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WRITING SECURE SCRIPTS
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So how can we avoid these problems When writing .NET programs, the way to safely work with strings containing sensitive data is to use the System.Security.SecureString class. This type is a container for text data that the .NET runtime stores in memory in an encrypted form. The most common way to get secure strings is using the Get-Credential cmdlet or the [System.Management.Automation.PSCredential] type. This type also forms the basis for writing secure scripts in PowerShell using the SecureString cmdlets, which we ll look at next. Creating a SecureString object When we write a script or function that requires sensitive data such as passwords, the best practice is to designate that password parameter as a SecureString in order to help keep passwords confidential. Let s look at a how we can create a secure string. The simplest way to do this is to use the -AsSecureString parameter on the Read-Host cmdlet.
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PS (1) > read-host -AsSecureString -prompt "Password" Password: ******** System.Security.SecureString
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Let s take a look at the members on the SecureString object using the Get-Member cmdlet.
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PS (2) > $ss = read-host -AsSecureString -prompt "Password" Password: ******** PS (3) > $ss | gm TypeName: System.Security.SecureString Name ---AppendChar Clear Copy Dispose Equals get_Length GetHashCode GetType InsertAt IsReadOnly MakeReadOnly RemoveAt SetAt ToString Length MemberType ---------Method Method Method Method Method Method Method Method Method Method Method Method Method Method Property Definition ---------System.Void AppendChar(Char c) System.Void Clear() System.Security.SecureString Copy() System.Void Dispose() System.Boolean Equals(Object obj) System.Int32 get_Length() System.Int32 GetHashCode() System.Type GetType() System.Void InsertAt(Int32 index, Cha... System.Boolean IsReadOnly() System.Void MakeReadOnly() System.Void RemoveAt(Int32 index) System.Void SetAt(Int32 index, Char c) System.String ToString() System.Int32 Length {get;}
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The only way we can convert a string to a secure string is by appending one character at a time. Let s append another character to the string.
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PS (4) > $ss.AppendChar("1")
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Here s a way to make a secure string out of a normal one. First, we create an instance of the secure string class:
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PS (9) > $ss = new-object System.Security.SecureString
Then we send each character to the Foreach cmdlet and append it to that secure string. Normally strings in PowerShell don t stream by default, but if you explicitly get an enumerator, it is possible to stream a string one character at a time.
PS (10) > "Hello there".GetEnumerator() | % {$ss.AppendChar($_)}
Now let s look at the results.
PS (11) > $ss System.Security.SecureString
Not very interesting, is it But that s the point. It s secure there s no easy way to get the data back. We ll take one final precaution. We don t want our secure string tampered with, so we ll make it read-only.
PS (12) > $ss.MakeReadOnly() PS (13) > $ss.IsReadOnly() True
Now if we try to modify it, we ll get an error.
PS (14) > $ss.AppendChar('!') Exception calling "AppendChar" with "1" argument(s): "Instance i s read-only." At line:1 char:15 + $ss.AppendChar( <<<< '!')
Marking a secure string read-only once it s complete is generally considered to be a best practice. The SecureString cmdlets Manually building secure strings is obviously a bit tedious, so PowerShell has two cmdlets for working with secure strings: ConvertTo-SecureString and ConvertFrom-SecureString. These cmdlets allow you to write data to disk in a reasonably secure fashion. By default, the SecureString cmdlets uses the Windows Data Protection API (DPAPI) when they convert your SecureString to and from a plain text representation. The Data Protection API is the standard way on the Microsoft Windows platform for programs to protect sensitive data. The encryption key that the DPAPI uses is based on Windows logon credentials. This means that we don t have to specify a key to encrypt or decrypt data the system will generate one for us automatically based on the logon credentials. Of course, this means that we can only decrypt our own data using this mechanism. If there is a need to export or share encrypted data
WRITING SECURE SCRIPTS
across multiple machines or with additional users then we have to create and manage a key for these purposes. However, there are many instances when you may want to automatically provide the SecureString input to a cmdlet, rather than have the host prompt you for it. In these situations, the ideal solution is to import a previously exported SecureString from disk (using ConvertTo-SecureString). This retains the confidentiality of your data and still allows you to automate the input. If the data is highly dynamic (for example, coming from a CSV file) then the best approach is to do something like:
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