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KHPH cpan:MLDEVINE last updated on 2019-06-26







Keep Honest People Honest


Unsecure Reversible Obfuscated Character Storage & Retrieval


This module scrambles and stashes a string to help keep it private, but, by definition, that means that the scrambled string can be unscrambled by someone other than the owner. One might ask, "Why even bother providing a scrambling function when it can definitely be reversed?"

It's helpful to have such a function because there are still cases of intolerable data exposure in the real world. Passwords and other private items are still often left surprisingly vulnerable.

What if you you need to run a program that absolutely requires you to include a password in its command line invocation?

myuid@myserver> /usr/local/bin/srvrconn -acct=U028441 -password=pAsSwOrD57! START INSTANCE ABC

If you run it interactively, your shell history will record the entire command line for posterity, including the exposed password. Then your system backup will make a copy of that, and who knows where that goes and for how long?

What if your program must be executed via a job scheduler?

00 01 * * 7 /opt/SomeApp/bin/someappmgr --id=xyx259 --pa=PaSsWoRd22@! run_weekly_reports

The password would be exposed in multiple places: crontab, logs, email, backups, etc.

You might consider a solution where you put the secret characters in a directory/file and judiciously apply DAC controls to restrict access (chown/chgrp/chmod). When it's time to use the password, you could read the secret string from the file. But root would be able to look at your secret with a quick cat command, and then your secret wouldn't be a secret anymore.

This module offers you a way to reduce the likelihood of exposing your unprotected secret to curious people who are just poking around. It also aims to reduce the number of surfaces where your private data is exposed openly. It does not purport to fully protect your secret information from prying eyes, but rather to make it opaque to glances. You must acknowledge that someone devious would be able to unscramble the scrambled strings produced by this module. Use this module as a last resort, which is better than nothing, until you find more effective protection for your private data.

Think of it like the difference in playing hide-and-go-seek with a 2-year-old versus a 10-year-old: the 10-year-old will stay out of sight and make you work for it.

ALWAYS ENCRYPT CUSTOMER DATA. Customer data warrants Fort Knox, not a privacy fence.


This module will scramble a string, stash it wherever you specify, then expose it to you whole again when you ask for it, interactively or in batch (I.e. CRON). root can’t expose it directly, unless root originally stored it. su’ing into the owner’s account from a different account won’t expose it directly either. It’s not in the direct line of sight by anyone other than the owner.


use KHPH;

my $userid = 'testid';
my KHPH $secret-string .= new(
    :herald('myapp credentials'),
    :prompt($userid ~ ' password'),
    :stash-path('/tmp/myapp/' ~ $userid ~ '/mysecret'),
    :user-exclusive-at('/tmp/myapp/' ~ $userid);
say $secret-string.expose;



Generate a KHPH object







Return the secret as a clear-text Str.

Example I

The myapp-pass.p6 script will manage the password stash of myapp. Run it interactively one time to stash your secret, then you (not someone else) can run it anytime to expose the secret.

The myapp-pass.p6 script:

use KHPH;'/tmp/.myapp/password.khph')).expose.print;

Run ~/myapp-pass.p6 once interactively to stash the secret:

me@mysystem> ~/myapp-pass.p6 && echo
[1/2] Enter secret> aW3S0m3pA55w0rDI'LlN3VeRr3m3mB3R
[2/2] Enter secret> aW3S0m3pA55w0rDI'LlN3VeRr3m3mB3R

Notice how the script dumps the secret when you personally run it? Have someone else log into the same system, have them run the same script, and see what they get. Have them su to your account and try again. Have them log in as root and give it a go. Have them su from root into your account and try. Have them sudo su - into your account and try again.

Then in your application client:

me@mysystem> /usr/bin/dsmadmc -id=MYSELF -password=`~/myapp-pass.p6` QUERY SESSION FORMAT=DETAILED

The password will be inserted into the command line and authentication will succeed.

Note: The above example demonstrates a particular application client (familiar to some backup admins) that is smarter than most, in that it re-writes the process' args after the program launches. ps will only display the string -password=******* instead of the actual password string. Not all application vendors pay attention to such details, so beware -- ps could be displaying the secret despite your efforts to protect it.

Example II

The following contrived acme-connect script, which connects to a fictitious ACME application, is implemented so that all passwords are stored in a common directory:


Ensure that all users can descend to that directory. It would be ideal to set 1777 to the last directory in that path.

