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Securing Ansible: Managing Sudo Passwords Safely and Non-Interactively

Navigating Secure Sudo Password Management in Ansible: Best Practices and Strategies

August 21, 2023
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Ansible, an indispensable tool in the world of automation, empowers administrators to manage complex tasks efficiently and easily. However, when it comes to specifying sudo passwords, security is of paramount importance. This article delves into the best practices for providing a sudo password to Ansible non-interactively while prioritizing data protection and secure execution.

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The Challenge of Storing Sudo Passwords

Ansible’s documentation unequivocally emphasizes that storing passwords in plain text is a grave security risk. With this in mind, let’s explore how to handle sudo passwords safely and responsibly.

  1. Ansible Vault for Encryption: Ansible recommends using Ansible Vault to safeguard sensitive information. This feature enables you to encrypt passwords and other secrets securely. The vault provides an added layer of protection, ensuring that passwords are not exposed as plain text within playbooks or configuration files.

Running Ansible Playbooks Non-Interactively

Previously, the --ask-sudo-pass flag of the ansible-playbook command was used to specify a sudo password interactively. However, this approach could be more secure, and Ansible has transitioned to safer alternatives.

  1. --ask-become-pass: The recommended approach is to use --ask-become-pass when running the ansible-playbook command. This flag prompts you to enter the sudo password interactively during execution. However, it’s important to note that this method still requires manual input, which might not be ideal for certain automation scenarios.

  2. --ask-sudo-pass and -K: In earlier Ansible versions, the --ask-sudo-pass flag and the sudo command for privilege escalation were used. However, this method has been deprecated in favor of the --ask-become-pass flag. The -K shorthand can be used for --ask-sudo-pass.

Passwordless Sudo: A Secure Alternative

To handle playbooks running on multiple servers with different passwords more effectively, passwordless sudo can be a preferable option. When properly configured, it allows commands that require superuser privileges to be executed without prompting for a password.

Ensuring Security with History Cleanup

From a security perspective, minimizing any traces of sensitive information in the command history is essential.

  1. Clearing History: After executing a playbook containing sensitive data, consider adding the command history -c to clear the history, removing any recorded entered commands.

  2. Adding Extra Space: Alternatively, placing an extra space before a command in a bash terminal prevents the command from being saved to .bash_history. This simple step can enhance security by limiting the potential exposure of sensitive information.


Security is not a luxury — it’s a necessity, especially when handling sensitive data like passwords. Ansible empowers administrators with powerful automation capabilities but also requires responsible handling of security considerations. Storing passwords in plain text is unequivocally discouraged, and Ansible Vault provides a robust solution for encrypting sensitive information.

To handle sudo passwords non-interactively, transitioning from --ask-sudo-pass to --ask-become-pass marks a step toward a more secure practice. Moreover, considering passwordless sudo and implementing history cleanup techniques contributes to a secure environment.

As automation continues to shape the landscape of IT operations, the responsible management of security practices in tools like Ansible is essential. By adhering to best practices, administrators can ensure efficient automation while upholding the highest standards of security.

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