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Introducing Polykey - A Future Security Standard for Replacing Dotenv Libraries

· 4 min read
Pablo Padillo
Chief Proliferator

As the landscape of software development evolves, securing sensitive data remains a paramount concern. Traditionally, environment variables in environments like Node.js, which extensively utilize .env files managed by dotenv libraries, are prone to security risks. These .env files, while straightforward, harbor significant security vulnerabilities. Sensitive information such as API keys and database passwords are often stored in plaintext, leading to potential data leaks if these files are not managed correctly or accidentally committed to public repositories.

Polykey: Elevating Security and Efficiency

Polykey fundamentally transforms how environment variables and secrets are managed, moving beyond traditional .env file approaches to a more secure and robust system. Unlike .env methods that often expose sensitive data in plaintext, Polykey entirely separates secret management from the codebase. This separation ensures that sensitive information is never stored alongside code or within project repositories, which dramatically reduces the risk of accidental exposure.

Advanced Encryption and Secure Management

Polykey leverages the XChaCha20-Poly1305-IETF encryption algorithm, implemented through the Libsodium library, to secure secrets at rest and in transit. This modern cryptographic approach offers several benefits:

  • Extended nonce size: Enhances security by enabling the safe reuse of encryption keys in various contexts without risking nonce collisions—crucial for dynamic and distributed applications.
  • High performance: Designed for high-speed encryption and decryption processes, ensuring minimal impact on performance while maintaining robust security.
  • Robust confidentiality and authentication: The algorithm guarantees that secrets remain confidential and verifiable, which is critical when handling sensitive operational data.

Enhanced Collaboration and Sharing

Polykey also facilitates secure end-to-end encrypted sharing of secrets, ideal for collaborative environments. When developers need to share environment variables or other configurations:

  • Secure Sharing: Instead of sharing secrets over insecure channels or cumbersome setups, developers can share directly through Polykey’s encrypted vaults.
  • Seamless Integration and Execution: Shared vaults can be directly integrated into another developer's local environment. Once a vault is copied to their node, they can immediately execute scripts or applications using the shared environment variables without further setup. This capability not only simplifies workflows but also ensures that all team members work with secure, up-to-date configurations without manual updates or risky data handling.

By eliminating reliance on .env files and integrating these advanced features, Polykey significantly enhances the security posture of application deployments. It addresses common security challenges associated with environment variable management and sets a new standard for secure, efficient, and collaborative development practices.

Applicability Across Programming Languages

Currently, Polykey's native support extends to JavaScript, TypeScript, and Node.js environments, which commonly utilize .env files managed by respective dotenv libraries. For other programming languages, interaction with Polykey is facilitated through standard IPC, as direct RPC interactions are limited to JS/TS/Node applications. For more details on library usage, refer to the npm library @matrix/rpc.

Demonstration of Polykey's Capabilities

I created a GitHub repository to demonstrate the practical implementation and performance comparisons of replacing the traditional dotenv method with Polykey for a simple Node.js weather app. This showcases how Polykey can be effectively implemented in various environments where dotenv libraries are used. I encourage others to explore these demonstrations and consider similar implementations to witness the benefits firsthand. Follow the instructions in our README to perform the demo yourself, or view our detailed breakdown of the configurations and performance results of the dotenv-to-Polykey transition here.

Key Differences Between dotenv and Polykey

Future Directions and Call to Action

Currently, Polykey is optimized for development environments with plans to extend its functionality to production settings. This ongoing development promises to make Polykey a comprehensive solution for all stages of development, setting a new standard in the industry.

Conclusion: Join the Conversation and Shape the Future

We invite developers from all backgrounds to join this transformative journey by testing Polykey in your development environments and sharing your insights with us in our discord server. Your feedback is invaluable as we refine this tool into an industry standard. Stay informed on our developments for Polykey by following our open-source GH organization.

Introducing a New Standard in Environment Secrets Management with Polykey

· 4 min read
Pablo Padillo
Chief Proliferator


In the realm of software development, managing environment variables and secrets has long been both a necessity and a challenge. Traditional practices, particularly the use of .env files facilitated by the dotenv library, have been fundamental in helping developers manage configurations without hardcoding them into their applications. These practices expose systems to security breaches, unauthorized access, and accidental exposure of sensitive data, vulnerabilities that can no longer be overlooked in today’s security-conscious environment.

Polykey is introducing a new open-source solution that enhances security, simplifies workflows, and integrates seamlessly into diverse development environments, addressing the urgent need for secure management of environment variables and secrets.

