Intro to MongoDB’s queryable encryption

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Queryable encryption was the primary attraction at MongoDB World 2022, for comprehensible causes. It introduces a singular capability to cut back the assault floor of delicate information in numerous use instances. Specifically, information stays encrypted on insertion, storage, and question. Each queries and their responses are encrypted over the wire and randomized to face up to frequency evaluation.

The results of that is that functions can help use instances that require looking out labeled information with out ever exposing it as plain textual content within the information warehouse infrastructure. Information shops containing non-public info are a first-rate goal for hackers for apparent causes. MongoDB’s encrypted fields imply that this info is cryptographically safe always within the database, however can nonetheless be used for looking out. In truth, the database doesn’t include the keys to decrypt the information. That signifies that even a whole breach of the database servers is not going to outcome within the lack of non-public info.

A number of outstanding and complicated assault vectors are eradicated. For instance:

  • Unethical or hacked database administrator account.
  • Entry to information on disk.
  • Entry to information in reminiscence.

That is one thing like password hashing. We hash passwords within the database for a similar causes, so it is not possible for a hacker and even the database administrator to see the password. The large distinction, in fact, is that password hashing is a one-way affair. You possibly can verify if the password is appropriate, however that is about it. There is no such thing as a question for such a subject and no technique to retrieve the plain textual content. Queryable encryption preserves the flexibility to work with the sector.

One other fascinating function of the system is that the fields are encrypted randomly, so the identical worth will generate a distinct ciphertext on totally different runs. Because of this the system can be proof against frequency evaluation assaults. The system permits for a rigorous distinction between shoppers who’ve privileges to view search outcomes and people who don’t, by controlling which shoppers have entry to the keys.

For instance, an app may retailer delicate info, equivalent to a bank card quantity, together with much less delicate info, equivalent to a username. An unprivileged consumer would be capable to see the username however not the bank card strictly by not offering the consumer with the cryptographic keys. A consumer with entry to the keys may see and use the bank card within the searches, maintaining the cardboard quantity encrypted within the steps of sending, looking out, storing and retrieving.

Queryable Encryption Tradeoffs

After all, all of this comes at a price. Particularly, there’s a price for house and time necessities for queries involving encrypted fields. (MongoDB’s goal is round 2-3 occasions the extra storage necessities for encrypted information, however that is anticipated to lower sooner or later.)

MongoDB handles querying the encrypted information by embedding metadata within the encrypted collections themselves, in addition to separate collections with extra metadata. These account for the elevated time and storage necessities when working with these information units, together with the precise encryption and decryption work.

Moreover, there’s architectural complexity to help within the type of a Key Administration Service (KMS) and the coding overhead to make use of it and the encryption and decryption work itself.

How queryable encryption works

On the highest stage, it seems like Determine 1.

Queryable High Encryption Architecture matthew tyson

Determine 1. Queryable high-level encryption structure

Determine 1 illustrates that the system provides an architectural part: the KMS. The opposite change to the standard move of occasions is that information and queries are encrypted and decrypted by means of the MongoDB driver. The KMS offers the keys for this course of.

Automated and guide encryption

There are two fundamental modes for queryable encryption: computerized and guide. On auto, the MongoDB driver itself handles encryption and decryption. In guide, the appliance developer does extra hands-on work utilizing the KMS keys.

Key varieties: Buyer Grasp Keys (CMKs) and Information Encryption Keys (DEKs)

Within the queryable encryption system, there are two kinds of keys at play: the shopper grasp keys (CMK) and the information encryption key (DEK). The DEK is the precise working key to encrypt the information. The CMK is used to encrypt the DEK. This offers further safety. The consumer utility itself could make use of the DEK (and information encrypted with it) solely by first decrypting it with the CMK.

Subsequently, even when the DEK is uncovered in its encrypted kind, it’s ineffective to an attacker with out entry to the CMK. The structure might be organized in order that the consumer utility by no means accommodates the CMK itself, as described beneath with a key administration service. The underside line is that the twin key provision is an extra layer of safety in your non-public keys.

Information encryption keys (DEKs) are saved in an extra keystore assortment, as described beneath.

key vaults

The information is encrypted with symmetric secret keys. These keys belong to the appliance developer and are by no means despatched to MongoDB. They’re saved in a keystore. There are three fundamental eventualities for managing keys, described beneath in ascending order of safety.

  1. Native File Key Supplier.
  • Appropriate just for improvement.
  • The keys are saved on the native system together with the appliance
  • KMIP (Key Administration Interoperability Protocol Supplier.
    • Appropriate for manufacturing, however much less safe than utilizing a KMS supplier.
    • Buyer grasp keys (CMKs) are handed to the shopper utility
  • Full KMS (Key Administration Service) Supplier. appropriate for manufacturing
    • Supported cloud KMS are: AWS, Azure and GCP
    • Native HSM ({Hardware} Safety Module) and KMS are supported
    • Solely information encryption keys are transmitted to the consumer utility

    Key native provider for improvement

    At improvement time, the appliance developer can generate keys (for instance, with OpenSSL) and retailer them regionally. These keys are then used to encrypt and decrypt info despatched to and from the MongoDB occasion. That is for improvement solely as a result of it introduces a crucial vulnerability to secret keys that mitigates a lot of the advantages of queryable encryption.

    KMIP supplier

    There are a selection of KMIP implementations (together with open supply) and business companies. On this state of affairs, the CMK is saved on the KMIP supplier and handed to the consumer utility when the necessity arises to encrypt or decrypt the DEK to be used. If keystore assortment is compromised, the information stays safe. This association is described in Determine 2.

    Scheme of the KMIP architecture matthew tyson

    Determine 2. Scheme of the KMIP structure

    kms supplier

    When utilizing a KMS supplier (equivalent to AWS, Azure, or GCP), the shopper’s grasp secret is by no means uncovered to the shopper’s community or utility. As a substitute, the KMS offers the service of encrypting the DEK. The DEK itself is distributed to the KMS, encrypted, and returned as ciphertext, the place it’s then saved in a particular key vault assortment in MongoDB.

    The saved DEK might be retrieved and decrypted with the KMS in an analogous manner, once more avoiding publicity of the CMK itself. As in KMIP, if keystore assortment is violated, the information stays safe.

    You possibly can see this design in Determine 3.

    Scheme of the KMS architecture matthew tyson

    Determine 3. Scheme of the KMS structure


    Queryable encryption is a preview function and solely equality queries are at present supported. Extra question varieties like ranges are on the roadmap.

    Though it requires further configuration, queryable encryption gives a crucial function to be used instances that require trying to find delicate information that can not be achieved in some other manner. It’s a compelling and distinctive capability.

    Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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