Welcome!

You will be redirected in 30 seconds or close now.

ColdFusion Authors: Yakov Fain, Jeremy Geelan, Maureen O'Gara, Nancy Y. Nee, Tad Anderson

Related Topics: ColdFusion

ColdFusion: Article

Public-Key Encryption

Making strong encryption nearly painless

How secure are your applications? Public-Key encryption may be the solution when security really matters.

If you have developed an application that requires user authentication, you have undoubtedly wrestled with varying levels of security. At a basic level, most security models revolve around membership, authentication, and authorization functions. Secure socket layers (SSL) is a popular method for securing the transmission of data between Web server and client. ColdFusion MX and ColdFusion 6.1 have very good integration with Java's Secure Socket Extensions Library, which is capable of 2048-bit encryption. While the transmission of the data over the Internet via SSL helps secure against electronic eavesdropping, the data stored in your applications may still be at risk.

The storage of passwords is a prime example of this security risk. If your database is compromised in some way, the attacker has access to all user accounts and passwords. As a result, programmers have developed various techniques for addressing this issue. ColdFusion itself has an encryption function available - encrypt() - that utilizes an XOR (exclusive OR) algorithm to generate a pseudo 32-bit symmetric key. Another method involves using ColdFusion's hash() function. The hash() function is based on an MD5 (message digest version 5) 128-bit hash algorithm that converts strings into 32-bit hexadecimal "fingerprint" or "message digest" representations of the original string. A stronger variant of this method involves introducing salt - a random string of some length - and concatenating it with the password before performing the hash function.

While storing an encrypted or hashed version of passwords using ColdFusion's built-in functions is a good practice, these methodologies fall a bit short when security is a real issue. The hash() function is a one-way encryption algorithm that can be decrypted only by brute force. MD5 hashing as a method of securing passwords and other data falls apart when one does a Google search of "MD5 crack." For unsalted hashes, the time needed to crack a single MD5 hash online is about 40 minutes (http://passcracking.com). Depending on your personal computer speeds, this can be done faster with a tool like md5crack (www.checksum.org/download/MD5Crack). In fact, in 1994 Paul van Oorschot and Mike Wiener showed that a brute force attack on a 128-bit hash function requires 264 (2.1019) evaluations to crack; at the time such a crack would take less than a month with a $10 million investment in hardware.

To deal with the shortcomings of 128-bit hash functions, stronger encryption algorithms have been invented. Today's 160-bit encryption algorithms such as SHA1 (secure hash algorithm, www.w3.org/PICS/DSig/SHA1_1_0.html) and RipeMD160 (www.esat.kuleuven.ac.be/~bosselae/ripemd160.html) increase the time required for a brute force attack. For areas where a 160-bit hash is still not strong enough, SHA also comes in 256-bit, 384-bit, and 512-bit data lengths for added security in one-way encryption.

Because hash() is a one-way encryption algorithm, it is most appropriate when text does not need to be read (as in the case of passwords). By contrast, the encrypt() function utilizes symmetric-key cryptography, meaning that both the sender and receiver of the string share a common key used to encrypt and decrypt the string. Thus, the private key must at some point be transferred in some secure way, and is only effective if the symmetric key is kept secret.

In ColdFusion, this transfer is done on the server in memory when a page with the encrypt() function is requested, which keeps the transmission of the passphrase reasonably secure. Yet, in the case of encrypt(),the key is actually passed in both the encrypt() and decrypt() functions as plain text:

<cfscript>
   password = "Th1s !s A [email protected] str0nG pA5Sw0rD!";
   symmetricKey = "pa$sPhrAs3 f0r 3ncRypt1ng p4s$w0rDs";

   encrypted = encrypt(password, symmetricKey);
   decrypted = decrypt(encrypted, symmetricKey);
</cfscript>

<cfoutput>
<p>#encrypted# <br/> #decrypted#</p>
</cfoutput>

Depending on who has access to your code, this could be a recipe for disaster.

When you need to be able to encrypt and decrypt, additional steps must be taken. ColdFusion's encrypt() function can be decrypted, but the key must be passed in the code on the server, causing a security issue (plus encrypted data placed on the Web can be fairly easily cracked using any number of free tools available on the Internet.

An alternative to ColdFusion's private-key encryption method is public-key encryption. Public-key encryption - or asymmetric encryption - requires two keys - one private and one public. Data encrypted with your public key can be decrypted only with your private key, allowing you to freely distribute your public key in a non-secure manner (i.e., as clear text posted on a Web page). Asymmetric encryption uses longer algorithms for calculating file fingerprints than symmetric encryption algorithms, and is effective for generating significantly obfuscated data. As a brief side note, these algorithms are processor intensive, so using public key encryption may not be appropriate for very large files.

