Access the System Credential Store from R

Platform independent API to access the operating systems credential store. Currently supports:

  • Keychain on macOS (backend_macos),
  • Credential Store on Windows (backend_wincred),
  • the Secret Service API on Linux (backend_secret_service),
  • encrypted files (backend_file), and
  • environment variables (backend_env).

The last two are available on all platforms. Additional storage backends can be added easily.



For the Secret Service backend install the libsecret library, at least version 0.16. This is typically the best keyring for a Linux desktop. Install these packages:

  • Debian/Ubuntu: libsecret-1-dev
  • Recent RedHat, Fedora and CentOS systems: libsecret-devel

The file backend uses the sodium package, which needs the sodium library. This backend works best on Linux servers. Install these packages:

  • Debian/Ubuntu: libsodium-dev
  • Fedora, EPEL: libsodium-devel

OS X and Windows

No additional software is needed.

R package

Install the package from CRAN:



Query secret keys in a keyring:

Each keyring can contain one or many secrets (keys). A key is defined by a service name and a password. Once a key is defined, it persists in the keyring store of the operating system. This means the keys persist beyond the termination of and R session. Specifically, you can define a key once, and then read the key value in completely independent R sessions.

Configure an OS-specific backend:

  • The default is operating system specific, and is described in manual page of default_backend(). In most cases you don’t have to configure this.
  • MacOS: backend_macos.
  • Linux: backend_secret_service, if build with libsecret.
  • Windows: backend_wincred
  • Or store the secrets in encrypted files: backend_file.

Should you need to change the default backend, set the R_KEYRING_BACKEND environment variable or the keyring_backend R option to the backend’s name (e.g. env, file, etc.).

Manage keyrings:

A keyring is a collection of keys that can be treated as a unit. A keyring typically has a name and a password to unlock it. See keyring_create(), keyring_delete(), keyring_list(), keyring_lock(), keyring_unlock(), keyring_is_locked().

Note that all platforms have a default keyring, and key_get(), etc. will use that automatically. The default keyring is also convenient, because usually the OS unlocks it automatically when you log in, so secrets are available immediately. But note that the file backend does not currently unlock its default keyring.

You only need to explicitly deal with keyrings and the keyring_* functions if you want to use a different keyring.

Development documentation

Please see our writeup of some keyring internals, and as always, use the source code.


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