Encrypted database fields and files for SilverStripe using CipherSweet

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3.3.1 2021-12-10 21:04 UTC

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Last update: 2022-05-13 12:01:06 UTC


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Easily add encryption to your DataObjects. In a time of GDPR and data leaks, this module helps you to keep your data secure.

This module use ciphersweet under the hood to encrypt field data

Thanks to CipherSweet, your encrypted data is searchable!

NOTE: Current version of this module has incompatibilities for composite fields with branch 2. Plan to rotate your values or keep using previous version.

NOTE: Branch 2 of this module is not compatible with previous versions. Please use branch 1 if you need the previous encryption system.

How to use

First of all, you need to define an encryption key as part of your environment. This can be done like so in your .env file:


You can generate a key with EncryptHelper::generateKey().

Make sure your key stays safe and that nobody gets access to it

How this module works

You define encrypted field types. By default, everything is stored as text (varchars or texts). This is easier since our encrypted data is in text format.

class MySecureObject extends DataObject
    use HasEncryptedFields;

    private static $db = [
        "Name" => 'Varchar',
        "MyText" => EncryptedDBText::class,
        "MyHTMLText" => EncryptedDBHTMLText::class,
        "MyVarchar" => EncryptedDBVarchar::class,
        "MyNumber" => EncryptedNumberField::class,
        "MyIndexedVarchar" => EncryptedDBField::class,

    private static $indexes = [
        'MyIndexedVarcharBlindIndex' => true,
        'MyNumberBlindIndex' => true,
        'MyNumberLastFourBlindIndex' => true,

    public function getField($field)
        return $this->getEncryptedField($field);

    public function setField($fieldName, $val)
        return $this->setEncryptedField($fieldName, $val);

There are two types of fields : simple and indexes (based on Composite field).

The value is encoded before write and is decoded when getField (or any __get) is called. This is why we have to use the HasEncryptedFields trait, in order to transparently encode and decode data. Otherwise, we end up loading encrypted data from the database that is never decoded if you don't use dbObject calls.

You can of course not use the trait, just keep in mind that your calls to $myObject->myEncryptedField = 'my value' won't be encoded automatically. But you can most certainly do $myObject->dbObject('myEncryptedField')->setValue('my value') ... but that's really not convenient in my opinion. Maybe I'll find some way to avoid overriding the get/set field methods, but I haven't been succesful so far.

A quick note about indexes

Please note that this module doesn't create indexes automatically for your blind indexes. Since you are probably going to use them to search your records, it's a good idea to add a database index to avoid full table scan.

NOTE: blind indexes can have false positives (two records get the same index) and therefore, you cannot be sure that a given blind index will only return one record.

The function EncryptHelper::planIndexSizeForClass will help you to set the right values. It returns an array that is similar to this:

    [min] => 2
    [max] => 32
    [indexes] => 2
    [coincidence_count] => 8589934592
    [coincidence_ratio] => 9.3132257461548E-8
    [estimated_population] => 9223372036854775807

For each encrypted class, you can set the following config values:

  • estimated_population: the number of expected records. The higher the population, the higher is the coincidence count (which makes your blind index safe to use)
  • output_size and domain_size: these settings are configured at field level.
private static $db = [
    "MyNumber" => EncryptedNumberField::class . '(["output_size" => 4, "domain_size" => 10, "index_size" => 32])',

Simple field types

This module provides three fields without blind indexes (if you need a blind index, see next point):

  • EncryptedDBText
  • EncryptedDBVarchar
  • EncryptedDBHTMLText

These fields work exactly like their regular counterpart, except the data is encrypted.

There is also one extra field:

  • EncryptedDBJson: this one helps storing encrypted serialized data

Searching for data

Thanks to CipherSweet, data is encrypted with a blind index. This blind index can be used to search data if you know the value or a partial value based on what kind of index you created.

To search using an index, use the EncryptedDBField instance

$singl = singleton(MyModel::class);
$obj = $singl->dbObject('MyEncryptedField');
$searchValue = $obj->getSearchValue($value);
$query = MyModel::get()->where(array('MyEncryptedFieldBlindIndex = ?' => $searchValue));

Or use shortcut

$singl = singleton(MyModel::class);
$obj = $singl->dbObject('MyEncryptedField');
$record = $obj->fetchRecord($value);

Or even better

$record = MyModel::getByBlindIndex("MyEncryptedField", $value);
$list = MyModel::getAllByBlindIndex("MyEncryptedField", $value);

Or use search filter

$record = MyModel::get()->filter('MyEncryptedField:Encrypted', $searchValue)->first();

NOTE: the search filter can return false positives, the getByBlindIndex method is preferred if you want one record.

It is highly recommended to set indexes on your fields that use blind indexes. The convention is as follows: {Name}BlindIndex and {Name}LastFourBlindIndex

This module provides two fields with blind indexes:

  • EncryptedDBField that holds a single value with a full blind index
  • EncryptedNumberField that holds a single value with a full blind index and a blind index for the last 4 digits

You can extend EncryptedDBField to add more fields types to suit your use case. Make sure their name starts with "Encrypted".

Encrypt and decrypt other kind of data

You can also encrypt and decrypt data using a symmetrical key with the helper

$someText = 'some text';
$encrypt = EncryptHelper::encrypt($someText);
$decryptedValue = EncryptHelper::decrypt($encrypt);

Handling encrypted files

This module automatically adds EncryptedDBFile extension to your files. This is done in an extension of the base File class in order to avoid adding one more table in order to add an Encrypted field in your table that tracks encryption status

Please note that files are not encrypted by default, you need to call encryptFileIfNeeded after your uploads.


Or use the EncryptedFile class. It's better to use the EncryptedFile class because it will properly update the Encrypted flag if you update the file for example. Prefer checking Encrypted flag rather than using isEncrypted because this method is rather slow.

Also, performance wise, remember that loading a file in order to check it's state can be slow

$file = $this->File();
// fine for one record, not fine in a loop! Use EncryptHelper::checkIfFileIsEncrypted with ID

NOTE: Even if your files are encrypted, they should not be available in your public folder.

Make sure to review SilverStripe file security documentation. Keeping files .protected and served by a dedicated controller (using sendDecryptedFile) is necessary or through the DecryptController.

Key rotation

If you need to change algo or key, you will need to rotate encryption.

Rotating algorithm with the same key is easy and built into this module. It happens automatically by default and you can use the needsToRotateEncryption and rotateEncryption methods.

If you need to change key, you need to refer it first in the env:


Then call rotateEncryption like this

$oldKey = EncryptHelper::getOldKey();
$old = EncryptHelper::getEngineForEncryption("nacl", $oldKey);
$result = $model->needsToRotateEncryption($old);
if($result) {
    $result = $model->rotateEncryption($old);

Planning index sizes

If you are using blind indexes, you might need to plan their sizes.

It is highly recommended to read the following guide about blind index planning. https://ciphersweet.paragonie.com/php/blind-index-planning

This modules gives you some tools and defaults that helps you to have your indexes properly configured.

By default, blind indexes will have a size of 32 chars which allow a large numbers of records in your table with a really low

Using aad

By default, this module will use AAD.

This binds the ciphertext to a specific row, thereby preventing an attacker capable of replacing ciphertexts and using legitimate app access to decrypt ciphertexts they wouldn't otherwise have access to.

This setting is controlled by aad_source parameter that takes by default the "ID" value. You can disable aad by setting this to an empty string.


  • Figure out a way to encrypt the Email field for members
  • Fetch key from external service + cache


Tested with 4.6 to 4.8 but should work with 4.4+


LeKoala - thomas@lekoala.be