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Lockbox

📦 Modern encryption for Ruby and Rails

  • Works with database fields, files, and strings
  • Maximizes compatibility with existing code and libraries
  • Makes migrating existing data and key rotation easy
  • Has zero dependencies and many integrations

Learn the principles behind it, how to secure emails with Devise, and how to secure sensitive data in Rails.

Build Status

Installation

Add this line to your application’s Gemfile:

gem 'lockbox'

Key Generation

Generate a key

Lockbox.generate_key

Store the key with your other secrets. This is typically Rails credentials or an environment variable (dotenv is great for this). Be sure to use different keys in development and production.

Set the following environment variable with your key (you can use this one in development)

LOCKBOX_MASTER_KEY=0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000

or add it to your credentials for each environment (rails credentials:edit --environment <env> for Rails 6+)

lockbox:
  master_key: "0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000"

or create config/initializers/lockbox.rb with something like

Lockbox.master_key = Rails.application.credentials.lockbox[:master_key]

Then follow the instructions below for the data you want to encrypt.

Database Fields

Files

Other

Active Record

Create a migration with:

class AddEmailCiphertextToUsers < ActiveRecord::Migration[6.1]
  def change
    add_column :users, :email_ciphertext, :text
  end
end

Add to your model:

class User < ApplicationRecord
  encrypts :email
end

You can use email just like any other attribute.

User.create!(email: "hi@example.org")

If you need to query encrypted fields, check out Blind Index.

Multiple Fields

You can specify multiple fields in single line.

class User < ApplicationRecord
  encrypts :email, :phone, :city
end

Types

Fields are strings by default. Specify the type of a field with:

class User < ApplicationRecord
  encrypts :born_on, type: :date
  encrypts :signed_at, type: :datetime
  encrypts :opens_at, type: :time
  encrypts :active, type: :boolean
  encrypts :salary, type: :integer
  encrypts :latitude, type: :float
  encrypts :video, type: :binary
  encrypts :properties, type: :json
  encrypts :settings, type: :hash
  encrypts :messages, type: :array
  encrypts :ip, type: :inet
end

Note: Use a text column for the ciphertext in migrations, regardless of the type

Lockbox automatically works with serialized fields for maximum compatibility with existing code and libraries.

class User < ApplicationRecord
  serialize :properties, JSON
  store :settings, accessors: [:color, :homepage]
  attribute :configuration, CustomType.new

  encrypts :properties, :settings, :configuration
end

For StoreModel, use:

class User < ApplicationRecord
  encrypts :configuration, type: Configuration.to_type

  after_initialize do
    self.configuration ||= {}
  end
end

Validations

Validations work as expected with the exception of uniqueness. Uniqueness validations require a blind index.

Fixtures

You can use encrypted attributes in fixtures with:

test_user:
  email_ciphertext: <%= User.generate_email_ciphertext("secret").inspect %>

Be sure to include the inspect at the end or it won’t be encoded properly in YAML.

Migrating Existing Data

Lockbox makes it easy to encrypt an existing column without downtime.

Add a new column for the ciphertext, then add to your model:

class User < ApplicationRecord
  encrypts :email, migrating: true
end

Backfill the data in the Rails console:

Lockbox.migrate(User)

Then update the model to the desired state:

class User < ApplicationRecord
  encrypts :email

  # remove this line after dropping email column
  self.ignored_columns = ["email"]
end

Finally, drop the unencrypted column.

If adding blind indexes, mark them as migrating during this process as well.

class User < ApplicationRecord
  blind_index :email, migrating: true
end

Model Changes

If tracking changes to model attributes, be sure to remove or redact encrypted attributes.

PaperTrail

class User < ApplicationRecord
  # for an encrypted history (still tracks ciphertext changes)
  has_paper_trail skip: [:email]

  # for no history (add blind indexes as well)
  has_paper_trail skip: [:email, :email_ciphertext]
end

Audited

class User < ApplicationRecord
  # for an encrypted history (still tracks ciphertext changes)
  audited except: [:email]

  # for no history (add blind indexes as well)
  audited except: [:email, :email_ciphertext]
end

Decryption

To decrypt data outside the model, use:

User.decrypt_email_ciphertext(user.email_ciphertext)

Action Text

Note: Action Text uses direct uploads for files, which cannot be encrypted with application-level encryption like Lockbox. This only encrypts the database field.

