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Allow new admin access of private data

You may need to add an admin who can handle the encrypted data in this repository.

When should I do this?

Do this procedure whenever a new person needs to handle secure information.

Only the developers responsible for this software will be granted access to this repository.

Additionally, some robot services that have subkeys registered may be admins. These keys won’t edit the content of the admin file, but they must be able to decrypt the content of the entire repository to do their job–run CI/CD testing and deployment.

Who should do this?

This is a two step process that involves the following people:

  1. The person who wants to be added.
  2. The person who does the adding.

The process goes something like this:

  1. Admin chooses a new primary or secondary.
  2. Chosen person agrees and adds their public key in a PR.
  3. Admin merges this PR.
  4. Admin rebases their code to get the upstream changes.
  5. Admin imports the public keyring into their local keyring.
  6. Admin re-encrypts all the files and pushes those changes.

The admin does most of the work, but the user must initiate that work by adding their public key in a PR.

How do I do this?

You can do all of the work by using the development containers in the ./devtools/bin directory.

This example uses the run-py2.7 script to launch the relevant container.

Let’s begin with the person who wants to be added.

Creating a keypair

Start the py2.7 (or equivalent) container.

SEA-ML-RUPP1:f5-ansible trupp$ ./devtools/bin/run-py2.7

Within this container, use the gpg2 –gen-key command to create a keypair. For example:

root@d7f809815281:/here# gpg2 --gen-key
gpg (GnuPG) 2.1.20; Copyright (C) 2017 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
This is free software: you are free to change and redistribute it.
There is NO WARRANTY, to the extent permitted by law.

Note: Use "gpg2 --full-generate-key" for a full featured key generation dialog.

GnuPG needs to construct a user ID to identify your key.

Real name: Foo Bar
Email address:
You selected this USER-ID:
    "Foo Bar <>"

Change (N)ame, (E)mail, or (O)kay/(Q)uit? O

gpg: key DBB462DE79ADE8C9 marked as ultimately trusted
gpg: directory '/gpg/openpgp-revocs.d' created
gpg: revocation certificate stored as '/gpg/openpgp-revocs.d/80E..................................8C9.rev'
public and secret key created and signed.

pub   rsa2048 2017-10-11 [SC] [expires: 2019-10-11]
uid                      Foo Bar <>
sub   rsa2048 2017-10-11 [E] [expires: 2019-10-11]


When done, you should see your email address when using the gpg2 –list-keys command.

For the person who wants to be added

You must have an initial keypair to use for encryption. If you do not, follow the instructions in the Creating a keypair section.

Now, start the container:

SEA-ML-RUPP1:f5-ansible trupp$ ./devtools/bin/run-py2.7

This command leaves you at a new shell prompt. Now create a new branch that contains the pull request with your admin addition in it. You can do this with git:

SEA-ML-RUPP1:f5-ansible trupp$ git checkout -b add-admin upstream/devel

git should notify you that you have changed branches.

Next, run the blackbox_addadmin command to change the necessary files for adding you as an admin. The single argument to this command is the email address that you specified when you created your initial key pair.


When this command finishes, several new files show as modified. Additionally, the blackbox_addadmin command tells you which command to use to commit these changes.

root@d7f809815281:/here# blackbox_addadmin
gpg: key DBB462DE79ADE8C9: public key "Foo Bar <>" imported
gpg: Total number processed: 1
gpg:               imported: 1

NEXT STEP: You need to manually check these in:
      git commit -m'NEW ADMIN:' keyrings/live/pubring.kbx keyrings/live/trustdb.gpg keyrings/live/blackbox-admins.txt

A git status command also illustrates this.

root@d7f809815281:/here# git status | grep keyrings
        modified:   keyrings/live/blackbox-admins.txt
        modified:   keyrings/live/pubring.kbx

Follow the instructions and commit those files.

git commit -m'NEW ADMIN:' keyrings/live/pubring.kbx keyrings/live/trustdb.gpg keyrings/live/blackbox-admins.txt

You may now push the PR to the GitHub repository and follow the normal PR process.

For the existing admin

First, verify and merge the PR the user sent.


  • Adding a new user to the public key chain in the steps above is not, immediately, a security risk. This is because you have not yet re-encrypted the files. If you mistakenly merge a PR from a bad actor, you should immediately reverse this merge by using the blackbox_removeadmin command.
  • If you have already re-encrypted all of the files with this new key, then you still have the ability to undo your mistake by re-checking out the modified *.gpg files.
  • If you have committed those files, you have one last chance to undo the merge in question before you push your changes to the upstream repository.
  • If you failed to catch yourself at the numerous places above, your only remaining option is to either re-write history (bad idea) or legitimately remove the bad key, change all secrets, and re-encrypt as normal.

Next, merge the PR into the repository. After that, rebase your own fork of the code to include this new merge commit.

git fetch upstream
git stash
git rebase upstream/devel
git stash apply

These steps:

  • Get any changes from the upstream source code (which would include the PR that the user just made)
  • Stash any changes that you may have been working on. This prevents the next step from failing.
  • Rebase the upstream code-base onto your current code-base. This allows the new user’s PR to land in your local source tree.
  • Re-apply the code that you previously stashed away. This will put you back to where you left off.

With the new changes in your source tree, it’s time to re-encrypt all of the private files with the new user’s public key.

To do that, you can use the blackbox_update_all_files command from inside any of the development containers.

root@a710b12b1e97:/here# blackbox_update_all_files
========== blackbox administrators are:
========== Importing keychain: START
gpg: key DBE7B40B4ACC6C92: public key "Kat Austria <>" imported
gpg: Total number processed: 10
gpg:               imported: 1
gpg:              unchanged: 9
========== Importing keychain: DONE
========== FILES IN THE WAY:

WARNING: This will overwrite any unencrypted files laying about.
Press CTRL-C now to stop. ENTER to continue:

Press ENTER to proceed and re-encrypt all of the secrets. You will be asked for your own encryption password in the process.

========== PROCESSING "devtools/secrets/jenkins_jobs.ini.secret"
========== Encrypting: devtools/secrets/jenkins_jobs.ini.secret
========== Encrypting: DONE
========== PROCESSING "test/runner/roles/harness/vars/TwoArmed-iworkflow-2.1.0.yaml"
========== EXTRACTED test/runner/roles/harness/vars/TwoArmed-iworkflow-2.1.0.yaml
========== Encrypting: test/runner/roles/harness/vars/TwoArmed-iworkflow-2.1.0.yaml
========== Encrypting: DONE
========== COMMITING TO VCS:
[devel f7021f1] Re-encrypted keys
 35 files changed, 49 insertions(+)
 rewrite devtools/secrets/jenkins_jobs.ini.secret.gpg (100%)
 rewrite test/runner/roles/harness/vars/TwoArmed-bigiq-5.3.0.yaml.gpg (100%)
 rewrite test/runner/roles/harness/vars/TwoArmed-iworkflow-2.1.0.yaml.gpg (100%)
========== DONE.
Likely next step:
    git push

blackbox will tell you what the likely next step is: git push. If you view the git log, you can see there is a new commit there for the re-encryption process.

commit f7021f14193d7d81f22920c2dbe0f16d90f08f17
Author: Tim Rupp <>
Date:   Tue Nov 7 00:30:07 2017 +0000

    Re-encrypted keys

Therefore, do the push as requested. When done, the new maintainer will have the ability to decrypt the secrets.