Using git-crypt

Posted: 2019-02-23

For a while now I have had two methods of dealing with sensitive data (usernames, passwords etc) in public git repositories. Neither were optimal.

  • Ignore the file entirely - and then pass it around outside of git
  • Encrypt the file under a different name and have a shell script that would trigger the decrypt if necessary.

The first one has issues about how to pass the data around.

An example of how the second option worked. For ansible repositories - the variables that are not to be publically available were placed in ansible vault files. But - how to handle the vault password.

I placed the vault-password.txt file in .gitignore, encrypted it with GnuPG to vault-password.txt.gpg which was committed and then added the following shell script



if [ ! $(type -P $CMD) ]; then

if [ ! $(type -P $CMD) ]; then
        echo "GPG not found"

if [ ! -f vault-password.txt ]; then
  $CMD --decrypt-files vault-password.txt.gpg

ansible-playbook $@

So - then to run a playbook instead of ansible-playbook playbookname it was playbookname and if the decrypted file was not present it would prompt for the GnuPG password for decryption otherwise it would run normally.


This works with a combination of a new CLI tool (git-crypt), a .git-crypt directory and use of .gitattributes.

Let's migrate the previous example to git-crypt.

Initialize git-crypt and add my key

git-crypt init
git-crypt add-gpg-user D4BF0A41

This creates the .git-crypt directory and adds my key info. This directory needs to be under source control - and git-crypt will commit the key file when you run add-gpg-user.

Setup the files

First I made sure I had the decrypted vault-password.txt file in place.

  • Edit .gitignore - remove vault-password.txt
  • Remove vault-password.txt.gpg
  • Remove
  • Add .gitattributes file (see below)
  • And finally - add vault-password.txt
  • Commit

.gitattributes looks like this:

vault-password.txt filter=git-crypt diff=git-crypt


Just push to github. Locally the vault-password.txt file looks fine - but on github it is shown just as data - and is not readable.

Clone to a new machine

But how do we checkout a clone on a new machine?

git clone URL

At this point - we've done the normal stuff - but the files are still encrypted.

git-crypt unlock

This will decrypt the working file and leave the repo setup with git-crypt.

Installation, passwords etc

This test was run on my mac - so I used homebrew to install git-crypt. The repository is

For GnuPG I've used brew to install gnupg and pinentry-mac (which is configured in my gpg-agent.conf file as pinentry-program). This was already in place before I started looking at git-crypt.