Create a migration with:

class AddBodyCiphertextToRichTexts < ActiveRecord::Migration[6.1]
  def change
    add_column :action_text_rich_texts, :body_ciphertext, :text
  end
end

Create config/initializers/lockbox.rb with:

Lockbox.encrypts_action_text_body(migrating: true)

Migrate existing data:

Lockbox.migrate(ActionText::RichText)

Update the initializer:

Lockbox.encrypts_action_text_body

And drop the unencrypted column.

Options

You can pass any Lockbox options to the encrypts_action_text_body method.

Mongoid

Add to your model:

class User
  field :email_ciphertext, type: String

  encrypts :email
end

You can use email just like any other attribute.

User.create!(email: "hi@example.org")

If you need to query encrypted fields, check out Blind Index.

You can migrate existing data similarly to Active Record.

Active Storage

Add to your model:

class User < ApplicationRecord
  has_one_attached :license
  encrypts_attached :license
end

Works with multiple attachments as well.

class User < ApplicationRecord
  has_many_attached :documents
  encrypts_attached :documents
end

There are a few limitations to be aware of:

  • Variants and previews aren’t supported when encrypted
  • Metadata like image width and height aren’t extracted when encrypted
  • Direct uploads can’t be encrypted with application-level encryption like Lockbox, but can use server-side encryption

To serve encrypted files, use a controller action.

def license
  user = User.find(params[:id])
  send_data user.license.download, type: user.license.content_type
end

Migrating Existing Files

Lockbox makes it easy to encrypt existing files without downtime.

Add to your model:

class User < ApplicationRecord
  encrypts_attached :license, migrating: true
end

Migrate existing files:

Lockbox.migrate(User)

Then update the model to the desired state:

class User < ApplicationRecord
  encrypts_attached :license
end

CarrierWave

Add to your uploader:

class LicenseUploader < CarrierWave::Uploader::Base
  encrypt
end

Encryption is applied to all versions after processing.

You can mount the uploader as normal. With Active Record, this involves creating a migration:

class AddLicenseToUsers < ActiveRecord::Migration[6.1]
  def change
    add_column :users, :license, :string
  end
end

And updating the model:

class User < ApplicationRecord
  mount_uploader :license, LicenseUploader
end

To serve encrypted files, use a controller action.

def license
  user = User.find(params[:id])
  send_data user.license.read, type: user.license.content_type
end

Migrating Existing Files

Encrypt existing files without downtime. Create a new encrypted uploader:

class LicenseV2Uploader < CarrierWave::Uploader::Base
  encrypt key: Lockbox.attribute_key(table: "users", attribute: "license")
end

Add a new column for the uploader, then add to your model:

class User < ApplicationRecord
  mount_uploader :license_v2, LicenseV2Uploader

  before_save :migrate_license, if: :license_changed?

  def migrate_license
    self.license_v2 = license
  end
end

Migrate existing files:

User.find_each do |user|
  if user.license? && !user.license_v2?
    user.migrate_license
    user.save!
  end
end

Then update the model to the desired state:

class User < ApplicationRecord
  mount_uploader :license, LicenseV2Uploader, mount_on: :license_v2
end

Finally, delete the unencrypted files and drop the column for the original uploader. You can also remove the key option from the uploader.

Shrine

Models

Include the attachment as normal:

class User < ApplicationRecord
  include LicenseUploader::Attachment(:license)
end

And encrypt in a controller (or background job, etc) with:

license = params.require(:user).fetch(:license)
lockbox = Lockbox.new(key: Lockbox.attribute_key(table: "users", attribute: "license"))
user.license = lockbox.encrypt_io(license)

To serve encrypted files, use a controller action.

def license
  user = User.find(params[:id])
  lockbox = Lockbox.new(key: Lockbox.attribute_key(table: "users", attribute: "license"))
  send_data lockbox.decrypt(user.license.read), type: user.license.mime_type
end

