nk is a command line tool that generates nkeys. NKeys are a highly secure public-key signature system based on Ed25519.

With NKeys the server can verify identity without ever storing secrets on the server. The authentication system works by requiring a connecting client to provide its public key and digitally sign a challenge with its private key. The server generates a random challenge with every connection request, making it immune to playback attacks. The generated signature is validated a public key, thus proving the identity of the client. If the public key validation succeeds, authentication succeeds.

NKey is an awesome replacement for token authentication, because a connecting client will have to prove it controls the private key for the authorized public key.

Installing nk

To get started with NKeys, you’ll need the nk tool from https://github.com/nats-io/nkeys/tree/master/nk repository. If you have go installed, enter the following at a command prompt:

go install github.com/nats-io/nkeys/nk@latest

Generating NKeys and Configuring the Server

To generate a User NKEY:

nk -gen user -pubout

The first output line starts with the letter S for Seed. The second letter U stands for User. Seeds are private keys; you should treat them as secrets and guard them with care.

The second line starts with the letter U for User, and is a public key which can be safely shared.

To use nkey authentication, add a user, and set the nkey property to the public key of the user you want to authenticate. You are only required to use the public key and no other properties are required. Here is a snippet of configuration for the nats-server:

authorization: {
  users: [

To complete the end-to-end configuration and use an nkey, the client is configured to use the seed, which is the private key.

Last updated