Are there fundamental underlying differences in how secrets and passwords should be managed?

I'm curious of the technical/cryptographic differences between secret managers and password managers are. If I get all philosophical about it the main difference to me is that secret manager's provide software so that other software programs can retrieve the sensitive information at runtime (but often still provide ways to persist the secrets) while password managers are single applications that retrieve sensitive information when a person wants to use it in some way.

  • Password managers themselves use secret managers provisioned to the device.
    – defalt
    Commented Jan 3, 2023 at 7:30

2 Answers 2


Secret Manager is a secure and convenient storage system for API keys, passwords, certificates, and other sensitive data.

A password manager is a computer program that allows users to store and manage their passwords for local applications and online services

So it just that. Secret manager such as offered by Google and AWS are much bigger and more complex than a password manager in your browser


One of the main differences between secret managers and password managers is the type of secrets they are designed to store. Secret managers are generally used to store secrets that are used by software applications, whereas password managers are used to storing passwords that are used by people to log in to various accounts.

Another difference is the way the secrets are accessed. Secret managers usually provide an API or other means for software applications to retrieve the secrets at runtime, while password managers typically provide a way for users to retrieve the passwords through a user interface, such as a web page or a standalone application.

In terms of the underlying cryptography, both secret managers and password managers may use similar techniques to protect the secrets they store, such as encryption and secure storage. However, the specific details of how the secrets are encrypted and stored may vary depending on the tool or service being used.

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