Non-Models

Generate a key

key = Lockbox.generate_key

Create a lockbox

lockbox = Lockbox.new(key: key)

Encrypt files before passing them to Shrine

LicenseUploader.upload(lockbox.encrypt_io(file), :store)

And decrypt them after reading

lockbox.decrypt(uploaded_file.read)

Local Files

Generate a key

key = Lockbox.generate_key

Create a lockbox

lockbox = Lockbox.new(key: key)

Encrypt

ciphertext = lockbox.encrypt(File.binread("file.txt"))

Decrypt

lockbox.decrypt(ciphertext)

Strings

Generate a key

key = Lockbox.generate_key

Create a lockbox

lockbox = Lockbox.new(key: key, encode: true)

Encrypt

ciphertext = lockbox.encrypt("hello")

Decrypt

lockbox.decrypt(ciphertext)

Use decrypt_str get the value as UTF-8

Key Rotation

To make key rotation easy, you can pass previous versions of keys that can decrypt.

Active Record & Mongoid

Update your model:

class User < ApplicationRecord
  encrypts :email, previous_versions: [{master_key: previous_key}]
end

To rotate existing records, use:

Lockbox.rotate(User, attributes: [:email])

Once all records are rotated, you can remove previous_versions from the model.

Action Text

Update your initializer:

Lockbox.encrypts_action_text_body(previous_versions: [{master_key: previous_key}])

To rotate existing records, use:

Lockbox.rotate(ActionText::RichText, attributes: [:body])

Once all records are rotated, you can remove previous_versions from the initializer.

Active Storage

Update your model:

class User < ApplicationRecord
  encrypts_attached :license, previous_versions: [{master_key: previous_key}]
end

To rotate existing files, use:

User.with_attached_license.find_each do |user|
  user.license.rotate_encryption!
end

Once all files are rotated, you can remove previous_versions from the model.

CarrierWave

Update your model:

class LicenseUploader < CarrierWave::Uploader::Base
  encrypt previous_versions: [{master_key: previous_key}]
end

To rotate existing files, use:

User.find_each do |user|
  user.license.rotate_encryption!
end

For multiple files, use:

User.find_each do |user|
  user.licenses.map(&:rotate_encryption!)
end

Once all files are rotated, you can remove previous_versions from the model.

Local Files & Strings

For local files and strings, use:

Lockbox.new(key: key, previous_versions: [{key: previous_key}])

Auditing

It’s a good idea to track user and employee access to sensitive data. Lockbox provides a convenient way to do this with Active Record, but you can use a similar pattern to write audits to any location.

rails generate lockbox:audits
rails db:migrate

Then create an audit wherever a user can view data:

class UsersController < ApplicationController
  def show
    @user = User.find(params[:id])

    LockboxAudit.create!(
      subject: @user,
      viewer: current_user,
      data: ["name", "email"],
      context: "#{controller_name}##{action_name}",
      ip: request.remote_ip
    )
  end
end

Query audits with:

LockboxAudit.last(100)

Note: This approach is not intended to be used in the event of a breach or insider attack, as it’s trivial for someone with access to your infrastructure to bypass.

Algorithms

AES-GCM

This is the default algorithm. It’s:

Lockbox uses 256-bit keys.

For users who do a lot of encryptions: You should rotate an individual key after 2 billion encryptions to minimize the chance of a nonce collision, which will expose the authentication key. Each database field and file uploader use a different key (derived from the master key) to extend this window.

XSalsa20

You can also use XSalsa20, which uses an extended nonce so you don’t have to worry about nonce collisions. First, install Libsodium. For Homebrew, use:

brew install libsodium

And add to your Gemfile:

gem 'rbnacl'

Then add to your model:

class User < ApplicationRecord
  encrypts :email, algorithm: "xsalsa20"
end

Make it the default with:

Lockbox.default_options = {algorithm: "xsalsa20"}

You can also pass an algorithm to previous_versions for key rotation.

XSalsa20 Deployment

Heroku

Heroku comes with libsodium preinstalled.