The History and Challenges of .env Files

Environment variables are crucial in bridging the gap between operating systems and applications, managing sensitive data such as API keys and database passwords. Traditionally managed through .env files, these variables are vulnerable to several significant risks:

  • Accidental Exposure: .env files can easily be committed to version control by mistake, even when listed in .gitignore.
  • Plaintext Storage Vulnerabilities: Susceptibility to breaches if unauthorized access to the developer's machine occurs.
  • Insecure Sharing Practices: Growing teams often resort to insecure methods to share sensitive information.
  • Management Complexity: Scaling issues and key rotation complexities create inefficiencies and potential for errors.

Introducing Polykey

Polykey is revolutionizing secret management by moving beyond traditional .env files and other less secure cloud-based secret management solutions. As a robust CLI tool, Polykey introduces:

  • Encrypted Storage: Polykey securely stores each secret within encrypted vaults on the user's local machine, enhancing data confidentiality and control over secret management.
  • Dynamic Injection: Through commands like polykey secrets env -e=<vaultname>:<secretPath>, Polykey injects secrets directly into the development environment on-demand, offering flexibility and minimizing risks associated with static secret storage.
  • Decentralized Secure Sharing: Utilizing an encrypted, peer-to-peer network, Polykey enables seamless and secure sharing of secrets. This mechanism is crucial for collaborative projects requiring stringent security measures, allowing nodes that manage vaults to discover and trust other users' nodes across decentralized environments.

Step-by-Step Example: Using Polykey’s env Command

Experience Polykey's secrets env command in action through this GIF demo, showcasing the secure and dynamic management of environment variables, transitioning from traditional .env files to a more robust approach.

Polykey Secrets env Command

Overview of the Demonstration

This demonstration captures the following key actions and highlights their significance:

  • Transition from .env Files: We start by navigating to the project directory, displaying the existing .env file, and then removing it. This visual representation not only underscores our departure from relying on less secure .env files but also reinforces Polykey’s capability to replace them with a more secure alternative.
  • Secure Storage of Secrets: By creating a new vault and adding secrets directly into it, the demo showcases how Polykey encrypts and securely stores each secret locally on the user’s machine. This action highlights the enhanced security measures Polykey offers compared to plaintext storage in .env files.
  • Dynamic Secret Injection: Entering into a secure, delegated subshell where secrets are dynamically injected on-demand exemplifies Polykey’s core functionality. This step is critical as it demonstrates the operational efficiency and security with which developers can now handle sensitive information, ensuring that secrets are only accessible when and where they are needed, without being exposed.
  • Verification of Configuration: The final step of verifying configurations within the AWS CLI using the dynamically injected secrets illustrates the effective application of Polykey in a real-world scenario. It not only validates the correct functioning of the environment setup but also confirms that the secrets management process adheres to best security practices.

Significance of the Demonstration

This demo serves as a potent illustration of Polykey’s capabilities in transforming secret management within development environments. It highlights the ease of transitioning to Polykey, the security benefits of encrypted storage, and the operational advantages of dynamic secret injection. By visually and practically demonstrating these features, the demo helps developers understand the immediate benefits of adopting Polykey, encouraging them to reevaluate and enhance their current secrets management strategies.

Try Polykey Yourself

Following the demonstration, we encourage you to explore Polykey's capabilities further:

  1. Download and Install Polykey: Follow our installation guide to get started.
  2. Watch the Demo: View our demo video that will cover some of the basic commands for using polykey.
  3. Try It Out: Experiment with the polykey secrets env command in your own development environment.

We are eager to hear your feedback and encourage you to join our Discord server to participate in discussions or contribute to Polykey’s ongoing open-source development at Matrix.AI.

Polykey Updates Since Beta CLI Release

· 3 min read
Pablo Padillo
Chief Proliferator

Hello Polykey Community!

It’s been some time since our last major update—the beta launch back in November. Our Sydney-based engineers have been hard at work enhancing the Polykey CLI and adding powerful new features. Matrix AI has undergone a few exciting changes that will significantly impact the company's growth and the development of Polykey.

