Encryption in Applications

Encryption in Applications

You can encrypt the data inside your application even before it hits the wire and is sent to the server.

Your application is the best place to encrypt data because it can apply selective protection only for the sensitive information. To encrypt data in an application, you need an encryption key that must be kept secret either using a secure key ring or in a hardware security module (HSM).

Important: It is a security best practice not to include sensitive information as a part of the document ID.

Always use a standard encryption library to encrypt data and avoid the risk of implementing an in-house encryption and key management solution.

Encryption in applications relates to the client configuration cache and user input validation.

Client Configuration Cache

The majority of the Couchbase clusters are running in a steady state most of the time, which means that the cluster nodes are not removed or added very often. Since clients only infrequently receive an update from the cluster whose topology is changing, cluster information is well suited for caching.

When the client is instantiated, it looks for a cached named file in the file system. If the file is there, the client assumes that it belongs to a current cluster configuration and starts using it. If it isn't there, the client starts a normal bootstrap to get the configuration from the cluster and writes it to a file. Whenever you try to access an item on a node and the node tells you that you tried to communicate with the wrong node, you invalidate the cache and request a new copy of the configuration cache.

To use the configuration cache from PHP, add the following to the file php.ini:
couchbase.config_cache = /tmp 

User Input Validation

To validate the user input, implement these validation techniques:

  • Inject arbitrary key-value pairs.
  • Change the user-specified document type.
  • Override important document fields.


 {"user": "will","password":"0asd21$1%", 
  "created":"2012-06-12", "password":"password"}
In this JSON document, the first password field 0asd21$1% is the intended value, and the application was supposed to store the hashed value for that particular password field. However, the application developer built concatenation based on the user-specified input. As a result, the plain password has become the concatenated input. If you try to save this document in Couchbase, you will override the first field with the last supplied value.

Be aware that an attacker might try to inject arbitrary key-value pairs, override a key-value pair, or change the document type (such as from Private to Public). You must, therefore, protect the input and ensure that field overrides are explicit so that they cannot be changed implicitly by attackers.

Best practices for validating user input prohibit accepting of the user input directly and require that strings be concatenated and sent to the database. Use a document model that includes Java POJOs or .Net POCOs.