As a developer, you’re juggling many API keys and access tokens. Where can you store them securely?

macOS Keychain

You can store arbitrary keys or tokens in the keychain built in to MacOS. This solution only works on Macs, but it works out of the box on any Mac.

Security for rescue

security is a built-in command line interface to keychains and the Security framework. To add a password to the default keychain, run:

security add-generic-password -a ${USER} -s NAME -w

You have to specify your account name with -a and the service name with -s. If you put -w at the end of the command you’ll be prompted to enter the password.

To retrieve a password use:

security find-generic-password -a ${USER} -s NAME -w

You can delete the password anytime:

security delete-generic-password -a ${USER} -s NAME

Use with a GitHub access token

Let’s use GitHub as an example. Add these functions to your ~/.bashrc

function get_github_access_token () {
  local token
  token=$(curl -s \
      -H "X-GitHub-OTP: ${1}" \
      -u "${USER}" \
      -d "{\"scopes\": [\"admin:public_key\"], \"note\": \"$(hostname)-$(date +%s)\"}" \
      | jq -r .token)
  security delete-generic-password -a "${USER}" -s GitHub
  security add-generic-password -a "${USER}" -s GitHub -w "$token"

function add_ssh_key_to_github () {
  curl -s \
    -H "Authorization: token $(security find-generic-password -a "${USER}" -s GitHub -w)" \
    -d "{\"title\": \"$(date +%s)\", \"key\": \"$(cat "$1")\"}"

function list_github_ssh_keys () {
  curl -s \
    -H "Authorization: token $(security find-generic-password -a "${USER}" -s GitHub -w)" \
    | jq 'map({title: .title, key:.key})'

Then call get_github_access_token function with your GitHub OTP code as an argument, assuming you have enabled two-factor authentication for your GitHub account. For example:

get_github_access_token XXXXXX

Enter your GitHub password and security will add the new GitHub access token to your keychain.

Generate your SSH key pair first. To add your public SSH key run this command:

add_ssh_key_to_github ~/.ssh/

Later you can list the SSH keys associated with your GitHub account:


To learn more, read the security man page:

man security