Unfortunately, in order to take advantage of asymmetric encryption in ColdFusion, you must look beyond built-in ColdFusion tools. The two big players in the realm of public-key cryptography are Pretty Good Privacy (PGP; www.pgp.com) and GNU Privacy Guard (GnuPG; www.gnupg.org). "GnuPG is a complete and free replacement for PGP," and since GnuPG does not depend on the patented International Data Encryption Algorithm (IDEA), there are no restrictions on its use, nor are there any licensing fees for integrating GnuPG into your applications. This last fact makes it an attractive candidate for developers, and is used in the examples for this article. Along with the strong two-way encryption algorithms (1024-bit DSA and ElGamal), GnuPG also supports stronger hashing functions (SHA1, RIPEMD160, and SHA256) for your one-way encryption needs.

More Stories By Wayne Graham

Wayne Graham is a systems administrator at the College of William and Mary's Earl Gregg Swem Library. Wayne is also the co-manager of the Williamsburg Macromedia User's Group and has been developing with ASP, Java, and ColdFusion since 2001.

Comments (10) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
Thomas Gorgolione 07/23/08 05:05:27 PM EDT

You have to compile the code manually from the zip file (see post #5). I did that already, so if you want you can just download it here:

www.tgorg.com/etc/GnuPG.jar

Jeff 01/31/08 08:07:47 AM EST

Does anyone have the GnuPG.jar file? I found the CF component but that still needs the GnuPG.jar file to operate and the link in the article to get GnuPG.jar does not work.

Shaun 09/04/07 02:21:25 PM EDT

Found this:
http://res.sys-con.com/story/46359/source.html

William Broadhead 07/21/05 03:00:51 PM EDT

Good story. Very informative. One thing I would note is that in cf using the encrypt/decrypt: You don't have to, and shouldn't include the actual key in your code, NOR in your Database... A tecnnique I use is to store the key in a text file on the server in a directory that is accessible to coldfusion but NOT part of the http accessible directory. Using cffile you can read and load the information in the file to memory as an application key to use for hashing passwords while never having the key in your code nor in your database. Although obviously, as the article points out, security can never be completely infallible, this can reduce the capacity of your data to be compromised if you did somehow lose a copy of your database or page code, you would need also need to lose the file for someone to put it all together...

Mark 07/14/05 01:53:05 PM EDT

Great article, very well written.

Brad 03/28/05 10:13:32 AM EST

Great Article, convinced my peers to use this instead of upgrading to CF7Mx.

As for the gentleman looking for the source, click the Source Code link located under Related Sites. Scroll down... you're welcome.

Nguyen Tran 03/21/05 10:50:00 AM EST

Where to download the file? GnuPG.jar

The link you provided as:
www.sys-con.com/coldfusion/sourcec.cfm
Point to the page at:
http://sys-con.com/magazine/archives.cfm?id=5

On this page, there is no link to download the file GnuPG.jar

Please give us the link to download the file GnuPG.jar

Thank you

Tom 02/08/05 06:05:04 AM EST

hello,

i´ve the same problem: where is gnupg.jar?
regards, tom

Shane 12/16/04 11:14:17 AM EST

nevermind.... I found it.

Shane 12/16/04 11:09:21 AM EST

Great article. I've been looking forward to trying this out but haven't been able to find the gnupg.jar file. Am I overlooking it somewhere? Please advise.

Thanks.

