Sun Directory Server Enterprise Edition 7.0 Reference

Attribute Encryption

Attribute encryption enables sensitive attributes of an entry to be stored in encrypted form. By encrypting sensitive attributes, you can prevent them from being read while the data is stored in database files, backup files, or exported LDIF files, or while the data is exported. Figure 5–14 shows a user entry being added to the database, where attribute encryption has been configured to encrypt the salary attribute.

Figure 5–14 Attribute Encryption

Figure shows attributes encrypted in the database.

The attribute encryption feature supports a wide range of encryption algorithms and different platforms. Attribute encryption uses the private key of the server’s SSL certificate to generate its own key. This key is then used to perform the encryption and decryption operations.

Attribute encryption is configured at the suffix level. This means that an attribute is encrypted for every entry in which it appears in a suffix. To encrypt an attribute in an entire directory, you must enable encryption for that attribute in every suffix.

If you choose to encrypt an attribute that some entries use as a naming attribute, values that appear in the DN will not be encrypted, but values stored in the entry will be encrypted.

Encrypting the userPassword attribute provides no security benefit unless the password needs to be stored in clear text, as is the for DIGEST-MD5 SASL authentication. If the password already has an encryption mechanism defined in the password policy, further encryption provides little additional security.

When encrypted attributes are stored, they are prefaced with a cipher tag that indicates what encryption algorithm has been used. An encrypted attribute using the DES encryption algorithm would appear as follows:


While attribute encryption offers increased data security, the feature does impact performance. you should think carefully about which attributes require encryption and encrypt only those attributes that are particularly sensitive. Because sensitive data can be accessed directly through index files, it is necessary to encrypt the index keys corresponding to the encrypted attributes, to ensure that the attributes are fully protected.

For information about how to encrypt attributes, see Encrypting Attribute Values in Sun Directory Server Enterprise Edition 7.0 Administration Guide.