Ubuntu

For Ubuntu 20.04 and 18.04, use:

sudo apt-get install libsodium23

For Ubuntu 16.04, use:

sudo apt-get install libsodium18
GitHub Actions

For Ubuntu 20.04 and 18.04, use:

    - name: Install Libsodium
      run: sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install libsodium23

For Ubuntu 16.04, use:

    - name: Install Libsodium
      run: sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install libsodium18
Travis CI

On Bionic, add to .travis.yml:

addons:
  apt:
    packages:
      - libsodium23

On Xenial, add to .travis.yml:

addons:
  apt:
    packages:
      - libsodium18
CircleCI

Add a step to .circleci/config.yml:

- run:
    name: install Libsodium
    command: sudo apt-get install -y libsodium18

Hybrid Cryptography

Hybrid cryptography allows servers to encrypt data without being able to decrypt it.

Follow the instructions above for installing Libsodium and including rbnacl in your Gemfile.

Generate a key pair with:

Lockbox.generate_key_pair

Store the keys with your other secrets. Then use:

class User < ApplicationRecord
  encrypts :email, algorithm: "hybrid", encryption_key: encryption_key, decryption_key: decryption_key
end

Make sure decryption_key is nil on servers that shouldn’t decrypt.

This uses X25519 for key exchange and XSalsa20 for encryption.

Key Configuration

Lockbox supports a few different ways to set keys for database fields and files.

  1. Master key
  2. Per field/uploader
  3. Per record

Master Key

By default, the master key is used to generate unique keys for each field/uploader. This technique comes from CipherSweet. The table name and column/uploader name are both used in this process.

You can get an individual key with:

Lockbox.attribute_key(table: "users", attribute: "email_ciphertext")

To rename a table with encrypted columns/uploaders, use:

class User < ApplicationRecord
  encrypts :email, key_table: "original_table"
end

To rename an encrypted column itself, use:

class User < ApplicationRecord
  encrypts :email, key_attribute: "original_column"
end

Per Field/Uploader

To set a key for an individual field/uploader, use a string:

class User < ApplicationRecord
  encrypts :email, key: ENV["USER_EMAIL_ENCRYPTION_KEY"]
end

Or a proc:

class User < ApplicationRecord
  encrypts :email, key: -> { code }
end

Per Record

To use a different key for each record, use a symbol:

class User < ApplicationRecord
  encrypts :email, key: :some_method
end

Or a proc:

class User < ApplicationRecord
  encrypts :email, key: -> { some_method }
end

Key Management

You can use a key management service to manage your keys with KMS Encrypted.

For Active Record and Mongoid, use:

class User < ApplicationRecord
  encrypts :email, key: :kms_key
end

For Action Text, use:

ActiveSupport.on_load(:action_text_rich_text) do
  ActionText::RichText.has_kms_key
end

Lockbox.encrypts_action_text_body(key: :kms_key)

For Active Storage, use:

class User < ApplicationRecord
  encrypts_attached :license, key: :kms_key
end

For CarrierWave, use:

class LicenseUploader < CarrierWave::Uploader::Base
  encrypt key: -> { model.kms_key }
end

Note: KMS Encrypted’s key rotation does not know to rotate encrypted files, so avoid calling record.rotate_kms_key! on models with file uploads for now.

Data Leakage

While encryption hides the content of a message, an attacker can still get the length of the message (since the length of the ciphertext is the length of the message plus a constant number of bytes).

Let’s say you want to encrypt the status of a candidate’s background check. Valid statuses are clear, consider, and fail. Even with the data encrypted, it’s trivial to map the ciphertext to a status.

lockbox = Lockbox.new(key: key)
lockbox.encrypt("fail").bytesize      # 32
lockbox.encrypt("clear").bytesize     # 33
lockbox.encrypt("consider").bytesize  # 36

Add padding to conceal the exact length of messages.

lockbox = Lockbox.new(key: key, padding: true)
lockbox.encrypt("fail").bytesize      # 44
lockbox.encrypt("clear").bytesize     # 44
lockbox.encrypt("consider").bytesize  # 44

The block size for padding is 16 bytes by default. Lockbox uses ISO/IEC 7816-4 padding, which uses at least one byte, so if we have a status larger than 15 bytes, it will have a different length than the others.

box.encrypt("length15status!").bytesize   # 44
box.encrypt("length16status!!").bytesize  # 60

Change the block size with:

Lockbox.new(padding: 32) # bytes

Associated Data

You can pass extra context during encryption to make sure encrypted data isn’t moved to a different context.

lockbox = Lockbox.new(key: key)
ciphertext = lockbox.encrypt(message, associated_data: "somecontext")

Without the same context, decryption will fail.

lockbox.decrypt(ciphertext, associated_data: "somecontext")  # success
lockbox.decrypt(ciphertext, associated_data: "othercontext") # fails

Binary Columns

You can use binary columns for the ciphertext instead of text columns.

class AddEmailCiphertextToUsers < ActiveRecord::Migration[6.1]
  def change
    add_column :users, :email_ciphertext, :binary
  end
end

Disable Base64 encoding to save space.

class User < ApplicationRecord
  encrypts :email, encode: false
end

Compatibility

It’s easy to read encrypted data in another language if needed.

For AES-GCM, the format is:

  • nonce (IV) - 12 bytes
  • ciphertext - variable length
  • authentication tag - 16 bytes

Here are some examples.

For XSalsa20, use the appropriate Libsodium library.

Migrating from Another Library

Lockbox makes it easy to migrate from another library without downtime. The example below uses attr_encrypted but the same approach should work for any library.

Let’s suppose your model looks like this:

class User < ApplicationRecord
  attr_encrypted :name, key: key
  attr_encrypted :email, key: key
end

Create a migration with:

class MigrateToLockbox < ActiveRecord::Migration[6.1]
  def change
    add_column :users, :name_ciphertext, :text
    add_column :users, :email_ciphertext, :text
  end
end

And add encrypts to your model with the migrating option:

class User < ApplicationRecord
  encrypts :name, :email, migrating: true
end

Then run:

Lockbox.migrate(User)

Once all records are migrated, remove the migrating option and the previous model code (the attr_encrypted methods in this example).

class User < ApplicationRecord
  encrypts :name, :email
end

Then remove the previous gem from your Gemfile and drop its columns.

class RemovePreviousEncryptedColumns < ActiveRecord::Migration[6.1]
  def change
    remove_column :users, :encrypted_name, :text
    remove_column :users, :encrypted_name_iv, :text
    remove_column :users, :encrypted_email, :text
    remove_column :users, :encrypted_email_iv, :text
  end
end

Upgrading

0.6.0

0.6.0 adds encrypted: true to Active Storage metadata for new files. This field is informational, but if you prefer to add it to existing files, use:

User.with_attached_license.find_each do |user|
  next unless user.license.attached?

  metadata = user.license.metadata
  unless metadata["encrypted"]
    user.license.blob.update!(metadata: metadata.merge("encrypted" => true))
  end
end

0.3.6

0.3.6 makes content type detection more reliable for Active Storage. You can check and update the content type of existing files with:

User.with_attached_license.find_each do |user|
  next unless user.license.attached?

  license = user.license
  content_type = Marcel::MimeType.for(license.download, name: license.filename.to_s)
  if content_type != license.content_type
    license.update!(content_type: content_type)
  end
end

0.2.0

0.2.0 brings a number of improvements. Here are a few to be aware of:

  • Added encrypts method for database fields
  • Added support for XSalsa20
  • attached_encrypted is deprecated in favor of encrypts_attached.

Optional

To switch to a master key, generate a key:

Lockbox.generate_key

And set ENV["LOCKBOX_MASTER_KEY"] or Lockbox.master_key.

Update your model:

class User < ApplicationRecord
  encrypts_attached :license, previous_versions: [{key: key}]
end

New uploads will be encrypted with the new key.

You can rotate existing records with:

User.unscoped.find_each do |user|
  user.license.rotate_encryption!
end

Once that’s complete, update your model:

class User < ApplicationRecord
  encrypts_attached :license
end

History

View the changelog

Contributing

Everyone is encouraged to help improve this project. Here are a few ways you can help:

To get started with development, install Libsodium and run:

git clone https://github.com/ankane/lockbox.git
cd lockbox
bundle install
bundle exec rake test

For security issues, send an email to the address on this page.