Supported Frameworks

The following frameworks are directly supported by Symmetric Encryption

Rails 5

As of Symmetric Encryption v4.3, when using Rails v5 and above the recommended approach is to use the new ActiveRecord Attributes API.

Example: Model Person has an encrypted attribute called name of type string.

class Person < ActiveRecord::Base
  attribute :name, :encrypted
end

In the database migration, the name column should be defined as type string and should be large enough to hold the base64 encoded value after encryption. If the text can be very long, use the type text.

create_table :people, force: true do |t|
  t.string :name
  t.string :age
  t.text :address
end

By default when defining an attribute it will be encrypted with a new, random, initialization vectore (IV). The IV is also stored along with the encrypted value, which makes it a little larger.

The default of random_iv: true is highly recommended for security reasons. However, we would never be able to perform a query using that field, since the random IV causes the value to change every time the same data is encrypted.

As a result, the following query would never get a match:

Person.where(name: "Jack").count

For these columns, it is necessary to add the option random_iv: true:

class Person < ActiveRecord::Base
  attribute :name, :encrypted, random_iv: false
end

Since the value stored in the database is always an encrypted string, the ultimate type of the attribute needs to be supplied:

Example: The encrypted attribute age can be specified as an integer:

class Person < ActiveRecord::Base
  attribute :name, :encrypted, random_iv: false
  attribute :age,  :encrypted, type: :integer
  attribute :address, :encrypted, compress: true
end

For larger encrypted attributes it is also worthwhile to compress the value after it has been encrypted, by adding the option: compress: true

Note

The column name in the database matches the name of the attribute in the model. This differs to using the attr_enccypted approach described below for use with Rails 3 and 4, which requires the encrypted column name in the database to begin with encrypted_.

Rails 3 and 4

Note: When using Rails 5, it is recommended to use the Active Record attribute type approach detailed above. However, the approach below using attr_encrypted is still fully supported.

Example: Model Person has an encrypted attribute called name of type string.

class Person < ActiveRecord::Base
  attr_encrypted :name, random_iv: true
end

In the database migration, the name column should be defined as type string and should be large enough to hold the base64 encoded value after encryption. If the text can be very long, use the type text.

create_table :people, force: true do |t|
  t.string :encrypted_name
  t.string :encrypted_age
  t.text :encrypted_address
end

To perform a query using an encrypted field, use the encrypted form of the field name that starts with encrypted_:

For example:

Person.where(encrypted_name: SymmetricEncryption.encrypt("Jack")).count

By default when defining an attribute with attr_encrypted it will not be encrypted with a random initialization vectore (IV). This is not recommended, and random_iv: true should be added whenever possible for security resaons.

However, we would never be able to perform a query using that field, since the random IV causes the value to change every time the same data is encrypted. As a result, the above query would never get a match.

For these columns, it is necessary to use the option random_iv: false:

class Person < ActiveRecord::Base
  attr_encrypted :name, random_iv: false
end

Now the following query will find the expected record:

Person.where(encrypted_name: SymmetricEncryption.encrypt("Jack")).count

Since the value stored in the database is always an encrypted string, the ultimate type of the attribute needs to be supplied:

Example: The encrypted attribute age can be specified as an integer:

class Person < ActiveRecord::Base
  attr_encrypted :name, random_iv: false
  attr_encrypted :age, random_iv: true, type: :integer 
  attr_encrypted :address, random_iv: true, compress: true 
end

For larger encrypted attributes it is also worthwhile to compress the value after it has been encrypted, by adding the option: compress: true

Note

The column name in the database differs from the name of the attribute in the model. The encrypted column name in the database must begin with encrypted_.

Validations

To ensure that the encrypted attribute value is encrypted, a validation can be used.

Note that the validation is only applicable when using the attr_encrypted approach. Using the attribute type approach with Rails 5 or above does not need a validation to ensure the field is encrypted before saving.

class Person < ActiveRecord::Base
  attr_encrypted :name, random_iv: false
  attr_encrypted :age, random_iv: true, type: :integer 
  attr_encrypted :address, random_iv: true, compress: true
   
  validates :encrypted_name, symmetric_encryption: true
  validates :encrypted_age, symmetric_encryption: true
  validates :encrypted_address, symmetric_encryption: true
end

Mongoid

To encrypt a field in a Mongoid document, just add “encrypted: true” at the end of the field specifier. The field name must currently begin with “encrypted_”

# User model in Mongoid
class User
  include Mongoid::Document

  field :name,                             type: String
  field :encrypted_bank_account_number,    type: String,  encrypted: true
  field :encrypted_social_security_number, type: String,  encrypted: true
  field :encrypted_life_history,           type: String,  encrypted: {compress: true, random_iv: true}

  # Encrypted fields are _always_ stored in Mongo as a String
  # To get the result back as an Integer, Symmetric Encryption can do the
  # necessary conversions by specifying the internal type as an option
  # to :encrypted
  # #see SymmetricEncryption::COERCION_TYPES for full list of types
  field :encrypted_age,                    type: String, encrypted: {type: :integer}
end

# Create a new user document
User.create(bank_account_number: '12345')

# When finding a document, always use the encrypted form of the field name
user = User.where(encrypted_bank_account_number: SymmetricEncryption.encrypt('12345')).first

# Fields can be accessed using their unencrypted names
puts user.bank_account_number

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