Different users run the script to connect to instances of the ACME application on multiple hosts.

OS Login Application Host Application UserId Application Password
user_a ACMEUSERX pAsSwOrDx
user_b ACMEUSERY pAsSwOrDy
user_c ACMEUSERZ pAsSwOrDz

The acme-connect script:

use KHPH;
sub MAIN (
    :$acme-host is required, #= ACME Host
    :$acme-id   is required, #= ACME UserId
    :$start-monthly-batch,   #= Launch monthly batch processing
) {
    my KHPH $passwd .= new(
        :herald('ACME credentials'),
        :prompt($acme-id ~ '@' ~ $acme-host ~ ' password'),
        :stash-path('/var/raduko/.credentials/' ~ $*USER ~ '/ACME/' ~ $acme-host ~ '/' ~ $acme-id),
        :user-exclusive-at('/var/raduko/.credentials/' ~ $*USER),

#   Assemble the acme-manager command parts
    my @cmd =   '/usr/bin/acme-manager',
                '-serv=' ~ $acme-host,
                '-acct=' ~ $acme-id,
                '-pass=' ~ $passwd.expose;
    if $start-monthly-batch {
        @cmd.push: '-m_end';
    else {
        @cmd.push: '-stat';

#   Run ACME
    run @cmd;   # hope /usr/bin/acme-manager masks the -pass=...

The first time the `acme-connect` script is run interactively by **user_a** from the **linux5** server:

user_a@linux5> acme-connect --acme-id=ACMEUSERX

ACME credentials

[1/2] password> pAsSwOrDx [2/2] password> pAsSwOrDx

ACME Status Report: A-OK

user_a@linux5> ````

KHPH will produce the following hierarchy:

*         1777    /var/raduko/.credentials/
user_a    0700    /var/raduko/.credentials/user_a/
user_a    0700    /var/raduko/.credentials/user_a/ACME/
user_a    0700    /var/raduko/.credentials/user_a/ACME/
user_a    0600    /var/raduko/.credentials/user_a/ACME/

The acme-connect script will not prompt user_a for the application password again when connecting to as APPUSERX from linux5. user_a can run the acme-connect script as above, along with additional switches, in a job scheduler for subsequent unattended execution on the linux5 server.

When the acme-connect script is run interactively by user_c from the linux5 server:

user_c@linux5> acme-connect --acme-id=ACMEUSERZ

ACME credentials

[1/2] password> pAsSwOrDz
[2/2] password> pAsSwOrDz

    ACME Status Report: A-OK


The following hierarchy will result:

*         1777    /var/raduko/.credentials/
user_a    0700    /var/raduko/.credentials/user_a/
user_a    0700    /var/raduko/.credentials/user_a/ACME/
user_a    0700    /var/raduko/.credentials/user_a/ACME/
user_a    0600    /var/raduko/.credentials/user_a/ACME/
user_c    0700    /var/raduko/.credentials/user_c/
user_c    0700    /var/raduko/.credentials/user_c/ACME/
user_c    0700    /var/raduko/.credentials/user_c/ACME/
user_c    0600    /var/raduko/.credentials/user_c/ACME/

The acme-connect script will not prompt user_c for the application password again when connecting to as APPUSERZ from linux5. user_c can run the acme-connect script as above, along with additional switches, in a job scheduler for subsequent unattended execution on the linux5 server.

Example III

When crafting REST API clients, servers will often issue session tokens for subsequent connections. These authenticating session tokens remain valid for long intervals of time (days, weeks) and should be protected like passwords. When stashing a token locally for reuse, minimally use KHPH instead of clear-text so that it isn't easily viewed by passers-by.

Usage Recommendation

Since the intent of using this module is to obfuscate, it is recommended to specify a :stash-path that doesn't indicate what's being stored.

This looks innocuous:

:stash-path($*HOME ~ '/.metrics/' ~ $account ~ '/' ~ $server ~ '/stats')

This wouldn't generate much interest:

:stash-path('/var/dynaplex/.perf/' ~ $account ~ '/dynaplex.' ~ $server)
:user-exclusive-at('/var/dynaplex/.perf/' ~ $account)

These misleading paths result in added camouflage, and very little bit helps.


Only developed on Linux.


Mark Devine