Managing Secrets in a React Native App

By Erik Stockmeier

Hi! I’m Erik, a software engineer on the Purchase team. One of the most visible payoffs from Artsy’s investments in React Native over the past two years has been the opening up of our mobile codebase to contributors like myself coming primarily from web stacks. It’s nice to be able to build mobile interfaces with the same declarative API used by so many of our web projects, but sometimes we still need to bridge the divide to our Objective-C and Swift ecosystem. One such case: replacing the app secrets typically loaded from a deploy environment or web developer’s dotenv file.

Emission is Artsy’s React Native component library. It contains its own native app in the /Example folder, which uses cocoapods-keys to store secrets while still letting us code in the open. In order to expose these keys to our React Native components, however, we must do a fair bit of setup. Here’s a straightforward how-to that also makes a quick tour through the iOS ecosystem for web developers looking at the React Native JavaScript runtime today.

Links to examples below come from this commit which adds a key for the Stripe API to Emission. When we are finished, a client app (/Example, Eigen, etc.) will be able to initialize Emission with this secret, which will in turn make it available to React Native components.


1. Add the key to the app’s Podfile.

This is the extent of cocoapods-keys official setup, and after this you could set the key via pod keys set <NAME> or pod install… but we have more to do.


plugin 'cocoapods-keys', {
  :target => 'Emission',
  :keys => [
+    'StripePublishableKey',

2. Configure the library to consume our new key

We’ll need to update the initWithUserId... function — one fun part of adjusting to Objective-C is that rather than named functions, we just refer to them by their entire signatures — to expose the new key as a property and add it to constantsToExport (docs).

Note that this is happening in our Emission Pod; The pod now expects that key to be available in our consuming Example app as defined above.


// ENV Variables
 #import <React/RCTBridgeModule.h>

 @interface AREmissionConfiguration : NSObject <RCTBridgeModule>

+ @property (nonatomic, copy, readonly, nullable) NSString *stripePublishableKey;

 - (instancetype)initWithUserID:(NSString *)userID
           authenticationToken:(NSString *)token
                     sentryDSN:(nullable NSString *)sentryDSN
+         stripePublishableKey:(NSString *)stripePublishableKey
              googleMapsAPIKey:(nullable NSString *)googleAPIKey
                    gravityURL:(NSString *)gravity
                metaphysicsURL:(NSString *)metaphysics
                     userAgent:(NSString *)userAgent;

AREmission’s implementation (.m) needs to be configured to take this new key- It will be exported to our React Native components as Emission. We make our initializer match the signature defined in the header (.h) file, and add an instance _stripePublishableKey to match the @property declaration.


 @implementation AREmissionConfiguration
 # ...

 - (NSDictionary *)constantsToExport
   return @{
+    @"stripePublishableKey": self.stripePublishableKey ?: @"",
     # ...lots more

 - (instancetype)initWithUserID:(NSString *)userID
            authenticationToken:(NSString *)token
                      sentryDSN:(NSString *)sentryDSN
+          stripePublishableKey:(NSString *)stripePublishableKey
               googleMapsAPIKey:(NSString *)googleAPIKey
                     gravityURL:(NSString *)gravity
                 metaphysicsURL:(NSString *)metaphysics
                      userAgent:(nonnull NSString *)userAgent
     self = [super init];
     _userID = [userID copy];
+    _stripePublishableKey = [stripePublishableKey copy];
     # ... More copies...
     return self;

Why is copy needed at all? See here.

3. Configure the example app to expose the new key to our library

After making sure we have imported the keys from cocoapods-keys we update Emission’s setup to use the new initializer signature we defined above.


#import <Keys/EmissionKeys.h>

  - (void)setupEmissionWithUserID:(NSString *)userID accessToken:(NSString *)accessToken keychainService:(NSString *)service;
    # ...
     AREmissionConfiguration *config = [[AREmissionConfiguration alloc]
+     stripePublishableKey:keys.stripePublishableKey
      userAgent:@"Emission Example"];
    # ...

4. Use that configured key in a React Native component.

Emission is now exposed along with its configured keys via React Native’s NativeModules.


import { NativeModules } from "react-native";
const Emission = NativeModules.Emission || {};

  publishableKey: Emission.stripePublishableKey

That’s it! Compared to a familiar dotenv file, it certainly means a bit more ceremony here, but we are working through React Native code, its containing Pod and a consuming app. The process is more complicated, but it’s also a nice overview of some fundamentals of Objective-C, iOS development and bridging the gap between react and mobile native code.