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User Data Encryption in Play2

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Recent news shows the importance of data encryption.  For instance, the attack on MongoHQ showed how OAuth might be exploited if not properly handled. Buffer learnt from it the hard way. But so should all of us and that’s why we at Codacy would like to share how we’ve protected our Infrastructure Secrets.

We too at Codacy use OAuth tokens, in our case to access Github and Google’s API. The leak of these tokens would mean granting an attacker our users’ code. Of course, this would be unacceptable. So, it would be better to follow Buffer’s example and cipher it. This way if an attacker breaches our database and gets hold of the ciphered tokens they’d be useless.

Although necessary, security may be a burden. In spite of that, we wanted a way to secure data in the database that would be effortless to the rest of the team while developing. So that you know, as part of our stack we’re using Play Framework for Scala and play-slick as the interface for PostgreSQL.

This was the solution we came up with. A simple case class named SecureString that stores a String and ciphers it. A SecureTable trait containing an implicit TypeMapper to take care of the conversion between String and SecureString. Then just combine the two by mixing the trait with the model and declare the columns we want to be ciphered as SecureString.

Take a look at this simple example where we have a LoveLetter and want to cipher the contents of the letter:

https://gist.github.com/mrfyda/7554222

For this change to be completely transparent to the rest of your code you can set implicit conversions between SecureString and String:

implicit def toSecureString(str: String): SecureString = SecureString(str)
 implicit def fromSecureString(str: SecureString): String = str.toString

This makes an automatic transformation of String into SecureString which means that we treat those as the same.
This in turn means that our code has minimal change cost to implement encrypted strings.

And that’s it. We hope this is useful in your projects.


Edit: We just published an ebook: “The Ultimate Guide to Code Review” based on a survey of 680+ developers. Enjoy!


*This is a blog post of our Code Reading Wednesdays from Codacy (http://www.codacy.com): we make code reviews easier and automatic.

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