For some reason, I recently needed to go back on IRC.

My IRC client of choice has always been irssi. It’s light, fast, CLI based and easily configurable.

That being said, it has a major drawback : it stores passwords in plain text in the configuration file. Granted it’s not a very sensitive information. But still, it always discouraged me to add my ~/.irssi folder to a remote version control system, even a private one.

So, here I am on yet-another-machine, starting yet-another-configuration. But, this time, I dug a bit into it and found a working solution to this password issue.

There are multiple ways to identify on IRC networks. One could use self-signed certificates for example.

The approach I took here is not the only solution to this problem. I still find it’s the one that best suits my personal needs.

The issue

As stated in the introduction of this post, irssi stores password in plain-text along with the rest of its configuration.

A common way to identify oneself on an IRC network is to send a message to a nickserv bot on connection.

As an example, a configuration block for the Libera Chat network would look as follows:

chatnets = {
  libera = {
    type = "IRC";
    autosendcmd = "^msg nickserv identify ${PASSWORD}";

One can not decently push a file as-is. The ${PASSWORD} part needs to be hidden from the outside world.

The solution

As most software-inclined people nowadays, I use git as my main VCS. And it appears git has all the tools I need built-in to bypass the issue.

It’s all here in the documentation.


The .gitattributes file in a git repository allows one to require some filters to be run.

config filter=password

Here we go, please, git run the password filter when needed.


It’s not common to have a .gitconfig file inside a git repository. Usually, there is one ~/.gitconfig (or ~/.config/git/config) file for machine-wide configuration and one .git/config file for repository-specific configuration. But neither are committed to the remote repository as they both are specific to the current user.

Still, here, it’s necessary to not only configure git but also share this configuration with anyone with access to the repository. The approach is to create a .gitconfig along with the .gitattributes file.

But that’s not enough : for security purpose, this file is ignored. One has to explicitly include it when first cloning the repository.

git config --local include.path ../.gitconfig

Always double-check the .gitconfig file’s content before including it. Especially if it comes from a repository you don’t fully trust.

It may contain ill-intentioned code and could potentially be a security threat.


Now, there is the .gitattributes file requiring the password filter. And the .gitconfig file which must define the said filter.

[filter "password"]
    clean = "sed -e 's/identify .*\";/identify <PASSWORD>\";/'"

Easy right? Call sed, search for the identify .* string and replace it by identify <PASSWORD>.

Here, the password filter is a clean filter.

Clean filters are applied before files are staged.

This means that the original password never reach the staging area and can’t be retrieved by carefully looking into git internals.


That’s all folks.

My irssi configuration can now be pushed to any remote repository without exposing a single password.

Of course, whenever I clone this code, I need to replace the <PASSWORD> by hand. It’s a minor inconvenience as it almost never happens. The said passwords are stored in pass, my password manager of choice as already discussed here[FR] and here[FR]. So, it only takes a couple of minutes to be up-and-running with irssi 🎉