are required. These map to the name of the role to login against, and the signed JWT token for authenticating a role respectively. The format of the provided JWT differs depending on the authenticating entity.

» Via the API

» Enable GCP authentication in Vault

$ curl $VAULT_ADDR/v1/sys/auth/gcp -d '{ "type": "gcp" }'

» Configure the GCP Auth Method

$ curl $VAULT_ADDR/v1/auth/gcp/config \
-d '{  "credentials": "{...}" }'

» Create a role

$ curl $VAULT_ADDR/v1/auth/gcp/role/dev-role \
-d '{ "type": "iam", "project_id": "project-123456", ...}'

» Login to get a Vault Token

The endpoint for the GCP login is auth/gcp/login.

The gcp mountpoint value in the url is the default mountpoint value. If you have mounted the gcp backend with a different mountpoint, use that value.

The role and jwt should be sent in the POST body encoded as JSON.

$ curl $VAULT_ADDR/v1/auth/gcp/login \
    -d '{ "role": "dev-role", "jwt": "eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9..." }'

The response will be in JSON. For example:

            "role": "dev-role",
            "service_account_email": "dev1@project-123456.iam.gserviceaccount.com",
            "service_account_id": "111111111111111111111"

» Contributing

This plugin is developed in a separate Github repository: hashicorp/vault-plugin-auth-gcp. Please file all feature requests, bugs, and pull requests specific to the GCP plugin under that repository.


The GCP Auth Plugin has a full HTTP API. Please see the API docs for more details.