Credentials and Secrets

The Dataverse Java EE application needs to access remote resources like a PostgreSQL database or a persistent identifier service like DataCite. For this you’ll need credentials, which are meant to be kept secret.

Besides credentials, you might need to think of certificates, too, depending on your actual setup. Your mileage may vary.

Credentials in Dataverse application container

Credentials used in Dataverse may be found in the upstream Installation Guide, mostly in the config section.


The basic idea behind credentials used in the Dataverse application container based on the dataverse-k8s image is using environment variables to promote them. These mechanisms are described in Configuration, too.

Non-Secret Materials

You can provide credentials directly as environment variables from your Deployment, PodPreset, ConfigMap, Secret et al. When not using Kubernetes, environment variables is still a widely used concept.

Silent Secrets

Please keep in mind that passing in secret information like a password, key or similar should be done otherwise. For these, you can mount files at certain places (see image documentation), which will be read and piped into an environment variable, crafted into a JVM password alias, configuration files, etc.

Example: PostgreSQL connection

This example is about the PostgreSQL credentials and can be adapted to different use cases. It uses the Kubernetes concept of Secrets (see below). More examples can be found at /personas/demo/secrets.yaml.

kubectl create secret generic dataverse-postgresql \
            --from-literal=username='dataverse' \
            --from-literal=password='changeme' \

Executing the above will create a Secret in your Kubernetes cluster. It could be used in the Deployment like this (excerpt) to configure username, password and database name for the Dataverse PostgreSQL service:

kind: Deployment
# ...
        - name: dataverse
          image: iqss/dataverse-k8s
            - name: POSTGRES_USER
                  name: dataverse-postgresql
                  key: username
                  optional: true
            - name: POSTGRES_DATABASE
                  name: dataverse-postgresql
                  key: database
                  optional: true
            - name: db-secret
              mountPath: "/secrets/db"
              readOnly: true
        - name: db-secret
            secretName: dataverse-postgresql

Example: Admin account password

The password for the superadmin account dataverseAdmin defaults to admin1 when you install (precise: bootstrap) Dataverse on Kubernetes running the Quickstart / Demo.

To use a different initial password, create a Secret (or use some other way to get the password into the file). (For a complete Secret example, have a look at /personas/demo/secrets.yaml)

kind: Secret
# ...
  name: dataverse-admin
  # ...
  password: admin1

If you did not use the default dataverse-admin name for the secret, you will have to adapt the boostrap Job spec with your secret name.

During bootstrap, the mounted secret at ${SECRETS_DIR}/admin/password provisions your password while creating the account. A less secure way is to provide it as environment variable ADMIN_PASSWORD.


Using a password not matching the enabled password policies will force you to provide a new password on first login. See the Dataverse guides for more details.


You really should change it to something more secure when not used for ephemeral purposes.


  1. This default password is the same as IQSS/dataverse-ansible uses.

  2. This is a bootstrap-time-only option. You cannot reset your password this way.

Example: Builtin Users API Key

By default, your installation is secured to not allow other builtin users next to dataverseAdmin. If you need or want to change this, you can provision a secret value to the BuiltinUsers.KEY setting when bootstrapping.

As this is an extension to the API, you need to extend your API secret as shown below.

kind: Secret
# ...
  name: dataverse-api
  # ...
  key: your-super-secret-unblock-key
  userskey: your-even-more-secure-BuiltinUsers.KEY-value

During bootstrap, the mounted secret at ${SECRETS_DIR}/api/userskey is read and provisioned.


This is a bootstrap-time-only option. This cannot be set by configuration job by design. You still could use a manual curl call.

How to use secret informations within K8s

Keeping things secret in a Kubernetes cluster needs attention at a few places:

  • Secure storage at rest

  • Secure distribution in/across cluster

  • Secure usage in containers

For production environments, you really should be looking closely at all of this. Every admin admires sleeping at nighttimes and not putting out fires.

Secure usage

The most important thing to understand is how to deal with secret information when configuring Dataverse and using services. Obviously you will need to inject the secret data into running containers. There are multiple ways to do so, but to be safe there are “best practices”:

  1. Use Kubernetes Secrets to store secret information. No excuses.

  2. Prefer mounting secrets as (memory-backed) text files in containers rather than pushing into environment variables (easier to sneak on those than files).

Read more about securely injecting credentials in containers in the upstream documentation and below.


For bigger clusters, applications, levels of security, etc. this might be insufficient. You should read articles on third-party tools, like this and others.

Secure storage and distribution

Right under the container level there are some other attack vectors, where a maleficent guy could sneak on your secrets:

  1. Cluster communication between your services, K8s services and K8s nodes

  2. Stored secrets, used harddisks

There are checklists for being production ready with a K8s cluster. Use ‘em. Example.

Some basics (taken from here):

  • Secure communication by using TLS wherever possible.

  • Especially secure communication with etcd, which holds your secret data decrypted.

  • Let etcd encrypt its data when at rest.

Secrets deployment tooling

You should also think about your deployment workflow for secrets: