Ruby library to securely encode and decode short pieces of arbitrary binary data in URLs.
Ruby
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README.md

URLcrypt

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Ever wanted to securely transmit (not too long) pieces of arbitrary binary data in a URL? URLcrypt makes it easy!

This gem is based on the base32 gem from Samuel Tesla.

URLcrypt uses 256-bit AES symmetric encryption to securely encrypt data, and encodes and decodes Base 32 strings that can be used directly in URLs.

This can be used to securely store user ids, download expiration dates and other arbitrary data like that when you access a web application from a place that doesn't have other authentication or persistence mechanisms (like cookies):

  • Loading a generated image from your web app in an email
  • Links that come with an expiration date (à la S3)
  • Mini-apps that don't persist data on the server

Works with Ruby 1.8, 1.9 and 2.0.

Important: As a general guideline, URL lengths shouldn't exceed about 2000 characters in length, as URLs longer than that will not work in some browsers and with some (proxy) servers. This limits the amount of data you can store with URLcrypt.

WORD OF WARNING: THERE IS NO GUARANTEE WHATSOEVER THAT THIS GEM IS ACTUALLY SECURE AND WORKS. USE AT YOUR OWN RISK.

URLcrypt is an extraction from Freckle Time Tracking, where it is used to generate URLs for dynamically generated images in emails.

Patches are welcome; please include tests!

Installation

Add to your Gemfile:

gem 'urlcrypt', '~> 0.1.1', require: 'URLcrypt'

Example

# encrypt and encode with 256-bit AES
# one-time setup, set this to a securely random key with at least 256 bits, see below
URLcrypt.key = '...'

# now encrypt and decrypt!
URLcrypt.encrypt('chunky bacon!')        # => "sgmt40kbmnh1663nvwknxk5l0mZ6Av2ndhgw80rkypnp17xmmg5hy"
URLcrypt.decrypt('sgmt40kbmnh1663nvwknxk5l0mZ6Av2ndhgw80rkypnp17xmmg5hy')
  # => "chunky bacon!"

# encoding without encryption (don't use for anything sensitive!), doesn't need key set
URLcrypt.encode('chunky bacon!')          # => "mnAhk6tlp2qg2yldn8xcc"
URLcrypt.decode('mnAhk6tlp2qg2yldn8xcc')  # => "chunky bacon!"

Generating keys

The easiest way to generate a secure key is to use rake secret in a Rails app:

$ rake secret
ba7f56f8f9873b1653d7f032cc474938fd749ee8fbbf731a7c41d698826aca3cebfffa832be7e6bc16eaddc3826602f35d3fd6b185f261ee8b0f01d33adfbe64

To use the key with URLcrypt, you'll need to convert that from a hex string into a real byte array:

URLcrypt::key = ['longhexkeygoeshere'].pack('H*')

Running the Test Suite

If you want to run the automated tests for URLcrypt, issue this command from the distribution directory.

$ rake test:all

Why not Base 64, or an other radix/base library?

URLcrypt uses a modified Base 32 algorithm that doesn't use padding characters, and doesn't use vowels to avoid bad words in the generated string.

The main reason why Base 32 is useful is that Ruby's built-in Base 64 support is, IMO, looking ugly in URLs and requires several characters that need to be URL-escaped.

Unfortunately, some other gems out there that in theory could handle this (like the radix gem) fail with strings that start with a "\0" byte.

References