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  1. Apache NiFi
  2. NIFI-3388

Provide encrypted repository implementations



      Apache NiFi secures data within the application but the various repositories – content, provenance, flowfile (aka attribute), and to a lesser extent bulletin, counter, component status, and log – are stored unencrypted on disk. Thus far, OS-level access control policies and full disk encryption (FDE) have been recommended to secure these repositories. However, the underlying raw data can be viewed, and possibly manipulated, by a user with access to the repository files.

      With additional focus on data security (confidentiality, integrity, and authentication), especially as more users intend to deploy NiFi on third-party provisioned hardware and operating systems (AWS, Azure, etc.), further steps should be taken to secure the repository data which NiFi writes and reads.

      Each of the repository implementations adheres to an interface definition:

      • Content: ContentRepository
        • FileSystemRepository *
        • VolatileContentRepository
        • MockContentRepository
      • Provenance: ProvenanceRepository extends ProvenanceEventRepository
        • PersistentProvenanceRepository (to be deprecated via NIFI-3356)*
        • WriteAheadProvenanceRepository (to be introduced via NIFI-3356) *
        • VolatileProvenanceRepository
        • MockProvenanceRepository
      • Flowfile: FlowFileRepository / FlowFileEventRepository
        • WriteAheadFlowFileRepository implements FlowFileRepository *
        • VolatileFlowFileRepository implements FlowFileRepository
        • MockFlowFileRepository implements FlowFileRepository
        • RingBufferEventRepository implements FlowFileEventRepository

      The bulletin, counter, component status, and log repositories currently have only volatile implementations, and are not addressed in this ticket. The repository implementations noted above with an asterisk will have new implementations provided of the form EncryptedWriteAheadFlowFileRepository, extending the behavior of the existing repository and adding transparent encryption/decryption on serialization, following the existing interface contracts and thus invisible to the higher level code delegating these operations, aside from configuration requirements.

      There are substantial concerns to address in this approach.

      • Should the various repositories all be required to have the same encrypted/plaintext status (i.e. can they be encrypted independently)?
      • Should all encrypted repositories use the same encryption key, or should it be segmented by repository?
      • If a content or provenance repository has multiple shards, do they all require the same level of encryption? If not, can "sensitive" records be routed to an encrypted repository and "normal" records to a plaintext repository for performance reasons?
      • Can a plaintext repository have encryption enabled at any time? Can an encrypted repository have decryption removed?
      • Performance impact on reading and writing from the repositories is not yet captured
        • The provenance repository requires many fast writes and reads during high performance and query operations
        • The flowfile repository requires many fast writes and reads
        • The content repository requires fewer reads and writes, but the current content repository stores multiple flowfile contents in the same "sections" of the "containers" that make up the repository, so content claims will need to be encrypted separately to allow random-access seek and retrieve (i.e. if a 10 byte claim and a 10 GB claim are stored in the same section, the 10 B claim must be retrievable without reading 10 GB into memory to decrypt)
      • The provenance repository uses GZip compression to improve the use of disk space. Compression over encrypted data will yield close to zero improvement (as encryption intentionally generates near-random output, which means pattern recognition/entropy removal will have no effect), and compression before encryption can cause security vulnerabilities (see CRIME, Compression and Information Leakage of Plaintext by John Kelsey, etc.)
      • The provenance repository event records are indexed by Lucene to allow retrieval through the provenance query system, but encrypted fields cannot be indexed. HMAC/CHF (Hash-based message authentication codes/cryptographic hash functions) may provide an alternative for non-fuzzy matching for information retrieval
      • The flowfile repository implementation uses swap files to maintain flowfile state if too many are loaded into memory – these swap files (and anything else persisted to disk) will need to be encrypted
      • The content and provenance repositories can be spread across multiple physical volumes. In that case, should data stored on different disks be encrypted with the same key or unique keys (perhaps derived from a master key using a disk identifier)? If a constituent disk is swapped out, will that data be recoverable?
      • How is the configuration of encrypted repositories handled (i.e. new properties in nifi.properties)?
        • How are the keys generated and secured?
        • What permissions/policies are required to configure these properties?
        • What UI / API signals (if any) are provided to inform users of the encrypted/plaintext status of the repositories?
      • What encryption algorithm(s) is/are used?
        • Performance considerations (CTR vs. CBC)
        • AEAD considerations (GCM, CCM, vs. CBC/CTR + HMAC/SHA-256)
      • What actions should be taken if the encrypted data cannot be read (authentication tag corrupted, cipher text malformed, etc.)? These are risk vectors for DoS attacks

      I am currently working on this issue (planning & architecture stages), so I would appreciate community feedback in order to provide the best possible solution that balances the security, performance, and usability needs of everyone. I will likely break the work into the following subtasks:

      • Build/consume encapsulated encryption service layer (see AESKeyedCipherProvider and KeyedEncryptor)
      • Build EncryptedWriteAheadFlowFileRepository
      • Build EncryptedWriteAheadProvenanceRepository
      • Build EncryptedFileSystemContentRepository (order may change depending on further investigation)

      For anyone interested in further detail on the existing repository design, implementations, and use, see:

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            • Assignee:
              alopresto Andy LoPresto
              alopresto Andy LoPresto
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