@ThingsExpo Stories
The 19th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Digital Transformation, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportuni...
The Internet of Things will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, demonstrated how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and shared the must-have mindsets for removing complexity from the develo...
Basho Technologies has announced the latest release of Basho Riak TS, version 1.3. Riak TS is an enterprise-grade NoSQL database optimized for Internet of Things (IoT). The open source version enables developers to download the software for free and use it in production as well as make contributions to the code and develop applications around Riak TS. Enhancements to Riak TS make it quick, easy and cost-effective to spin up an instance to test new ideas and build IoT applications. In addition to...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 19th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world and ThingsExpo Silicon Valley Call for Papers is now open.
IoT is rapidly changing the way enterprises are using data to improve business decision-making. In order to derive business value, organizations must unlock insights from the data gathered and then act on these. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, and Peter Shashkin, Head of Development Department at EastBanc Technologies, discussed how one organization leveraged IoT, cloud technology and data analysis to improve customer experiences and effi...
"We've discovered that after shows 80% if leads that people get, 80% of the conversations end up on the show floor, meaning people forget about it, people forget who they talk to, people forget that there are actual business opportunities to be had here so we try to help out and keep the conversations going," explained Jeff Mesnik, Founder and President of ContentMX, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
With 15% of enterprises adopting a hybrid IT strategy, you need to set a plan to integrate hybrid cloud throughout your infrastructure. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Steven Dreher, Director of Solutions Architecture at Green House Data, discussed how to plan for shifting resource requirements, overcome challenges, and implement hybrid IT alongside your existing data center assets. Highlights included anticipating workload, cost and resource calculations, integrating services on both sides...
Manufacturers are embracing the Industrial Internet the same way consumers are leveraging Fitbits – to improve overall health and wellness. Both can provide consistent measurement, visibility, and suggest performance improvements customized to help reach goals. Fitbit users can view real-time data and make adjustments to increase their activity. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mark Bernardo Professional Services Leader, Americas, at GE Digital, discussed how leveraging the Industrial Internet a...
Big Data engines are powering a lot of service businesses right now. Data is collected from users from wearable technologies, web behaviors, purchase behavior as well as several arbitrary data points we’d never think of. The demand for faster and bigger engines to crunch and serve up the data to services is growing exponentially. You see a LOT of correlation between “Cloud” and “Big Data” but on Big Data and “Hybrid,” where hybrid hosting is the sanest approach to the Big Data Infrastructure pro...
"My role is working with customers, helping them go through this digital transformation. I spend a lot of time talking to banks, big industries, manufacturers working through how they are integrating and transforming their IT platforms and moving them forward," explained William Morrish, General Manager Product Sales at Interoute, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
A critical component of any IoT project is what to do with all the data being generated. This data needs to be captured, processed, structured, and stored in a way to facilitate different kinds of queries. Traditional data warehouse and analytical systems are mature technologies that can be used to handle certain kinds of queries, but they are not always well suited to many problems, particularly when there is a need for real-time insights.
The best-practices for building IoT applications with Go Code that attendees can use to build their own IoT applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Indraneel Mitra, Senior Solutions Architect & Technology Evangelist at Cognizant, provided valuable information and resources for both novice and experienced developers on how to get started with IoT and Golang in a day. He also provided information on how to use Intel Arduino Kit, Go Robotics API and AWS IoT stack to build an application tha...
IoT generates lots of temporal data. But how do you unlock its value? You need to discover patterns that are repeatable in vast quantities of data, understand their meaning, and implement scalable monitoring across multiple data streams in order to monetize the discoveries and insights. Motif discovery and deep learning platforms are emerging to visualize sensor data, to search for patterns and to build application that can monitor real time streams efficiently. In his session at @ThingsExpo, ...
You think you know what’s in your data. But do you? Most organizations are now aware of the business intelligence represented by their data. Data science stands to take this to a level you never thought of – literally. The techniques of data science, when used with the capabilities of Big Data technologies, can make connections you had not yet imagined, helping you discover new insights and ask new questions of your data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sarbjit Sarkaria, data science team lead ...
Extracting business value from Internet of Things (IoT) data doesn’t happen overnight. There are several requirements that must be satisfied, including IoT device enablement, data analysis, real-time detection of complex events and automated orchestration of actions. Unfortunately, too many companies fall short in achieving their business goals by implementing incomplete solutions or not focusing on tangible use cases. In his general session at @ThingsExpo, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products...
WebRTC is bringing significant change to the communications landscape that will bridge the worlds of web and telephony, making the Internet the new standard for communications. Cloud9 took the road less traveled and used WebRTC to create a downloadable enterprise-grade communications platform that is changing the communication dynamic in the financial sector. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Leo Papadopoulos, CTO of Cloud9, discussed the importance of WebRTC and how it enables companies to focus...
Amazon has gradually rolled out parts of its IoT offerings in the last year, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to optimizing their back-end AWS offerings, Amazon is laying the ground work to be a major force in IoT – especially in the connected home and office. Amazon is extending its reach by building on its dominant Cloud IoT platform, its Dash Button strategy, recently announced Replenishment Services, the Echo/Alexa voice recognition control platform, the 6-7 strategic...
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE, Nasdaq: VZ) and Yahoo! Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO) have entered into a definitive agreement under which Verizon will acquire Yahoo's operating business for approximately $4.83 billion in cash, subject to customary closing adjustments. Yahoo informs, connects and entertains a global audience of more than 1 billion monthly active users** -- including 600 million monthly active mobile users*** through its search, communications and digital content products. Yahoo also co...
"There's a growing demand from users for things to be faster. When you think about all the transactions or interactions users will have with your product and everything that is between those transactions and interactions - what drives us at Catchpoint Systems is the idea to measure that and to analyze it," explained Leo Vasiliou, Director of Web Performance Engineering at Catchpoint Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York Ci...
SYS-CON Events announced today that LeaseWeb USA, a cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider, will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. LeaseWeb is one of the world's largest hosting brands. The company helps customers define, develop and deploy IT infrastructure tailored to their exact business needs, by combining various kinds cloud solutions.