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Re: RDB-based secure data storage
From: Ivan Ristic <ivanr () webkreator com>
Date: Thu, 13 May 2004 15:43:51 +0100

Calum Power wrote:
G'day webappsec,

I have been asked by my employer to design a system for storing sensative
private data collected from the company's clients. They tell me that this
data MUST be very secure, yet clients must be able to update the
information themselves via a Web-based interface.

My immediate reaction was to use something like GPG/PGP to encrypt the
data before storing it in a RDBMS like MySQL. However this then has the
additional problem of needing the user to edit the data.

My next thought would be to have each clients 'username' be a public GPG
key, and their 'password' be the passphrase to this private key. This of
course would not be overly secure, and the 'administrator' of this would
not be able to update the information without using the users' password.

So, I was just wondering if anyone had come across the same problem.
Perhaps there's a method of encryption that I'm overlooking.

  You can combine encryption methods to achieve the goal:

  1. Generate a private-public key pair for every user.

  2. For each piece of information you store, generate a new secret and
     use it to encrypt information (using symmetrical encryption for
     better performance).

  3. Never store the secret in plain text. Instead, create a copy of
     the secret for every user that has the right to access the
     information, and store the secret encrypting it with their
     public key. When a user want to access a piece of information,
     their private key will be used to decrypt the secret, and then
     the secret will be used to decrypt the actual data.

  4. It would be a good idea to have a special public-private
     key pair, to use it to encrypt all secrets that are generated,
     for backup purposes.

ModSecurity (http://www.modsecurity.org)
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