Implementing Slash Commands Using Amazon Lambda Functions – Encrypting the Slack Token

In an earlier post, Implementing Slack Slash Commands Using Amazon Lambda Functions – Getting Started, I avoided the use of an encrypted Slack token to identify the provenance of an incoming request in favour of the plaintext version to try to simplify the “getting started with AWS Lambda functions” aspect of that recipe. In this post, I’ll describe how to to step up to the mark and use the encrypted token.

Although I tried to limit myself to free tier usage, an invoice from Amazon made me realise that there’s a cost associated with generating and subscribing to AWS encryption keys of $1 per month…
To begin with, you’ll need to create an AWS encryption key. The method is described here but I’ll walk you though it…

The is generated from the IAM console – select the Encyrption Keys element from the left hand sidebar, and then make sure you select the correct AWS region (that is, the region that the Lambda function is defined in) before creating the key:


Check again that you’re in the correct region, and then give your key an alias (I used slackslashtest):


You then need to set various permissions for potential users of the encryption key. I avoided giving anyone administrative permissions:


but I did give usage permissions to the role I’d defined to execute my Lambda function:


Once you’ve assigned the roles and defined the encryption key, you should be able to see it from the IAM Encryption Keys console listing:


Select the encryption key and make a copy of the ARN that identifies it:


You now need to add the ARN for this encryption key to a policy that defines what the role used to execute the Lambda function can do. From the IAM console, select Roles and then the role you’re interested in:


Create a new role policy for that role:


You can use the policy generator tool to create the policy:


Select the AWS Key Management Service, and then select the Decrypt action. This will allow the role to use the decrypt method for the specified encryption key:


Add the ARN for your encryption key (the one you copied above) and select Add Statement to add the decrypt action on the specified encryption key to the newly created role policy.


You can now generate and review the policy – you may want to give it a sensible name:


So… we’ve now created a key, with the alias slackslashtest, and given the role that executes the Lambda function permission to access it as part of the encryption key definition; we’ve then declared access to the Decrypt method via the role policy definition.

Now we need to use the encryption key to encrypt our Slack token. You can do this using the Amazon CLI (Command Line Interface). To do this, you first need to install the AWS CLI on your computer. (I think I did this on a Mac using Homebrew? I’m not sure if there’s an online console way of doing the encryption?)

Once the AWS CLI is installed, you need to configure it. To do this, you need to get some more keys. From the IAM console, select Users and then your user. You now need to Create Access Key.


Creating an access key is fraught with risk – you get one opportunity to look at the key values, and one opportunity to download the credentials, and that’s it! So make a note of the values…


You’re now going to use these access keys to set up the AWS CLI on your computer (you should only need to do this once). After ensuring that the AWS CLI is installed, (enter the command aws on the command line and see if it takes!), run the command aws configure and provide your access key credentials. Also make sure you select the region you want to work in.


Having configured the CLI with permission to talk to the AWS servers, you can now use it to encrypt the Slack token. Run the command:

aws kms encrypt --key-id alias/YOUR_KEY_ALIAS --plaintext "YOUR_SLACK_TOKEN"

using approriate values for the AWS encryption key alias (mine was slackslashtest) and Slack token. This calls the key encryption service and uses the specified encryption key, via its alias, to encrypt the plaintext string.


The CiphertextBlob is the encrypted version of the token. In your AWS Lambda function definition, you can use this value as the encrypted expected token from Slack that checks the provenance of whoever’s made a request to the Lambda function:


Comment out – or better, delete! – the original plaintext version of the Slack token that we used as a shortcut previously, and save the Lambda function.

Now when you call the Lambda function from Slack, via the slash function, it should run as before, only this time the Slack token lookup is made against an encrypted, rather than plaintext, version of it on the AWS side.

In the final post of this short series, I’ll describe how to write a simple test event to test the Lambda function.

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

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