Here’s what’s new:

Latest Enhancements

  • Cross-Platform Installation: In addition to Linux, Polykey CLI is now available on Mac and Windows. For detailed installation instructions based on your operating system, check out our updated installation guide in the Polykey Docs. (Polykey-CLI#152)

  • CLI Standard Output Improvements: We've standardized CLI outputs across all interactions to ensure a consistent user experience. (Polykey-CLI#22)

  • Advanced Monitoring with Audit Domain: We're advancing our monitoring capabilities to offer improved visibility and control. (Polykey-CLI#177)

  • Optimized Node Discovery: Enhanced feedback mechanisms in node discovery improve network operations and independence. (Polykey#162)Discovery Feedback

  • Secure Environment Handling: The $ polykey secrets env command securely injects environment variables from your encrypted vault directly into your system's local environment. This feature sets a new standard for secure data management both at rest and in use. Excited to share more about this feature's use-cases soon. (Polykey-CLI#31)

  • Fault-Tolerant Notifications: Experience asynchronous notifications, enhancing system responsiveness and fault tolerance. (Polykey#703) Asynchronous Notifications

Critical Bug Fixes

  • Connection Stability: We've fortified network stability to prevent unexpected node crashes. (Polykey#592)
  • Authentication Enhancements: Increased the Authentication Timeout window, improving user experience during the authentication process when running $ polykey identities authenticate (Polykey#588)
  • Resource Leak Fix: Fixed issue with timers not properly cleaning up, preventing potential crashes. (js-timer#15)
  • Node Discovery Overhaul: Decentralized node discovery now improves overall network connectivity. (Polykey#618)
  • NAT Hole Punching Fix: Addressed challenges with NAT hole punching to ensure consistent node communications. (Polykey#605)

Recent Events & Organization Updates

  • Key Hires and Team Expansion: Recent months have seen exciting additions to our team, enhancing both our technical and marketing capacity. New roles include front-end engineers, back-end engineers, AI/ML specialists, and a marketing lead technical support specialist.
  • Polykey Enterprise Development: We are actively enhancing Polykey Enterprise (PKE) to provide a hybrid mandatory discretionary policy network, allowing admins to enforce security policies robustly. We applied to YCombinator Summer 2024 to accelerate this development. We have some GUI prototypes in the works for the PKE which we're eager to share with you soon.
  • Venture Miami Phase II: We're making waves in Phase II of Miami's largest incubator program, gearing up for a demo day on June 20th that promises to showcase our advancements to potential angel investors.
  • Engagement at Major Events: Our participation at Eth Denver and SXSW in Austin has significantly expanded our network and fostered key collaborations.

Engage and Explore

We’re eager to hear your feedback as we continue to refine Polykey. Engage with us through feature requests or issues on our GitHub or in our Discord server.

Stay Tuned

Explore the vast possibilities with Polykey. Download the latest updates, try out new features, and share how they've impacted your workflow.

Escape the Ordinary, Secure the Extraordinary

The Polykey Team

Try the Polykey Demo Yourself!

· 2 min read
Pablo Padillo
Chief Proliferator

Polykey Now Available for Mac & Windows

Since its initial launch in December 2023 for Linux, we've expanded Polykey's availability.
As of March 2024, you can now use Polykey on both Mac OS and Windows!

Best Way to Get Started:

Download Polykey by following the installation guides tailored to your operating system,
available here:

Explore Through Our Demo Video

Watch our demo video to see Polykey in action. The video covers basic yet crucial functionalities:

  • Starting Polykey
  • Creating and managing Vaults
  • Adding and viewing Secrets within Vaults
  • Authentication and identity features with GitHub
  • Discovering and trusting other Polykey users
  • Sharing Vaults securely

Special Note on the Demo: This video showcases interactions that require two separate users to demonstrate the feature of sharing vaults.
While this is a key aspect of Polykey’s collaborative capabilities, remember that Polykey also offers robust solutions for individual users, such as securely managing .env files. We will explore this in more detail in an upcoming post.

We Want Your Feedback

Connect with us on our Matrix AI Discord Server to share your feedback and discuss how you use Polykey in your own setups.

Polykey's Grand Launch Event

· 2 min read
Aditya Varma
Software Engineer


On December 8, 2023, at our Sydney headquarters, Polykey was launched. The event marked a major milestone for Matrix AI after three years of intense innovation and engineering.

The event began with a presentation by Roger, Polykey's founder. He introduced Polykey's philosophy and core features, including encrypted vault storage and Gestalt-based sharing. Roger also discussed digital identities in Polykey's secret sharing infrastructure.

Next, Polykey Enterprise was previewed. It's the peak of Polykey's offerings, turning the open-source framework into a robust enterprise solution for managing and delegating sensitive information within organizations.

The event also unveiled and Polykey dashboards. These platforms offer real-time insights into active nodes, improving user experience and control.